‘Against Us’: Another writer takes a whack at America

  The Muslim world doesn’t like us, and it’s mostly our fault. That’s the premise of "Against Us: The New Face of America’s Enemies in the Muslim World." The author, Jim Sciutto, is ABC News’ senior foreign correspondent. The book is based on interviews he conducted throughout the Middle East. He talked to many Muslims, including an Afghan schoolgirl; an al-Qaida follower in a Jordan prison; the wife of an opposition politician wasting away in a cell in Egypt; and a doctor trying to quench the tide of blood in a Baghdad emergency room.
   Why do most of them, and, to a lesser extent, Sciutto, blame America? There’s the war in Iraq. We’re friends with Israel. American culture is crude and ungodly. We back the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt and the wealthy ruling clan in Saudi Arabia. We tortured people in Abu Ghraib. We’re still torturing people in Guantanamo. Muslims were abused in Bosnia and Kosovo. We overreacted after the 2001 terrorist attacks. We bomb and kill people indiscriminately. We’re arrogant. We’re thin-skinned. All we want is their oil. Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein. You get the picture
   Perhaps it’s the quaint American desire to be liked — Europeans say they can spot us on their streets because we’re the ones grinning inanely at strangers, not to mention wearing those white, puffy marshmallow sport shoes — but these days it seems there are fewer and fewer Americans willing to say flatly, publicly, to our accusers, "You are wrong." Certainly not Sciutto, at least, not in his book.
  To answer a few of the most popular jibes mentioned above: Americans have given their most precious treasure, their lives, not to mention billions of dollars, for the sake of Muslims throughout the world: Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq are just some of those places. No amount of oil or money could make up for the loss of those precious lives, but in any case we haven’t taken either.
   The soldiers who abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib were put on trial and several of them went to prison. But to liken the treatment of detainees there or in Guantanamo to the videotaped beheadings of helpless captives by the likes of  Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, or the blowing up of families buying food in markets or on religious pilgrimages, is an obscene form of moral equivalence that shames the person who attempts it. And of course their supporters believe that Zarqawi, eventually dispatched to his reward by American troops, and the suicide bombers and the rest of that hideous army of haters go on to Paradise and the 72 virgins. What a treat for the girls.
   By the way, those who look back on Saddam’s regime with gauzy nostalgia might want to read a book called ‘‘Republic of Fear’’ by Kanan Makiya. It’s not for the fainthearted.
   America is not a perfect nation. We make mistakes. But we also try to right mistakes, ours and others, and many brave Americans in the military and diplomatic services have given their lives in that cause. And people from all over the world, including many, many Muslims. look to America as a refuge when life in their country becomes unbearable. Muslims living under cruel dictatorships or in countries ravaged by war deserve great sympathy. They also deserve the truth, not the packaged hateful propaganda that appears to form much of their world view today. The poisonous screeds of radical clerics have gotten them nothing but misery and death. Sciutto could have done a great service in his book if he had resisted the popular temptation to blame us. That’s easy. The truth is harder.

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