Vengefulness, bigotry and machismo as justifications for U.S. Middle East meddling

September 11, 2007 | By | 1 Reply More

I recently discussed American foreign policy with an attorney over lunch.  Over the years, this fellow had generally shown himself to be thoughtful on many issues.  He is a meticulous lawyer, charged with parsing out bits of relevant evidence regarding the dozens of cases on which he works every day.

It eventually became clear that he fully supported the U.S. attack on Iraq, though he was agonized over how badly the “war” was going.  Why did he support the Iraq invasion?  This is where the conversation got strange:  Because of what “they” did to us (allegedly the 9/11 attacks).  It’s because of what “they” planned to do (impose Muslim culture on all Americans).  It’s because of what “they” stand for (“they hate freedom”).   Further, we simply need to make them pay.   We can’t let “them” get away with what “they” did on 9/11.  

It became clear through this conversation that, for my acquaintance, all Muslim countries are the same.  None of them can be trusted.  All of them are at least somewhat guilty for 9/11.   I challenged his over-generalizations, but my acquaintance would not back off.  For him, all Muslims are bad.  Further, it was clear to him that we couldn’t do nothing about 9/11.  Doing something (no matter what it was) is far better than doing nothing.

It has repeatedly occurred to me that without the federal government’s 6-year national license to engage in bigotry and misdirected vengefulness, the invasion of Iraq would have been extremely difficult to sell. Based upon numerous conversations I’ve had with people who supported the Iraq invasion, bigotry and misdirected vengefulness justified their support of the invasion.  For many people these things continue to justify any future U.S. military action in the Middle East.  “They” have it coming.

In “The Real Lessons of 9/11,” Gary Kamiya does a much-needed psychological analysis on those people who have supported the sustained and misdirected U.S. military violence in the Middle East.  Kamiya has really thought things through.  Kamiya’s Salon.com article is an extraordinary piece of writing.  The bottom line is that the mainstream media has not questioned the shameful emotions and ideology that justified Bush’s crusade in the minds of all too many people.  Here are a few excerpts from the article, but I highly recommend clicking on the link and reading the whole thing:

Six years ago, Islamist terrorists attacked the United States, killing almost 3,000 people. President Bush used the attacks to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq. And he has been using 9/11 ever since to scare Americans into supporting his “war on terror.” He has incessantly linked the words “al-Qaida” and “Iraq,” a Pavlovian device to make us whimper with fear at the mere idea of withdrawing. In a recent speech about Iraq, he mentioned al-Qaida 95 times. No matter that jihadists in Iraq are not the same group that attacked the U.S., or that their numbers and effectiveness have been greatly exaggerated.

Sept. 11 is a totemic date for the Bush administration. It justifies everything, explains everything, ends all argument. It is the crime that must be eternally punished, the wound that can never heal, the moral high ground that can never be taken. Bush’s reaction to 9/11 was to declare a “war on terror,” of which the Iraq adventure was said to be the “front line.” The American establishment signed off on this war because of 9/11. To oppose Bush’s “war on terror” was to risk another terror attack and dishonor our dead.

Of course America was enraged and fearful after the attacks. But reacting to the attacks as we did, like an angry drunk in a bar, was not in our national interests. It was vital that we think clearly about our response, who attacked us, why they did, and what our most effective response would be. But here the American establishment ran up against its ideological blind spot — its received ideas about the Arab/Muslim world. Combined with the hysterical emotionalism, those ideas, which amount to a kind of de facto bigotry, allowed Bush to push through one of the most bizarrely gratuitous wars in history.

Sept. 11 was a hinge in history, a fork in the road. It presented us with a choice. We could find out who attacked us, surgically defeat them, address the underlying problems in the Middle East, and make use of the outpouring of global sympathy to pull the rest of the world closer to us. Or we could lash out blindly and self-righteously, insist that the only problems in the Middle East were created by “extremists,” demonize an entire culture and make millions of new enemies.

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Category: Bigotry, Iraq, Military, Politics, Psychology Cognition, The Middle East, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    Very good article, but I find one major aspect missing: Greed.

    There's money to be made and I don't think those who are making it off this war right now care much about anything else. They will simply back any politician who will support the flow of nourishment to their predatory cash cow until something more profitable comes along.

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