[Last update: 16 September 2002]

United We Stand . . . In Ignorance and Chauvinism

by Peter Urban

[12 September 2002]

I let the 11th of September pass by before making comment. When last year I immediately issued a statement decrying the loss of civilian life, while critiquing the US foreign policy which had made such an attack a likely event, critics argued that my greatest sin was in not having the wisdom to refrain from commenting in the midst of America's national trauma. As a result of speaking the truth, that America had earned itself a vast array of enemies through a foreign policy which acted against the interests of the majority of the earth's inhabitants, the result was the receipt of an average of slightly more than one death threat a day for the next couple of weeks.

At least one message made quite clear where these hostile response writers felt that I'd erred . . . he wrote, "American lives are more precious than other lives because they are American," and provided a bit of color and drama with a garnish of profanity.

I remember the refrain heard so commonly after the tragic events of last September's attack on the World Trade Center. People everywhere in America, on news broadcasts, entertainment shows, in newspaper columns, in the workplace, in bars and cafes, would ask aloud: "Why did they do this to us? Why do they hate us? What did we do to deserve this?"

In my statement last September, I attempted to answer that question, in the hope that Americans could learn something about the consequences of their own actions and not repeat the mistakes that lead to last years tragedy. Doing so was chiefly met with undisguised hostility, macho posturing, national chauvinist speechifying, frothing at the mouth, and gnashing of the teeth. I concluded that Americans were not being honest with either themselves or others about their desire to understand why these events had taken place.

One year later, I have the pleasure brought by the hollow vindication of being shown to be right.

The present US administration is unrelentingly advancing the position that the US must invade Iraq militarily. The US Congress has shown only the slightest disagreement with such a perspective and this chiefly in the arena of debate minor points of disagreement. Anyone who believes that the US Congress would possibly vote down any proposal serving to enable a US military assault against the people of Iraq is out of touch with reality...which is hardly an uncommon condition in contemporary America. Recent polls of the American people show that the majority of American citizens agree with the conclusion of their President and favor an attack on the Iraqi people.

However, the United Nations is opposed to such action, the US's allies in the EU are opposed to such action, the Arab League (including Kuwait who was invaded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia from which the US would hope to base such an undertaking, other Gulf States who are the US's closest allies in the Arab world), the Islamic League (including Iran who fought a bloody ten year war with Iraq in recent history), and just about every other nation on the planet are all opposed to such an action. The individual the US government dispatched to oversee monitoring of Iraq's efforts to develop 'weapons of mass destruction' and who monitored Iraq's weapons' sites for years, argues that there is no basis for such action. Various pundits and constitutional preservationists have argued that a pre-emptive attach of this nature would be unprecedented in US history, contrary to traditional US values, and possibly in violation of international law and convention.

But, the US government still appears to be pursuing the idea of attacking Iraq and the US people appear to support such action.

Why do they hate us?

Because the US is arrogant. Because the US is belligerent. Because the US is prepared to undertake actions that will result in countless civilian lives being lost or ruined with no case it can make to justify such action that will stand up to the scrutiny of the rest of the world. Because the American government and the American people are not deterred in the slightest by the recognition that virtually the entire world opposes such an action on our nation's part. Because the American government and the American people don't display any evidence of feeling the slightest unease, guilt, or shame at pursuing a course of action, likely to reek incredible amounts of destruction and bloodshed, that the rest of the world is saying is wrong, without justification, and immoral.

They hate use because we are hateful. Simple cause and effect.

Perhaps what is most hateful about the American government and the majority of its people, is that they are self-righteous and shameless in their preparedness to make declarations of fact about things in which they are in the murkiest and most inexcusable ignorance.

Americans, who know little to nothing about the tenets and practices of Muslims, pontificate and judge Islam and its followers around the globe. Americans, who know little to nothing about the Arab world (who wouldn't know where it is on a map, who wouldn't know Iran isn't part of it, and who wouldn't know anything of its history) declare the existence of a previously unknown continuous war between Arabs and Jews dating back thousands of years, despite the reality that it is Europe and European-derived nations that have been the bulwark of the most heinous forms of anti-Semitism over and over again throughout the last thousand years, while it was the Arab and Islamic world that sheltered the Sephardim driven by Christianity out of Iberia, sheltered the Slavic Jews repeatedly subjected to pogroms, and despite the fact the Koran requires Moslem tolerance of Jews and Christians alike.

Americans, who know little to nothing about the social and political realities of the Middle East and who care little about the oppression of women under sexism around the world, smugly declare the need to liberate Iraqi women from the chador, genital mutilation, and the living prison of the veil, despite Iraq being among the most secular of nations in the region, despite the position of women in Iraqi society being among the most advanced in the Arab world. They do so despite female circumcision being primarily an African practice -- both prior to and after the rise of Islam -- and differing greatly from region to region and culture to culture, so that in some instances it is no more destructive to tissue than is male circumcision. They do so despite the very problems they denounce being chiefly attributes of those Arab nations with whom the US is most closely allied. They do so despite loudly complaining, in some circles, when word got out that American troops stationed around the Gulf lacked the availability of prostitutes or women to engage socially that they had traditionally encountered.

Americans know little about geography, with an appalling number of them unable to locate Canada (with which they share a 3,000 mile border) or the Pacific Ocean (which forms their entire western boundary) on a map, yet they stand prepared to speak with confidence about the threat Iraq poses to the US and to its (unnamed) neighbors. They generally know nothing about Iraq and Kuwait having both been part of the same province of the Ottoman empire only a century ago, or about Britain having maintained Kuwait as a colony until the 1960s, but they are prepared to speak on the absolute necessity of America having responded to Kuwait's occupation by Iraq by unleashing an assault which shattered the Iraqi economy and society.

Americans know little about their own constitution, the various responsibilities and limitations of the different branches of their own government, or the military, diplomatic, or political history of their own nation, yet they loudly defend the President (who many are unaware failed to win a majority of the popular vote and who many have forgotten only won the majority of the electoral college because of the questionable intervention of Supreme Court justices appointed by the President's own father) when he asserts the necessity of formulating a new principle of unilateral and unprovoked use of military force against another sovereign nation, in the face of opposition from the rest of the entire world, with a justification centered on that nation having supported a group of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists who attacked the US -- even though it is well established that Iraq has traditionally shunned Islamicists, in keeping with its government's Baathist secularism, and though it is known that the terrorists in question received much of their initial arms, training and financing from the CIA, and are chiefly supported now by wealthy and highly placed figures in Saudi Arabia, who are closely linked to the US government through the alliance between the two nations on a host of matters, as well as though financial connections stemming from oil holdings and development.

The list could continue on like this for pages, but there is little point to the exercise. Ultimately, it comes back to the simple and reflexive reality that Americans -- despite the traumatic events of last year, despite their protestations of grief and dismay resulting from the thousands of lives lost, despite their plaintive pleas for an explanation for why these events happened -- continue to act solely in the interests of America, specifically the interests of American imperialism. They continue to spare no thought whatsoever about the concerns and feelings of other nations, other peoples with whom they share the planet. They continue to believe that their nation has the right to intervene in the affairs of other nations whenever it wishes, but that other nations do not have the right to assert their own sovereign rights, even within their own borders, if the US disagrees with them. They continue to be unprepared to accept even limited American casualties in a war with another nation, yet give not the slightest thought to the death toll which results from their government's actions in nations abroad.

In short, they continue to be hateful...and so the world hates them.

America is a year older since the destruction of the World Trade Center, but America is, sadly, no wiser. And that is truly sad, because the awful combination of ignorance and arrogance which serves as the hallmarks of the American nation in the world today, will give rise to more needless and senseless misery and death in other nations around the world. Moreover, this same combination will no doubt result in future attacks such as were experienced on September 11th, 2001.

When these come...as surely they will...don't ask, America, why this is being done to you? Don't ask why they hate you? Don't attempt to appear innocent, because now we'll know...you neither want to know, nor give a damn. All you want, is to get away with murder; murder and greed. All you want -- but what no one is going to grant you -- is to have whatever you want, at everyone else's expense, without any repercussions being suffered.

So pretend that it isn't your fault if you like, but don't make the mistake of believing that will keep you safe. It won't. Your country is a threat to the well being of every other nation on the planet, eventually, someone out their will have to try to stem that threat. You've left them no other option. So next time, you have only yourselves to blame.


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