Here’s what Glenn Greenwald has to say about the way we characterize the motives of Americans who kill others versus others who kill Americans:
Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including 9 children: he was drunk, he was experiencing financial stress, he was passed over for a promotion, he had a traumatic brain injury, he had marital problems, he suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty, he “saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre,” etc. Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.
Although Greenwald doesn’t analyze it in such terms, this is the classic ingroup-outgroup effect. For ingroup members, we make excuses. For members of outgroups, we pour on the venom. Most Americans are repulsed by the idea that we would actually try to understand the “terrorists'” actions by trying the see the world through their eyes. What is that viewpoint? Greenwald offers some ideas:
[T]hey’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the only way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world.