Americans fear answering the question: "Why do they hate us so?"

First cause then effect. As we are approaching the anniversary of the black Tuesday -- September 11, 2001 -- it is becoming increasingly clear: all the past year world political scientists and international media were absorbed in examining chiefly the latter part of this logical equation.

Namely: the effect. A chilling and still incomprehensible terrorist attack on the world's most powerful nation. And a war in Afghanistan as this power's protective reflex to the challenge issued by the global evil.

A lot of things lie buried under the ruins of the New York trade centre and the Pentagon. Not only people but also myths. A myth about the invulnerability of the United States. An illusion that American secret services are all-powerful.

The ramming blow at the twin towers shook the entire system of international relations. It became clear that nuclear arsenal rivalry should give way to unity of former opponents in the struggle against international terrorism.

Russia's resolve to render immediate support to the US operation in Afghanistan was rewarded with closer ties between the two countries, unprecedented since the Second World War. The West at last saw events in Chechnya such as they are -- a component part of the great Muslim empire, which Islamic radicals are trying to carve out on the world's map with bullets and dynamite.

The world, while commemorating on the anniversary of the terrorist act its victims, cannot, however, cast away the doubts assailing it.

Indeed, the Afghan operation seems to have been a success. But bin Laden has not been founded dead or alive, and Al-Qaeda went to the ground, possibly in the United States itself.

But what next? A network of world terrorism is covering the globe from Algeria and Spain to Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The next man to be punished is going to be, according to Bush, Saddam Hussein. But Bush's dreams are shared neither by the Muslim world, nor Europe -- apart from London, nor even by its loyal northern neighbour Canada. Washington is sliding, without noticing it, into a vacuum of loneliness.

Speaking generally, special forces and bombs are devastating arguments. But a year on they no longer seem to be such in the long-term confrontation with Islamic extremism.

That is what concerns the effect.

Things are even more complicated with the first part of the logical equation -- the cause. Over the past year the Western press has preferred either to skip the reasons for the September 11 tragedy as too sensitive. Or, in rare cases, to use primitive battle cries when writing about it.

They, the terrorists, hate our democratic freedoms! They hate our way of life! They hate our institutions and our economic system! This is why they are trying to grind all this into concrete dust like the one that covered New York on September 11. And what are we to do? There is nothing left but to reply in kind!

Behind this righteous anger of a humiliated and smarting power there still remains unanswered and ignored the reply to the original and basic question: why do they so hate us, the West and above all America?

If there was anyone who was really interested last year in this theme it was perhaps only Islam scholars and string correspondents. In a series of books published after September 11, one can find some common conclusions.

One is that the West -- and above all the United States -- was largely responsible for politicising Islam, enhancing its extremist trends and, ultimately, creating this hydra -- Al-Qaeda.

Let us leave aside historical digressions into why the Ottoman Empire broke up and so-called "political Islam" emerged in 1890 with its idea of uniting Muslims in one state. Let us go to 1989 at once, when, apart from everything else, support by UN intelligence services for the Afghan Mojahideen resulted in the Soviet Union pulling out of Afghanistan. It was then that we see the emergence of the host of Islamic legionnaires, which provided a nutrient medium for international terrorism, believes Arab scholar Gilles Keppel, the author of the just published book "The Jihad. The Trail of Political Islam".

"An international brigade of Afghan Jihad veterans, finding itself outside state control, suddenly offered itself to serve the Islamic cause throughout the world," says Keppel. "It, the brigade, has bred a new hybrid Islamic ideology, whose first doctrinal principle was to justify the existence and conduct of militants ... " The inglorious role of the US in its initial concern for Islamic militants, when they appeared to be a suitable instrument for eroding the USSR's influence, is also mentioned by Malise Ruthven, the author of the book "A Fury in the name of God. The Islamist Attack on America".

"The seeds of terrorism (as distinct from its roots)," the investigator writes, "were spread by Islamic movements, which were sponsored and financed by conservative Muslim states ... with the participation of the United States".

Today too Washington is to no purpose extolling bin Laden so unthinkingly, making a genius of evil out of him, believe many political scientists. The prevailing opinion on this score is voiced by Indian political writer Dilip Hiro in his book "War Without End. The Rise of Islamic Terrorism and the Global Response".

"By ascribing to him all the terrorist acts from the International Trade Centre explosion early in 1993 and right down to the very last, America unwittingly reinforces bin Laden's status as an icon for certain public quarters in the Arab and Islamic world," Dilip Hiro stresses.

Many scholars are putting in doubt Washington's current tactics of responding to terror with war. In the view of M.J.Akbar, another well-known Indian Arab scholar, the loss of Afghanistan little concerns the Taliban movement, and especially Al-Qaeda.

"Both the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, as well as other organisations with a similar dream, can exist without a government and even without a country, because recruitment into their ranks is within the minds," he says in his book "The Shade of Swords -- Jihad and the Conflict Between Islam and Christianity". "A battle cannot be fought in minds only by means of special forces and cruise missiles ... " But the most straightforward and fearless man to comment on the September 11 events, as if laying down his gray head on the block of truth, was American literary doyen Gore Vidal. He found it possible to attempt to give an answer to the question painful for every American: "Why do they hate us so?" The same question is present in the subtitle of his book "Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace", published in November 2001 in Italy, but still not issued in the US. It has been cursed, in effect banned privately.

The reason for this ostracism was provided by one of the essays included in the book and tersely entitled "September 11, 2001 (Tuesday)". Gore Vidal reminds his readers of what America would like to forget: thousands of those killed and tortured by dictatorial regimes, which the US supported in Latin America, Asia and the Middle East after the Second World War, the economic plundering by American concerns of poor countries, and 3,500 civilians who were killed by American bombs during the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan.

In order to retain the status of a superpower and its sphere of global control, the United States has for decades resorted to immoral methods, the writer is convinced. Now these methods have been turned against America itself. In Vidal's view, September 11 marked the birth of "private terror". From a state phenomenon it passed into private hands, but from the consumer's point of view the product "still bears the same label".

Ruthless and devastating words. But the great author, who has lived seven long decades with his country, perhaps has the right to say them.

The coming anniversary of the tragedy appeals to a deeper understanding of the tragedy than mere calls for fresh military strikes.

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