by Charles E. Butterworth, Unversity of Maryland
Much like a draft horse of a bygone era, prevented by fixed blinkers from sideward glances, the US trudges through current crises in the Middle East its attention fixed in one direction. Pulling a cart laden with the policies and prejudices of a single country and people, it ignores all others or reduces them to trivia. Those citizens who dare decry such policies are repulsed as naive, if not as traitors. Such is the tyranny of the majority against which no less a thinker than Tocqueville warned.
This attitude weakens the US economically and runs against its self-interest, but remains ascendant. My goal here is to buttress these claims, to indicate how the US has come to pursue policies so harmful to itself, and to suggest how others – especially Arabs and Muslims – might help the US draft horse lose its blinkers and learn to look around in praiseworthy freedom.
The events of September 11, 2001, say George W. Bush and his followers, justify all-out war against terrorism and transforming select regimes in the Middle East. Equally spurious are the reasons offered for the ill-conceived invasion of Iraq, cruel treatment of persons seized abroad and imprisoned secretly, infringement of constitutional rights to privacy for US citizens, refusal to allow foreign nationals with unorthodox political views entry to the US, and, currently, support of Israel’s vicious, inhumane, and criminal assaults upon the civilians of Gaza and Lebanon. Americans killed in battle since 9/11 now surpass the victims of that day, and the toll of Iraqi civilians is perhaps 100 times as large. To all this, the American public is astonishingly compliant. Why are such unjust policies so readily endorsed? More important, how might those affected help turn them around? To answer these two questions is my goal here.