What America’s Critics Are Saying

            Most Americans are in a state of puzzlement or utter disbelief at all the manifestations of animosity and perceived hatred toward the United States.  Why then are so many people trying to get into this country, legally or otherwise, for a better life if we are so bad? Upon examination it becomes clear that most of this hostility is directed at our foreign policy and not the American people themselves who are almost universally admired.

            Much of the resentment and fear of our foreign policy comes from “far-away places with strange-sounding names.” According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (December 2002) a familiar story circulating these days  in the Muslim and Christian Arab world  is “Why did it take President Bush so long to prepare his Middle East policy for his speech at the UN?" The answer?   "Because it had to be translated first from Hebrew.”

            But when criticism comes from old international friends it is harder to swallow. It can range from sarcasm to insult.  So we are shocked when 400,000 Italians and other Europeans gathered recently in Florence to condemn our foreign policy as fascist; puzzled when the Canadian Prime Minister’s communications director calls President Bush a “moron;” outraged when, during a discussion of why Germany will not support the Bush administration in its war plans, a commentator suggests that, given their recent history, the Germans have learned to recognize a Nazi when they see one.

            Such hyperbole can of course be dismissed outright.  The problem posed by our foreign policy remains, however, and the criticism needs to be addressed.  Much of our domestic media when acting as the voice of those in power will dismiss any criticism from abroad with equally bellicose simplifications. This adds nothing to the discussion.

            Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh recently wrote in America magazine (9/9/02), that if one risks asking whether there might be “reasons why the United States triggered such hate, not only in the madness of 9/11, but in the Muslim street, the shrill response is that you are defending the abominations and you think America deserved it”- a despicable thought.

            Cannot one ask hard questions, however, and go beyond CNN or Fox News to find out why, unfairly or not, our policies are so hated? Whatever the merit or validity of the criticism it is important to know what others are saying in order to be able to respond with more than simple sloganeering.

            America’s critics claim that the main goal of our foreign policy is not about promoting democracy in the world, not about destroying weapons of mass destruction, and not about the violation of UN resolutions.

            First, they contend, our goal is not about promoting democracy.  After a positive legacy toward Germany and Japan after World War II we began to cultivate and support a series of thugs and despots in subsequent decades: Trujillo, Marcos, Battista, Diem, Noriega, Somosa, the Shah, Sukarno, Pinochet, Duvalier, Mobutu, etc. Our critics do not buy our stated goal of promoting democracy in the world.

            Nor, our critics say, is it about eliminating weapons of mass destruction; because the United States is not eliminating its own weapons of mass destruction. We wrote the book on the use of weapons of mass destruction against civilians by our nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people,” (Howard Zinn). Our critics note that we are the world’s leading arms dealer. They consider breaking the Anti-ballistic Missal Treaty hypocritical, as well as our rejection of the Kyoto, land mine, and international criminal court accords, our boycotting of the recent international conference on racism

            Nor is it about the violation of UN resolutions. Our critics note that, while Iraq has indeed violated 16 UN resolutions, Israel has violated 65 documented UN resolutions; yet no one is advocating war with Israel.

            What then, in their eyes, really is our goal?  Anatol Lievan, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment, sums it up as the emergence of the U.S. as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole supremacy and authority as planetary policeman.  The leadership in Washington is committed to “unilateral world domination through absolute military superiority,” he writes. It is about the arrogance of power, other critics say, about pre-emptive war, when and where the president chooses, about control of the world’s resources for our own use. I suspect this is the main reason for their distrust, fear, even hatred. I would suggest it is helpful to recognize, question and respond to such criticism.

December 2002


 America magazine. September 9, 2002
Other Voices: The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Dec. 2002
 Fellowship of Reconciliation
 Catholic Peace Voice: Pax Christi U.S.A. Vol. XXVII, No.3\
  Paul Findley, Deliberate Deceptions: Facing the Facts About the US/Israeli
            Relationship  (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1993), pages 166-192.