Why They Hate Us
September 20, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" -
A frequent theme nowadays is “Why do they hate
us?” meaning why does so much of the world detest the United States.
The reasons given are usually absurd: They hate our freedom or
democracy. They hate us for our cultural superiority. They hate us
because we are wonderful.
No. Actually the reason is simple if unpalatable.
They hate us because we meddle, and have meddled. They hate us
because we are the most murderous nation on the planet. They hate
our insufferable smugness.
People remember slights. They may not remember
them as they actually happened, but they remember them. The Civil
War ended in 1865, the Federal occupation in 1877. Yet today many
Southerners are still bitter, to the point that their emotional
loyalty is to the South, not to Washington.
Silly? Yes, if you are from the North. Grievances
matter more to those aggrieved than to the aggrievers.
In Guadalajara, near my home in Mexico, a towering
monument in a traffic circle honors Los Niños Héroes, the Heroic
Children. These are the little boys who, when the invading American
armies attacked Chapultepec in 1847, went out to fight for their
country. Avenues are named Niños Héroes all over Mexico. Few
Americans even know that there was a war.
Wounds to national pride gall people, and endure.
Exactly why, I don’t know, but it happens. Consider China. How many
have heard of the Opium Wars of 1839 and 1856? Or understand that
the United States and the European powers simply occupied such parts
of China as they chose, forced opium sales on China, imposed
extraterritoriality, and bloodily suppressed the Boxers? How many
people have even heard of the Boxers?
Over a billion Chinese.
My point is not that China is morally superior to
the United States. It isn’t. However, if you want to understand why
so many countries loathe us, you have to understand how they see us.
Whether you agree is irrelevant. Nor does it matter whether their
grievances are factual. For example, many South Americans believe
their countries to be poor because of exploitation by America. This
isn’t true, which doesn’t matter at all.
A few years back I was in Laos and chatted with a
young Lao woman. She mentioned in passing the death of her father.
What happened to him, I asked? Oh, she said, he died fighting the
Americans. A war that many Americans saw as a meritorious crusade
against communism was, to the countries involved, an inexplicable
attack that killed their fathers and brothers and children. They
didn’t see why the internal affairs of their country were America’s
Agree with them or don’t, but that’s why they hate
Countries usually see their own virtues and the
warts of others. Americans, perhaps because they do not much travel,
carry this to an extreme and regard their country as superior to all
others. The attitude is highly annoying. Consider the US from the
point of view of others:
America is both a rogue state and a bully,
constantly attacking countries hopelessly inferior in military
strength — Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Panama, Cuba, Iraq, Somalia,
Afghanistan, etc. Civil rights? The US has more people in prison
than any other country. Many of our cities are festering slums. The
world saw the victims of Katrina. Morality? The country is rife with
drugs, crime, sex. Culture? In education, American students are
annually shown to be inferior to those of Thailand, Hungary,
Singapore, and so on. America is tasteless and sordid. Look at the
Yes, yes, some of that isn’t fair, and an American
might ask, for example, how an Arab country, practicing female
circumcision and not allowing girls to study, can lecture anyone on
morality. I agree. But how they see things determines their
In Google Images, search on “Abu Ghraib.” You will
see American Army women grinning as they torture and humiliate Arab
men. They are having a wonderful time, and the whole world can see
those pictures. This was American policy — low-ranking
girl soldiers do not undertake this kind of thing without approval
from command. The general in charge was a woman. Torture is still
Stalin did this sort of thing. So did Adolf. So
did Pol Pot. And so does the United States. Other countries know it.
(Google recently pulled its ads from Antiwar.com because the site
posted an Abu Ghraib photo. Does Google support torture, or did the
Feds threaten….? Nah. Impossible. Not our government.) When I think
how other countries react, I cringe.
Below the Rio Bravo? The first rule of American
hemispheric diplomacy south of Texas should be “Don’t get into Latin
faces unless you have to.” The US has a long history, of which most
Americans aren’t aware, of meddling to the south. At least three
invasions of Mexico depending on whether Veracruz counts as an
invastion or just a bombardment), at least one of Panama, the
installation of Pinochet in Chile and of support for various Central
American dictators, United Fruit, the Canal Zone, the Bay of Pigs,
on and on and on. These things are remembered.
A couple of examples of abjectly stupid, obnoxious
meddling: First, many decades back, Mexico had a comic-book
character called Memin Pinguin, a caricature black kid with
exaggerated lips and so on who had adventures with white friends. In
2005, Mexico issued postage stamps with Memin’s picture, as we might
of Elvis. To Mexicans it was innocent nostalgia. Yet in America
outrage erupted. Jesse Jackson attacked the Mexican government and
George Bush denounced the stamps as racism. People here were
furious: Mexico couldn’t even issue postage stamps without approval
Second: In 2006 , some Cuban businessmen took a
room in the Sheraton in Mexico City. Washington got wind of it and
forced Sheraton, an American company, to eject them. Childish,
pointless, it enraged Mexicans who see Cuba as yet another small
country being bullied by the US, and regarded the ejection as
meddling with national sovereignty. The effect of course was to fan
sympathy for Cuba.
Further, we tend to see things through lenses of
moralistic abstractions: Democracy is good, and freedom is good, and
therefore if we bomb Iraq and kill many thousands of soldiers who
are someone’s husbands, brothers, children, and fathers, the
survivors will throw flowers and turn into Fifth Century Athens.
It’s all right to destroy cities because we say we have good
People detest condescension. Yet we lecture Russia
and China condescendingly on human rights, and speak openly of
committing “regime change” in various countries as if we had a
divine right to determine their form of government. It smells of
armed mommyism, which no one can stand.
It is even worth reflecting that our “democracy”
and “freedom” do not look as resplendent as we might think to the
people of a more collective-minded and well-run country. Try
Singapore. Neither democratic nor free in our sense, it is
prosperous, free of crime, without a drug problem (a country that
executes drug dealers has few of them), enjoys schools far better
than ours; lacks graffiti, vandalism, and trash in the streets, and
has a high degree of technological advancement. Its people quietly
regard themselves as civilizationally superior to a degraded America
in decline. (Humility is not a besetting sin of the Chinese.)
Why do we not behave more sensibly? Americans
obviously are not stupid people. Dummies don’t build Mars rovers.
Yet we seem to have a wanton, almost genetic non-grasp of how others
think — which means that we can’t predict what they will do. Often
Americans just don’t care what others think. This of course plays
into the hands of Hugo Chavez and bin Laden.
That’s why they hate us. We meddle.
Fred’s Biography, As He Tells It - Fred, a
keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for
Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer
Week, and The Washington Times.