Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- 2001

Why Do They Hate Us So Much?

By Ernest Partridge
University of California, Riverside
www.igc.org/gadfly // gadfly@igc.org


In my mind there is absolutely no justification and no way of rationalizing what happened on September 11.  I am convinced that Islam does not shape the perpetrators' values and their beliefs.  Islam is a religion of peace and I pray that good Muslims will rescue Islam from the clutches of those who use it for their political purposes.  Until Americans revisit their foreign policy practices and good Muslims challenge distorted interpretations of Islam consistently, we may not come out of the circle of terror and counter-terror.

Prof. Muqtedar Khan


My enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,       

I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin.

Walt Whitman

"Why do they hate us so much?"  How often have we heard that question since September 11?

This was George Bush's answer in his speech to Congress: "They hate what they see right here in this chamber a democratically elected government... They hate our freedoms our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote..." And in his news conference: ""I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us... I just can't believe it because I know how good we are."

And Colin Powell, on the PBS "News Hour" answered: "They don't like our value system, they don't like a system that treats each individual as a creature of God with the full rights of every other individual. They don't like our political system, our form of democracy... They resent in many instances our success as a society." (9/13)

If this smug display of a-historical self-righteousness is to be our answer to that question, "why do they hate us?", this will be a very long struggle with an uncertain outcome.

Nothing that we have done with the governments or to the people of the Islamic world can remotely justify the vicious, brutal and meticulously executed slaughter of three thousand innocent persons, many Moslems among them. But we will be ill-equipped to deal with such fanaticism if we fail to comprehend the source of the white-heat of hatred that could motivate at least a dozen intelligent and educated individuals to put aside universal moral constraints and to sacrifice their own lives and the lives of those innocents.

The atrocities of September 11, though totally without justification (to say the least of it!), were not without cause.

The list of complaints against the United States is long. Here is a sample: First of all, in 1953 the CIA engineered the overthrow of a popular and democratically elected Iranian leader, Mohammed Mosaddeq, and put in his place the tyrannical regime of the Reza Shah Pahlavi. Mosaddeq's "crime"? He dared suggest that Iran's oil belonged to the Iranians, and that the nation was thus entitled to the control of that resource and to a fair distribution of the income from its sale. The eventual "blowback," of course, was the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of an "Islamic Republic" under Ayatollah Khomeini. 

Furthermore, rather than fulfilling the role champions of the "freedoms" that Bush and Powell celebrate, the United States has propped up a series of despotic regimes, most conspicuously Saudi Arabia, in return for protection of US investments in the region.

And most grievously to the Moslems, the United States has been an uncompromising advocate, supporter and armorer of Israel, showing virtually no acknowledgment of the plight of the Palestinians, much less the justice of their cause. 

There is much more to account for the hatred in the Islamic world toward the United States, but let this much suffice.

And tragically, this hatred is quite unnecessary. In fact, it is quite recent.

As the wise and eloquent Palestinian, Hanan Ashrawi recently pointed out on CNN, at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel in May, 1948, Americans were widely admired in the Arab and Islamic world. The United States had no part in the hated Sykes-Picot Treaty of 1916, in which Britain, France and Russia drew artificial national boundaries and divided up "zones of influence," thus betraying their Arab allies in the ongoing World War. (This disgraceful diplomacy is vividly portrayed late in the movie, "Lawrence of Arabia").  Moreover, in 1957, when the traditional American allies, Great Britain, France and Israel, went to war against Egypt to reclaim the Suez canal, the United States intervened on the side of the Arabs and put an end to that war.

Unlike the British and French, the Americans were regarded in the Arab world, not as colonialists but, on the contrary, as a nation that had successfully struggled and prevailed over a colonial empire: Great Britain. 

But then, over the past five decades that admiration has eroded and has been replaced with hostility, especially in the streets and markets of the Moslem world: a hostility sufficient now to motivate a few to commit suicidal acts of cruel and random murder and with senseless destruction.

In the explicit words of one leader of this "Jihad," Osama bin Laden, the simple condition of being an American is a capital offense. "It is the will of Allah that we kill all Americans." There has been no clearer declaration of genocide since the fall of the Third Reich.

Copyright, 2001, by Ernest Partridge

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .