Why They Want to Kill Us

March 24, 2009
In our continuing series designed to teach first responders about terrorism, this month we seek to expose the mindset of a fanatical Islamic terrorist.

Sixty-Five years ago my uncle sat in a machine gun nest behind a Browning .30 caliber waiting for hundreds of Japanese Marines to bonsai his position. He knew he would mow down countless numbers of the enemy with deadly accuracy when the attack came, and it did several times. I also remember him telling me that he never understood why the Japanese soldiers would fix bayonets and charge, without cover, headlong into certain death. Was it courage or stupidity?

On September 12th, 2001, our nation, still reeling from shock, couldn't come to grips with what would drive young men with their whole lives ahead of them to hijack civilians (to include children), turn them into flying bombs and kill over 3,000 within about 20 minutes. Was it courage, stupidity or insanity? Could it have been something else? In both cases it was something different. It was Culture.

Western Eyes

Today, many Americans still fail to understand why terrorists want to kill us. The notion of their motivation has been convoluted at best, between the Arab media campaign of disinformation through outright lies, to the "political correctness" of our government and complexities of thousands of years of hatred mingled with religion, nationalism and geopolitics. You will never understand what motivates a terrorist if you try to rationalize his or her beliefs through your Western ideals. Americans are bad at that. We have a tendency to view the world as if the entire world is an extension of our country. To understand a terrorist, you have to learn how to think and see the world through their eyes and not our own.

Blame Game

After 9/11 every national media outlet had their own "experts" telling us why Arabs hated us and why terrorists were attacking us. Reasons included, "Wealth, Oil, the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein, Colonialism, Jesus Christ, Israel", etc., and the list hasn't seemed to stop growing. The truth is actually simpler than that on the surface, but more complex the further we delve into history. According to Col. Dan Dickerson (USA ret.), NATO, UN, and INTERPOL Terrorism Advisor, we "have done nothing wrong. This war was inevitable. We are involved in an Islamic Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran and their is no way of staying on the side lines". The American people and the citizenry of every country, including Muslims, are caught in the middle of this very real generational conflict. Make no mistake about it this is a World War, very much unlike the last two, and this one has millions of players.

Bogus Perceptions

The Anti Terrorism Accreditation Board, Emergency Response Manual #33, lists seven reasons "Islamic Extremists" hate the "West". Again, this is how terrorists see us; it's through their eyes:

  1. Arrogance, insensitivity toward other cultures. Islamic extremists preach that America, being the big brother of all Western nations, is trying to dominate the globe and turn their Islamic states, governed by a strict interpretation of the Qur'an, into an Arab democracy.
  2. Favoritism toward Israel. Need further explanation on this? Read your Bible, start with Genesis Chapter 16 (Hagar and Ishmael). The Jewish people have been hated for thousands of years and persecuted in nearly every country. When our government, through the Presidency of Harry Truman in 1948, officially recognized the State of Israel as an independent and sovereign nation the preverbal "line in the sand" was drawn separating the U.S. from Middle Eastern Arab countries. Today, there are just as many Jews safely living in our country as U.S. citizens (5 million) as their are in Israel (5 million).
  3. Wealth, Economic and Military Power. The wealth and economic status may have changed recently, especially when you consider the housing and world wide banking collapse that Americans are blamed for, but then again, no matter what we did or didn't do is just cause in their mind to hate us. Military power speaks for itself.
  4. Disgust over lax morals. Heck, I am guessing that most Americans would probably agree with this position too. The problem is that what is represented in Hollywood is not mainstream America. Islamic extremists like to paint the picture as though what someone sees about America via Hollywood is true.
  5. Economic sanctions against Muslim countries. U.S. sanctions throughout the decades against Iran, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, etc., are viewed as being unjustified.
  6. Lengthy Stay of U.S. Troops in Saudi Arabia. U.S. Forces have had a strong and continuous posture in the Middle East long after Saddam's troops were thrown out of Kuwait and thirty years prior to the Iraqi invasion.
  7. Support of Repressive, Corrupt Regimes Due to Western Greed (Oil). Basically, we support Saudi Arabia militarily, economically and politically because we need the oil. This is the "Islamic Cold War" Col. Dickerson stated earlier. We chose to back the Saudi Royal Family (the Saudi Arabian Government) and the Islamic "hard-liners" within Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, anywhere for that matter, do not like that.

Culture of Hatred

Imagine if you spent your entire life poor, destitute, and listening to those who are influential tell you everyday that America is the reason why your life sucks. When you turned on the TV, the media had shows depicting American's as violent, blood thirsty, demons boasting red demonic looking eyes with fangs. Your children watch cartoons depicting Americans and Jews as animals. Their teachers teach them songs with chants of "Death to America and Israel". When your child tells his or her class that their only desire when they grow up is to die as a suicide bomber their teacher and classmates praise them. As your children walk home from school they pass a large assembly outdoors with thousands of young men wearing military style clothing, with a raised AK-47 above their head while chanting the same song you learned in school, "Death to America and Israel". The clerics, religious leaders, continuously imprint their warped version of the Qur'an into the heads of their followers. The "Sword Verse" of the Qur'an, ingrained into your mind takes on a new meaning; from literary to literal.

(9:5) And when the forbidden months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them and take them captive, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakaat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.

Your children watch as the U.S. flag is burned in the street.

For millions of Muslims subjected to Islamic Extremism, what is shown above is an ordinary occurrence.


Here is the least you need to understand for this section.

  • What is illogical to us, based on our culture and belief system, is completely logical to them given theirs.
  • There is an Islamic Cold War waging between Saudi Arabia and Iran. America has chosen sides.
  • Islamic Extremists focus on seven reasons why the West is hated. America is viewed as being the leader of the West, protector of Israel, and supportive of oppressive Muslim regimes.
  • The culture of hatred within militant Islam runs deep. Children are being indoctrinated to fight this war decades from now.

About the Author

Keith R. Lavery

Keith R. Lavery, M.A., CMAS, is a full-time criminal justice educator teaching at a public Career Center, University System of Ohio. He has facilitated and designed criminal justice, security, and law enforcement courses of instruction at the post-secondary level. Keith had a very diverse police career spanning nearly 20 years, working in urban and rural law enforcement settings with assignments ranging from patrol to specialized functions, to include HIDTA Drug Unit, CLANLAB Enforcement Team, SRT and Supervision. In 2008, Keith was awarded the Certified Master Anti-Terrorism designation from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board. Academically, he has completed post-graduate course work dedicated toward a Doctorate in Education. Keith is currently the Law Enforcement Liaison for the Cleveland, Ohio, Chapter of ASIS International.

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