Naming Names and Thoughts on Why "They" Might "Hate" Us

By Felicia Gustin
Apr 24, 2013

“We can be going about our lives - good and decent people. And this is the nature of terrorism. We don’t do anything to provoke them. They simply hate us for who we are and our way of life.”  — Nicolle Wallace, political commentator speaking on the Katie Couric Show, April 17, 2013

The Boston Marathon bombing was a horrific event that has touched people’s lives well beyond that city. The families of Martin Richard, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier, as well as the dozens of wounded, have been deeply affected and will never be the same. The outpouring of sympathy and human solidarity across this country and the world is inspiring.

As for the motives of the alleged perpetrators, that’s still to be determined. Perhaps we’ll ultimately learn what drove these young men to carry out such a heinous attack. What we can be pretty certain of is that if they had been white and Christian, the response would have been different. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was Christian, there is next to zero likelihood of an immediate call, as many Congressional Republicans are making, for him to be tried as an enemy combatant.

In the context of recent events, however, people who make statements like the one above seem oblivious to the overwhelming evidence that points to why we, the good and decent people of this country, might not be universally loved.

If we are truly open to an answer, perhaps we can ask the parents of 8-year-old Maezol Khan. She was killed by a U.S. drone attack on her community in Pakistan. Or the parents of 10-year-old Daolah Nasser who was killed by a U.S. drone attack on her village in Yemen.

This is called collateral damage. What do you think their parents call it? What would you call it if, while eating dinner one evening, a missile launched by a foreign power thousands of miles away, hit your home and killed your daughter? Would you be angry at the perpetrators? Perhaps even hate them?

The problem is, the victims of U.S. policies abroad are, more often than not, invisible to people in this country. If acknowledged at all, the victims are mere statistics. There are no names, no faces, no backstory set to violin music about a young life cut short. Perhaps that would make a difference. Perhaps if we knew that Maezol loved to sing or Daoloh loved to help out with her baby sister, they would become human to us and we could feel empathy for their families as we do for Martin’s or Krystal’s.

In our hearts, we do believe that most of us are good and decent people so perhaps we can look deeper at the policies being carried out across the globe in our name. And more importantly, speak out against such policies.

Then There’s Iraq and Afghanistan

The September 11th attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Fifteen of them were citizens of Saudi Arabia, the others from Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emerites. All this is old news. But let’s remember, none of them were Iraqi. None.

The United States, under then Present George Bush, launched a war against Iraq for which there is now ample evidence that the invasion and occupation were aimed at making sure U.S. oil transnationals got control of Iraq’s massive oil fields.

There was never any evidence whatsoever linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 yet through carefully orchestrated sound bites, Washington pushed people in this country to think otherwise.    

We know the cost of this war to U.S. soldiers – 4488 killed. We know their names…23-year-old David Hickman, 20-year-old Adriana Alvarez, 19-year-old Lucas Bregg, the list goes on. They have names. We’ve seen their faces.

But what about the Iraqi people? We don’t even know the numbers, let alone their names. The prestigious medical journal The Lancet, estimated that over 600,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the invasion as of July 2006. That’s the equivalent of the entire population of Boston. The respected British polling agency, Opinion Research Business, put the death toll even higher - 1,033,000 between March 2003 and August 2007.  That’s slightly more than the entire population of Detroit. Imagine if a foreign invader wiped out the populations of one of those U.S. cities. Might we be a tad upset? Filled with hatred perhaps?

And these deaths do not include those wounded and maimed, the homes and infrastructure destroyed, the hospitals and schools turned to rubble. So do you think that perhaps some of the surviving families of those one million Iraqis killed by a U.S. invasion and occupation might be angry at this country. Perhaps even hate us?

In Afghanistan, the continuing war there means new casualties everyday - approximately 20,000 dead and counting - civilians being killed by crossfire, bombings, assassinations, and raids. The breakdown of that country’s infrastructure has left hospitals unequipped to handle the massive numbers of war wounded and that coupled with poverty means people are also dying due to lack of basic medical care, malnutrition, and poor sanitation.

According to the Costs of War website, life expectancy was a mere 42 years in 2004; 25 percent of children did not reach the age of 5. Certainly things have not improved since then; if anything, Afghanistan is even worse off today. So perhaps you can imagine how people in that nation, whose lives have been impacted by the ongoing war, might be angry with the United States.  

But wait, there’s more

The people of this country are generally good and decent. We show the best of ourselves in crises like the Boston Marathon bombing or during natural or manmade disasters. Whole communities step up and do the right thing, make sacrifices and even risk their own lives to help others.

But unfortunately, the policies of our government (and the corporations they represent)– whether led by Republicans or Democrats – have impacted people the world over for decades. Washington has invaded (overtly or covertly) democratic governments, instilled friendly (to U.S. corporations) dictators and set up some 750+ military bases on foreign soil (whether or not the locals like it).

Some people abroad do make the distinction between the U.S. government and the U.S. people. Yet in this increasingly global world, people abroad also know that the people in this country don’t always care to know about what is happening to people in Afghanistan or Nigeria or the Philippines as a result of Washington’s policies.

Denial runs deep. Out of sight, out of mind is the cliché that comes to mind. But we have a choice. We can stay in denial or we can open our minds and look at the world at least a little bit as others around the world do, try to put ourselves in their shoes.

It's not easy, and commentators like Nicolle Wallace do their very best to keep us locked in a narrow worldview and a narrow-minded “we're always the good guys” bubble. But it’s the only route to understanding what is actually happening in our ever-smaller world. And that's the first step to forcing our government to move toward policies that can lead to security and peace for all.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project

Felicia Gustin has been with War Times since the beginning. She currently works at SpeakOut, a national organization working primarily with colleges, universities, and high schools and dedicated to the advancement of education, racial and social justice, leadership development and activism. She is a long-time activist in international solidarity, peace, racial justice and labor movements. She was a journalist for 10 years in Cuba and is currently working on several projects - an historical memoir and a poetry collection, among others.

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