Published on Thursday, September 20, 2001 in Newsday United States Now Pays For the Error of OurWays by Sheryl McCarthy FANATICS. Barbarians. A war between good and evil. These are the words being used to describe the World Trade Center attackers and whatever method the United States will use to retaliate. Americans are good and the people responsible for this terrible crime are evil, aren't they? While the world waits for our response, it's important for us to understand why we were attacked and why more and more people in the Muslim world hate the United States so much that they're willing to die to hurt us. I don't believe the attackers were crazy or even irrational. And, until we stop waving them off as a bunch of fringe-group religious nuts who had nothing to lose and try to understand their grievances against this country, this holy war against us will continue. What fueled their hatred of the United States? To begin with, it was the sense of second-class citizenship in the world community that's felt by the Mideast as a whole. This is the result of colonialism, when the colonial powers determined what happened in their countries, what their boundaries would be, who would rule and who would dominate their economies. As the only remaining superpower, the United States today calls all the shots, even in their region of the world, and this has created a sense of helplessness and resentment. In New York City right now, we see more than 5,000 people dead, countless grieving friends and relatives, and a national landmark that's been reduced to a mangled steel grave. In Iraq, they see more than 300,000 children under age 5 who've died as a result of the Gulf War and the economic sanctions that followed, both engineered by the United States. They see more than 5,000 American troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, U.S. aircraft carriers patrolling the Persian Gulf, and U.S. airplanes flying overhead. Would Americans tolerate foreign occupation quietly? And, if Iraq is such a rogue nation that it deserves such rigid oversight, why is the United States so lenient on Israel, where government forces have gunned down unarmed Palestinians with impunity? In Israel, Muslims see American jets dropping U.S.-made bombs on Palestinian civilians. And, while both Israelis and Palestinians have died in the current uprising, they see the United States condemning the Palestinians while giving the Israelis mild reprimands. Osama bin Laden is said to be the mastermind behind the World Trade Center attack. He was a Cold War ally when the United States was paying Afghan rebels to fight the Soviet Union. He didn't turn against us until the Gulf War. Bin Laden tried to form a coalition of Arab nations to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Instead, in marched United States troops, defiling, in his view, the most sacred shrines of Islam - Mecca and Medina. "We are also human beings, just like you are," Khalid Kwaja, a comrade of bin Laden, told a CBS producer in June. "Our people also want to retaliate." Another reason for the attacks on the United States is the existence of repressive Mideast states that don't tolerate political dissent or free expression. The United States supports them - Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, for example - because they assist us in our goals in the region, keeping oil cheap and available. But the lack of outlets for dissent have driven Muslims into extreme religious groups, which hate America because its worldy culture threatens to undermine their conservative values. Combine the resentment created by colonialism, the occupation of Muslim lands by Western powers or countries backed by Western powers, U.S. manipulation of Mideast politics - from ousting Premier Mohammad Mossadeq of Iran in the 1950s to abetting a 10-year war between Iran and Iraq in order to keep them both weak, the U.S. failure to be an even-handed broker between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the huge power that the United States wields arrogantly - and it translates into hatred. I can't look at the wreckage of the World Trade Center or observe the grief of those who have lost friends and relatives without knowing that this attack was morally wrong. The people who carried it out should be tracked down and punished. But, if we view them simply as wild-eyed fanatics who harbored an irrational hatred for our country, we won't understand the specific incidents of this country's own behavior that contributed to this vicious attack. And, even if we capture Osama bin Laden tomorrow, if our approach to the Mideast remains the same, these attacks will continue because the hatred for us will still be there. Copyright © 2001, Newsday, Inc.