The ruling idea that the United States is the victim of an Islamic Middle East that threatens our existence, while we have been trying to spread democracy in that same Middle East, is twisted.
Those Americans killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were certainly innocent and victims. But our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and neighboring countries in the Mideast have killed many, many times that number. In fact, 9/11 can be seen as a demented “blowback,” as American historian Chalmers Johnson called it, for our intrusions and control of that area of the world.
We count only American victims. Other people, particularly those in Third World countries, see it as the terror and dominance that Western nations, especially the United States, have inflicted on them.
Our first Gulf War (1990-91) killed tens of thousands of Iraqis – military and civilian.
We purposely bombed Iraq’s infrastructure, including its water and sanitation systems, leading to the eventual death of at least 100,000 civilians. Our follow-up sanctions for 12 years after the war resulted, according to a United Nations’ report, in the deaths of at least 350,000 Iraqi children, a toll our then- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told CBS’ “60 Minutes” “was worth it.”
Britain invaded and controlled most of the Middle East – Iraq, Afghanistan and more – in the first half of the 20th century, bombing their cities and suppressing their people. Since then, the United States has supplanted British imperialistic control in this oil-rich area.
In 1990, we had no right to intervene just because Saddam Hussein’s Iraq invaded Kuwait, itself a repressive dictatorship.
For the 10 years previous to that we supported Saddam’s more horrible invasion of neighboring Iran, which killed a million people. Obviously, our interest was not democracy, but oil. That was the reason that, at the behest of American and British oil corporations, we had overthrown Iran’s parliamentary democracy back in 1953 in favor of the dictatorial Shah.
But isn’t corporate wealth favored here at home over ordinary people’s interests? Witness the rescue of the big banks in 2008 or America having among the higher rates of economic inequality.
In 2003, our leaders used terrorism as a dishonest excuse to go to war against Iraq a second time, even deceiving our troops into believing that they were avenging the 9/11 attacks, although Iraq had no part in those assaults.
That second war killed well over 100,000 Iraqis and nearly 5,000 Americans.
Our rationale for the 12-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan is based on our leadership falsely confusing them with al-Qaida terrorists. Although Afghanistan had an off-and-on relationship with that group, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, and they are a domestic insurgency, not an international terrorist group.
Our policy in this region has not been pro-democracy.
The Obama administration supported the Egyptian and Tunisian dictators in 2011 until it was obvious they would be overthrown. It still supports the many brutal despotisms in this area, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the undemocratic Gulf Emirates, and supports, too, Israeli bombing and suppression of the almost 2 million Palestinians imprisoned in the Gaza Strip.
What is it like for the populations in the many countries around the horn of Africa and in the Middle East up through Pakistan to live constantly under the watch of American drones and the deadly missiles they direct, killing without warning those whom our leadership secretly chooses, and whatever bystanders (even at least one wedding party)?
To these people, we are the predators, attacking from 7,000 miles away.
President Obama has claimed the right to execute anyone he considers dangerous, including Americans, and to hold suspects in indefinite detention (no hearings, no trials), even American citizens.
We already do these things. This is our new style of warfare. We have deserted our human rights and constitutional standards.
This unceasing “war on terror” has taken the lives of thousands of our troops, and often recklessly reassigned our soldiers for several tours in dangerous areas.
Even while our economy falters, both major political parties support military spending two to three times higher than in the 1990s.
There is no real debate about our wild course into foreign wars and continued militarism. Can’t we have a foreign policy that doesn’t bomb and menace countries too weak to ever seriously threaten our country?
Jim Scofield of Richland Township is an associate professor emeritus of Pitt-Johnstown.