Why Do They Hate Us?

excerpted from the book


the difference in world view between the United States
and everybody else

by Nicholas Von Hoffman

Nation Books, 2004, paper

A century of military occupations and what Americans call "aid" to Haiti has brought neither democracy nor prosperity but one hellacious, heart-breaking turn after another. In Cuba and the Philippines in the early years of the 20th century the United States brought to bear its civilizing influence by suppressing local self-government. Not too much blood was spilt by the meddling in Cuba, where American-style democratic institutions led to a succession of hapless governments, to people getting poorer, the foreign investors getting richer, and American organized crime getting the gambling concessions and pimping the Cuban girls to the tired businessmen from E1 Norte. Then Fidel Castro and the Communists arrived, and the story of this nation, derailed from whatever course it might have taken if it had been allowed self-determination, is yet to be played out.

In the Philippines, another nation whose destiny is yet to be fixed, the missionary nation-building was more sanguinary. Teddy Roosevelt, the loudest voice among the imperial visionaries who took over the country, abominated his little brown Philippine brothers, calling them "Tagal bandits . . . Chinese half-breeds . . . savages, barbarians . . . apaches" and more. For viciousness and flouting of the rules of war, if such are to be taken seriously, the American behavior suppressing the "Philippine Insurrection" was as grizzly as anything which transpired in the Vietnam War. One soldier wrote to tell the home folks that, "last night one of our boys was found shot with his stomach cut open.

Immediately orders were received from General Wheaton to burn the town and kill every native in sight; which was done to a finish. About a thousand men and women were reported killed. I am probably growing hard-hearted for I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger."

Lessons in democracy for the people of the Philippines proceeded on principles which Palestinian Arabs will have no trouble recognizing. "If they fire a shot from a house," wrote an American trooper, "we burn the house down and every house near it, and shoot the natives so that they are pretty quiet in town now." Whether these lessons in the rule of law and representative government are responsible for it, the last fifty years of life in this nation have been constant strife. The Communist-armed insurgency after World War II has been followed by dictatorship, war-lordism and gangsterism, and years of sporadic fighting in the southern islands between Muslim irregulars and the Philippine army and its American advisers.

During the first years of the Wilson administration (1913-1921) the gringos decided to butt into the revolutionary battle Mexicans were carrying on to rid themselves of dictatorship. After sending a succession of ad hoc diplomatic agents, ignorant of the language and the people, to meddle in the revolution, a United States naval flotilla seized the port of Vera Cruz at the cost of many Mexican lives. After Pancho Villa had raided New Mexico, killing a bunch of Americans, the United States retaliated by dispatching an army, under General John J. "Blackjack" Pershing, into the mountains and deserts of northern Mexico in a failing attempt to capture the famous revolutionary-cum-bandit. This Mexican cockup bears similarities to another American army sloshing and slashing around the Hindu Kush after Osama bin Laden.

American motives in Mexico were disinterested, as they always are. Only nations on the outside of the biosphere have selfish motives. America is the Johnnie Appleseed of democracy, spreading self-rule wherever it bombs or sends in the Marines. It is ever so, as Woodrow Wilson told the idiot bean-eaters on the south side of the Rio Grande: "We are seeking to counsel Mexico for her own good and in the interest of her own peace and not for any other purpose whatever. The government of the United States would deem itself discredited if it had any selfish or ulterior purpose in transactions where the peace, happiness and prosperity of a whole people are involved. It is acting as its friendship for Mexico, not as any self interest, dictates." Not a word about the oil, the cattle, the mineral, and the banking interests of the United States, to say nothing of the British Empire whose navy was dependent on Mexico for bunker oil to drive its new Dreadnaught-class battleships.

Wilson's missionary activities in Mexico achieved an increased hatred and resentment against the United States for its theft of California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, etc., and for its bullying and its interference. Revolution or no revolution, American oil and mining companies carried on as before, operating closed enclaves to which Mexican government officials were denied entrance, which paid no taxes, built no schools, and enjoyed their imperial prerogatives until Mexico finally exercised its national sovereignty and kicked the companies out, setting off talk, north of the border, of war. Were it to have come to another American military tourist excursion, doubtless it would have been carried out with much "public diplomacy"-the new Washington euphemism for propaganda-about how it was being done to liberate the Mexicans from the follies of their own self-rule.

In the colonial era, American conduct did not shock people in other nations whose armies were doing the same things in other places. A look at the former French, English, Dutch, and Portugese colonies in Africa and elsewhere makes it obvious that the American legacy is no worse but no better. That's the point-it is not better. The Americans stole fewer countries than some others did, and they may not have murdered as many as did the soldiers of other nations, who were killing not in the name of the cross and democracy but for king, kaiser, tzar, or emperor. Call it nation building or call it the white man's burden, the Americans were not especially bad. But they were not especially good. When it came to raping and pillaging, they were average, but this is not what the People of the Dome believe.

When, again under Wilson, we fought the war to end all wars, it was to make the world safe for democracy. It was Wilson and his principal collaborator, Herbert Hoover, who first made generosity an instrument of foreign policy. "Food relief is now the key to the whole European situation," Wilson wrote. "Bolshevism is steadily advancing westward, has overwhelmed Poland and is poisoning Germany. It cannot be stopped by force but it can be stopped by food." Wilson's thought, recast in nobler, missionary terms, was passed on to the American public by Herbert Hoover, who was in charge of the relief program: "It is America's mission, our opportunity to serve. FOOD WILL WIN THE WORLD." Wilson said that, "no man could worship God on an empty stomach," even as his secretary of state, Robert Lansing, contributed the observation that, "Full stomachs mean no Bolsheviks."

This giving away of the inventory by Uncle Sam has aggravated some Americans ever since. They cannot accept or understand that there is as much policy as there is charity in these donations. Since Wilson, foreign aid has been perfected so that it subsidizes corporate U.S. agriculture while preventing poor countries from developing profitable agriculture or feeding themselves; it shows conclusively that generosity can be a two-way street.


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