Why They Hate Us

To the Editor:

Oct. 11, 2001

Why they hate us was the right question, but your answers leave me unsatisfied. You blame their religion, but most religions claim that death isn’t really death, that it’s a door to paradise. Most believers do not believe strongly enough to put their lives at risk for a cause, but the strength of the belief does not explain why the cause involved hatred of Americans.

Your explanation seems to be that arabs have long failed to appreciate the glories of American culture. They hate us, in other words, because they’ve failed to love us.

Allow me to suggest that there are several obvious answers to the question that are very unflattering to the United States, and which you — presumably for that reason — overlooked or downplayed. If we are going to prevent further acts of terrorism against Americans, we need to prosecute suspected terrorists for their inexcusable violence. And we need to search for any way in which we could change our foreign policy in order to stop encouraging hatred.

You are right to point out that our arab allies, just like our arab enemies, are undemocratic and oppressive regimes. But you fail to point out that we support Israel in treating Palestinians as less than human, destroying their homes, assassinating their leaders. You fail to stress that we have killed a huge portion of the population of Iraq with our bombs, our sanctions, and our deliberate efforts to deprive those people of drinkable water. You fail to note that we blew up a medicine factory and pretended to believe it was a chemical weapons factory. You fail to recognize that we have large numbers of troops in the Middle East for no good reason. You do not point out that many of the weapons employed in Islamic countries are produced by American companies and that many of our current enemies have been trained or supported by us, including Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. You attribute no importance to our abandoning the Afghanis or the Iraquis or the Kurds as soon a! ! s we had no use for them.

Quite admirably, you do suggest that we work to encourage democracies in the Middle East. And you do note in passing the need for a solution for Palestine as well as an end to the sanctions against Iraq.

These observations, and more like them, are not “unAmerican.” They have the potential to improve America and make us, as well as others, safer.

Many who would like to see improvements in US foreign policy would also like to see suspected terrorists tried in an international court, and would like to see an end to the bombing of Afghanistan. These people are denounced in Jonathan Alter’s column.

But they get a word in, by means of placards in a photograph, and the inaccuracy of the caption is revealing. The demonstrators in the photo carry signs reading “Arabs are not the enemy,” “Resist the racist war,” and “Promote Peace, Oppose Bigotry.” The caption, entirely inappropriately, reads, “Some blur the line between understanding the Arab world’s rage – and rationalizing it.” Please tell us which poster in the photo is evidence of this absurd conclusion?


David Swanson

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