Archived Sections, Commentary

Why do they hate us so much?

The Arab world may well have good reason to despise Americans.

Harrington is senior pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Apple Valley, Minnesota. This essay originally appeared in the congregation’s newsletter, “News For the Flock.” An abridged version of this piece appears in the November, 2003 print edition of Metro Lutheran. Here is the unabridged version:
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Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, many Americans have struggled with this question: Why do so many in the Arab world hate the United States?
Before I comment further, I want to make two very important points. First, I consider myself to be a true patriot of this nation and, for the right reasons, I believe I would be willing to give my life to preserve her future and her freedoms. I salute the flag. I pledge allegiance. I am an Eagle Scout. I often get a lump in my throat while singing the national anthem. I am a patriot of this great land and I always will be.
Secondly, I want people to understand that it is entirely possible to support our military 1,000% and not endorse White House policy at the same time. For many Americans this is a very difficult concept. They believe they are one and the same. But they are not. I can support our military and oppose White House policy at the same time. This is not a contradiction, though many apparently believe it is.
If we learned anything from the Vietnam era, it is that Administration policies may be wrong and yet we must support those who serve our nation so faithfully and even sacrificially. The tragedy of Vietnam was that we blamed the military and, at least for a time, exonerated our elected officials. Let’s never make that mistake again. We don’t question the service and loyalty of our military (at least not the rank and file), but we can question the policies of those whom we have elected to office and whose decisions govern our military.
I am a child of the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran Contra scandal and the Clinton sex scandal. I simply do not believe everything our leaders tell us. Too many have lied in the past. But I do pray for our military that they be kept from harm’s way and be returned safely to us as soon as is possible.
It has been said that the truth is the first casualty of any war. I fear this may now be the case. Let me share a few examples.
1. It has been implied for months now that Saddam Hussein was connected to the September 11 terrorist attacks. to date, not a shred of evidence supports this notion, though huge numbers of Americans believe it. Hussein is an evil man but he was not the culprit on September 11. In fact, a recent State Department memo confirmed that Al Quaeda operatives tried to enlist Hussein’s help before September 11 but he declined (for whatever reason) to get involved.
2. We were told that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. To date, nothing has been found to support his claim, upon which most of the war effort was based. Much soul searching is now going on in the CIA and the intelligence community.
3. We were told we would be welcomed as liberators. Yet our soldiers are attacked on an almost daily basis. Some Iraquis seem to hate us as much as they ever hated Saddam.
4. We were told that Iraq was a serious threat to the security of the United States. I never believed that a tinhorn dictator could topple a nation as powerful as the United States.
5. We were told that we will liberate and build a new nation. It may interest you to know that in the past 50 years (according to historian William Blum), the United States has exercised its military might in no less than 19 nations of the world, not one of which today has a democratic government as a result of our intervention. (The two shining exceptions are Germany and Japan, thanks in large part to the Marshall Plan, where we spent about $15 billion rebuilding both of those nations after World War II.)
But what concerns me the most in all of this is the presumption that we now have the right to alienate many of our long-time allies by going around the world pre-emptively striking down any nation that we perceive to be a threat to us. This is a radical departure from anything this nation has ever endorsed in the past. This Lone Ranger attitude has caused many of our allies to question our motives and our methods.
We still belong to a global community and we had better awaken to that fact soon. We now need these allies to help rebuild Iraq, but many are no longer as enthusiastic about working with us. We should be fighting terrorism, but let’s be sure we don’t start a war based on faulty assumptions and preconceived notions that may have little basis in fact.
To better understand why the Arab world hates us, we need to understand two realities which few of our politicians have the courage to address:
1. The Arab world hates us intensely because of our unilateral support of Israel. The Arab world hates Israel because of what they are doing to the Palestinians. And they hate us because of our blind support of Israel. (Read the book, “Israel, yesterday and Today,” edited by Harry Wendt, creator of the “Crossroads” Bible study series. This book is a real eye-opener.)
The United States gives Israel about $10 billion a year and almost nothing to the Palestinians. Little Israel now has the fourth most powerful army in the world and it is only because of our money and our weapons. Until we start to publicly advocate for the Palestinian people and begin to treat them justly and fairly, the terrorism will never stop.There is also the major issue of hundreds of Israeli settlements illegally established in the West Bank territories and those deplorable Palestinian refugee camps that have been with us now for 55 years. I do not condone suicide bombings, but they are only indication of just how desperate and hopeless these people have become. If you have no future, and our land is being systematically taken from you, perhaps death isn’t such a bad thing after all.
2. The terrorism will continue until the United States uses its moral and financial clout to hold arab countries accountable to their own citizens. the United States has such authority, but we seldom use it. Let me give an example of what I mean.
Fifteen of the 19 September 11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. A United Nations Security Council report stated that Saudi Arabia has given Al Quaeda over $500 million in the past decade alone. Why did we not attack them? The answer can be summarized in one word: oil.
Each year the House of Saud pulls in about $50 billion in oil revenue, a great deal of it coming from the Unite Sates. that is about $6,700 for every Saudi of working age. But guess what! Much of that wealth stays in the House of Saud to maintain a lavish and self-indulgent lifestyle for the 6,000 to 20,000 who claim to be family members. When they travel, they spend upwards of $5 million a day, not counting their shopping expeditions. All this while the general populace experiences high fertility rates, a corrupt police force, 30% unemployment, and a very substandard educational system.
The deep resentments of the poor Saudi often translates to the United States because we keep these corrupt regimes in power with our insatiable thirst for oil and the huge profits it generates for those ruling monarchies. Sadly, our nation is today more dependent upon foreign oil than ever before in its history.
I do realize these are very complex issues. But I am fully convinced that the terrorism will continue until we start showing the Palestinians more compassion and until, as a nation, we demand that corrupt and bloated governments start treating all their citizens more equitably and humanely.
For almost two years now we have been hearing a lot of this phrase: “God bless America.” For the long term health of our nation, I prefer: “God bless the world. God bless the nations of the world with peace and unity. God bless the nations with a deep desire to truly help the hungry, the diseased the illiterate, the homeless, and the oppressed. God bless the nations with governments that renounce corruption, greed and institutionalized injustice.God bless the nation with leaders who listen to the voices of the least, the last, the lowest and the loneliest. God bless the nations with people and policies that are truly committed to the alleviation of human suffering. God bless the nations with the value systems that more closely resemble the values espoused by the Scriptures and especially those of Jesus, our Lord.
America needs to know that, in the end, it is not our military strength that will save us, important as that may be. It will be our moral strength. And we need to be exercising it now, more than ever, both at home and around the world. as the prophet Micah put it, “What does God ask of us but that we do justice, practice mercy and walk humbly with our God?”
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[This article contains a number of statistics and other related data. I would be happy to substantiate any of the above statements upon request. PH.]