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
The name "war whores" ... the ladies and gentlemen of
the media who whooped, hollered and thigh-slapped the United States
into and through Gulf II. Day in and day out, hour after hour,
on the TV cable news channels especially, they tingled with happy
excitement as they strained to infect viewers (and less often,
readers) with the upside of death and disfigurement.
However much war may depress advertising
and ruin the news budgets of the big media corporations, it gooses
the ratings and it makes stars of the on-air performers-and heroes,
too. As the war grew close to starting, HBO showed Live from Baghdad,
a docudrama glamorizing war whoredom. The true-to-life version
of the show was available around the clock as the war whores promoted
themselves and their careers in real time on their TV channels.
Their glistening eyes, their happily agitated voices, their perturbed,
gulping deliveries, their stagy bathos added to the erotic energy
they invested in their talk of freedom, courage and victory over
the non-resisting foe.
The Pentagon did a one-eighty from Gulf
I to Gulf II in handling the media. Instead of keeping the reporters
back and away from the action, the two and a half thousand of
them who turned up to cover the walk-over which was called a war
were invited to be "embedded," or to be the guests of
military units of all and every description. The arrangement was
much criticized by people who thought that "embedded"
meant the same as "co-opted," which it does, but what
can you expect? During the Second World War General Eisenhower
referred to war correspondents as "assimilated officers"
or "quasi-staff officers." The armed services are not
going to tolerate obnoxious neutral personalities floating around
in their midst, even if it were psychologically possible for the
correspondents to keep themselves emotionally separated from the
men and women they were living with.
War whores and respectable workaday reporters
alike take the side of the army they are with, as John Steinbeck
understood when, looking back on his stint as a war correspondent
in World War II, he wrote, "We were all part of the war effort.
We went along with it, and not only that, we abetted it. Gradually
it became a part of us that the truth about anything was automatically
secret and that to trifle with it was to interfere with the war
effort. By this I don't mean that the correspondents were liars.
They were not . . . It is in the things not mentioned that the
untruth lies . . . Yes, we wrote only a part of the war but at
the time we believed, fervently believed, that it was the best
thing to do. And perhaps that is why, when the war was over, novels
and stories by ex-soldiers, like The Naked and the Dead, proved
so shocking to the public which had been carefully protected from
contact with the crazy, hysterical mess."
Pouting because others have not pureed the informational food
necessary for thought and sulking because others have failed to
honestly, fairly and truthfully do the thinking for people distracted
by refinancing their homes is a form of political infantilism
not indulged in outside the American hemisphere. In other countries
grownups know that the truth teat does not exist and, if it did,
they wouldn't get to suck on it anyway because the government
would have it locked up somewhere.
After the official war was over and the
body bags and casualties continued to dribble back from Iraq to
Dover Air Force Base in Maryland, a grumbling could be heard here
and there across the biosphere. The people, or at least some of
the people, were complaining that they had been jobbed.
Americans have a notion that if there
is a Food and Drug Administration to guarantee the purity of what
they put in their mouths, a similar mechanism ensures the purity
of what goes into their brains. It's easier to believe that than
to dope it out for themselves, taken up as they are with more
important things than war and peace, like pro football and self
improvement. After the fact, after it has begun to dawn on them
that they have been had, they phone the call-in programs or vote
on the Internet or gripe to whoever will listen to them about
media bias. But under the vast crystal curve, the reason the war
whores prosper is because the people are their johns.
". . . You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely
a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country
but you are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon
"You say that you are sent to instruct
us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his mind, and,
if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people
teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right
and we are lost. How do you know this to be true? We understand
that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for
us as well as for you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to
us, and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers
the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it
rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we
know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?"
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
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
Americans will quarrel over how, who, or what to rescue or save,
but the idea that the nation ought to be off doing it is challenged
only by a few.
You can hear the Wilsonian altruism in George Bush's speech announcing
the American invasion: "We come to Iraq with respect for
its citizens, for their great civilization I and for the religious
faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove
a threat and restore control of L that country to its own people."
Not that we're interested in ~ the oil in Iraq; no, America is
a nation on a mission. The `~ Reverend President spelled it out:
"America has done this kind of work before. Following World
War II, we lifted up j the defeated nations of Japan and Germany
and stood with them as they built representative governments.
We committed years and resources to this cause. And that effort
has been repaid many times over in three generations of friendship
and peace. America today accepts the challenge of helping Iraq
in the same spirit-for their sake, and our own."
Luckily, Americans are born double jointed
at the shoulder which allows them to pat themselves on the back
with little strain. The comforting, self-administered pats have
laid to rest doubt about the future of Iraq. As the World War
II song went, this will be a case of "We Did It Before And
We Can Do it Again," referring to American disinterested
beneficence in bringing back Japan and Germany from the ruins.
Another Marshall Plan and some more innate American goodness will
bring forth an Iraq which will be a model of Arab democracy at
the heart of the Middle East. The New Baghdad, with running water
and electricity, will cause Arabs everywhere to take one look,
swoon and, as soon as smelling salts have been administered to
the large nostrils of their Semitic noses (see the editorial cartoons
of Arabs in the American press), to jump up, overthrow their slimy
despots and establish democracies with stock market and banking
laws of such crystalline transparency that foreign direct investment
will zoom heavenward. Notice-not one direct mention of oil.
Nonetheless, the missionaries had second
thoughts. American officials got an idea what was waiting for
them the first night they bedded down in one of Saddam's palaces,
though, if they'd had any sense, they would not have set foot
in Iraq because they would have remembered what Dick Cheney had
said years before, on February 16,1992, after Gulf I, m a moment
of clairvoyance and candor:
If we'd gone into Baghdad . . . we'd have
had to put a lot of forces in and run him (Saddam Hussein) to
the ground someplace. He would not have been easy to capture.
Then you've got to put a new government in his place and then
you're faced with the question of what kind of government are
you going to establish in Iraq? Is it going to be a Kurdish government
or a Shia government or a Sunni government? How many forces are
you going to have to leave there to keep it propped up, how many
casualties are you going to take through the course of this operation?
[In the U.S.] the need for praise is almost a national vice. Other
people in other countries do have things to do, like sowing seeds,
harvesting potatoes, and building automobiles to export to the
United States, hence sometimes the hosannas dribble off. Americans
make up for these occasional praise deficits by producing spasms
of self-laudification seldom seen since Louis XIV. Louis, the
Sun King, specialized in flashing his golden glory to keep the
common folk abashed and abased; dictators indulge in gorgeous
militaristic festivals, balancing bad economies with hot air and
rhetoric instead of ample food and a healthy diet. Americans have
their non-stop talk-a-thon about being the greatest country in
the world, the richest, the freest, the most religious, wisest,
the bravest, land of opportunity, etc., which embarrasses others
and has finally given America a case of macrocephaly, or fat-headedness.
The people outside the dome know that America has had marvelous
moments and every so often has come near to being the country
it claims to be, but they also know, which Americans don't, that
this is one of the nation's down periods and that makes the bragging
all the more divisive. They don't hate us, but even as they admire
America for so much they see us for what we are.
A routine has been perfected in which Americans go to international
conferences, attack what's going on, announce they will not abide
by the conferences decisions, place themselves above, beyond,
and outside rules and obligations agreed to by many other nations
and then go into angry paranoia mode when people from the beyond
answer them with criticism and irritation. Everybody, except the
British, are after them. They see bogeymen crawling in the windows
and pouring through keyholes of the doors. The Americans and the
Israelis, another bunch which holds little brief for multinational
cooperation, are the only winners in the world with a persecution
complex. Behold America, and its little Middle Eastern twin, bristling
with nuclear devices, advanced weapon systems, absolute air and
naval domination, tanks the size of barns zipping across the countryside,
and yet the Americans cower in the corner, positive that super
forces- which must be from outer space because there are none
so strong as they on earth-are mobilizing to smash them. The people
outside the dome understand that the United States is so powerful
that it is invulnerable, absolutely undefeatable. Inside the dome
Americans are convinced that their country could be destroyed
by al Qaeda and the other terrorists ...
Inside the terrarium there is a constant drip of reassurance as
the people are praised for their gallantry and told that they
are a besieged breed battling for human rights. Mostly they battle
the traffic on the way home from the office, but the air is heavy
with reports of continuous, ongoing strife. It's all struggles
and war: against cancer, teen drinking, teen pregnancy, drugs,
illiteracy, terrorism, child abuse, drunk driving, diabetes, rape
of the environment, pornography, starvation in less developed
countries, ignorance, poverty, intolerance, heart disease, AIDS.
When they look into their mirrors, do
Americans see tough, brave faces, heads wound round with bloody
bandages? Do they hear, from the speakers blaring from every elevator
and in every shopping mall, the martial beat of the drum, the
toot of a flute, and "Yankee Doodle Dandy"?
Every year thousands dress up in 18th-
and 19th-century military uniforms to reenact battles of the Revolutionary
and Civil Wars in which the good and the brave win and suffer
no casualties. They do not reenact the big battles of the 20th
century, those of the Somme or of Kursk, where hundreds of thousands
perished. Innocent of knowledge of the terrible slaughters of
more recent history, America's heroes don camouflage suits and
spend weekends bouncing about the countryside fighting paint-ball
The men who fought at Iwo Jima and Normandy
are entering their eighties; the men who fought in the Mekong
Delta are into their fifties. The people younger than these veterans,
now more than half the population, have no memories and no experience
of those violent rampages. Their wars are Rambo and the other
heart-stopping celluloid foolishness where we are young and brave
They enroll in survivalist programs, join
camouflage jump suit cults, play x-games. Those who don't join
in the actual outdoor activities watch on television, not infrequently
inside a thirty-foot, air-conditioned, motorized trailer with
an HDTV satellite dish, parked on a camping site in a manicured
wilderness with a view. They are "toughing it," convinced,
as are most Americans, that they are undergoing the adversity
which builds character and leadership. Fed by the television ads,
Americans wobble between a past which never was and a present
which never will be. It is a fantasy life nobody else shares.
Work has its own place in the national
theology. Working till you drop in the traces wins you a patch
of ground among the honored dead. The work ethic beats out the
peace ethic or the love ethic. The blue collar man is the best
kind of man. Can you hear the factory whistle blowing? Can you
see him with his lunch pail and square-toed, high top shoes? The
fixation on work has Americans believing that the people on the
other side of the terrarium walls are drones. The long vacations
taken by the French and the Germans are a species of immorality,
the low stress social life of the Nordics is decadent and economically
degenerate. Other people don't put in enough time on the job,
which makes America the straining Atlas of the Rockefeller Center
statue, holding up the world.
The Atlas of Greek mythology was stuck
keeping the world up over his head as a punishment for having
taken the wrong side in the battle with the Titans. This Atlas
believes that he is being punished for having taken the right
side and gotten nothing for it but grief, ingratitude and the
burden of running the world. Europe's ingratitude is a stock theme
in politicians' speeches and editorials. It is like sour cud,
brought up repeatedly to show how unappreciated America is for
all it has done for others, and how little others have done for
it. The people in the dome insistently repeat that twice, three
times if you count keeping out communism, America has saved Europe,
but no one is grateful. No one gives a helping hand to Atlas when
he tears a meniscus or rips a tendon while protecting the peoples
of the earth. Since others won't recognize the debt, a resentful
America memorializes itself in an outpouring of books and movies
and patriotic half-time shows in the football stadiums where sports
fans are comforted by the reminder that they live in a land of
The past we know is the past we need for
the present we have; it shows us an idealistic, altruistic, heroic
America ready to lay down the lives of its children for others,
though the beneficiaries may not appreciate the sacrifices made
for them. For such purposes World War II is of precious memory
for it was-we remind you-the good war, the right war, the unambiguous
war, the Manichean war of us versus pure evil. It may have been
so, but many an American then was not too keen to fight it. That
past, too, has been prettied up for current requirements.
Franklin Roosevelt won reelection in 1940
by promising that Americans wouldn't fight the good war. When
Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, America did not rush to arms as
the British and French did. More than two years went by before
the United States went to war. Had Pearl Harbor not been bombed
and had Hitler not declared war on the United States at the same
time, America might have stayed neutral and let the Nazis win.