"Death to America"
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
America's war on terrorism did not begin in September 2001. It began in November 1979.
That was shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini had seized power in Iran, riding the slogan "Death to America" - and sure enough, the attacks on Americans soon began. In November 1979, a militant Islamic mob took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital, and held 52 Americans hostage for the next 444 days.
The rescue team sent to free those hostages in April 1980 suffered eight fatalities, making them the first of militant Islam's many American casualties. Others included:
After a let-up, the attacks then restarted: Five and 19 dead in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, 224 dead at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 and 17 dead on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000.
Simultaneously, the murderous assault of militant Islam also took place on U.S. soil:
In all, 800 persons lost their lives in the course of attacks by militant Islam on Americans before September 2001 - more than killed by any other enemy since the Vietnam War. (Further, this listing does not include the dozens more Americans in Israel killed by militant Islamic terrorists.)
And yet, these murders hardly registered. Only with the events of a year ago did Americans finally realize that "Death to America" truly is the battle cry of this era's most dangerous foe, militant Islam.
In retrospect, the mistake began when Iranians assaulted the U.S. embassy in Tehran and met with no resistance.
Interestingly, a Marine sergeant present at the embassy that fateful day in November 1979 agrees with this assessment. As the militant Islamic mob invaded the embassy, Rodney V. Sickmann followed orders and protected neither himself nor the embassy. As a result, he was taken hostage and lived to tell the tale. (He now works for Anheuser-Busch.)
In retrospect, he believes that passivity was a mistake. The Marines should have done their assigned duty, even if it cost their lives. "Had we opened fire on them, maybe we would only have lasted an hour." But had they done that, they "could have changed history."
Standing their ground would have sent a powerful signal that the United States of America cannot be attacked with impunity. In contrast, the embassy's surrender sent the opposite signal - that it's open season on Americans. "If you look back, it started in 1979; it's just escalated," Sickmann correctly concludes.
To which one of the century's great geostrategist thinkers, Robert Strausz-Hupé, adds his assent. Just before passing away earlier this year at the age of 98, Strausz-Hupé wrote his final words, and they were about the war on terrorism: "I have lived long enough to see good repeatedly win over evil, although at a much higher cost than need have been paid. This time we have already paid the price of victory. It remains for us to win it."
Sep. 8, 2002 update: The list of Islamist attacks within the United States omitted the antisemitic dimension documented on Oct. 10, 2000, at "Link to Riots Seen In Wave of Strikes On Jews, Temples."
And a reader, Irfan Khawaja, notes at "Agreements and Disagreements" my having missed the attack on the U.S. embassy in Islamabad. I have now added this in the article above, in square brackets.
Reader comments (293) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes