Stephen Schwarz‘s self-righteous, half-baked article entitled “America Defends Muslims” banks on a few scattered political events to make the case that America defends Muslims, as if out of an undying love and appreciation for Islam and Muslims. Schwarz seems to make the assumption that his Muslim readers are gullible optimists who will jubilate at the opportunity of being spoon-fed the good news, without bothering to assess it critically.
Schwarz writes “I recently asked a leading Turkish Muslim cleric his opinion of President Bush, and he said to me, ‘your president is the guardian of the faithful. He is a companion of God.'” Because of comic citations such as this, I am inclined not to take Schwarz too seriously. But I will take making the argument against his title assertion seriously, because I have heard it made before numerous times, and I want to take this opportunity to respond to it.
So let the task begin.
I must concede that some of the events Schwarz mentions in his article are true. Yes, America at some point in the past defended Kuwaitis, Afghans, and Chechens. Yes, America continues to defend Kuwaitis even as I write. And yes, America may defend other Muslims in the future.
But no, America does not defend Muslims — not in the manner that Mr. Schwarz hopes for us to believe.
America defends its own self interests. Sometimes, by nothing more than sheer chance, Muslims are defended as an indirect consequence.
And there is nothing sinister about that.
I am an American Muslim; I love America, yet I do not expect it to defend non-American Muslims, except if it were in the best interest of America – and any logical Muslim would expect no more. Mr. Schwarz amounts to nothing but insulting Muslim intelligence by implying that America is on some sort of holy mission to defend Muslims worldwide.
Let’s begin with Kuwait. America defended and defends Kuwait simply because of its oil interests in the country, not because of its love for Islam or Muslims. America would probably have not defended Kuwait before its oil was discovered, nor will it likely ever defend Kuwait once its oil dries out. Furthermore, America does not defend Kuwait without hefty monetary compensation from Kuwait.
Moving on to Bosnia: America stood on the sidelines during the early critical years of the Balkan war in which the Bosnians were most defenseless. For a good number of years, multitudes of Bosnian Muslim civilians were massacred under the blind eye of Europe and America, in the most brutal campaign to ever take place on European soil since the Holocaust. I have a hard time believing this would have happened had the massacred been Christian. It wasn’t until after hundreds of thousands of Bosnians Muslims were killed, raped, or seriously injured, that Europe and America plodded slowly to do something about it. At one point in the height of the massacres, a UN resolution ratified by Western countries – including America – had prevented Bosnians from buying weapons to defend themselves, whilst their aggressors were left free to buy all the weapons their hearts desired.
Next is Afghanistan: firstly in all fairness, I think it can hardly be said that America defended the Afghan Mujahedeen; more accurately, it can be said that America helped the Afghans defend themselves, and not by providing manpower, but weapons. America helped the Mujahedeen simply as materialization of its policy of animosity towards the communist Soviet Union é again not out of an innate love for Islam or Muslims. Once the Soviet Union collapsed and America had no more need for the fighting Afghans, the Afghans were immediately and uncompromisingly dumped from all American reckoning. Indeed, many analysts attribute this sudden forsaking of post-war desperate and depleted Afghanistan as a contributing cause to it becoming a breeding ground for, and a leading exporter of, unabashed radical movements.
Similarly, the Chechens were hardly ever defended by America; they were perhaps given infrequent aid by America, and for the same reasons as Afghanistan. But now since the Soviet Union is no more, the still ongoing plight of the Chechens does not remotely register on America’s radar screen. In the years since the Soviet Union collapsed, Chechens have been largely displaced, seen their capital Groznyy obliterated, and had their legitimate resistance militias pounded on a daily basis – during which time America has offered absolutely no assistance, let alone physical defense. In fact, Russia, the aggressor, has been more the one benefiting form America’s assistance throughout the time frame of this conflict.
Contrary to the claims of pumped-up propagandists like Schwartz, America’s foreign policy is anything but righteous. And though Muslims may have benefited from it occasionally, it has been less often than not.
Let’s take a look.
Muslims have suffered greatly as a result of the US-led economic sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions, essentially a cut-off of all trade indispensable to sustaining a civilized society, has naturally stifled all facets of civilian life in Iraq, causing the slow and painful death of hundreds of thousands of the young, the sick, and the old. America’s sentiment on the issue was clearly exposed in a dramatic TV moment in which Secretary of State Madeline Albright é at the helm at the time – was asked if the death of 500,000 children was worth the benefits of the economic sanctions. An adamant, stone-faced Madeline snapped a sharp and unremorseful “yes!” She continued to explain that she thought it was worth it, since it was in the benefit of the American people é clearly and painfully endorsing my argument that America only acts in its self interest.
America has long remained quiet in the face of the Palestinian plight. Seldom has it é even if by voice alone – condemned the brutality of the Israeli occupation, or wooed the hardships of the Palestinians. Rather, it has unconditionally supported the aggressor, not just with words, but with billions of dollars, and billions more in weapons é weapons used to occupy and kill the Palestinians. America continuously ignores the fact that Israel is the country standing in defiance of the highest number of UN resolutions in the world; and America is only one of three countries (the other two being difficult to identify on the map) that consistently vetoes any major UN decision reprimanding Israel for breaking humanitarian international laws.
America has impulsively gone on violent sprees against Muslim populations, even with little or no international support. In defiance of the whole world, US planes bombed Sudan claiming its planes were out to destroy a weapon manufacturing plant. Later, it became apparent that the American planes had in fact bombed one of the few and much needed medicine manufacturing plants in Sudan. To this day, America has remained hushed up about the incident, in hopes to keep the embarrassment brushed under the carpet.
Another false assertion often advertised is that America’s foreign policy is propelled by a desire to make this a free world of blossoming democracies. America is often publicized as the leader of the free world, and the main exporter of democracy. That is why America is after Iraq, we are told by the archangel Bush (in addition to defending Muslims in Kuwait of course), to replace the dictatorship of Saddam with a just democracy of the people.
Let’s talk reality. American foreign policy is not about removing dictators and replacing them with democracies as many would have us believe. It is no secret that America supports many dictatorial, and – in some instances – terrorist regimes throughout Latin America, the Middle-East, Africa, and Asia é for varying self interests. For example, and staying within the Muslim world, America supports and even cooperates with the current Algerian regime, which apart from being built on the ashes of an assassinated democratic experience, is in engaged in a chaotic reign of terror and torture. America knows that for each dictatorship it supports, and for each regime of terror it condones, millions of innocent civilians suffer, and hundreds of thousands lose their lives.
Having said that, I could probably never argue with conviction that America’s foreign policy is an inherently evil policy. I would just argue that it is a selfish policy with simply one goal in mind, and that is to increase America’s power, wealth, and influence. That in itself is not as troubling to me as seeing someone purposely misleading the public by concealing that fact, sugar-coating reality, or even worse dispersing flat out lies. We must be brave and honest enough to call spades as spades. You can argue that America’s foreign policy must be the way it is in order for it to remain atop a difficult world of many aspiring powers, but you cannot argue that it is righteous. Of course, I would love it if America was in fact bound by a mission to spread democracy and justice, even if against its materialistic interests. And I would love it, if it indeed defended Muslims for the sake of justice. But I expect neither, as should everyone.
That explains why I gawk at Mr. Schwarz’s deliverance of good tidings expressed in his passionate dénouement: “America defends the victims of oppression and aggression. America will defend Turkey. America defends Muslims. Let these words be heard everywhere the Islamic call to prayer is heard, from Morocco to Malaysia, in Baghdadé and in Paris, Berlin, and Brussels!”
I would like to shout Halleluiah to that, but no é America defends its self interests.
(Mr. Ahmed Rehab is an Egyptian-American, free-lance writer and Software Engineer in Chicago, Illinois.)