" Universal Community of Friends - FOLKS OUT THERE HAVE A DISTASTE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION AND CULTURAL VALUES
FOLKS OUT THERE HAVE A DISTASTE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION AND CULTURAL VALUES


Edward S. Herman


One of the most durable features of the U.S. culture is the inability or
refusal to recognize U.S. crimes. The media have long been calling for
the Japanese and Germans to admit guilt, apologize, and pay reparations.
But the idea that this country has committed huge crimes, and that
current events such as the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks may
be rooted in responses to those crimes, is close to inadmissible.
Editorializing on the recent attacks ("The National Defense," Sept. 12),
the New York Times does give a bit of weight to the end of the Cold War
and consequent "resurgent of ethnic hatreds," but that the United States
and other NATO powers contributed to that resurgence by their own
actions (e.g., helping dismantle the Soviet Union and pressing Russian
"reform"; positively encouraging Slovenian and Croatian exit from
Yugoslavia and the breakup of that state, and without dealing with the
problem of stranded minorities, etc.) is completely unrecognized.


The Times then goes on to blame terrorism on "religious fanaticism...the
anger among those left behind by globalization," and the "distaste of
Western civilization and cultural values" among the global dispossessed.
The blinders and self-deception in such a statement are truly
mind-boggling. As if corporate globalization, pushed by the U.S.
government and its closest allies, with the help of the World Trade
Organization, World Bank and IMF, had not unleashed a tremendous
immiseration process on the Third World, with budget cuts and import
devastation of artisans and small farmers. Many of these hundreds of
millions of losers are quite aware of the role of the United States in
this process. It is the U.S. public who by and large have been kept in
the dark.


Vast numbers have also suffered from U.S. policies of supporting
right-wing rule and state terrorism, in the interest of combating
"nationalistic regimes maintained in large part by appeals to the
masses" and threatening to respond to "an increasing popular demand for
immediate improvement in the low living standards of the masses," as
fearfully expressed in a 1954 National Security Council report, whose
contents were never found to be "news fit to print." In connection with
such policies, in the U.S. sphere of influence a dozen National Security
States came into existence in the 1960s and 1970s, and as Noam Chomsky
and I reported back in 1979, of 35 countries using torture on an
administrative basis in the late 1970s, 26 were clients of the United
States. The idea that many of those torture victims and their families,
and the families of the thousands of "disappeared" in Latin America in
the 1960s through the 1980s, may have harbored some ill feelings toward
the United States remains unthinkable to U.S. commentators.


During the Vietnam war the United States used its enormous military
power to try to install in South Vietnam a minority government of U.S.
choice, with its military operations based on the knowledge that the
people there were the enemy. This country killed millions and left
Vietnam (and the rest of Indochina) devastated. A Wall Street Journal
report in 1997 estimated that perhaps 500,000 children in Vietnam suffer
from serious birth defects resulting from the U.S. use of chemical
weapons there. Here again there could be a great many people with
well grounded hostile feelings toward the United States.


The same is true of millions in southern Africa, where the United States
supported Savimbi in Angola and carried out a policy of "constructive
engagement" with apartheid South Africa as it carried out a huge
cross-border terroristic operation against the frontline states in the
1970s and 1980s, with enormous casualties. U.S. support of "our kind of
guy" Suharto as he killed and stole at home and in East Timor, and its
long warm relation with Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, also may
have generated a great deal of hostility toward this country among the
numerous victims.


Iranians may remember that the United States installed the Shah as an
amenable dictator in 1953, trained his secret services in "methods of
interrogation," and lauded him as he ran his regime of torture; and they
surely remember that the United States supported Saddam Hussein all
through the 1980s as he carried out his war with them, and turned a
blind eye to his use of chemical weapons against the enemy state. Their
civilian airliner 655 that was destroyed in 1988, killing 290 people,
was downed by a U.S. warship engaged in helping Saddam Hussein fight his
war with Iran. Many Iranians may know that the commander of that ship
was given a Legion of Merit award in 1990 for his "outstanding service"
(but readers of the New York Times would not know this as the paper has
never mentioned this high level commendation).


The unbending U.S. backing for Israel as that country has carried out a
long-term policy of expropriating Palestinian land in a major ethnic
cleansing process, has produced two intifadas-- uprisings reflecting the
desperation of an oppressed people. But these uprisings and this fight
for elementary rights have had no constructive consequences because the
United States gives the ethnic cleanser arms, diplomatic protection, and
carte blanche as regards policy.


All of these victims may well have a distaste for "Western civilization
and cultural values," but that is because they recognize that these
include the ruthless imposition of a neoliberal regime that serves
Western transnational corporate interests, along with a willingness to
use unlimited force to achieve Western ends. This is genuine
imperialism, sometimes using economic coercion alone, sometimes
supplementing it with violence, but with many millions--perhaps even
billions--of people "unworthy victims." The Times editors do not
recognize this, or at least do not admit it, because they are
spokespersons for an imperialism that is riding high and whose
principals are unprepared to change its policies. This bodes ill for the
future. But it is of great importance right now to stress the fact that
imperial terrorism inevitably produces retail terrorist responses; that
the urgent need is the curbing of the causal force, which is the
rampaging empire.

 

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