Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

New page on Islamic and Muslim History now online

12 Sep

New page on Islamic and Muslim History now online at:

Islamic Symbol

Islamic Symbol


The Calm Before The Storm: The World of September 10, 2001

10 Sep

Here it is; the eve of another 9/11 anniversary.  I no longer bother watching the politicians give speeches at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, or in Pennsylvania.  Six years on now, and I look at a changed world.

Prior to September 11, 2001, few Americans, even those who watched the news regularly or read the newspapers would could have told you anything about Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida, or the Taliban if asked.  Never mind that bin Laden had declared war on the U.S. back in 1996, and then followed up with attacks against American Embassies in Africa in 1998 and an attack on the USS Cole in 2000; Americans, as a whole, had no idea what was about to hit us.

In the world of September 10, 2001, America’s (and President Bush’s) primary international fear was China.  A recent collision between American and Chinese military planes had caused a ripple of concern for relations between the two powers.  American students generally cared little for the outside world.  The Middle East was known primarily as the place a lot of oil came from, and the location of Saddam Hussein.  By the way, it is generally forgotten that the U.S. and the U.K. were actively conducting aerial warfare against Iraq, and protecting/occupying a large swath of northern Iraq inhabited by the long-oppressed Kurds.

And then there was Afghanistan.  A country largely ignored by America and the non-Islamic world after the big, bad Soviets ended their war against Islamic Jihadists.  Bin Laden was a part of that Islamic resistance movement, but few Americans outside of the CIA and a few history/military affairs geeks among the civilian population bothered to remember that bin Laden (like Saddam in another war), was once on the side that was shooting at our avowed enemies.  Did that make them our friends?  No, just useful tools to fight and weaken our opponents of the moment.

So what does all this talk of the world as it stood on the day before al-Qaida attacked America really mean?  Only that history often turns on events that have links and connections to related, yet often largely unknown events, movements, and people.

Should Americans have seen bin Laden as a vital threat?  Obviously yes, we should have seen him as the threat he proved himself to be.  Are we any different now?  Has America learned its lesson yet? 

Of course not!  Ask any high school or college history teacher in the U.S.  Americans as a whole do not pay much attention to history (unless presented on the History Channel and features lots of explosions and maybe a glimpse or two of Hitler), and that is an ongoing problem.  How many Americans can answer this question?

Has the U.S. and China ever fought a war against each other?  And if so, can you name the wars?  Can you, Dear Reader of this Blog, answer that question without googling it?

This is not an idle question, because one of the more obvious results of the 9/11 attacks and America’s response has been the now four-year-old War in Iraq.  The current war is often compared and contrasted with the American war in Vietnam.  Is it accurate to compare them?  What are the consequences of America’s collective lack of knowledge of the world and its history?  Middle East Muslims remember and talk about the medieval Crusades like they happened last year.  Most Americans could not even explain what the Crusades were about.  Those questions are best addressed in a blog post for another day.  

The next History Guy Blog post will actually be about 9/11 and what has so far resulted from that horrible day.  Stay tuned!