As Others See Us


In watching the massive media coverage and the reaction to the brutal bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the wise poem “To A Louse…” composed in 1785 by the Scottish poet Robert Burns came to me:

“O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us

To see oursels as ithers see us!”

English translation:

“And would some Power the small gift give us

To see ourselves as others see us!”

What must the “ithers” in the Middle East theatre of the American Empire think of a great city in total lockdown from an attack by primitive explosives when Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Yemenis experience far greater casualties and terror attacks several times a week? Including what they believe are terror attacks by U.S. drones, soldiers, aircraft and artillery that have directly killed many thousands of innocent children, women and men in their homes, during funeral processions and wedding parties, or while they’re working in their fields.

Here’s what they are thinking: that America is very vulnerable and ready to shake itself upside down to rid itself and protect itself from any terror attacks. The Bush regime, after 9/11, sacrificed U.S. soldiers and millions of innocents in the broader Middle East, drained our economy, so as to ignore the necessities of saving lives and health here at home, and metastasized al-Qaeda into numerous countries, spilling havoc into Iraq and now Syria. We have paid a tremendous price in blowback, because of Mr. Bush’s rush to war.

Why is the reaction to the events in Boston viewed by some as bizarre? Our president said “We will finish the race.” Do we really think that the attackers are doing this to disrupt our pleasure in foot racing?

The attackers, be they suicide bombers over there or domestic bombers here, are motivated by their hatred of our invasions, our daily bombings, our occupations, our immersion in tribal preferences leading to divide-and-rule sectarian wars. Studies, such as those by the University of Chicago Professor Robert Pape, and former adviser to Barack Obama and Ron Paul during the 2008 presidential campaign, conclude that entry into paradise is not the motivation for these suicide bombers. What drives them is their despair and their desire to expel the foreign invaders from their homeland.

Another “ithers’ – admittedly a smaller number – must see a giant country going berserk with media, speculation, rumors, accusations, and random mobilizations of military equipment. There are enough of these younger people who must say to themselves, maybe it is worth giving up their lives for a place in history – to make a nation be fearful because of their rulers’ staggering overreaction.

Why give these contorted young minds, frustrated by what they perceive as U.S. attacks on their religion or their ethnic group in their home countries, such incentives?

Massive overreactions by the mass media (have you seen CNN’s frenzied, nonstop quest for every bit of trivia and speculation hour after hour?) crowds out coverage of far greater preventable loss of life and safety in our country. Other commentators have covered the lesser-known yet huge explosion at the West, Texas fertilizer factory that destroyed far more property and took more human lives than the Boston Marathon assault. But, the dangerous fertilizer plant was corporate criminal negligence, or worse.

Every day in the U.S. there are preventable tragedies that receive no media coverage because they aren’t part of the “war on terror”, which has been crowding out stories that would have led to corrective actions to leave this country safer from the corporate predators within its borders.

Individually, many Americans intuitively understand the consequences of neglecting problems in our own country to engage in lawless wars and military adventures. Unfortunately, Americans collectively sing the song “que será, será” or “whatever will be, will be” because the big boys in Washington and Wall Street will always make the decisions. Be assured that they will often be stupidly harmful in the long-run to our country, and not just to millions of defenseless people abroad who have become victims of the collective punishment or random ravages of our massive push-buttonweapon systems.

In an impressive collection of excerpts titled Against the Beast, a Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire edited by John Nichols; the eminent historian Chalmers Johnson had this to say:

“. . .where U.S.-supported repression has created hopeless conditions, to U.S.-supported economic policies that have led to unimaginable misery, blowback reintroduces us to a world of cause and effect.”

At a first-ever Senate hearing earlier this week on the use of armed drones away from battlefields, initiated by Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and arrogantly boycotted by the imperial Obama Administration, Farea al-Muslimi, a young Yemeni from a village just attacked by a U.S. drone strike, gave witness.

Al-Muslimi said, “When they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones that hover over their heads, ready to fire missiles at any time. What radicals had previously failed to achieve in my village, one drone strike accomplished in an instant: there is now an intense anger and growing hatred of America.”

As President Obama told the Israelis about the Palestinians, “Put yourselves in their shoes.”

In country after country, the terrifying whine of 24/7 hovering drones and the knowledge that special U.S. killing teams can drop from the skies at any time, creates a state of terror.

A brute-force foreign policy waging war can never effectively wage peace or sensibly engage in early conflict prevention or resolution. An illegal brute-force policy aligns itself with repressive regimes that crush their own people with American weapons and American political/diplomatic cover.

Jeremy Scahill, author of the new book Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, who has been in these countries and spoken with these villagers, says that our government has created unnecessary enemies and banked lots of revenge among these people over the past ten years. “This is going to boomerang back around to us,” he fears, adding that we’re creating “a whole new generation of enemies that have an actual grievance against us…have an actual score to settle.” Killing innocent men, women and children creates blowback that lasts for generations.

From these overseas regions, the message from the bombing at the Boston Marathon is that, until now, the high-tech buttons were only being pushed by the drone operators against them. After Boston they can see that other low-tech buttons can now be pushed inside the U.S. against defenseless gatherings of innocent people.

For our national security, the American people must recover control of our runaway, unilateral presidency that has torn itself away from constitutional accountabilities and continues to be hijacked by ideologues who ignore our Founding Fathers’ wisdom regarding the separation of powers and avoiding foreign entanglements that become costly, deadly and endless quagmires.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.



Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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