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 effective) approaches.
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? [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — After 3,000 Americans died on 9/11, the event was universally described as “an attack on America”.
After several hundred thousand Muslims have been killed, it should cause no dismay that many of the survivors would likewise call this “a war on Islam”.
Except — and this is where the Friedmans jump in — they weren’t killed for being Muslims. They were mostly killed because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is how we attempt to shed the moral burden of our actions. We tell the survivors that their loved ones strayed into the periphery of our intentions. They were not killed by mistake but because they came within what we deemed to be an acceptable margin of imprecision.
This is how we sweep lives away.
And we should ask: Is there any less callous disregard in the casual indifference of a drone-operator for whom human beings are ant-like figures scurrying across a colorless monitor screen, than there is in the murderous intent of a suicide bomber?