Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oh shit. I can see the headlines now: "Liberal commentator Glenn Greenwald calls U.S. troops terrorists"

Maybe my political sense isn't quite so well tuned, but I've been a loyal Greenwald reader for two years and I don't believe he's said anything quite as radical as this. Here's the whole article, and here's the healthy context:

In many Muslim countries, perceptions of the U.S. -- which improved significantly upon Obama's election -- have now plummeted back to Bush-era levels, while Obama's personal approval ratings, while still substantially higher than Bush's, are also declining, in some cases precipitously.  As Pew put it:
Roughly one year since Obama's Cairo address, America's image shows few signs of improving in the Muslim world, where opposition to key elements of U.S. foreign policy remains pervasive and many continue to perceive the U.S. as a potential military threat to their countries. [emphasis Greenwald's]
Gosh, where would they get that idea from?  People generally don't like it when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied, when they're detained without charges by a foreign power, when their internal politics are manipulated, when they see images of dead women and children as the result of remote-controlled robots from the sky.  Some of them, after a breaking point is reached, get angry enough where they not only want to return the violence, but are willing to sacrifice their own lives to do so (just as was true for many Americans who enlisted after the one-day 9/11 attack) [emphasis mine].  It's one thing to argue that we should continue to do these things for geopolitical gain even it means incurring Terrorist attacks (and the endless civil liberties abridgments they engender); as amoral as that is, at least that's a cogent thought.  But to pretend that Terrorism simply occurs in a vacuum, that it's mystifying why it happens, that it has nothing to do with U.S. actions in the Muslim world, requires intense self-delusion.  How much more evidence is needed for that?
That could be problematic. Usually Greenwald is pretty good at not making statements that have been cordoned off with bright yellow police tape. If this statement gets traction, he'll probably have to apologize. I already feel like a troll for writing this, because he's been a huge influence on me. Since I would feel like a troll if I neglected to write about what I thought of the statement, I'm going to write about it.

Those in Muslim countries, whether or not they are Muslim or Atheist or Christian, are entitled to be angry at the U.S.. We don't get it. We have known why Arabs, Persians, Pashtuns, and Africans have resorted to terrorism, but we keep on doing the things they hate because we are an empire and that's what empires do. Before Obama, liberals chalked this behavior up to Bush's stupidity, but now it should be obvious to anyone that it does not matter in the least who the president is. We are an empire, and we act accordingly-- that is to say, with complete disregard for human life that is not our own, and with ~80% disregard for American lives. 

That said, when anger engenders a complete disregard for human life, as it does in the case of terrorist attacks, justice must be done in order to try and break the cycle of violence. This is why terrorists must be tried in courts rather than locked away forever or assassinated. 

It is clear to me that Greenwald was not comparing terrorists to U.S. soldiers, but rather he compared the anger of Muslims who resort to terrorism or resort to attacks against soldiers (those "willing to sacrifice their own lives") to the anger of Americans who enlisted after 9/11. So that is my take on what Greenwald said. Let me make this clear: I am not apologizing for him. If what he meant by his statement was what I interpreted it to mean, then what he said requires no apology.

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