I suspect that most Americans don’t realize how much we are responsible for the acts of terror being committed in European countries. I know I didn’t give it much thought until I read an article by an American writer living in Norway. It makes sense that the millions of refugees from wars in the Middle East and Africa have to go somewhere. Most of us see the news on TV and feel sorry for the innocent families, especially the children, in those awful camps in eastern Turkey, without giving a second thought to our role in creating the chaos they are suffering.
Americans make up only 5 percent of the world’s population, but it appears that we have a disproportionate power to make people in other countries afraid of our irrational behavior. The occupation of Iraq and dismantling of its internal equilibrium in 2003 is now regarded as the tragic mistake that set the dominoes in that part of the world in motion. How ironic that Americans believed for 40 years that communism would spread and that governments all over the world would fall like dominoes if we didn’t stop it in places like Vietnam. We are still paying for that mistake.
But it wasn’t communism that set the Middle East on fire. It was overzealous Americans who set dominoes falling. We pulled the foundational brick out of what was never a sturdy structure to begin with.
Now European nations with generous immigration policies are paying for our blind obedience to the warmongers in the Bush White House. People living in hopeless situations, far from family and everything that comforts them, are easy targets for recruiters to a cause that gives them purpose. We shouldn’t be surprised that young Europeans with little stake in their own society should be easily converted as well.
No matter how much President Obama and Pentagon officials claim our drone attacks are killing only their targets, we know better. Imagine living day and night never knowing if bombs might be exploding next door. To those whose family members are killed by American firepower, WE are the terrorists.
To Europeans dealing with all the problems created by our wars in the Middle East, WE are the dangerous ones. They wait and watch to see which country America will target next. Yes, we know there are people in many countries that want to harm us, but we are creating more enemies than we can ever kill by relying on military solutions.
Sadly, we have no choice. Our Congress is trapped in the black hole known as “national security.” President Eisenhower, when he warned of the “unwarranted influence” of the military-industrial complex could never have imagined what is happening now. (For more on how private contractors control Congress and the Pentagon, read James Risen’s Pay Any Price.)
And we are “paying the price” at home for the damage we create around the world. Fear is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the war profiteers. Add to that the constant messages we hear from those who profit by scaring us to death and we have the perfect storm of a nation at war with itself. No wonder Americans kill each other at a higher rate than any other “civilized” country.
In an article called “Have Americans Gone Crazy?,” Ann Jones sums it up this way:
Europeans understand, as it seems Americans do not, the intimate connection between a country’s domestic and foreign policies. They often trace America’s reckless conduct abroad to its refusal to put its own house in order. They’ve watched the United States unravel its flimsy safety net, fail to replace its decaying infrastructure, disempower most of its organized labor, diminish its schools, bring its national legislature to a standstill, and create the greatest degree of economic and social inequality in almost a century. They understand why Americans, who have ever less personal security and next to no social welfare system, are becoming more anxious and fearful.
Where do we go from here? It has taken us several decades to unravel our society’s best hope for future peace and prosperity. If we start now opening the eyes of the willfully blind American voters, we might be able to replace the war mongers in power with women and men who truly represent the needs of the people. We can’t afford any more to be bystanders shaking our heads and wondering what to do. There are groups already working on shifting the public conversation. Find one and get to work.