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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Prominent Speaker and Author Offers Other Ideas on US' Popularity

Raff Ellis is faithful reader of both this blog and my Sharing with Writers newsltter ( He remembered the letter I just published (scroll down) and offered to write a rebuttle to the myth that other countries (and religions?) hate us because we are free. Whenever he contributes to any of my blogs he is always thoughtful and literate. Thank you, Raff.

Why do they really hate us?

The previous post on this blog reprinted comments made by Judge William Young when sentencing the notorious “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid. This quote has been passed around the Internet for several years—consider that the trial concluded just 15 months after 9-11, and patriotic outrage was still at fever pitch. Although the Judge’s sentiments are admirable and well intended, I feel they erroneously perpetuate the myth that our enemies “hate us for our freedoms,” a mantra which has been used by the far right-wing elements in our society in order to justify all sorts of illegal and unconstitutional behaviors—which have given our country an international “black eye.”

But, do America’s enemies covet ours freedoms? Let’s examine history to see if there might be a more compelling motive at work here.

When Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, it had nothing to do with jealousy of the Ethiopian polity. Italy, like other Europeans before them, simply wanted their share of colonial Africa.

When Germany invaded France at the start of WWII, it was not because it hated the freedoms that the French enjoyed, but because it was anxious to dominate Europe. In fact Germany despised France as having a feeble and profligate society.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it was not because they coveted American democracy, which they in fact despised as being weak and inferior, but because they were hell-bent upon military conquest, and securing the raw materials they needed for industrial expansion.

As the above examples illustrate, there seems to be no historical precedence to show that a nation attacked another because it was envious of its form of government, except of course, if we are to believe the party line for September 11, 2001.

Isn't it a joke, actually, to think that the World Trade Center was attacked by a small group of people jealous of our way of life? Especially when one considers the alleged attackers were such fervent believers in a fundamentalist form of their Islamic religion that they were willing to sacrifice their lives to strike a blow against a nation they considered to be the "great Satan."

No, it wasn't envy of our freedoms but hatred of our policies that drove them to this dastardly act. They felt they had legitimate, un-redressed grievances against the United States for its years of meddling in their respective countries' geographic sphere. Certainly a catalog of such complaints could be compiled, but no matter how large the anthology of grievances, it did not justify the taking of nearly 3,000 innocent lives on 9-11.

The previous administration and its assemblage of policymakers perpetrated a fraud against the American public by shifting the focus of attention ― from their inability or unwillingness to secure diplomatic progress in the trouble spots of the world ― to the victims of those failures. "They hate our freedoms" is simply a way of appealing to innate, chauvinistic tendencies that lurk in the American culture. After all, who could be against fighting for our freedoms?

It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows but, alas, so does war. Afghanistan is a good example. The Afghani warlords, whom we have bribed to work with us, are only marginally less despotic or cruel than their predecessors, the Taliban, but they still harbor the same cultural revulsions for democracy.

So, our leaders in Washington, flushed with the “success” of exporting democracy to Afghanistan, ran pell-mell into executing the same strategy with Iraq, an adventure that has cost over 4,000 American military lives and created untold hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian casualties.

I’m the first to understand that one cannot help but grow weary of having to read about dying and wounded soldiers in far off places, as shown by the relegation of such news to the back pages of our newspapers. But, we must keep our guard up and not succumb to the repetition of propaganda, because that will lead to further abuses. We must not ignore our veterans and their lousy health care and shrinking benefits. Nor should we abstain from thinking about our diminished Bill of Rights. There are too many serious problems to think about such as the economy, unemployment, and health care. It would be nice if we could glibly pass off why so many people around the globe hate us with a slogan.

Let’s ask ourselves why we have troops stationed in 135 countries out of 192 total around the globe? Shouldn’t we question why we’ve become a nation with a military-industrial complex that spends eleven times more on “defense” than 2nd place China (which has 4.5 times our population)? Perhaps this perceived hatred has something to do with our abysmal record of interfering in the affairs of their countries?

Our meddling hypocrisy and our strutting about claiming to have the greatest system of government in the world would certainly justify a modicum of animosity. We have never really exported democracy, and all through the 20th Century we overthrew democratically elected governments in favor of dictatorships all around the globe.

Hate our freedoms? You be the judge.

Raff Ellis is an author/lecturer and can be reached through his web site at


Carolyn Howard-Johnson wrote the foreword for Eric Dinyer's book of patriotic quotations, Support Our Troops, published by Andrews McMeel. Part of the proceeds for the book benefit Fisher House. Her chapbook of poetry won the Military Writers Society of America's award of excellence. Find it at

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