Why do they hate us?

Ever since 9/11, Americans all over have asked this fateful question, trying to understand why people would hijack airplanes and fly them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A severe rejection of wrong doings at the hands of the American government I think fuels such bewilderment amongst the American public. So as we witness the confrontation between Iran and the U.S., it might be a good time to shed some light on history that would help explain (not justify) the fiery remarks by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.

This post in inspired by a story I read in the Los Angeles Times entitled, U.S. history lesson: stop meddling, by Stephen Kinzer. In the article, Kinzer illustrates the negative long-term effects of American government ousting the governments of at least 14 countries around the world for the past 100 years. He does this to help inform what will probably be the effects of what will happen if and when the U.S. decides to forcibly intervene in Iran.

Before Iraq and Afghanistan, Kinzer states there were the Philippines, Panama, South Vietnam and Chile, among others. But while military interventions are easier to remember, the majority of US intervention involves “funding of rebel insurgencies, organized military coups, and encouraged popular nonviolent uprisings to overthrow foreign regimes – most recently in Yugslovia.” The sad reality is that “most of these interventions not only have brought great pain to the target countries but also, in the long run, weakened American security.The long-run is an interesting idea isn’t it? But how do we think about the long-run in America? “We don’t have to pay down the deficit now, we can take care of it in the long run.” “Taking action to stop global warming would cost jobs so let’s take care of the earth in the long-run.” Fixing public education? Don’t get me started, but I digress.

Getting back to Kinzer’s article, he illustrates how America played a major role in changing the arc of history in Cuba. Kinzer states how,

“Cuba, half a world away from Iran, is a fine example. In 1898, the United States sent troops there to help rebels overthrow Spanish colonial rule. Once victory was secured, the U.S. reneged on its promise to allow Cuba to become independent and turned it into a protectorate. More than 60 years later, in his first speech as leader of the victorious Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro recalled that episode and made a promise. “This time,” he vowed, “it will not be like 1898, when the Americans came in and made themselves masters of the country.”

Isn’t it interesting how revolutionaries use history to justify their actions and how democratic countries use the future? Fidel Castro was born in 1926 so obviously, Castro, like other Revolutionaries, don’t have a short-term memory. So where most Americans miss the boat is not understanding that many terrorists see Americans as having blood on their hands from administrations that may be before their time. So rather than keep up their end of the bargain, the US has provided the fodder a dictator become a constant thorn in their sides for decades. Iran however, presents a more interesting case because in 1953, Iran was a baby democracy when they elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and he was largely popular amongst Iranians. But as Kinzer points out, things became thorny between Iran and the US when,

“Mossadegh angered the West by nationalizing his country’s oil industry. President Eisenhower sent the CIA to depose him. The coup was successful, but it set the stage for future disaster.” “The CIA placed Mohammed Reza Pahlavi back on the Peacock Throne. His repressive rule led, 25 years later, to the Islamic Revolution. That revolution brought to power a clique of bitterly anti-Western mullahs who have spent the decades since working
intensely, and sometimes violently, to undermine U.S. interests around the world.”

Kinzer later added that, “Today, Latin America and the Middle East are the regions of the world in the most open political rebellion against U.S. policies. It is no coincidence that these are the regions where the U.S. has intervened most often. Resentment over intervention festers. It passes from generation to generation. Ultimately it produces a backlash.”

A backlash? To me this means that any meaningful negotiations between Iran and the “international community” has to address issues from past generations. But after you sort through all the historical mess, Iran and the US actually have similar goals that Kinzer points out, “Both want to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan, assure the free flow of Middle East oil and crush radical Sunni movements like the Taliban and Al Qaeda. What prevents talks from materializing is the deep resentment both sides feel over past interventions.”

So let’s stop drinking the kool-aid that the American government only has good intentions when it comes to regime change along with the notion that any country that is occupied by the U.S. should be grateful. And what is lost on many Americans is that they think that if they themselves did not do something wrong, then they should not be held responsible for the consequences. While this thinking is rational and plausible, many terrorists (not just Arabs) cite history from past generations as justification for their current behavior. What this tells me is that Americans claiming that they didn’t do anything wrong fails to account for the ramifications of past decisions by previous administrations. This is chess, not checkers.

Stay up fam,


Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
–George Santayana
Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed.
–Huey Newton


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