Why they hate us (II)
- Why they hate us (II): ------ A Must Read Commentary
THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FOUNDATION
11006 Veirs Mill Rd, STE L-15, PMB 298
Silver Spring, MD. 20902
DHUL HIJJAH 1430 AH
(Dec. 2, 2009)
Assalaamu Alaikum (Greetings of Peace):
As many of our readers are aware, I've been working on a paper on
the Ft. Hood tragedy (off and on) for some time now. My prayer is that
this will be an in depth, Islamically-based analysis on what happened
and why. While only Almighty ALLAH can ever know with certainty the
answer to the question why, I'm hoping to explore, in as objective a
way possible, some of the factors that led up to that human explosion on
Nov 5, 2009.
My examination of this issue goes beyond intellectual curiosity, and/or
the knee-jerk reaction that many Muslims experience whenever a tragic
occurrence brings unwanted attention on Muslims in America. It has to do
with the health and welfare of Muslims in America; and indeed, with the
health and welfare of America itself.
Like most people reading this introduction to the thought-provoking
commentary that follows, I have seen a significant number of Muslim
leaders of varying stripes weigh in on this tragedy before a national
audience. MOST have delivered dangerously poor representation on this
It is with this in mind that I invite the reader to reflect deeply over
what Professor Stephen Walt has to say. I believe Walt's analysis
factors significantly into why Major Hassan's intellectual output
was as it was in the months leading up to this tragedy, and why he
ultimately did what he did. (It will also prepare you for my humble
analysis which will come later, insha'Allah.)
As for the Muslim "leaders," or opinion shaping apologists, who
have been doing their best to assure the powers-that-be that there is no
problem with Muslims helping to fight America's imperialistic wars,
I advise you to reflect even deeper on the painful analysis provided by
Professor Walt (below). And then those of you who presume yourselves
learned (in the "Islamic Sciences"), check the condition of your
El-Hajj Mauri' Saalakhan
The New ForeignPolicy.com
Global News : Passport : Ricks : Drezner : Walt : Rothkopf : Lynch
The Cable : The AfPak Blog : Net Effect : Shadow Govt. : Madam Secretary
: The Call
Why they hate us (II): How many Muslims has the U.S. killed in the past
Mon, 11/30/2009 - 12:38pm
Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday's New York
Times, which is saying something given his well-established capacity for
smug self-assurance. According to Friedman, the big challenge we face in
the Arab and Islamic world is "the Narrative" -- his patronizing term
for Muslim views about America's supposedly negative role in the region.
If Muslims weren't so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize that
"U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or
trying to help free them from tyranny." He concedes that we made a few
mistakes here and there (such as at Abu Ghraib), but the real problem is
all those anti-American fairy tales that Muslims tell each other to
avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.
I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S.
relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set
of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants
(a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. "If the United
States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world," he said, "it
should stop killing Muslims."
Now I don't think the issue is quite that simple, but the comment got me
thinking: How many Muslims has the United States killed in the past
thirty years, and how many Americans have been killed by Muslims? Coming
up with a precise answer to this question is probably impossible, but it
is also not necessary, because the rough numbers are so clearly
Here's my back-of-the-envelope analysis, based on estimates deliberately
chosen to favor the United States. Specifically, I have taken the low
estimates of Muslim fatalities, along with much more reliable figures
for U.S. deaths.
To repeat: I have deliberately selected "low-end" estimates for Muslim
fatalities, so these figures present the "best case" for the United
States. Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for
every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a
reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher
estimates of "excess deaths" in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the
post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100
Muslim fatalities for every American lost.
Figures like these should be used with caution, of course, and several
obvious caveats apply. To begin with, the United States is not solely
responsible for some of those fatalities, most notably in the case of
the "excess deaths" attributable to the U.N. sanctions regime against
Iraq. Saddam Hussein clearly deserves much of the blame for these
"excess deaths," insofar as he could have complied with Security Council
resolutions and gotten the sanctions lifted or used the "oil for food"
problem properly. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the United States
(and the other SC members) knew that keeping the sanctions in place
would cause tens of thousands of innocent people to die and we went
Similarly, the United States is not solely to blame for the sectarian
violence that engulfed Iraq after the 2003 invasion. U.S. forces killed
many Iraqis, to be sure, but plenty of Shiites, Kurds, Sunnis, and
foreign infiltrators were pulling triggers and planting bombs too. Yet
it is still the case that the United States invaded a country that had
not attacked us, dismantled its regime, and took hardly any precautions
to prevent the (predictable) outbreak of violence. Having uncapped the
volcano, we are hardly blameless, and that goes for pundits like
Friedman who enthusiastically endorsed the original invasion.
Third, the fact that people died as a result of certain U.S. actions
does not by itself mean that those policy decisions were wrong. I'm a
realist, and I accept the unfortunate fact that international politics
is a rough business and sometimes innocent people die as a result of
actions that may in fact be justifiable. For example, I don't think it
was wrong to expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1991 or to topple the Taliban in
2001. Nor do I think it was wrong to try to catch Bin Laden -- even
though people died in the attempt -- and I would support similar efforts
to capture him today even if it placed more people at risk. In other
words, a full assessment of U.S. policy would have to weigh these
regrettable costs against the alleged benefits to the United States
itself or the international community as a whole.
Yet if you really want to know "why they hate us," the numbers presented
above cannot be ignored. Even if we view these figures with skepticism
and discount the numbers a lot, the fact remains that the United States
has killed a very large number of Arab or Muslim individuals over the
past three decades. Even though we had just cause and the right
intentions in some cases (as in the first Gulf War), our actions were
indefensible (maybe even criminal) in others.
It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths
were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government
policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the
victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents
in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans should also bear in mind that the
figures reported above omit the Arabs and Muslims killed by Israel in
Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank. Given our generous and unconditional
support for Israel's policy towards the Arab world in general and the
Palestinians in particular, Muslims rightly hold us partly responsible
for those victims too.
Contrary to what Friedman thinks, our real problem isn't a fictitious
Muslim "narrative" about America's role in the region; it is mostly the
actual things we have been doing in recent years. To say that in no way
justifies anti-American terrorism or absolves other societies of
responsibility for their own mistakes or misdeeds. But the
self-righteousness on display in Friedman's op-ed isn't just simplistic;
it is actively harmful. Why? Because whitewashing our own misconduct
makes it harder for Americans to figure out why their country is so
unpopular and makes us less likely to consider different (and more
Some degree of anti-Americanism may reflect ideology, distorted history,
or a foreign government's attempt to shift blame onto others (a practice
that all governments indulge in), but a lot of it is the inevitable
result of policies that the American people have supported in the past.
When you kill tens of thousands of people in other countries -- and
sometimes for no good reason -- you shouldn't be surprised when people
in those countries are enraged by this behavior and interested in
revenge. After all, how did we react after September 11?
Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of
International Relations at Harvard University.
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