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Why They Hate Us

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What’s more obnoxious than a person who constantly whines about the injustices committed against him while ignoring his own injustices against others?

A country that does the same thing.

We often hear American politicians and commentators reciting a list of “terrorist” acts committed against the “United States.” It typically includes the 1982 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, the 1996 bombing of U.S. Air Force housing in Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in Yemen. Reciting this string of attacks supposedly demonstrates, without further argument, that the United States has been the major victim of violence on the world stage — unprovoked violence perpetrated by “Islamofascists” because we are free. Indeed, it is widely believed that the attacks on September 11, 2001, were in part the result of “our” failure to retaliate for the earlier attacks.

But this is sheer balderdash. The attacks, while often criminally misdirected, were hardly unprovoked.

The last century-plus of U.S. foreign policy has largely been a story of aggression and empire-building. American presidents have intervened and interfered in every region of the world, not in self-defense, but in the name of U.S. “national interest,” which in reality means the interest of well-connected corporations and their ambitious political agents who felt appointed to bring order to the world. As a whole, the American people haven’t gained by this — in fact, they have paid dearly in money and lives. But not as dearly as those on the receiving end of that policy. For all the pious moralizing about democracy and human rights, American foreign policy has treated foreign populations like garbage, beginning with the brutal repression of the Filipino uprising against American colonial rule from 1899 to 1902. That war and its related hardships killed 250,000 to a million Filipino civilians and 20,000 Filipino rebels.

How many Americans know that?

Since that time American presidents have intervened, directly or by proxy, in countless places, including Cuba, Haiti, Colombia (Panama), Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Korea, Vietnam, and Afghanistan. On many occasions American administrations have engineered regime changes (sometimes with assassinations) to install leaders friendly to “American interests.” Rarely has intervention occurred without the murder of innocent civilians, degrading hardship for survivors, and arms and (taxpayer) money for repressive “leaders.” The paradigm is the 1953 intervention in Iran, when the CIA helped drive an elected, secular prime minister from office so the autocratic shah could be restored to power. His brutal U.S.-sponsored repression of the Iranian people finally provoked a religious revolution in 1979, creating an anti-American theocracy that has been a thorn in the side of U.S. presidents ever since.

Coincidence? Of course not. Americans may be ignorant or forgetful; the victims seldom are.

Iran was neither the first nor last case of “blowback,” the CIA’s term for what happens when a foreign operation explodes in one’s own face.

How many Americans have any inkling of the crimes — yes, crimes — their government has committed against foreign peoples in their name over the last century? Most people don’t know and don’t care — and that’s fine with their rulers because when vengeful foreigners assault American civilians (unjustifiably) or military occupiers, U.S. leaders and jingoist supporters can say “America” was the victim of another unprovoked attack. “Why do they hate us?” they will wonder.

Anyone the least bit familiar with history will know the answer. The CIA is about to release hundreds of documents about earlier interventions (and domestic spying), so there’s no more excuse for ignorance. Let’s stop whining and get curious. As Walt Kelly’s Pogo put it, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

This post was written by:

Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.