Such an attitude is part cultural clash and part resp0onse to external events, but it fosters a way of thinking that only leads to more conflict over time.
U.S. support for Israel is often cited as the key element in explaining Islamic hatred of America, but that is only one element. The way the U.S. fails to understand Islam is another element that creates tension. Also, actions such as those in the first Gulf War create anger as the U.S. first helped by invading Iraq, promising to support those who sided with the U.S., and then abandoned many of the Iraqis who did try to fight Hussein and leaving them to their fate. The U.S. inaction against Hussein over his attack on the Kurds also created hatreds in the region. One of the major points of contention with Israel and with the U.S. has been the Palestinian question and the desire on the part of Islamists to create a Palestinian state, opposed by the U.S.
Al Qaeda developed out of the fighting force supported by the U.S. In Afghanistan against the Soviet Union when the Soviets invaded in the 1980s. In 1989, as bin Laden and his followers were looking for new jihads to fight, a network of Arab volunteers were recruited to form the loose network known as Al Qaeda, or "the base." These fighters were trained and hardened by their fight against the Soviets. Al Qaeda operated for a time in Sudan, moving its headquarters in 1996 to Afghanistan to forge a relationship with the then-ruling Taliban. After the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2002 in retaliation for 9-11, Al Qaeda went underground and is now thought to operate in some forty to fifty countries across the world (Al-Qaeda's origins and links, 2004, paras. 1-6).
Part of the focus of the invasion of Afghanistan was directed at finding bin Laden, but this failed. He appears to have fled to Pakistan, though his precise whereabouts remain uncertain. Al Qaeda is not centralized for the most part but operates as a series of cells, each generally autonomous, except for the transfer of funding from bin Laden and his associates. This dispersed structure makes it harder to destroy.
One response to 9-11 was to attack the terrorists wherever they can be found, and this rationale was also offered for the war in Iraq, though it appears more and more than there were no major terrorists in Iraq when the U.S. invaded, while there are thousands now in response to that invasion. A second response was to alter the way Americans live their lives in the name of security, changing rules about travel, altering airport procedures, creating new departments in the government to provide security and intelligence, and instituting new laws to spy more and more on Americans themselves in order to prevent further attacks. Such efforts have been controversial, and their effectiveness has been questioned.
One part of this response was the passage of the Patriot Act. Setting security and civil rights in opposition has become an exercise for many political leaders, though this is not really the proper way to view the matter. Certainly, the American system if civil rights and civil liberties is precisely what we should be protecting and what the enemy wants to destroy, making it all the more foolish to help them do it as if that would mean higher security. At the same time, minimal disruptions and changes need not be described as a threat to civil liberties at all. Longer lines at the airport are not really a threat to civil liberties, though many aspects of the Patriot Act are, such as access to library records, telephone calls, and the like. The way the republican administration has framed the debate, anything the administration wants to do in the way of intrusion should be allowed without oversight as a way of assuring security, as if oversight were in itself a threat to security. This view is not unlike the way authoritarian regimes view all oversight and simply cannot be the proper way to make people secure. For one thing, security does not mean just the fact of not being a target of terrorists. Security also means being secure in our persons and our privacy so that not having the government impose too many controls on our actions is a real form of security.
The Patriot Act was passed in response to the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a terrorist attack that took thousands of lives and altered the perception of Americans about their relative safety in the world. This was not the first terrorist attack on American soil, but it was the largest and most costly and came from an audacious plan that if fully successful would have been much more damaging. Following this attack, the Bush Administration sought ways to reassure the public and to fight terrorist in as many ways as possible. The Patriot Act was offered as the primary legislation designed in part to correct perceived lapses in law enforcement, to fill holes in security, to stop terrorists from getting the funding they need, and generally to alter certain laws in order to make the job of law enforcement easier in terms of fighting terrorism. The law passed rather easily, a sign of the fear that was generated by the terrorist attack, though many have criticized provisions in the legislation since and have characterized it as draconian.
Abdolian and Takooshian (2003) note that President George W. Bush signed the law on October 26, 2001, very soon after the 9-11 attacks. The Patriot Act stands as one of the most sweeping and controversial acts in United States history, and they note that it is intended to increase dramatically government powers of investigation and enforcement in a way that many see as being at the expense of individual liberties. The act is 342 pages in length and was passed by overwhelming majorities in the U.S. Senate (98?1) and the House (Abdolian & Takooshian, 2003, pp. 357?66). This was done without public hearings or debate, though in fact the Act resembles portions of the Antiterrorism Act of 1996, which had already been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed several lawsuits challenging provisions of the Patriot Act as violations of Constitutional rights and international law. The organization is clear about what it thinks is happening to civil liberties in this new anti-terrorism age:
The Executive branch, by using Executive Orders and emergency interim agency regulations as its tools of choice for combating terrorism, has deliberately chosen methodologies that are largely outside the purview of both the legislature and the judiciary. These Executive Orders and agency regulations violate the U.S. Constitution, the laws of the United States, and international and humanitarian law. As a result, the war on terror is largely being conducted by Executive fiat and the constitutional guarantees of both citizens and non-citizens alike have been seriously compromised (the Center for Constitutional Rights, 2003, p. 1).
Cassella (2002) also notes a provision in the law that makes it different from anything else, a provision allowing for government seizure of all assets of anyone demonstrate to be guilty of the terrorism provisions in the law. Indeed, this differed from the federal law on forfeitures of assets for criminals like drug dealers in that there was no requirement that the assets by the fruit of the criminal enterprise:
To the contrary, once the Government establishes that a person, entity, or organization is engaged in terrorism against the United States, its citizens or residents, or their property, the Government can seize and ultimately mandate forfeiture of all assets, foreign or domestic, of the terrorist entity, whether those assets are connected to terrorism or not (Cassella, 2002, p. 7).
These criticisms suggest that the areas of concern for many groups and individuals center largely on diminishing civil liberties, seizing assets without the need of a trial, and eliminating due process for suspected immigrants. Cuellar (2003) agrees that the Act has "radically expanded federal authority to engage in the fight against money laundering" (Cuellar, 2003, p. 311) and also that this immediately produced an expansion in the number of acts that would be covered by the law.
As Baker (2003) notes, wartime often brings the attitude that "civil liberties are generally categorized as luxury items, like silk stockings during World War II, that divert valuable resources from the war effort. Historically, once war is over, those luxuries are again embraced" (Baker, 2003, p. 547). With a war on terror, however, there is no clear end, which cold mean that American civil liberties would be changed forever. Critics note that this is what the terrorists wanted in the first place, so the Patriot Act is the wrong way to respond.
In addition to the provisions embodied in the Patriot Act, the Bush administration has taken many powers to itself that did not previously exist, such as the right to wiretap…