9/11 Rumors That Become Conventional Wisdom
|Sunday, September 14,2008 15:18|
CAIRO — Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too.
This is not the conclusion of a scientific survey, but it is what routinely comes up in conversations around the region — in a shopping mall in Dubai, in a park in Algiers, in a cafe in Riyadh and all over Cairo.
“Look, I don’t believe what your governments and press say. It just can’t be true,” said Ahmed Issab, 26, a Syrian engineer who lives and works in the
It is easy for Americans to dismiss such thinking as bizarre. But that would miss a point that people in this part of the world think Western leaders, especially in Washington, need to understand: That such ideas persist represents the first failure in the fight against terrorism — the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims.
There were many reasons people here said they believed that the attacks of 9/11 were part of a conspiracy against Muslims. Some had nothing to do with Western actions, and some had everything to do with Western policies.
Again and again, people said they simply did not believe that a group of Arabs — like themselves — could possibly have waged such a successful operation against a superpower like the
“Maybe people who executed the operation were Arabs, but the brains? No way,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, 36, a clothing-store owner in the Bulaq neighborhood of
The rumors that spread shortly after 9/11 have been passed on so often that people no longer know where or when they first heard them. At this point, they have heard them so often, even on television, that they think they must be true.
First among these is that Jews did not go to work at the
“Why is it that on 9/11, the Jews didn’t go to work in the building,” said Ahmed Saied, 25, who works in
Zein al-Abdin, 42, an electrician, who was drinking tea and chain-smoking cheap Cleopatra cigarettes in Al Shahat, a cafe in Bulaq, grew more and more animated as he laid out his thinking about what happened on Sept. 11.
“What matters is we think it was an attack against Arabs,” he said of the passenger planes crashing into American targets. “Why is it that they never caught him, bin Laden? How can they not know where he is when they know everything? They don’t catch him because he hasn’t done it. What happened in
There is a reason so many people here talk with casual certainty — and no embarrassment — about the United States attacking itself to have a reason to go after Arabs and help Israel. It is a reflection of how they view government leaders, not just in
“Mubarak says whatever the Americans want him to say, and he’s lying for them, of course,” Mr. Ibrahim said of Hosni Mubarak,
Americans might better understand the region, experts here said, if they simply listen to what people are saying — and try to understand why — rather than taking offense. The broad view here is that even before Sept. 11, the
The single greatest proof, in most people’s eyes, was the invasion of
“It is the result of widespread mistrust, and the belief among Arabs and Muslims that the
Hisham Abbas, 22, studies tourism at
“There are Arabs who hate