An Open Letter to the American Public
I’ve written to you a published open letter a year after the criminal attacks of September 11th reiterating my heartfelt condemnation of those attacks, while reminding you, despite your pain, to search deeper for the context, for the root causes that made them possible. I still had not run out of sympathy for your victims then. After Iraq, you can still count on my moral rejection of any similarly criminal attack against you in the future, but you can forget about my sympathy. I hope you realize what the difference means. ‘Who cares?’, you may ask. Well, although I obviously do not speak for the peoples of the south, the Arabs, or even my own people, the Palestinians, I suspect much of what I convey to you here is widely shared in all three domains.
Despite the horrifying exposure of your military’s war crimes and systematic dehumanization of and terror against Arabs and Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo, your elected representatives are feverishly seeking a technical, bureaucratic explanation of what happened, and are trying — to no avail, evidently — to portray every incident of terror or abuse as a rare occasion committed by an isolated group of individuals against standing orders and in contravention of American ethical values and norms. Whom are they fooling? Is there anyone left in Europe, not to mention the Arab world, who still believes your government’s policy gives a damn about moral principles or international law? Hasn’t it become abundantly clear that your country is increasingly being viewed by the rest of the world, especially the southern part of it, as a lawless, immoral, bullying and murderous empire?
If all what has been revealed about the illegal, racist behaviour of your armed forces around the world has failed to convince you to democratically impeach, or at least withdraw your support for, the ruling neo-conservative regime in Washington, then you’re proving that far from being an isolated aberration, this arrogant, fundamentalist, imperialist junta does in fact represent America today. Still, from my perspective, this can never justify a terrorist attack against civilians in your country or anywhere else, but it can surely blunt any potential sympathy one would normally have — and did indeed express after September 11th — in such circumstances.
The next time the US is afflicted by terrorism many of us who did in fact shed tears in 2001 will not do so again. For one, I shall maintain my moral consistency and still condemn any comparable attack as criminal and immoral, mainly out of principle; but, honestly, I doubt I shall re-experience the sincere dejection and searing agony that I felt the first time.
Whatever you ask, please do not ask why we "hate" you. Putting aside the simplistic and dichotomic nature of such a question — "you’re either with us or against us," your great leader says — let me give you my straight answer: I don’t.
But, I hate what your government is doing in your name, with your tax money, and with solid support from most of you. I despise the fact that your country is sponsoring Israeli colonial oppression against my people, shielding Israel from the world’s wrath and from the overdue prospect of sanctions for violating every applicable precept of international law in maintaining its military occupation and illegal colonies in the West Bank and Gaza, its racial discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens and its obdurate rejection of the internationally protected right of our refugees to return to the lands from which Israel had expelled them, and on the ruins of which it had established itself.
I hate the way your mainstream media refers to our innocent victims, whether in Iraq or Palestine, as faceless numbers, as relative humans, as dispensable objects in your empire’s crusade for world domination.
I hate the repugnant hubris of your "elected" lawmakers, who owe their seats and privileges to a few very powerful lobbies controlling your lives and minds, and forming the pillar of American flouting of international law in every field imaginable. It is ironic that lawmakers anywhere can become such an infested breeding ground for lawlessness in international affairs.
I hate the fact that your military, oil and other sinister industries have flourished at the expense of killing, injuring or ruining the livelihood of millions in Asia, Africa and Latin America. And I strongly resent the fact that in order to keep prices low at your gas pumps, Arabs have had to suffer under despotic rulers, hand-picked and buttressed by your consecutive governments for decades.
I hate the silence, the apathy — and therefore the implicit approval — that your majority espouses when faced with incriminating evidence of your government’s wrongdoing in our countries. After Falluja, you were silent. After Rafah, you were apathetic. After Guantanamo’s horrors were revealed, you turned your eyes and ears the other way.
Why do most of you hate us, we, people of the south, should ask? Why can’t you accept us as beings who are equally human, who possess a similar sense of pride, who have similar dreams and aspirations, and who value peace and dignified living more than anything else? Why can’t you see that all we need is justice and a chance to develop on our own, without your government’s oppressive exploitation, patronizing intervention, or masterly dictates.
Your country is way too powerful now for anyone to have the guts to drag it to the international criminal court, where most of your leaders ought to stand trial; but if Rome is any example, I would not take solace in that transient strength. You have a clear moral, legal and political obligation to change your country’s course. For the foreseeable future, it can afford to stay on its current path, crushing every head raised in resistance, and battering every soul that refuses to be enslaved, but this path has always led to one destination: utter defeat under the feat of the oppressed majority which will undoubtedly prevail, as it always has.
OMAR BARGHOUTI is an independent Palestinian political analyst. He can be reached: firstname.lastname@example.org