When U.S. officials condemn the violence arising out of the anti-Mohammed cartoons published by the European press, they fail to recognize that the anger in the Middle East goes a lot deeper than the adverse reaction to the cartoons reflects.
For example, read the transcript of the federal court sentencing of Ramzi Yousef, the terrorist who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993. Whether you agree with anything he said is irrelevant. When you read the invective that he hurled at the judge just before his sentencing, you can reach but one conclusion: This is a very angry man. It is that same anger and rage that smoldered within many Middle Eastern men throughout the 1990s and into this century, culminating in the second terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon on 9/11.
No matter how angry Muslims become over the mocking of their religious symbols (i.e., the Koran and Mohammed), what U.S. officials would prefer to ignore is the depth of anger that Muslims also feel at having been subjected to the arrogant, pretentious, brutal, and humiliating conduct of U.S. government officials. In fact, one cannot help but wonder whether the anger that has built up within Middle Easterners as a consequence of U.S. governmental conduct in that part of the world has contributed to the enormous anti-Western reaction to the publishing of tasteless cartoons by a Danish newspaper.
After 9/11, many Americans had no idea why there was so much anger and rage in the Middle East, especially against the United States. All their lives, Americans had been taught that foreign policy was for federal “experts” and, thus, they had chosen not to concern themselves with what their federal officials were doing to people abroad. Innocently believing that federal overseas personnel, including the CIA and the military, had been helping foreigners for decades, Americans had no reason to doubt the official U.S. pronouncement immediately after 9/11: “We are innocent. The terrorists hate us for our freedom and values. That’s why they have attacked us.”
What Americans didn’t realize is that federal officials were being disingenuous when they made that pronouncement. U.S. officials knew full well that their decades-old U.S. interventionist policies in the Middle East were at the bottom of the volcanic rage that people bore in that part of the world.
The U.S. government’s international paramilitary force, the CIA, covertly engineered the ouster of the popular and democratically elected prime minister of Iran and replaced him with a brutal dictator whose secret police tortured and terrorized the Iranian people for decades. Yet to this day, Americans cannot fathom why so many Iranians still hate the U.S. government.
The United States and other Western nations actively supported Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime, even delivering him the infamous weapons of mass destruction that U.S. officials later used as an excuse to invade Iraq.
In their role as imperial international policeman, U.S. officials turned on Saddam when he invaded Kuwait, even though the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was no more the business of the U.S. government than the U.S. invasion of Panama or Grenada was the business of Iraq. Moreover, the fact that U.S. officials had supported Saddam’s attack on Iran and then later had turned a passive eye on his intention to attack Kuwait makes U.S. officials look even worse. Thousands of Iraqis were massacred and maimed by U.S. bombs and missiles in the Persian Gulf War, decimating Iraqi families.
After the Persian Gulf War, U.S. officials inspired Kurds and Shi’ites to rebel against Saddam and then stood aside as Saddam massacred them.
Brutal economic sanctions were imposed on Iraq and then continued, year after year, for more than a decade, with the aim of forcing the Iraqi people to oust Saddam from power. The sanctions contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children from disease and infection, especially from dirty water.
To this day, many Americans remain ignorant of the major role that the sanctions played in the smoldering anger and rage within the Middle East, culminating on 9/11. To get a sense of the continuous year-after-year horror of the sanctions as well as the cruel and brutal games that U.S. bureaucrats played with the infamous “oil for food” program, carefully read the articles listed on this page.
High UN officials even resigned in protest at the genocide caused by the sanctions.
Ramzi Yousef mentioned the deaths of the Iraqi children in his angry tirade to the judge.
Is it difficult to understand how Middle East anger turned into rage when UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, expressing the callous mindset of her federal associates, told 60 Minutes that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children from the sanctions were “worth it”?
There were the infamous no-fly zones over Iraq, by which U.S. officials continued killing Iraqis with bombs and missiles, even though the zones had never been authorized by either the UN or the U.S. Congress.
U.S. troops were knowingly and deliberately stationed on Islamic holy lands, in utter disregard for religious sensibilities of Muslims. In fact, is it not easier to understand the depth of the adverse Muslim reaction to the stationing of U.S. troops in those areas given the recent adverse reactions to U.S. military abuse of the Koran and to the publication of the cartoons mocking Mohammed? Does anyone honestly believe that U.S. officials were unaware of the potential for such adverse reaction when they stationed U.S. troops in those areas?
The U.S. government invaded and waged a war of aggression against Iraq under false and deceptive claims regarding weapons of mass destruction and then continued a brutal military occupation of the country under the deceptive rubric of “spreading democracy.” The invasion and occupation have killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi people — innocent in the sense that neither they nor their government ever attacked the United States or even threatened to do so.
U.S. military and paramilitary forces tortured, sexually abused, raped, and murdered Iraqi men taken into custody. What better way to turn anger into rage than to knowingly and deliberately humiliate Iraqi men in such a manner rather than treat them like men and soldiers entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention, especially given that most of them were doing nothing worse than defending their nation against an illegal invasion and war of aggression by a foreign power?
The U.S. government has long provided unconditional financial and military support to the Israeli government as well as foreign aid to such pro-U.S. authoritarian regimes as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
When someone is trying to kill you, it’s of course important to defend yourself. But it’s also important to try to figure out why he’s trying to kill you. After all, if you’re doing something wrong that has gotten him angry, then isn’t it better to simply stop committing the wrongful act? In that case, his anger might dissipate, and he might even no longer want to kill you.
Today, there are Americans who cry, “It’s too late. They already hate us and will always hate us and so we’ve got to keep killing them before they kill us.”
But unless the entire Middle East is nuked, it is impossible to kill “all of them” because there will always be brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, children, grandchildren, or just friends of the dead who will seek vengeance.
Moreover, think about Vietnam. When the United States exited that country after killing more than a million Vietnamese, the Vietnamese communists left the United States alone. Today U.S. officials are even working with the Vietnamese communist regime to establish closer commercial ties.
U.S. government meddling in the Middle East occurred long before 9/11 and, in fact, was the motivating cause for 9/11 (and the previous 1993 attack on the World Trade Center). Thus, U.S. officials have it all wrong — the solution is not to invade, bomb, kill, maim, and meddle even more. That will only exacerbate the anger and rage that engenders retaliatory terrorist attacks. Continuing the same policies that have produced volcanic anger and rage will only ensure more terrorism, more counterterrorism, more infringements on the freedom of the American people, and more increases in the Pentagon’s budget.
The solution instead is for the American people to dismantle the U.S. government’s overseas empire, requiring the federal government, especially the Pentagon, to withdraw from the Middle East (and the rest of the world) and also to liberate the American people to travel, trade, and interact freely with the people of the world (including both Vietnam and Cuba).
Dismantling the U.S. overseas empire would not, of course, end conflicts abroad but it would ensure that the U.S. government could not make matters worse, both for foreigners and Americans, with its meddling overseas interventions. The federal government’s power would be limited to defending the United States from a foreign invasion, a virtually nonexistent threat at present, and to prosecuting criminal acts committed on American soil.
Equally important, by ending the federal government’s isolation of the American people from the rest of the world, we not only would be restoring the constitutional republic our ancestors bequeathed to us; Americans also would once again have the opportunity to lead the world to freedom, peace, prosperity, and harmony.
February 14, 2006