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Letter to the Editor 2/19

United States shouldrecognize its arrogance

As Americans, we have collectively decided that terrorism is unjustifiable no matter how valid the cause or goal. We have refused to entertain any real conversation regarding why people might feel the desperation or motivation to commit acts we find reprehensible. I think everyone might have their own definition of terrorism, but here’s a simple definition I think most of us can accept – terrorism is any form of warfare that deliberately targets a civilian population.

Let’s try and put things in perspective by reviewing just a couple of footnotes in our not-so-distant past and a few current issues that might explain why some people around the world see America as a great hypocrite worthy of their hatred.

In some parts of the world, it is argued that America itself is a sponsor of terrorism and that maybe our war on terror should start at home instead of the back allies of Somalia or the jungles of the Philippines. Our president is currently meeting with the Prime Minister of Israel, a man who is facing war crimes charges for the massacre of defenseless Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in 1982, yet he still refuses to meet with Palestinian President Arafat.

Over the past 15 months, Israel has killed more than 900 Palestinian civilians, 25 percent of them under the age of 18. We send billions of dollars in annual aid to Israel to finance their unlawful brutal occupation of the Palestinians. It’s aggravating to hear the astonishment and horror about a recent shipment of arms that was allegedly going to the Palestinians. We all know that the Israeli army is being supplied with a never-ending flow of the latest technology that ensures its military domination in the region. We provide Israel with F-16s and tanks and then subsequently veto an international protection force. Why are we surprised that the Palestinians would try to defend themselves?

There is no excuse for attacking civilians on either side. The difference between the Palestinian attacks on civilians and the Israeli army’s attacks is that we as Americans aren’t paying for the bombs that Palestinians strap to their bodies. We are paying for the Israeli F-16s that bomb civilians, and we should be accountable for where our hard-earned tax dollars are going. It’s our aid that pays for the bulldozers and the tanks that protect them as they tear down houses of people who are already second-generation refugees.

I’m frustrated at how contorted our view of this particular conflict has become. It’s the unrelenting distortion of the truth by opinionated and biased coverage that Americans are barraged with on a daily basis that feeds our misunderstanding. It seems as if we’re trying to justify Israel’s actions and, in turn, justify our support by making the Palestinians as inhuman as possible. This is my country, and it’s disheartening to think that my questioning of our foreign policy or speaking against the Israeli occupation makes me any less of an American or is somehow unpatriotic.

We sit on our couches watching our TVs in horror and disgust at how people around the world can be so primitive and barbaric. On the way to becoming this great nation that we know we are, we did what we had to do. We eradicated almost an entire population of Native Americans and enslaved millions of Africans. We denied women their equal rights, we put children to work, we polluted and sucked every resource out of the land. Now we watch over the world with a hypocritical sense of some righteous or moral superiority.

We try to stop Third World countries from developing because they might harm the environment that I’m sure we didn’t give much consideration to during our industrial revolution. How horrified were we to see men being hung from a soccer goal post in Afghanistan for stealing or fornicating? How many men did we lynch in the past century for attempting to learn to read?

Have we forgotten that less than 60 years ago we dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing 240,000 civilians? How about more recently our continued sanctions that target the innocent population of Iraq to try to push them to overthrow the dictator that terrorized them long before, in their minds, we began to.

One and a half million people in Iraq, over half of them children under five, have died as a direct result of the sanctions. One-third of children are severely malnourished. Years of sanctions have denied an entire generation books and even pencils, yet we all know that the target of the sanctions still lives in luxury as he rebuilds his military awaiting our next attack.

Any experts on the situation will tell you that they accomplish nothing but the killing of the innocent, yet we as Americans continue to justify these genocidal sanctions.

Our hypocrisy might be justified by our good intentions and the fact that we have attempted to correct many of our past wrongs. The fact is that we continue to be on the wrong side of many issues in the world, and until we clarify our positions to ourselves, we can’t expect anyone else to understand.

We can no longer afford to be ignorant of our country’s foreign policies and wait to hear about the results in our history books. We as Americans have never embraced the truth, and we continue to turn a blind eye to injustices that we are directly responsible for. I know we want to forget the horrible growing pains our nation went through to get to where we are today.

If we don’t learn from our past and we continue this pattern of denial and selective memory, we will become the evil nation that a great deal of the world believes us to be today. Until then I’ll continue to pretend like every other American that the history I learned in first grade is the truth, about things like the pilgrims and Abraham Lincoln. We can keep telling our children that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves and the Gulf War was all about freeing Kuwait.

It’s OK to keep telling ourselves these fairy tales. Surely the truth wouldn’t have made me feel any better as a child, it probably would have frightened me.

Nevertheless, I think it’s healthy to occasionally get a little dose of the truth to help contain our arrogance with respect to the rest of the world.

  • Isam Sweilem is a USF alumnus.