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Why Does Radical Islam Hate the West?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

ANDREW NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: From the 9/11 attacks in the United States to more recent cases of terror in London and Sharm el-Sheikh (search), Egypt, many people have wondered why Islamic extremists are targeting Westerners. Do they hate us for who we are or for what we do?

Joining us now is Michael Rubin, former Coalition Provisional Authority (search) adviser and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and P.J. Crowley, former special assistant to President Clinton and director of national defense and homeland security for the Center For American Progress.

Michael, first to you. Why does radical Islam hate the West?

MICHAEL RUBIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) made this quite clear before Iraq’s elections. It’s because of what we represent. He declared a war on democracy.

And when — with Mohamed Atta's (search) last will and testament, with any other of number documents, it becomes clear that this is an ideological campaign against us. It’s not just a tactical campaign. And it’s not because of anything particularly we have done.

NAPOLITANO: P.J., agree or disagree?

P.J. CROWLEY, SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Oh, I disagree. I think that, to say that it’s just one thing, I think, is absolutely wrong. The fact is that — that some people do hate what we do represent. But I think you can’t disassociate that from also their perceptions of what we do around the world, and particularly what we do in the region.

So, I think it’s a combination of things. You look back to the first time that we were attacked by Islamic extremists in 1983 in Lebanon. It was because we had Marines there that had taken sides in a civil war. If you look back to 1991, one of the reasons why Usama bin Laden (search) turns towards the United States was because we had, in his mind, forces occupying the Middle East, their holy land.

So, I don’t think you can separate. It is — one of the dimensions is who we are and how we’re perceived in the region, particularly in the Middle East, but it’s definitely what we do and what our policies are.

NAPOLITANO: Michael, what is their real goal? Do they really want to set up an Islamic kingdom, a sort of caliphate that may have had in the year 900, up to the year 1000, before the Crusades? Do they really expect that they can defeat us or that we’ll go away?

RUBIN: Well, Al Qaeda developed in 1989 with the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

The lesson Usama bin Laden learned was that superpowers can be defeated and they can be replaced with this. Now, I’d like to make one analogy. In cases of domestic violence, the abuse spouse will often say, try to figure out what she did wrong to merit this abuse. And the correct answer is absolutely nothing.

Perhaps someone sought to justify this violence. Perhaps someone sought to justify this terrorism. But the fact of the matter is, the blame has to reside on the person perpetrating the terrorism. The worst thing we can do — and we saw this in 1983 in Beirut and 1993 in Mogadishu — is to withdraw just because someone feels that they don’t like our policies. That’s not — policy debates and politics are how to resolve this. We should never believe that terrorism is legitimate.

NAPOLITANO: P.J., if they hate us because of what we are, why did they attack Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last week?

CROWLEY: Well, certainly, first of all, you know, Egypt has had a decades-long struggle with Islamic jihadists in that country, you know, going back to when Anwar Sadat (search) was assassinated for making peace with Israel.

So, I think a key point is that there’s not just one terrorist threat here. If you look at Iraq, for example, certainly, there are extremists that are there now. But, also, you have Iraqi nationalists. You have disaffected Baathists (search). You also have common criminals.

And now, when you look ahead to London, I have a hard time saying, you know, where you have three British citizens involved in that first attack, some of them from middle-class backgrounds, to say that they just hate freedom I just think is a little bit oversimplistic. It’s a broad range of things, but one of the aspects has to be how we’re perceived around the world, how we’re perceived particularly in the Middle East.

NAPOLITANO: P.J. Crowley, Michael Rubin, thanks very much.

RUBIN: Thanks for having us.

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