Iowa State assignment asks students to write on 9/11 from terrorist perspective



Michael Heckle

A paper assigned in an Iowa State international studies class asked students to write an essay on 9/11 from the perspective of the terrorist, according to the College Fix.

The course, taught by international studies professor James Strohman, asked students to think “outside the box” and to take a historical look at 9/11 through the ideological eyes of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

“Write a paper that gives a historical account of 9/11 from the perspective of the terrorist network. In other words, how might Al-Qaeda or a non-Western historian describe what happened,” the assignment said, The College Fix reported. “Don’t worry about the fact you don’t agree with the terrorists, the point of the exercise is to consider completely different perspectives.”  

In a written response, Strohman defended the controversial assignment, stating that while events of 9/11 are a “tragic and painful memory for all Americans,” it’s important to look at the cultural and political issues that led to the attack.

The statement argues that the assignment was similar to work being done in organizations like the Central Intelligence Agency, which works to “understand one’s enemy” to help prevent future attacks.

“My personal views are irrelevant to my teaching of the class,” Strohman said in a written statement. “However, since they have been called into question, let me be clear that I consider 9/11 a horrific and devastating attack, and I support all who were, and continue to be impacted by the tragedy.”

Strohman said in his statement that the assignment was designed to encourage students to look at historical events from a perspective that they had never considered.

The statement also quotes Cpt. Scott Curtis, a combat veteran and current commanding officer of Iowa State’s Naval ROTC program.

“Only by having a very firm understanding of the history, motivations, and viewpoints of our adversaries can the appropriate levers of national power be applied to resolve the root causes of conflict,” Curtis said. “The assignment is a step in the right direction and is consistent with current counter-insurgency thinking across the full range of U.S. government and non- governmental organizations.”