William Blum, Anti-Empire Report, July 1, 2011
America and its perpetual quest for love
Why can't we "get some of the people in these downtrodden countries to like us instead of hating us."The United States is still wondering, and is no closer to an understanding than Good Ol' Ike was almost 60 years ago. American leaders still believe what Frances Fitzgerald observed in her study of American history textbooks: "According to these books, the United States had been a kind of Salvation Army to the rest of the world: throughout history, it had done little but dispense benefits to poor, ignorant, and diseased countries. ... the United States always acted in a disinterested fashion, always from the highest of motives; it gave, never took." 2
– President Dwight D.Eisenhower, in a March,1953 National Security Council Meeting 1
In 2007 I wrote in this report about the US military in Iraq:
I almost feel sorry for them. They're "can-do" Americans, accustomed to getting their way, accustomed to thinking of themselves as the best, and they're frustrated as hell, unable to figure out "why they hate us", why we can't win them over, why we can't at least wipe them out. Don't they want freedom and democracy? ... They're can-do Americans, using good ol' American know-how and Madison Avenue savvy, sales campaigns, public relations, advertising, selling the US brand, just like they do it back home; employing psychologists and anthropologists ... and nothing helps. And how can it if the product you're selling is toxic, inherently, from birth, if you're totally ruining your customers' lives, with no regard for any kind of law or morality, health or environment. They're can-do Americans, accustomed to playing by the rules — theirs; and they're frustrated as hell.Here now the Google Cavalry rides up on its silver horse. Through its think tank, Google Ideas (or "think/do tank"), the company paid for 80 former Muslim extremists, neo-Nazis, U.S. gang members and other former radicals to gather in Dublin June 26-28 ("Summit Against Violent Extremism", or SAVE) to explore how technology can play a role in "de-radicalization" efforts around the globe. Now is that not Can-do ambitious?
The "formers," as they have been dubbed by Google, will be surrounded by 120 thinkers, activists, philanthropists and business leaders. The goal is to dissect the question of what draws some people, particularly young people, to extremist movements and why some of them leave.
The person in charge of this project is Jared Cohen, who spent four years on the State Department's Policy Planning staff, and is soon to be an adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), focusing on counter-radicalization, innovation, technology, and statecraft. 3
So ... it's "violent extremism" that's the big mystery, the target for all these intellectuals to figure out. ... Why does violent extremism attract so many young people all over the world? Or, of more importance probably to the State Department and CFR types: Why do violent extremists single out the United States as their target of choice?
Readers of this report do not need to be enlightened as to the latter question. There is simply an abundance of terrible things US foreign policy has done in every corner of the world. As to what attracts young people to violent extremism, consider this: What makes a million young Americans willing to travel to places like Afghanistan and Iraq to risk their life and limbs to kill other young people, who have never done them any harm, and to commit unspeakable atrocities and tortures?
Is this not extreme behavior? Can these young Americans not be called "extremists" or "radicals"? Are they not violent? Do the Google experts understand their behavior? If not, how will they ever understand the foreign Muslim extremists? Are the experts prepared to examine the underlying phenomenon — the deep-seated belief in "American exceptionalism" drilled into every cell and nerve ganglion of American consciousness from pre-kindergarten on? Do the esteemed experts then have to wonder about those who believe in "Muslim exceptionalism"?
This just in! American leaders do have feelings!Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's criticism of US and NATO forces in his country grows more angry and confrontational with each passing week. Recently, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry was moved to reply to him: "When Americans, who are serving in your country at great cost — in terms of lives and treasure — hear themselves compared with occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest, and likened to the brutal enemies of the Afghan people ... they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here. ... We begin to lose our inspiration to carry on."
That certainly may apply to many of the soldiers in the field. But oh, if only American military and political leaders could really be so offended and insulted by what's said about them and their many wars.
Eikenberry — who has served in Afghanistan a total of five years as a senior US Army general and then as ambassador — warned that if Afghan leaders reach the point where they "believe that we are doing more harm than good," then Americans may "reach a point that we feel our soldiers and civilians are being asked to sacrifice without a just cause," and "the American people will ask for our forces to come home."
Well, if Eikenberry is really interested, a June 8 BBC World News America/Harris Poll found that 52% of Americans believe that the United States should move to get its troops out of Afghanistan "now", with only 35% believing that the troops should stay; while a Pew Research Center poll of mid-June showed 56% of Americans favor an "immediate" pullout.
"America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world," the ambassador continued. "We are a good people." 4
How nice. Reminds me of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, after the 1999 78-day bombing of the helpless people of the former Yugoslavia, a war crime largely instigated by herself, when she declared: "The United States is good. We try to do our best everywhere." 5
Do these grownups really believe what comes out of their mouths? Does Mr. Eikenberry actually think that "America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world"? Sixty-six years after World War II ended, the United States still has major bases in Germany and Japan; 58 years after the end of the Korean War, tens of thousands of American armed forces continue to be stationed in South Korea; for over a century, the United States has occupied Guantanamo Bay in Cuba against the fervent wishes of the Cuban people. And what other term shall we use to describe the American presence in Iraq for more than eight years? And Afghanistan for almost ten?
George W. Bush had no doubt: The Iraqis are "not happy they're occupied," he said. "I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either." 6
However, the current Republican leader in the House, John Boehner appears to be a true believer. "The United States has never proposed establishing a permanent base in Iraq or anywhere else," he affirmed a few years ago. 7
If 18th century Americans could resent occupation by the British, when many of the Americans were British themselves, then how much easier to understand the resentment of Iraqis and Afghans toward foreign occupiers.