All quiet on the denialist front

This is good. I’ll get some writing (non-blog) done. However I’d like to pose the rare political question based on the coverage of last night’s debate. Everyone from CNN to the National Review is all atwitter over Giuliani’s brash response to the question about whether the first Gulf War might have had something to do with 9/11. His response? Angrily denouncing the idea that anyone could find blame for anything America has done as a potential reason for the attack (I bet the answer would have been different if they suggested it was Clinton’s fault).

Have we really failed to move past this? Are there still people who believe that we were just walking along, minding our own business when terrorists decided to attack us for our freedom?

I guess what they’re trying to do is conflate two issues. The question is whether or not American foreign policy angered people in the Middle East from sanctions on Iraq, to support of of Israel, to troops in the holy land (as a result of the first Gulf War). Without judging the rightness or wrongness of these foreign policy decisions, we should be able to discuss whether or not these are things that piss off enough moderate Muslims that they start at least tacitly supporting terrorism against the West. However they’re reading the question instead as if they’re being asked if the U.S. deserved to be attacks for our misadventures in the Middle East. How is it that we still can’t discuss the things that we do abroad that piss people off at us without it being read as “you’re saying we deserved 9/11”.

This is truly a pitiful state of discourse. At some point we’re going to have to get our act together (the current barrier to progress should be obvious), and have leadership that diplomatically addresses the problem of the hatred of our country by, well, these days everybody. We’re not going to accomplish it if we can never discuss our actions that fuel hatred of our country without being accused of hating our country.

Ten years from now I’m worried the question will be asked of a politician, “Do you think (insert new terrorist act here) would have happened if it wasn’t for Bush’s Iraq war?”, and all it will do is generate another, “my country right or wrong” angry response.


4 responses to “All quiet on the denialist front”

  1. Booker

    It is pretty shocking that some people think that America’s past foreign policy would not have some ramifications. This may result from a general ignorance of some of the things the U.S. has been involved in. I had a very intelligent and well-educated friend who went traveling in Guatemala and Honduras a few years ago. Unfortunately, he was completely ignorant of the terror that occurred in those countries, with the avid support of Reagan, in the 1980’s, so he was very surprised that people were unfriendly when he told them he was an American. Eventually he decided to pretend that he was a German. I think his ignorance is pretty typical, and of course America’s image has gone much further downhill since then.

  2. Richard Simons

    I was working in Africa (in a nominally Christian country) at the time of 9/11. Several of my colleagues, many of whom had higher degrees from North America or Europe, said something along the lines of ‘Perhaps now they will appreciate what they’ve been doing to others.’ Almost all were of the opinion that the US had had something like that coming to them for a long time because of the way in which they had been acting, as though no-one else, their opinions or values counted for anything.

    For example, something that was often cited at the time (and I do not know if it is true) is that after the US embassy in Nairobi was bombed the Americans got their own people out of the wreckage and left the rest of the cleaning up to the Kenyans and the French.

    A common complaint was that US aid agencies moved into an area, ignored what was already on the ground, set up their own system then were displeased when it was not greeted with enthusiasm. Lower key aid provided by Japan, Finland and other countries seemed to be more appreciated.

    I tried to persuade people that many Americans are neither ignorant nor arrogant, but I’m not sure how many I convinced. These are just anecdotes but I certainly got the impression that a massive dose of humility would help with relations between the US and at least that part of Africa.

  3. Well, a lot of this stems from the “this is the greatest nation in the world” attitude (doesn’t that make you cringe?), and just the general way in which people here seem to regard themselves. Not everybody, of course, but certainly a very large proportion.

    Speaking as a Brit in exile, even though I have lived here since 1990, I am still surprised at how often your nationality is emphasised in general daily discourse (e.g. flags everywhere, pledge of alliegiance at the drop of a hat, etc). In England, at least for the 40+ years I lived there, there was very little of that, and far more awareness that there was a whole world out there beyond our shores.

    Of course, with the current administration and the prevalence of Limbaugh and his ilk, the image that is seen abroad is, to say the least, unfortunate, and one can only hope that the next administration will be able to start a reversal of this rot. This *is* a great country, but not in the jingoistic sense used today, and it deserves far better in the way of leadership. On the other hand, you did manage to vote (more or less) into office both Raygun and Dubya, so there is an immense amount of credulity that needs to be regained.

  4. Richard Simons

    Further to the “this is the greatest nation in the world” attitude, I think everyone should live in a different country for at least 6 months (and I don’t count being overseas in the army or other ‘protected’ environment). Along these lines, I am reminded of a poster I saw advertising a public planning meeting in Britain: “If you think Cambridge is just fine as it is, you’ve obviously never lived anywhere else”, a sentiment that could be applied to anywhere.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *