I was once stopped at a red light that led to a major road. When my light turned green, I was ready to proceed until I saw the first SUV speed through its red light. Not tailgating that vehicle, a second SUV followed suit. Then, not tailgating that vehicle, an 18-wheeler went through its red light. I then asked myself: why did the terrorists attack us? My only answer was that perhaps they have seen us drive.
Many Americans regard automobile accidents as inevitable. This perception persists even when there is aggressive driving but without connecting the dots between the two. Why? Perhaps many of us do not admit the obvious relationship because we want to feel free to drive any way we please. Perhaps many of us do not admit there is a relationship between the two because we have been so indoctrinated with how special we are, we are incapable of feeling guilt.
Perhaps our denial of the role that our aggressive driving practices plays in causing accidents explains why Americans so easily accepted President Bush's explanation for 9/11. President Bush said that the terrorists attacked us because they hate our freedoms.
Bush's explanation is certainly preferable to accepting responsibility for our part in the attacks. For a long time, we have practiced very aggressive foreign policies in the Middle East alone. We have participated in coups in Iran (1953) and Iraq (in the 1960's). We have both supported and supplied weapons to dictators in countries like Iraq (1980's) and Saudi Arabia. We have imposed sanctions on Iraq which have resulted in the deaths of between 1.2 and 1.8 million people. And while supporting Israel, we have failed to distinguish between supporting their right to exist from supporting their brutal occupation over the Palestinians. Many civilians in the Middle East have suffered greatly because of our aggressive foreign policies.
Also consider what Chalmers Johnson said, in his book "Nemesis: The Last Days Of The American Republic." When 9-11 occurred, he could not immediately guess who the guilty culprits were. Were they Chileans (because of the 1973 coup when we installed a military dictatorship in place of their democracy), Greeks (because we installed Greek colonels as leaders of their country in 1967), Okinawans (because we have occupied that country since WWII), or people from a list of at least 15 other countries that have suffered at the hands of our aggressive foreign policies (pg 3).
Of course, maintaining our good-guy self-serving image requires that we minimize the negative effects of our policies. We do so because we wish to reserve the right to do whatever we wish. Chalmers Johnson says we minimize the losses of others by calling it "collateral damage" (pg 24). The term "collateral damage" was also the term used by a Republican poll worker I spoke with when he was describing the 500,000 to over 2,000,000 million South Vietnamese civilians we killed during the Vietnam War.
The difference between collateral damage and catastrophic loss is similar to the difference between the popular definitions of a recession and a depression--a recession is when my neighbor loses his job while a depression is when I lose my job. What we must realize is that what is collateral damage to us is a catastrophic loss to someone else. And that catastrophic loss can provide a reason to strike back. And regardless of the wrongness of that retaliation, if we played a role in causing that catastrophic loss, then we have enabled that retaliation.
We have a choice. We can either choose to maintain aggressive foreign policies that result in collateral damage or we can choose to treat other countries and groups with respect as equals. If we continue to maintain aggressive foreign policies, we will be fully responsible for any collateral damage we cause as well as partially responsible for any retaliation. Failing to see the relationship between aggressive foreign policies and collateral damage is as dangerous as failing to see the relationship between aggressive driving and accidents.
Currently our Congress is "debating" President Bush's surge. Tens of thousands (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of Iraqis have been killed because of our illegal invasion based on false premises. In addition, over 1 million Iraqis have been displaced. President Bush's surge represents a continuation of practicing aggressive foreign policies. And yet, even among those who support the resolution that slaps Bush's wrists for proposing a surge, it is the Iraqis who are being blamed for the catastrophic state of their country. It is the Iraqis who are being blamed for not taking advantage of the opportunity that our gracious invasion has provided. This implies that what Bush's critics are complaining about is ineptness rather than a lack of principle.
Aggressive driving sometimes causes accidents. Sometimes those accidents affect others besides the guilty driver. And there are times when the aggressive driver also pays a price for his or her foolishness. Likewise, aggressive foreign policies sometimes hurt others. Remember how we devastated Vietnam in the '60s and '70s, Central America in the '80s, and Iraq for the past 16 or more years. Then there are times when our aggressive foreign policies have a boomerang effect such as what we saw on 9-11. To deny the relationship between our aggressive foreign policies and the harm it causes others is to be immorally irresponsible. To continue with these policies is at least homicidal and could turnout to be suicidal.