Trying to explain how the world sees the US

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Mansoor Ansar

Sha'ban 16, 1425 2004-12-01

Book Review

by Mansoor Ansar (Book Review, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 10, Sha'ban, 1425)

Blaming America First: Inside the Hatred of the United States in the Middle East and Beyond by Laura Drake PhD. Pub: United Association for Studies and Research (UASR), Annandale VA, USA, Pp: 117. US$9.95.

Some decades ago, even before I embraced Islam in the mid-70s, I knew about the negative effects of American foreign policy in the Middle East and beyond. Like millions of others, however, I felt that, because the policy was being driven by lobbies in Washington that had devious agendas, and because they had been at work within the beltway for many years, there was little I as an individual could do about anything.

After sometime within the abode of Islam, it became clear to me that countless millions, even the entire billion of us, were also acutely aware of these negative results of the US’s policies. My personal frustrations, now shared by a billion Muslims, still had little or no ability to stop or even slow down the horses on the racetrack. Most of us would agree that the roots of resentment against the US’s foreign policy toward the Muslim world were watered by such collective frustrations and that, since few like-minded people were even in the game, this defaulted loss would be stored away in the nearest vault.

Nowadays, anyone with half an eye can see that the mask has been taken off and that the agenda of the unholy trinity of Israel, the US and Britain is unashamedly and unabashedly on display throughout the region and beyond. One close friend of mine has suggested to me that, if I read only one book from cover to cover this year, it should be Imperial Hubris, anonymously written by an active CIA agent whose name by law cannot be revealed. Yes, this review is primarily about Blaming America First, but bear with me for a little.

The other fine books on display in the shops, such as the ones by Clarke, Woodward, Unger and Kelly, expose the corrupt and misguided workings of the powers-that-be; that is all well and good. The importance of Imperial Hubris is that it comes with some conclusions that are all quite clear, such as that “we” (the West) have already lost the war in Afghanistan. Instead of talking to those “fighters in pajamas” who actually beat the Soviets, “we” talk only to those Afghans who look like “us”, wear suits and ties, shave, and speak a little English. “We” (the west) are nowhere, compared even to where the Soviets were three years into their invasion. By going into Iraq “we” blew it in Afghanistan.

The real eye-opener comes where “anonymous” concludes with unemotional candour that American policy must come to grips with the decision that, in order to move forward, the policies must be changed or “we” must go ahead and agree that 1.3 billion Muslims have to be killed. There, it’s been said. If “we” don’t kill 1.3 billion Muslims, the terrorists have won! Can you imagine what would happen if someone wrote a book and said in it that the only solution is to kill 1.3 billion Jews? According to the unholy trinity, even if the West chooses the other option, to change its policies, the terrorists will still have won. So congratulations: the Muslims’ only choice is either victory or martyrdom. Is that not what all Muslims want anyway?

Laura Drake PhD of California has made a worthwhile contribution in many ways with Blaming America First. In her own way, Drake, who is also the author of US-Libyan Relations: Which Path to the Future? and Behind Iran’s Differences with the United States: the Iranian Foreign Policy Perspective, is also calling American policy-makers to account by means of her sincere and accurate research. She has understood the collective mindset of Middle Eastern peoples, and offers to the reader an opportunity to see verbalised several decades of pent-up frustration, resentment and doubt, leading directly to hatred and contempt. This book is aimed at the general American public; it is the kind of book that the ‘typical’ reader of Crescent International will appreciate as well. If our own people were this book’s only readers, then it would be the equivalent of preaching to the choir. If it is read more widely, it could make a superb contribution, in that it verbalises in an articulate manner the feelings on the “Muslim street”. The feelings that lead to frustration, resentment and hatred within the Muslim psyche are seldom described or conveyed in black and white.

Dr Drake has come the closest, so far as this writer has seen, to placing reasoned research before the reader, instead of rhetoric and emotion. Her thoughts often turn questions around on the woefully uninformed American public, who are fed with a diet of bravado and jingoism. “Most Americans probably do not know that long before September 11, people in the Middle East began asking a rhetorical question that has now become very familiar to Americans, but in reverse: ‘Why does America hate us? Why are they doing this to us?’”

Any Crescent reader who has sat with other concerned souls has taken part in many discussions which have for part of their refrain, “Oh how I wish the American people would understand us. They’re so isolated and ignorant of so many things concerning their government’s policies. They can’t tell the difference between Thailand and Disneyland.” Blaming America First is the kind of book that the average American would benefit greatly from, if only she or he could be persuaded to read it. Muslim readers will appreciate it as well, but for different reasons. We know that, with more knowledge, education and exposure to the world one naturally grows in one’s outlook and vision; we will be glad to know that ordinary Americans are being offered this opportunity.

“Most Middle Easterners who hate America, Al-Qa’eda being an important exception, still make both an intellectual and an ethical distinction between America’s domestic system of politics and its people on the one hand and the US government and its international conduct on the other. It is for this reason that they might applaud, or at least not feel particularly sorry, if a US military base or other facility associated with the US government were attacked…while simultaneously disapproving of…the targeting of ordinary Americans as occurred at the World Trade Centre and aboard the civilian airliners on September 11,” writes Dr Drake.

Quite significant are her points on the Arab-Israeli, Shi’ite and Sunni regional aspects, as well as the role of al-Jazeera. Her analysis grows in significance when she gives the reasons why America is perceived by Muslims and Arabs as a controlling, hegemonic, arrogant and ignorant power. She then breaks down the faulty thinking (if that is what ‘Dubya’ believed he was doing) behind the statement “You’re either with us or against us.”

By observing the patterns of behaviour of American policy-makers over an extended period, she methodically predicts the accumulated patterns of grievance on the other side. She says what most Muslims and other non-Western peoples have been thinking for some time. In general it is difficult to find an American academic who is forthright, confident and honest enough to be able to say, “It [the US’s foreign policy] tells every Arab and Muslim that rather than accepting the Palestinian experience as valid and dealing with it as a real phenomenon, America would rather find a Palestinian leader ready to serve its own agenda, a figure ready to serve as a willing pawn in Israel’s game at the expense of what the Arab-Muslim consensus sees as the Palestinian people’s unconditional right to liberty.” In spite of that general rarity, Laura Drake is an American academic with those qualities.

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