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Opinion: Why Is America Hated In The Middle East?

Why Is America Hated In The Middle East?

An open letter sent 21st September to Nightline, ABC.

Dear NIGHTLINE,

It is commendable that you seek to explore the causes of the hatred against us. Please do your best to turn this into a history lesson. I implore you to avoid trivialities. Nobody wants to destroy America because it produces porn, or because it does not cover its women. Much less because it supposedly promotes individual liberties.

Even to suggest such a thing will distract the minds of Americans who need to understand what their government has been doing over the years. It is your job, as patriots, to inform Americans about things that the government might not want us to hear. That is the only sense in which you are the 4th Estate. Otherwise, you are just the propaganda division of the US government. I beg you to rise to the patriotic occasion. Please address the following:

1) The Eisenhower administration's CIA brought down a popular representative government in Iran, in 1953, because Mosaddeq, the Prime Minister, wanted to nationalise Iran's oil. America installed, nurtured, cradled, and propped the Shah for the next 25 years no matter how dictatorial and oppressive he became. This behaviour, of course, led to the bloody Islamic revolution in Iran. You have to SAY this, and to put the blame where it belongs: OUR CIA, and OUR foreign policy. Show us that you are a free press, and not the propaganda division of the US government.

2) Saddam Hussein is another CIA creation. We call him a 'Hitler' now, but he comes with a "Made in America" label stamped on the back of his neck. We installed him and supported him, and we encouraged him to wage a bloody war against Iran over a few square meters of real-estate. We needed to hit Iran hard, thru Iraq, because Iran had become dangerously anti-American because...uh huh...you begin to see the problem.

3) Saddam thought he had our blessing for everything. We had never stopped him before, and we had been supplying him with weapons. That is why he attacked Kuwait, the deliverance of which cost American lives.

4) Jihad as political holy war had been a dead concept in Islam for centuries. When a few crackpots in Pakistan and Afganistan started talking about a holy war against the Soviet imperialists, the US thought, "Great! Let's get this started and launch millions of Muslims against our Cold War opponents." So we fostered, encouraged, and funded this holy war of the mujahideen. Osama bin Laden was our ally, spending his own money and organizing people on the ground, as well as bringing them from all parts of the Islamic world. WE built the network that is bin Laden's Al Queida.

5) When it became necessary to deliver Kuwait from OUR violent protegé Saddam Hussein, American troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden's homeland. But they never left, and this is holy soil. This insult is added to the fact that we installed the ruling family there and have been supporting them ever since even though they run the country in dictatorial fashion and are widely hated. That is what made bin Laden our enemy. We had already built him up into a powerful warlord, and now he had gotten out of control. Sounds like Saddam? Yes it does.

6) When the Islamic party in Algeria won in fair and free elections, we supported the violent crackdown of the military because, it was said, the Islamicists would abolish democracy. So we made sure it was abolished before the Islamicists had a chance to try. It is hard to imagine that the bloody rampages that have characterized Algeria since could have been worse under the Islamicists. But we will never know, because America hates democratic outcomes. What it likes is tin-pot dictators that are obliged in clientship relationships to the United States. Of course, this is very dangerous. But it keeps happening because what each President keeps thinking about is the next election, not long-term outcomes, and American's don't read History.

7) Finally, we have been supporting Israel since its inception, even though it is a state born of terrorist violence, and even though its abuses have been many. Menachem Begin, one of the first prime-ministers of Israel, used to be a wanted terrorist with a bounty on his head. But who knows this? Do you? Americans don't read history. They are not interested. YOU MUST BRING THIS UP. The Palestinians are guilty of crimes as well, but we have never shown an even hand in the region: we mostly condemn the crimes of the Palestinians, the crimes of the weak. We have been Israel's unconditional allies.

8) I want to end this list with the future. In a few days, NATO troops will leave Macedonia and a bloodbath will begin. Paramilitary squads are trained and ready, and it is likely that the army will join them in anti-Albanian rampage. Nobody on the ground believes that a peaceful outcome is even remotely possible once NATO leaves. The conclusion that Muslims everywhere will draw is that we don't care about Muslim lives, and that we have left Muslims in Macedonia to be butchered by Macedonian Slavs in retaliation for the bombings. This is how it will be seen.

9) Another point for the future is that, without firing a shot, our rhetoric has already radicalized many in Pakistan, and the country is becoming unstable. The brand of fundamentalism in Pakistan is Taliban, imported from the conflict in Afganistan when the Pakistanis assisted the Taliban by letting them train inside Pakistan. If Pakistan falls to a Taliban revolution, the same people who are protecting bin Laden will control a country with millions of people AND nuclear weapons.

This list is incomplete. However, it brings into relief that the claim that Americans are hated because of their "culture" is total madness. It will not help Americans understand why they have been attacked. Please: Educate Americans about this history. Stay away from the ridiculous claims that we are hated because we respect individual liberties. In the Muslim world, over and over again, we consistently HAVE NOT respected individual liberties but rather supported tin-pot dictators. Therefore, the claim that we are hated because of our "culture" is a complete travesty of the truth. Before the fiasco in Iran, Americans were perceived all over the Muslim world as a benign world power. The hated powers were the colonialists: France and Britain. American culture was not radically different then. Women showed their skin, unmarried people kissed in movies, there was pornography, drinking, etc. If we were really hated for our "culture" this hate should have peaked in the 60's. It is peaking NOW. Now that we have become much more conservative than in that decade.

REMEMBER: It is your duty to educate. Patriotism for a media outlet, at this crucial moment, means teaching history. It means using the freedom of the press to say things that are difficult to say and hear. Patriotism means NOT BEING PROPAGANDISTS FOR THE GOVERNMENT. Patriotism, for you, and for me, and for all of us, means not allowing the truth to be the first casualty of war.

Please, I beg you, do your duty. Now more than ever.

Francisco Gil-White
Fellow, Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict
Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania.
fjgil@psych.upenn.edu

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