It is almost unfathomable for the media to explain the protests against the United States in seventeen countries as primarily the result of a trailer to an obnoxious anti-Muslim You Tube video. This view is consistent with the historic Western understanding of Islamic people, people of color, the “other,” as ignorant, subject to manipulation, and, finally, less than human. The reality is the peoples of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Asia have a sense of their history and the world and most Americans do not.
Just to review the U.S. role in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf since World War II tells us much more about this week’s protests than the You Tube video. As Michael Klare has written, President Franklin Roosevelt met with King Abdul Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia, a week after the famous Yalta Conference aboard the USS Quincy. The President and the King made an agreement that the United States would provide protection for the Saudi regime in exchange for perpetual access to its oil.
Mohammed Mossadegh the Iranian Prime Minister who negotiated with his parliament the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company was overthrown in a CIA engineered coup in 1953. For the next 26 years the Shah ruled Iran as a brutal dictator, crushing secular and religious dissent.
In 1957 President Eisenhower declared that the United States was prepared to send troops to the Middle East to protect the region from international communism. Two years later, claiming the Eisenhower Doctrine, the president sent thousands of marines to Lebanon on false pretenses. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson worked to undermine the influence of secular Arab leaders, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Syrian leaders, who were pursuing autonomy from former colonial overlords. During the 1960s, U.S. support, financial and military, tilted dramatically toward Israel in its war on the Palestinian people and neighboring Arab states.
In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution of 1979 the Carter Doctrine proclaimed the right of the United States to intervene if any attack on the Persian Gulf occurs because it would “be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America….” Carter created a Rapid Deployment Force of 100,000 specially trained troops to engage in instant responses to events such as had occurred in Iran and he created what became the U.S. Central Command to govern all forces in the region. Carter and then Reagan embarked on a massive covert war against the government of Afghanistan in the 1980s, supporting fundamentalists such as Osama Bin Laden in the war on communism.
George Herbert Walker Bush launched Gulf War One with a coalition of nations to extricate Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Over the decade of the 1990s, the Iraqi people were smothered by an economic embargo and regular bombing campaign.
Then the wars on Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) were launched as well as attacks on military targets in Pakistan. The “war on terrorism” included violence against Muslim populations in several countries, including Yemen and Somalia, with hundreds of forward bases in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and Asia.
Stephen Walt, Harvard political scientist, estimated that from 1988 to 2009 about 10,000 Americans died in military encounters with Muslims. However, 288,000 Muslims died at the hands of American troops or bombs. He wrote that Americans killed 30 Muslims for every United States citizen who was killed and if one includes the over one million non-combat deaths from economic sanctions (in Iraq for example) the ratio of Muslims who died in interaction with Americans would be 100 to one.
Walt reported that Muslim deaths were the direct result of United States foreign policy, whereas American deaths were largely at the hands of non-state actors, i.e. terrorist groups. In addition, the United States has funded and supports allies who also engage in the slaughter of Muslims.
He concluded: “Some degree of anti-Americanism may reflect ideology, distorted history, or a foreign government’s attempt to shift blame onto others (a practice that all governments indulge in), but a lot of it is the inevitable result of policies that the American people have supported in the past. When you kill tens of thousands of people in other countries-and sometimes for no good reason-you shouldn’t be surprised when people in those countries are enraged by this behavior and interested in revenge. After all, how did we react after September 11?” (“Why They Hate Us (II): How Many Muslims Has the U.S. Killed in the Past 30 Years?” November 30, 2009, reposted on the blog site of Foreign Policy on September 15, 2012).
The new reliance on drone warfare, while increasing the scope of war on Muslims, decreases the risk to U.S. troops in the short run. However, the question for the future is whether this war will continue to cause the violent attacks on United States targets that have been experienced over the last week.