|Someone sent me this:
Last Tuesday morning, I watched, horrified, as
events unfolded. By noon, I was speechless and
numb at the horror of the events. And then I had
to go teach class.
What do you say to a room full of young adults in a
situation like this? It sure isn't a normal class day.
Given that this horror is inexcusable, is there any-
thing from the past that has influenced the course of
events? So I told my classes some things I know that
they don't, because most Americans don't know.
I told them how the United States CIA overthrew a
democratically elected president in Iran because he
had nationalized the British-owned oil fields, threat-
ening the oil supply of the West. In his place, we in-
stalled a military dictatorship that lasted for three
decades. The shah of Iran served as our puppet, using
a corrupt and evil secret service every bit as brutal as
the Gestapo to imprison, torture, kill and make his
enemies disappear. The shah became the symbol of
U.S. Imperialism for an entire generation of Islamic
Iranians, who overthrew the shah in the late 1970s and
created the first modern Islamic nation in his place.
The Islamic leaders of that nation then defined the
United States as the Great Satan.
I mentioned that the United States is the principal,
although certainly not only, proponent of Israel in the
Middle East, providing that country with arms and
various types of funding. That support has meant in
the eyes of many Islamic fundamentalists that Israel is
more or less an extension of the United States.
I mentioned that the United States is seen as the
main promoter of a western culture they define as
decadent and immoral, exporting to their youths ideas
of open sexuality, equality for women, rock 'n' roll,
drugs, a secular state and the belief that consumerism
rather than religion defines quality of life. That many
of them perceive U.S. attempts to open markets ev-
erywhere as a way of thrusting what they perceive as
an immoral culture upon everyone else, like it or not.
I mentioned that the United States tends to support
Middle Eastern elites that are relatively westernized
and relatively authoritarian. Many of these more
western elites are seen by Islamic ftmdamentalists as
immoral enemies of the "true faith" of Islam, and some
of them have been the target of terrorist acts by Islamic
And then I asked whether the overthrow of demo-
cratically elected governments, the wholehearted
support of Israel and its occupation of Palestinian ar-
eas, the promotion of market societies that replace
religious systems with consumerism and the support
of more westernized leaders who tend to dislike fun-
damentalism, might — just might — have had any-
thing to do with creating a dislike of the United States
by some fundamentalists.
I think we pretty much all agreed that the act of
terrorism was not a valid way to solve this conflict. We
had some disagreement over short- and long-term
strategies to deal with the disastrous realities our own
behaviors have helped to create. Bomb some Arab
country? Find and assassinate some terrorists (pref-
erably the ones who masterminded this act)? Reach
out and seem weak? Blast the hell out of someone and
But our ultimate goal seems clear: We want to find
ways to conduct ourselves and influence others in the
future that reduce the possibility of this happening
again, to find ways we can deal with others that reduce
their hatred for us.
If that is the goal, is it worth understanding how our
own behavior has influenced this event?
Perhaps it is time that we begin to learn how the
history of U.S. involvement in the region's politics and
governments has created a host of ill will toward this
country. Or should we continue on as we have,
promising to bomb the hell out of anyone remotely
associated with this act? Kill some innocent civilians
ourselves in retribution?
Which approach do we think will lead to our actual
goal, our own pure self interest: the safety and security
of our own people?