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For 9-11, To “Learn From History” Means Understanding Motivation Of World Trade Center Attackers

This 24.5 feet 3 ton twisted steel structure was once part of the World Trade Center destroyed on September 1, 2001 and is now in a memorial park in Beavercreek, Ohio. War memorials are generally sedate and thoughtful. The idea they should contain wreckage must be something different. But the war on terrorism is a different war than America has ever fought, because after 10 years it is on-going. Imagine WW2 going on interminably -- maybe, after ten years, communities would have displayed some of the awesome wreckage caused by the December 7, 1941 attack, as a memorial to those who lost their lives, but, also, as a constant reminder of the motivation for continuing war.

Sunday, Beavercreek dedicated a memorial — a 3 ton 24.5-foot high piece of rusted and twisted steel — in remembrance of 9-11. The DDN today published a large portion of the remarks given at the dedication from the featured speaker, Mark Marderosian,  “Freedoms That We Share Are Priceless.”

Mr. Marderosian started with the familiar quote from George Santayana, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” and said, “Every American has a sacred obligation to remember history and to teach their children that history.” He asserted that for Americans “most important of all, we have freedom,” and said that those who attacked the Twin Trade Towers were “determined enemies of those freedoms … cowards so contemptuous of free thought and open debate, so frightened by the innate yearning of the human spirit, that they would rather die than live in the world where some disagrees with them.”

A key part of learning form history, of course, is understanding the motivating forces in history. It’s an important question: “Why were we attacked?”

Marderosian seems to take a view of history that is the same as Republican presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, who in the last debate (see you-tube below) said, “We were attacked because we have a civilization that is antithetical to the civilization of the jihadists. And they want to kill us because of who we are and what we stand for, and what we stand for is American Exceptionalism. We stand for freedom and opportunity for everyone around the world, and I am not ashamed to do that.”

A very different view of history was given by Ron Paul’s response to Santorum: “As long as this country follows that idea, we are going to be under a lot of danger. This whole idea that the whole Muslim world is responsible for this and they are attacking us because we are free and prosperous, that is just not true. Osama bin Ladin and al Qaeda have been explicit. They have been explicit. And they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians a fair treatment, you have been bombing … [loud audience boos] … I didn’t say that, I am trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing….  We had been bombing and killing hundreds and thousands of Iraqis for 10 years. Would you be annoyed? If you are not annoyed, then there is some problem!”

In a post on his web-site, “Learning Nothing from 9/11,” Paul quoted former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit Michael Scheuer as saying, “Our growing number of Islamist enemies are motivated to attack us because of what the U.S. government does in the Muslim world and not because of how Americans live and think here at home.”

Yes, it is important that Americans understand history, but history is not as simplistic as Marderosian and Santorum would have us believe. They offer comforting thoughts, but give a view of history that refuses to hold us accountable for any consequences of our own bad actions or our one-sided and unwise policies.

I agree that in this dangerous and crucial time, it is of key importance that Americans must learn from history. The question is, “whose view of history?” If we are not willing to study history to find authentic answers to difficult questions, according to the insight of George Santayana, we are “doomed.”

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6 comments to For 9-11, To “Learn From History” Means Understanding Motivation Of World Trade Center Attackers

  • Stan Hirtle

    Santorum is in a position where it may seem the presidency is for the taking for whichever Republican candidate can best connect with the presently unimpressed group of Republican primary voters. He may think that being a candidate for American exceptionalism may move him to the front of the pack. Actually thinking that bin Ladin attacked the US because Americans believe in American Exceptionalism is pretty dumb, as the only thing bin Ladin cares about is the US actions around Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Santorum hopes he is telling this narrow group of people what they want to hear. What would happen if he got elected by saying such things is cause for concern. He does seem to be pretty far down the list in polls, but all the candidates except the iconoclast Paul pretty much are saying the same things. So this speech may turn up again in the mouth of someone else.

  • mark d. marderosian

    messrs. bock and hirtle: a “daytonos” reader forwarded me a link to your comments about my 9-11 memorial dedication speech in beavercreek. i trust that, in the spirit of the “open forum” you ostensibly advocate, you’ll publish this response. first, as a lifelong democrat and supporter of a progressive agenda, i’m sure you’ll understand why i took umbrage at being compared to a theocratic homophobe like rick santorum. rather than refute your ill-considered attacks on some of the words i uttered, however, i simply note that it’s precisely such reflexive intolerance toward differences in opinion among self-styled “liberal” democrats that foment unnecessary discord when it comes time to work toward a common policy goal. second, i do indeed subscribe to the notion that america is exceptional and reject the unblinking moral relativism you apparently espouse. no misguided policy, no foreign misadventure, warrants the indiscriminately murderous ideology behind radical wahabbist islam. there is nothing in the least bit inconsistent in believing, on the hand, that american foundational-structural ideals are uniquely important on the world stage, while contending, on the other hand, that those transient majorities charged with advancing those ideals are flawed. to suggest, even implicitly, that america somehow “deserved” the 9-11 attacks is outrageous. misguided and/or poorly-executed policies may have promoted an environment where 9-11 became possible, but slaughtering non-combatants with high-jacked airplanes should constitute a despicable criminal act even in your book. i assure you that when i represented austrian-jewish holocaust survivors in nazi-era war reparations litigation in the federal courts and in state department mediation, austrian government and industry officials opposing our claims used very similar rhetoric, blaming the victim, which i simply decline to do. third and finally, my comments at beavercreek were in memoriam to innocent terrorism victims and unfathomably heroic first-responders . . . not a public policy speech. i’m not a candidate. i’m a survivor of the 9-11 attacks and a man who loves his country despite its flaws. i struggled mightily to avoid politicizing the dedication event itself, which you have done in a reckless and deeply inconsiderate manner under auspices of a political blog. next time you start swinging, try telling the other guy he’s in a fight first. in sum, your attacks on my character are especially disgraceful and all the more improper as you declined to contact me before defaming me in a public forum. if you expect to persuade your readers, rather than merely rant in a vacuum to like-minded idealogues, i suggest that you consider participating in the marketplace-of-ideas in a more thoughtful and even-handed way. with professional regards, mark daniel marderosian

  • The Natural Skeptic

    someone help me here! is this guy mark speaking english? and what’s with all lower case talking? is that hip nowdays? this kind of verbose, idiosyncratic, unnecessarily complex linguistic gymnastics, utilized ostensibly to convey one’s point, is loquacious, garrulous, tautological, pleonastic, periphrastic, circumlocutory and antithetical to understanding what the duece this guy is talking about! i tried to run this verbal montezuma’s revenge through my trusty macs summarization service (in an effort to make it more succinct and understandable) and it nearly choked to death! that’s a first-even with it’s bligahertz quad-core processor spinning at near light-speed, it couldn’t reduce this down to something a mere mortal might grasp. good thing mr. bock didn’t bring up the whole thing about 9/11 being a massive governmental conspiracy…talk about a can of worms!

  • Mike Bock

    Mr. Marderosian, thanks for responding. You seem to be replying to the message of my article in a manner similar to the crowd who hissed and booed the message given by Ron Paul.

    Importantly, you do not claim that I misquoted you or that I misrepresented the message of your dedication speech. You express anger that your POV on the motivation of the WTC attackers seems perfectly aligned with the POV of someone, like Rick Santorum, whom you evidently have no respect nor regard for. But pointing that anger towards me seems misplaced. I’m just the messenger.

    My main point, that I attempted to communicate, is expressed in the headline I wrote: “For 9-11, To ‘Learn From History’ Means Understanding Motivation Of World Trade Center Attackers.” Your speech given at the WTC memorial dedication in Beavercreek, emphasized the importance of “learning from history.” The idea that the motivation of the attack was because, “they hate our freedom,” to paraphrase the explanation given by George W. Bush, really doesn’t pass the test of reasonableness. And as Ron Paul pointed out, as he was being booed, “Osama bin Ladin and al Qaeda have been explicit. They have been explicit. And they wrote and said that we attacked America because you had bases on our holy land in Saudi Arabia, you do not give Palestinians a fair treatment.”

    You write, “To suggest, even implicitly, that America somehow deserved the 9-11 attacks is outrageous.”

    My response is the same as what Ron Paul attempted to say over the catcalls and boos: “I didn’t say that, I am trying to get you to understand what the motive was behind the bombing.”

    You write, “I struggled mightily to avoid politicizing the dedication event itself, which you have done in a reckless and deeply inconsiderate manner under auspices of a political blog.”

    I fail to understand that sentence, nor the ones that follow. One big theme you emphasized in your speech was the importance of learning from history. You offer in your speech one possible theory of history, that we were attacked because of our love of freedom, but give no evidence to support that theory. I disagree with your theory of history, and, in the article, I used quotes from Ron Paul to offer what, to me, seems a much more plausible explanation for the motivation of the attack on the WTC.

    I’ve reread my article with care and I am puzzled at how you could construe any of my words as an attack on your character, or any of my words as an attempt to defame you. That was never my attitude and certainly not my intent. Your outrage seems to stem from the fact that I pointed out that you and Santorum, in this theory of history, at least, are on the same page. You don’t like the company you are keeping. As an attorney, why not take up the theme of justice, rather than giving a one sided cheer for liberty?

    Your comments at the WTC memorial, I understand, were well received and were an encouragement to many. But it seems strange that after challenging your readers to understand history, you should object when one of them attempts to do so. DaytonOS invites each reader to register as an author and post articles. I would welcome your doing that. It is my desire to do as you suggest in the close of your comments — participate in the marketplace-of-ideas in a thoughtful and even-handed way.

  • Eric

    reflexive intolerance toward differences in opinion among self-styled “liberal” democrats that foment unnecessary discord when it comes time to work toward a common policy goal.

    Well put, Mr. Marderosian. Mr. Bock is fond of suggesting how Beavercreek might better run its affairs. Thankfully, we have families such as yours making a real difference in our town. Thank you for your efforts so appropriately showcased along North Fairfield road.

    P.S. You may have read more into Mr. Bock’s comments than he intended. So be it. He’s due a smack-down from civic-minded individual of your stature.

  • Stan Hirtle

    Mr. Marderosian. I said nothing about you at all, let alone attacking your character or defaming you. 911 is an emotional event, certainly even moreso for someone who was there. Unfortunately in today’s climate such powerful emotions can be and are used for political purposes by others than yourself, and are capable of causing people to blur important distinctions, to jump to conclusions based on their expectations and to perceive things that aren’t really there. As a result we have struggled with misguided policies and foreign misadventures far exceeding those that came before 9/11, at the cost of thousands of lives, a trillion dollars and a significant blow to the things that make America exceptional. One problem was that Americans lost their power to criticize misguided policies in the face of rhetoric such as was used by Mr. Santorum, or even to try to understand the reasons for conflict when the alternative seems to be a downward spiral of endless war. I don’t believe I have ever met Mr. Bock outside posts on this blog, but seriously doubt that he supports 911 style killings, or blaming the victim, or murderous religious beliefs, or stealing the wealth of holocaust victims, or criminal acts, or even moral relativism. The article he links to is actually very good in its discussion of your event and the UD event, searching for the meaning of 9/11. I hope you will post your entire speech.

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