The Crime of Making Americans Aware of Their Own History
By William Blum
Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view have managed to find their way into this well-defended American consciousness.
First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.
Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like â€œinsaneâ€, â€œtwisted mindâ€, and â€œabsurditiesâ€. Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that â€œwar is the lowest form of human behavior.â€ He said thereâ€™s no excuse for terrorism, and he added, â€œIâ€™m sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country.â€ (NBC September 21)
Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him.
Ron Paul and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.
What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?
The shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981 the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984 the bombing of Libya in 1986 the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987 the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988 the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989 the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991 the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998 the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this the abduction of â€œsuspected terroristsâ€ from Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured the large military and hi-tech presence in Islamâ€™s holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal family the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of 2006-2011.
It canâ€™t be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the â€œwar on terrorismâ€, although weakening, is that the targets of Americaâ€™s attacks have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board, â€œa Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense.â€ The report states:
â€œMuslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies.
The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.â€
The report concludes: â€œNo public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies.â€ (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)
The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a story about it on November 24, 2004. TheTimes reported that although the boardâ€™s report does not constitute official government policy, it captures â€œthe essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government.â€
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the Worldâ€™s Only Super Power and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.