As the seventh anniversary of the jihadist murder of nearly 3,000 American civilians passed last week, it is useful to recall an article that the Hyde Park Herald published on September 19, 2001 — written by a young Illinois state senator named Barack Obama. Even all these years later, it is revealing of the mindset of the man who would be leader of the free world.
Obama starts out well enough, saying: “We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.” He then, however, almost immediately veers into psychobabble.
Saying that we must understand “the sources of such madness,” Obama declares that “the essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others.” This lack of empathy isn’t, he says, “unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity.” Rather, it grows “out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.”
In other words, poverty causes Islamic jihad. Obama reiterated this point last July during a CNN interview, when he related the rise of jihadist sentiment in Indonesia to poverty: “And now in Indonesia, you see some of those extremist elements. And what’s interesting is, you can see some correlation between the economic crash during the Asian financial crisis, where about a third of Indonesia’s GDP was wiped out, and the acceleration of these Islamic extremist forces.”
And in a May interview with David Brooks of the New York Times, Obama (while again calling upon American officials to examine “the root causes of problems and dangers”) declared that the jihad terrorist groups Hizballah and Hamas are “going down a blind alley with violence that weakens their legitimate claims.”
Would President Obama, then, address what he thinks of as the “legitimate claims” of these groups by showering the money of American taxpayers upon them, so as to raise (as he put it in his post-9/11 article) “the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe — children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores”?
It seems likely that he would — and it is yet another indication that the Candidate of Change is actually the Candidate of Reviving Tired Failed Policies. The U.S. has showered billions in foreign aid on Pakistan over the last seven years — while high-level Pakistani officials played a double game, making all the right anti-terror noises while aiding the jihadists on the sly.
If poverty causes terrorism, why is Pakistan aiding the Taliban, and edging ever closer to implementing the strictest possible version of Islamic law, so many billions of dollars later?
In fact, the poverty-terror connection has been debunked many times. Fortune magazine, for example, reported in March 2007 that “of the 50 poorest countries in the world…only Afghanistan (and perhaps Bangladesh and Yemen) has much experience in terrorism, global or domestic.” The 9/11 hijackers were “middle-class sons of Saudi Arabia and many were well-educated. And Osama bin Laden himself is from one of the richest families in the Middle East.”
Fortune noted that a 2003 study of Palestinian terrorism found “higher-status respondents (merchant, farmer or professional)” were significantly more likely than “those lower down the ladder (laborer, craftsman or employee)” to agree that there were “circumstances under which you would justify the use of terrorism to achieve political goals.” And Harvard professor Albert Abadie studied 1,776 terrorist incidents, only to find no connection between poverty and terrorism: “When you look at the data” to find such a connection, he said, “it’s not there.”
If Barack Obama is elected president, will he continue to operate according to these failed paradigms, or will he face hard realities and adjust his policies accordingly? The lack of even the smallest shift in his views on poverty and terrorism between 2001 and 2008 do not bode well for the answer to this question.