Friday, June 17, 2005

Question Four: Why Do Some Think We're the Bad Guy?

Question four in our ongoing War on Terror/Iraq War debate series is:

When did the desecration of the Quran become more important to some than the 3,000 who died on 9/11? Or, to put it another way, why do some Americans and other westerners paint America as the bad guy in this conflict?

The next question will be on Monday.

Question One: Why did we invade Iraq?

Question Two: Has the Iraq war set any precedents?

Question Three: Are we safer?


At 8:58 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

First and foremost I think this goes to the heart of longstanding leftist ideology (based heavily on the works of Marx) which states the more unfortunate a people the more worthy they are of protection and help. The ideology also believes that those with an unfortunate lot in life have that lot as the direct result of oppression.

If you are weak, you are oppressed and need special protections. If you are powerful, you are an oppressor and need to be knocked down a few notches to equalize things. This creates a condition where people and countries are not held to equal standards. Violence and anger is an understandable reaction from those who are “oppressed” and is thus more tolerable. But any violence from the powerful is seen as one more bit of evidence that they are an oppressor and is one more reason that this oppressor needs to be stopped.

I think some Americans and even more westerners have this worldview. To some (like Michael Moore) 9/11 is explained as a legitimate reaction to America’s crimes. But our reaction to terrorist crimes is considered illegitimate because, as the great oppressor, the only way we can make things better is to stop oppressing. Thus there are those who want us to completely remove ourselves from the Middle East, stop supporting Israel and leave nothing but copious amounts of foreign aide. They believe that by diminishing us others can be raised.

This is, of course, an oversimplification but I think it’s a pretty accurate description of leftist ideology on this topic.

At 10:52 AM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Let me see if I can put this so everyone will understand it.

If you have kidnapped my children and I know where you live, I will come into your home, take back my children and be considered a good guy.

If I suspect you might someday kidnap my children, but I have no proof and yet I attack your home and burn it to the ground, I will be considered a bad guy.

We attacked a Nation that posed no threat to us. Of course many in the middle east consider us to be the bad guy.

Still, there are those who know the American people are not responsible. They blame our current government and only the people who blindly support Bush will not understand what I mean.

At 11:12 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Good points, Robert. Let me clarify that my analysis was just that, an analysis. There is, I think, some validity in saying we misused our power to invade Iraq. Or, I should say, it is quite understandable that some would think we misused our power.

That doesn't mean desecrating a Quran is equal to beheading prisoners. It's not.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Rob Jackson said...


I think you're a little off here.
Your question assumes that both sides of the conflict can't be bad -- that it has to be one or the other.

As a Leftist moderate, I think you have the "acceptable violence" argument all wrong. Since Leftists are typically pacifists, we tend not to want to react with violence when violence is perpetrated against us. This has everything to do with the teachings of Christ and little to do with the idea that violence by the oppressed is acceptable.

As for a Marxist ideology forming the Leftist platform on the Middle East, I'll have to think about that more. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure about your logical conclusion that we're oppressing the Middle East by supporting Isreal or being in SA or Iraq or wherever else we are

At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Corey said...

I think that you have to look at a series of events to see how we got to this place.

I think it starts with the beginning of the war. For a small percentage of the population, just the fact that we were invading a country was enough to make them think of American as the bad guy.

Next you factor in the total lack of WMDs, and the main justification that was given by the admin just went down the toliet. This makes some believe that we had secret motives to invade, and this causes a few more people to move into the "America is the bad guy" camp.

Next you get the Abu Graib photos coming out, and a few more move over.

The administration's response to the Abu Graib photos is seen by some to be reluctant and weak, and a few more people move over.

and the list goes on....

Over the course of 2+ years, a lot of little shifts in peoples opinions has lead to a fairly sizable portion of the nation feeling this way.

I think that had the Quran desecration scandle been the first accusation made against our gov't during this war, you wouldn't see it blown out of control like this. But after one mini-scandle after another, people start to lose site of what the actual accusations are, and they just start lumping all the accusations togeather. By doing this, the collective accusations cause them to show more negativity towards their own government than what the individual accusation actually merits.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger ChrisJ said...

Robert that was a great analogy and really the only way it should be looked. And I think that is what makes other countries mad, as well as, Americans.

How can you justify attacking someone on what you think they might do?

I would be scared if I was an "allie" because if you get on Bushs' bad side he could imagine what you might do and might be capable of and decide an attack is just.

The above instance might be a little extreme, but our admins. actions are a little extreme also.

I agree when you are faced with extremism you can only fight it with extreme measures, however, the extremists that attacked us were not in Iraq. The people over there are just reacting to their families and friend being killed as part of casualties of war.

At 4:49 PM, Blogger M. Takhallus. said...

Why do some Americans automatically assume we're in the wrong? Some people mistake the government for their parents. Distancing themselves from their government is part and parcel of differentiating themselves from their parents. Adolescent rebellion. It makes people feel bold and independant. Knee-jerk anti-Americaanism is an easy substitute for taking the time to form actual independant views based on reason -- views which may or may not be alignned with the government. Always easier to jerk a knee than follow a course of reason through to a logical conclusion.

Of course sometimes we're just in the wrong. There's that, too.

By the way, great series, Bert and Ernie.

Michael Reynolds

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

I think there are several reasons our government (but not the American people) is looked at with such disdain. But foremost is how we treated the goodwill we received after 9/11. For the first time in a long time, people all over the world saw us as the victim. The terrorists on those airplanes were responsible for the mass killing of thousands of citizens from the US and others from around the world. When we wanted help, we got it . . . in massive doses. Many of you may not remember this, but there were silent vigils in nearly every country including our former enemies in Russia and even Cuba. I saw people in the Middle East holding up hand-made American flags and crying at the thought of all those who were murdered. Yet, there will always be those Americans who only recall the jubilation by some Palestinians and Arab extremists. I choose to recall the goodwill.

But for reasons I'm still not sure of, Bush decided to say "screw you" to all the countries who thought it was a bad idea for us to go into Iraq. His "our way or the highway" attitude made our government seem a little to arrogant for most people around the world.

And when the French stated their opinion, what was the reaction of Americans? Freedom Fries? Give me a break. Contrary to what George W. Bush believes, we are not the only country on the face of the Earth.

So instead of rambling anymore, allow me to summarize. Another reason why some think we're the bad guy is our arrogance.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger AubreyJ said...

When did a desecrated Quran become more important to some than the 3,000 that died on 9/11?
I’ll stay with my first answer: As soon as they forgot the horrors of 9-11. Unfortunately, for many that would have been just a few days after. Now as far as why some Americans and other Westerners paint America as the bad guy in this conflict??? God only knows... I know I for one do not think such nonsense......

At 6:40 PM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...

I guess I need to add that I can't think of anyone who actually believes the desecration of the Quran is more important than the lives lost on 9/11.

However, I get the distinct feeling that there are still Americans who would flip over backwards and demand heads on a plate if some foreigners desecrated the Holy Bible. I know how pissed they get at seeing the American Flag burning. So perhaps if you feel like it's no big deal for someone to put urine on the Quran, maybe you need to think about how you would feel if the roles were reversed and it was a Bible instead.

And while I know there are some (not all) on the Right who think there should be different standards for American symbols and icons, I'm simply throwing out this notion as something to chew on for a bit.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Mark said...

ask Senator DICK Durbin...he seems to think it's important because we are on the same level with pol pot and hitler and stalin

At 4:44 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Rob (Jackson),

I get your point but I don't think a lot of modern leftist thought is fueled by Christianity. Some is, of course, but the leftist views of the American Michael Moore crowd and the European Left are not based on Christian theology so much as they are on Marxist teachings about the oppression and the need for the oppressed to fight back. There is a pacifist wing of the left but most leftist are not oppossed to violence in every situation. In fact, the concept of a freedom fighter is a very celebrated aspect of leftist ideology.

I'm not pulling this analysis out of thing air, mind you. There is very much a sense amongst many on the left that America is to blame for Islamic extremism because of our actions in the Mid East from helping Israel to stationing troops in Saudi Arabia to funding the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan to propping up totalitarian regimes and on and on. In this line of reasoning, the Iraqi war was not a break from tradition but another gtand piece of proof of America's oppression of the region. Anti-Americanism did not spring up overnight and it was not created by the Iraqi war--9/11 did bring the world together in mourning but that was the exception to the rule. Iraq revived anti-Americanism and, in fact, sent it into hyperdrive. Bush, I think, can indeed be faulted for appearing argoant and dismissive in the lead-up and aftermath of the war. While there is no way he could have stopped anti-Americanism he could have made real steps to dull it. Only after he was reelected did the administration admit it should have used a softer hand--that's why Bush went on the goodwill tour through Europe earlier this year.

I also want to say, desecrating the Quran was a horrible action and one no American should want to tolerate. But it shouldn't be compared to the actions of terrorists. They aren't measurable on the same scale. Trying to place them on the same scale is pointless.

At 11:37 PM, Blogger Ted Carmichael said...

Alan -

I'm not aware of anyone trying to "place [...] on the same scale" the Koran abuses and the actions of terrorists. I do agree, however, that such a comparison is simply not creditable.

The Koran abuses is just another way to add fuel to the fire ... a rallying point, if you will, for consolidating anger, fear, and resentment together. We must be more careful in our actions to allow as few of these 'rallying points' as possible. Which is part of the reason why many have called for shutting down Gitmo completely.

I'm not sure if the idea that "If you are weak, you are oppressed ... if you are powerful, you are the oppressor" fully encompases the argument against America. Certainly, there is something to the idea of rooting for an underdog ... we do that all the time in this country. But I think, in general, you are confusing tolerance for the terrorists' actions with a desire to understand the roots of those actions.

We cannot truly defeat terrorism unless we fully understand it. It's not enough to simply disregard those actions as pure evil and mindless violence that can be stopped with more violence. (Well ... maybe it can be stopped that way for a time, since the Israeli reactions of late seem to have done the trick for their country. The weekly cacophony of marketplace bombings has dropped of to almost nothing. But even they recognize that some peaceable measures must also be taken, for future stability and simple peace-of-mind. They know they can't live behind a wall forever.)

Nevertheless, there are better ways to defeating terrorism and the widespread attitudes that fuel it. To find those ways, we need to ask more questions like yours, and try to understand why we are the "bad guys" in the eyes of most of the people of the Middle East. What are the underlying causes that drive so many to become suicide bombers, for example.

I think for the most part it is a function of ignorance and poverty, which allow small injustices to become magnified and exploited. Though I don't know of any who seriously advocate "completely remov[ing] ourselves from the Middle East [...] except for copious amounts of foreign aid," I think it is well worth exploring what positive impact we could have with just one-tenth of what the Iraqi war has cost us.

There are a lot of positive signs in the Middle East. Lebanon is finally getting out from under Syria, many in Iran are pushing for greater equality, and democracy is slowly gaining ground in Egypt, Afghanistan, and Palistine. Even the Royals of Saudia Arabia are felling the pressure for reform.

Except for Afghanistan, none of these positive effects can be linked to war. (And very few blamed us for war in Afghanistan, after 9/11.) Money spent on our Universities in the region, or to stimulate economic opportunities, or make medical facilities more available goes a lot further than that spent on bombs and bullets.

Poverty and ignorance just can't be stomped out with a hammer. The stick absolutely has its place, but more often it is the carrot that works.

At 1:02 AM, Blogger Robert Rouse said...



At 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my take.

Going into Afghanistan was a reasonable response to 9/11.

Going into Iraq was justified on various grounds, but the only one that remains is this; We claim to have gone in as "liberators".

If we do not hold the moral high ground, which is impossible to do if we're engaging in torture and religious desecration, then every person dead in Iraq due to our invasion lies directly at our feet.

The stories with the Quaran and so on are making our moral high ground look very unstable.

At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Michael Ralston said...

Hey, Mark, have you ever heard what Durbin actually said?

Because I don't actually see where he says we're on the "same level" in the following:
"If I read this [a description of how prisoners were being treated, from an FBI agent's report] to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

Do you see it? I see he's saying we might be heading that way, but if we are, doesn't someone have to say it so that we don't?

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...


I think it is vital to understand the terrorist's reasons for doing what they do. I also think it is vital not to confuse understanding the terrorits reasons with tolerating the terrorists reasons.

While I admit the description of Marxist influence on current far left thinking is crude (it would probably take a thesis paper at least to flesh out), it is a lot more than "rooting for the underdog." It has to do with the reverence shown the "freedom fighter."

There was a great article in The New Republic last February about the American Socialist Party's take on Iraq. These Americans believe that the insurgents are freedom fighters and that their party should support the insurgents efforts against the imperial Americans.

Now, I know people like this are a slim minority and I want to make it clear when I say some think we're the bad guy I don't lump in all those opposed to the war. The vast number of those opposed to the war are opposed for good rationale reasons and in no way "hate america." I'm addressing the tiny buy vocal minority that seems to root against American success in Iraq. And I'm addressing those like Amnesty International who seem to want to place American abuses on the same scale as gulags, which is simply not appropriate or helpful.


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