The Phony Mystery of Why "They" Hate Us
By Sheldon Richman
What do Barack Obama and Donald Trump have in
common? Among other things, they have -- or pretend to have --
no clue why some Muslims hate us. Trump says (I almost typed
believes, but I'm not sure anyone,
including Trump, knows what he believes) Muslims should be
barred from the United States until "until the country's
representatives can figure out what's going on."
Note that Trump includes himself among those who
haven't figured it out, or else he surely would have told us. He
either does not know, or does not care, why people are willing
to kill Americans.
Let's give these members of the American elite their due: one
has to work hard to make a mystery of anti-American (and
anti-Western) terrorism emanating from the Middle East. It takes
prodigious effort to maintain an air of innocence about San
Bernardino and Paris, because no one who claims to be informed
can plead ignorance of the long history of U.S. and Western
imperialism in the Muslim world. This includes the CIA's
subversion of Iranian democracy in 1953, the U.S. government's
systematic support of compliant autocratic and corrupt Arab
monarchies and dictatorships, its empowering of Iraqi Shi'ite
Muslims, and its unconditional backing of Israel's brutal
anti-Palestinian policies. (The savage 2014 war on Gaza killed
In the 10 years before the 9/11 attacks the
administrations of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton bombed
Iraq while maintaining an embargo, most especially on equipment
for the water and sanitation infrastructure the U.S. Air Force
had destroyed during the Gulf War. Half a million children died.
This was also when U.S. officials promised, then reneged on the
promise, to remove U.S. forces from the Islamic holy sites in
From the air Americans routinely kill
noncombatants in Syria and Iraq, most recently this week, when
"at least 36 civilians, including 20 children, in a village in
eastern Syria" were reportedly killed,
according to McClatchyDC. Do Americans notice? Of course
not. That's why San Bernardino and Paris can be made to appear
Things like this happen all the time. The U.S.
attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz,
Afghanistan, was especially egregious against this background of
The U.S. government has conducted war by
remote-controlled drones since 2001 in a variety of places,
including Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. Do
Americans have a clue what it must be like to live under the
drone threat? You know the answer is no. But many Muslims do,
and many others can sympathize.
Since the San Bernardino shooters both had roots
in Pakistan, it might be worth focusing on the drone war there,
part of the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in
Afghanistan. Steve Coll, in his Nov. 24, 2014 New Yorker
article "The Unblinking Stare: The Drone War in Pakistan," notes
that that country "has absorbed more drone strikes -- some four
hundred -- than any other country." Coll writes, "Armed drones
are slow-moving pilotless aircraft equipped with cameras,
listening devices, and air-to-ground missiles. They can hover
over their targets for hours, transmitting video feed of the
scene below, and then strike suddenly." Most of the time, the
remote "pilots" do not know whom they are targeting.
Obama has claimed that the drone war kills few noncombatants,
but this is rejected by many authoritative sources, including,
Coll reports, a team of NYU and Stanford law students who found
that "C.I.A.-operated drones were nowhere near as discriminating
toward noncombatants as the agency’s leaders have claimed."
The kill estimates vary, but the totals are
significant -- to the families and friends, and to distant
Muslims who see their coreligionists slaughtered while minding
their own business.
What turns an angry and anguished Muslim into
someone willing to kill Americans indiscriminately? That's a
hard question to answer completely. But when violence such as
that inflicted by the United States drives a Muslim to the most
"radical" form of the faith in search of revenge, the
explanation is far more political than religious. If terrorism
were happening during peacetime, that might tell another story.
But it is not.
It's not "moderate" Muslims who need to take the
lead in ending terrorism. It's the U.S. foreign-policy makers,
whose daily atrocities make targets of Americans at home.
Sheldon Richman keeps the blog Free
Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees
of the Center
for a Stateless Society. Become a patron today!
(Cross-posted at the Center for a