August 27, 2010

Reactions to American Extremism

I don't know exactly how, but we need to stop.
They need to forgive, but I don't know how they could. 

by Diane V. McLoughlin, August 27, 2010

Writer Ross Douthat faults Americans for 'failing to recognize extremism when it’s staring them in the face...'; whenever they are, in his opinion, taken in by Islamic extremist polemicists.(1) Although there are aspects to his article where I find myself agreeing with him, when, for example, he suggests that we can't expect Muslims to behave exactly like ourselves and we should seek common ground with moderates, I think the above quote best describes most Americans about the United States itself.

When it comes to American extremism Americans don't see it, even though it is as plain as day - American Exceptionalism; American spiritual (Christian and Jewish and democratic) purity; caring, philanthropic America: this is the fiction.

Soldiers returning, some of them, come home seeing things quite differently: the reality. (1a)

If anything spurs an Islamic reactionism toward America, it has to be two things: American hypocrisy, and American terrorism.

If anything could take the gas out of the tank of Islamic reactionism it is that we stop being hypocrites and we stop terrorizing.

For individual Americans, there are acceptable excuses for not knowing or understanding America's war crimes. But Osama bin Laden didn't seem to think so, in his 2002, 'Letter to America':

'The American people have the ability and choice to refuse the policies of their Government and even to change it if they want.' (2).

I guess nobody took the time to tell him about the Bush-Gore farce of a 2000 presidential election, or how that all turned out.

To him, in a democracy, the people choose leaders who represent their views, unlike in a dictatorship; politicians enact the will of the people in a democracy; ipso facto: all Americans are guilty.

Too simplistic. I totally disagree. In order to make good choices, you have to have information; you need to be an informed voter.

Also, stupidity is an excuse, to a degree. Stupidity has a genetic component. Half of any population has an I.Q. of 100 or less. There are all kinds of intelligence, of course: social intelligence; moral intelligence; the latter, in my view, being of far greater importance than whether or not one knows a hypotenuse from a hippopotamus.  

THE FUCKING MORONS - this is what I yelled, for example, at my T.V. during the beyond-evil American 'Shock-and-Awe' bombing campaign of Iraq when that began to unfold in 2003 - the fucking morons in the military and political leadership that dream these things up - they are another category entirely - the one labeled 'Guilty'.

Stupidity is not to be equated with illiteracy. You can be smart and not know how to read. But it is tragic that one in seven American adults can't read, making it that much less likely that they would be able to ferret out
alternative news sources beyond the mainstream. Illiteracy itself is a threat to a functioning democracy. (2a)

Wisdom only comes with time and experience, no matter how intelligent you are.
So, if you're stupid and you don't know or don't realize that your country is doing wrong, personally, I think you get a pass. Young and naive, again, personally, no one should blame you for not knowing what your government has been doing to others. In my own heart of hearts, young and naive tragically describes the majority of American troops, duped into fighting corporate resource wars. Ignorance and youth are two of the most important reasons why moral leadership is so vitally important to right conduct of any nation.

It is a war crime, or a crime against humanity, to target civilians. It is important to understand, however, that we have committed the same war crime of targeting civilians, ourselves.

Osama bin Laden seemed not to realize the important role mass communications and education both play in controlling what the people know and what they think. If the people are not told the truth about their country's activities, either in the news or in schools, where, exactly, are they supposed to get it in order to vote for the men and women who will best represent them? It isn't always exactly impossible, but I wouldn't exactly describe it as easy, either, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Living in a so-called democracy brings up another issue: Politicians lie.

Perhaps it is also news to bin Laden and his followers that democracy in the United States is corrupted by monied interests; it isn't working as it should. I can't bring myself to say that America's political culture is corrupt straight to the bone, but like a computer with a hidden virus using power behind the scenes for its own purposes, there is corruption.

Based on bin Laden's own argument, then, 9-11 was a crime against innocent civilians. Osama bin Laden's group thinks that Americans know what's going on and that they approve of it. And my bedrock conviction is the polar opposite: No they don't.

Most Americans do not know. Some have some degree of knowledge, but the magnitude? No way.

Perhaps this is the biggest lie of all told by America's leaders to the people: The downplaying of the sheer magnitude of the destruction, just the vast scale of the human cost in the wars we have waged in both Iraq and Afghanistan - and are now beginning to quietly wage in Pakistan with remote-controlled, armed planes called drones - as if hunting down and killing people were like some sort of computer game. The carnage in the imprecision of it is mind-boggling - for Pakistani villagers, of course, not for us.

Those in the news business that don't agree with American foreign policy, some of them say something (3). There are a few courageous writers. But more either say nothing or hold their nose and repeat the fiction. To what? Hold on to a job? I worry about maintaining a roof over my head, but I worry far more about my children living on after me in a viable world - a world with flowers, trees and honey bees. It may not happen.

That last, hints, I suppose, at one source of my impatience with right-wing writers droning on and on, or shouting, as the case may be, about radical versus moderate Islam - not an honest word nor the faintest whiff of a suggestion that we are anything but lily-white in our activities in the Middle East.

'Like what; what whiff?', the trusting citizen might ask. Good question.

A short, far from complete (with apologies) list:

Iran: 1950's CIA overthrow of the democratically-elected leadership of Iran, leading to an American puppet's reign of abject, despotic state terror against Iran's own people. Over what? Oil.
Great Britain has a hand in it. (4)

Iraq: Eight-year war between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Iran. The U.S. sides with Iraq, giving aid and weapons including chemical and biological weapons. A million people die. (4a)

Iraq: Ten-years military siege and bombing campaign of Iraq 1993-2003; 500,000-plus Iraqi children murdered via American biological warfare; (5; 5a)

Iraqi city of Fallujah: Alarmingly high numbers of Iraqi children today are being born genetically deformed, our use of depleted uranium nuclear-waste bullets and bombs suspected cause; (6)

2003-present: War and occupation of Iraq based on lies; (7)

Afghanistan: 2001-present, war of Afghanistan based on lies; (8) the longest war in American history, as of June 7, 2010; (8a)
(Image, right:  Rumsfeld/Saddam Hussein; Dec. 20, 1983;
                                                                             Getty Images)

1947-present: 3 billion American dollars worth of military hardware gifted to Israel every year, making the occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians possible; support for Israel's various attacks, occupation, of Lebanon; destruction, cluster-bombing of Southern Lebanon, 2006.
(Image, right:  Israel attacks Gaza, code-named 'Operation Cast Lead',
                                     late-2008 - early 2009.)


9-11 was blow-back. It had nothing to do with religion. America's intellectual and political
leadership are afraid - they'd have to be - because of what we've done, and because of
what we continue to do.

We're the bully in the school yard sitting on some poor schmuck - sooner or later, you have to get off. What happens next, is anyone's guess.

Some of the people pissed at us come from parts of the world where most people are Muslim. But that is only the half of it. We've been stirring it up making enemies all over the place - including placing, or attempting to place, nuclear missiles at Russia's doorstep.

We have over 700 military outposts around the globe. We're in Africa; Central and South America, too. We'll be challenging, no doubt, Canada and Russia over control of the melting Arctic marine shipping routes, along with the imagined pot of gold of Arctic oil exploration. Gulf II plus territorial disputes. Grand.

Yet, all one hears is stuff about a religious faith called Islam, and in which ways it should be practiced that would be deemed acceptably uncritical of the U.S.; judged appropriate, or not - by us.

We need to wake up. We need everybody on board - Christians, Muslims, Jews, the Right, the Left - everybody. We have to realize that if we don't stop, and say 'enough!' - then it doesn't stop. Somehow, together, we must stop this evil building as it rolls downhill.

I don't know exactly how. But we need to stop. They need to forgive, but I don't know how they could.

Otherwise, where it ends could be the end. Cuba's Fidel Castro is thinking about this. He recently wrote, after conferring with scientific advisors, that it may be that it actually only takes a few nuclear bombs, rather than many, to make the world inhospitable for the continued survival of the human race in an ensuing nuclear winter; that a nuclear winter may last, not two years as is currently imagined, but ten. (9)

It is a shocking revelation to him. It is to me, too. I think I understand where Castro is coming from. He is on his way to checking out. What's going on? What's the big picture? To what aspect of world affairs might he make the most lasting contribution in the time left to him? He settles his gaze on the immensity of risk inherent in current world conflict.

Nuclear weapons have been put on the move. For several years it has been open debate about whether or not to use 'tactical' nuclear weapons against Iran.

In conclusion: If America is to be encouraged to pull back from this destructive course, the world will have to meet America half-way. For the sake of mankind's survival, the world needs to reassure an America fearful of retaliation that all efforts will be made to help defuse the justifiable anger - and let it go.



(1) New York Times Op Ed: 'Imam Rauf and Moderate Islam'; Ross Douthat; August 26, 2010;

(1a) See, for example, website, 'Iraq Vets Against the War'; ; also, 'Military Families Speak Out';

(2) 'Letter to America'; Osama bin Laden; as published in, November 24th, 2002;

(2a) 'Literacy study: 1 in Seven U.S. Adults Are Unable to Read This Story'; Greg Toppo; USA Today; 1/8/2009;

(3) For discussion, see: 'Iraq: Why the Media Failed'; Gary Kamiya;; April 10, 2007; the writer
highlights notable and noble examples of American journalistic excellence in criticizing the proposed Iraq war.

(4) 'New York Times Special Report: CIA in Iran'; James Risen; NYT on the web; 2000; notes it was a joint goal of the CIA and Britain's SIS;

(4a) 'Partners in Crime: US Complicity in the War Crimes of Saddam Hussein'; Paul Rockwell; December 23, 2003; Common Dreams;

(5) 'BBC News Middle East Iraqis blame sanctions for child deaths'; Jeremy Bowen; August 12, 1999; notes that the 500,000 figure comes from Unicef estimates; ;

(5a) 'We Think the Price Is Worth It'; Rahul Mahajan; Fair Extra!; November/December 2001;

(6) 'Toxic munitions 'may be cause' of baby deaths and deformities in Fallujah'; David Randall; The Independent; September 15, 2009; ;

(7) Youtube clip: President George W. Bush admits there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11;

(8) Excellent analysis by Eric Margolis: 'Afghanistan: A War Of Lies';; c. Eric Margolis, 2009; ;

(8a) 'Afghan war is now longest war in U.S. history'; Thomas Nagorski; ABC News; June 7, 2010;

(9) 'Nuclear Winter'; Fidel Castro, as published in CounterCurrents; August 24, 2010; ;

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful article, Diane. I would only add that America's combat troops are mostly young, and ignorance is the traditional land of the young. Whereas Hitler's generals and soldiers first in the Einsatsgrupen and subsequently running the extermination camps were older, and many were even older than Hitler.

    They'd had time to settle into their insanity.

    And America presently is facing "only" fascism; when she fails to stop it, she will be facing Nazism and the Third World War.