America: a convenient scapegoat : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Monday, November 5, 2001, updated at 8:43PM

America: a convenient scapegoat


Fifteen years ago, when it was a hub of radical Islam, I went to the Muslim half of Beirut.

Before I crossed the barbed wire from the city's Christian side, people said I'd likely be stunned at the spread of fundamentalism. More and more women were wearing veils, and Hezbollah - the al-Qaida of the mid-'80s - was on the rise.

As it turned out, I noticed the opposite. Western culture was dominant. People wore blue jeans, Muslim teen-agers told about their video games, and when I asked college students their plans, most wanted to come to America.

Fundamentalist militias may have run the streets, but they weren't winning the cultural war. Western ideas were too appealing. That must have been frustrating for Hezbollah. Just as it must be frustrating today for Osama Bin Laden bin Laden and other Islamic terrorists.

As much as anything, that's why they targeted us: to attack Western culture.

It's something we often forget as we repeat the standard list of bin Laden's grievances: He's angry about our sanctions on Iraq, our troops in Saudi Arabia and our support of Israel.

But it seems his greatest resentment is against the success of our way of life. He longs to resurrect the time when Islam was the world's superpower, having conquered the more backward Western nations. Things have changed, perhaps in part because of the Crusades and colonialism.

But the main reason today is the success of Western values, particularly those espoused by America. History has shown that progress springs from democracy, free markets, and a pluralistic society that welcomes all ideas. I don't think we need to be ashamed of such a system, even though bin Laden hates us for it. He hates us because our ideas are a threat to the vision of radical Islam he espouses. He knows, as I learned in Beirut, that many Muslims embrace modern ideas and freedoms.

He would prefer they choose the kind of society the Taliban have established in Afghanistan. So he brands us infidels - both because he believes it, and hopes it will make America's culture less attractive.

There's another reason he likes to say America has undermined Islamic nations. It's a convenient excuse. In truth, many are failing societies because of their own systems - non-democracies that repress ideas and freedoms.

Take Iraq. Even if our bombs and sanctions have caused hardship there, the real culprit is a ruthless dictator who brutalized Kuwait, warred for years with Iran, suppressed his own people and alienated the world community.

But it's easier to blame America.

For the same reason, moderate Arab societies like Saudi Arabia and Egypt allow extremist groups to denounce America. It deflects attention from their own domestic problems.

In Egypt, where even lawyers only make $30 a month, imagine the frustration of the millions who are truly destitute. Making things worse, most people in Arab countries are under 25. There are huge populations of disenchanted young men with few prospects. Bin Laden offers them someone to blame. He also offers them a noble mission - fighting the infidel, and reclaiming Islam's dominance.

Some Americans feel we could lessen this hatred by giving in to bin Laden's demands: stop sanctions on Iraq, leave Saudi Arabia, turn our back on Israel and abandon our moderate Muslim friends.

It wouldn't stop the terrorism.

The problem is that the bin Ladens and Talibans of the world are good at setting up terrorist camps, and running harsh fundamentalist regimes, but they offer no plan for economic progress and political reform. If anything, they offer the opposite. Look at Afghanistan.

So even if bin Laden succeeded in creating Taliban societies throughout the Arab world, it would not be over for us. Those societies would be failing ones, still in need of an enemy to rally the people against. It's how bin Laden thinks. He could have done much good for Muslims with his hundreds of millions. He could have helped destitute Iraqis, Palestinians and Pakistanis. Instead, he put his money into training suicide bombers. His life's duty, he feels, is to hit the infidel.

Many Americans still brood about why we are hated so much. In truth, most Muslims don't see us that way. And we shouldn't feel bullied by those who do into apologizing for our global success.

As I learned years ago in Beirut, Muslims, like people everywhere, see us as a beacon. If that's a threat to those who want to turn the clock back by centuries, and need an enemy, so be it. But whatever they call us, let's not forget who we are. And what they are.

Mark Patinkin is a columnist for the Providence Journal.

-- Martin Thompson (, November 05, 2001


Interesting Propaganda. Bin Laden's consistent statements, over a number of years, opposing America because of Israel/Palestine, 10 year war against Iraq & presence of US troops on the Arabian peninsula aren't his real reasons. Thank goodness that Mark Patinkin is on hand to tell us what they really are. Bin Laden's real aim is to take away our voting rights and make OUR women wear the veil, I guess. Reassuring isn't it. Far from the list of Bin Laden's grievances being often repeated, this article is one of a minority that mention them. The far more often used tactic is to just go straight to the 'our enemies are simply deranged idiots and we are just fine.' Phew! How reassuring. Bomb away!!

-- Phil (, November 05, 2001.

"History has shown that progress springs from democracy, free markets, and a pluralistic society that welcomes all ideas. I don't think we need to be ashamed of such a system, even though bin Laden hates us for it."

This is such nonsense it scarecly deserves a reply. Nevertheless...

The United States is _not_ a democracy, does _not_ have free markets, and certainly does not welcome all ideas.

The U.S. was established as a republic with "representatives" specifically to avoid the possibility that a majority might overturn the special privileges of the landed men who set up our government. Disbelieve? Read the Federalist Papers, and especially material by James Madison.

Free markets have not existed in the U.S. since at least 1880's, when the Supreme Court decided corporations should have the same privileges as human beings. This set the stage for the rapacious growth of corporations, their buying power in elections, and the disappearance of anything like "free markets" in oil, steel, railroads, and banking. The disappearance of family farms eliminated an entire segment of the "free market" in agriculture by replacing small scale operators with gigantic factory operations that largely control markets in meat products, and grain wholesaling.

As far as welcoming all ideas... This country has in the past and continues to actively uses immigration law to prevent foreigners with whom our government disagrees from speaking in this country. In the 1950's Joe McCarthy ruined many reputations by accusing people of being communist. Martin Luther king, Jr., as well as hundreds of other citizens have been illegally spied on by the FBI because of what they believed or said.

Patinkin is nothing but a propagandist. Believe him at your peril.

"There are huge populations of disenchanted young men with few prospects. Bin Laden offers them someone to blame. He also offers them a noble mission - fighting the infidel, and reclaiming Islam's dominance. "

The U.S.A. also has "huge populations of disenchanted young men with few prospects" They are mainly black and we put a lot of them in jail.

-- neil (, November 05, 2001.

Oh, dear God, we've got still another Hate America invader of this board. I wonder which of our many socialist universities this one emerged from.

-- Billiver (, November 05, 2001.

Which country on earth would you rather live in than America, Neil? Which one with greater, more accommodating, more open civil rights? Name just one.

-- Uncle Fred (, November 05, 2001.

All I can say is, thank God for the rapacious growth of our corporations. It hasn't done badly for our standard of living, has it now?

-- Wayward (, November 05, 2001.

I've been lurking for some time now, but had to speak up, to take sharp issue with Neil. What rock did you crawl out from under, Neil? Why don't you crawl back? If you hate your country so much, you are free to leave anytime. I'm sure you'll find freedom of movement is not one of the many liberties you claim to be suppressed.

-- Hal Hall (, November 05, 2001.

What is more noteworthy -- IMO -- is the use of half truths, whole lies, and screwy logic.

When your part of the "America: all bad, all the time" movement, you'll resort to anything to try and spread hate.

The most ridiculous part, is there has NEVER been any country in history that has -- with all it's problems and faults -- consistently offered MORE freedom, MORE opportunity, and MORE of a chance.

Have we got far to go, of course!

But I defy anyone to show where freedom, protection of the individual, and opportunity to thrive was EVER more available in the history of the world than in the US -- including -- our darkest and most damnable periods in the past...especially since the end of the Civil War when we finally broke the addiction to slavery.


-- Jackson Brown (, November 06, 2001.

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