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David Walters 

The History of Hate

Luton is an unlikely place for revolution. Most Americans have never heard of it. English people know it mainly as the home of an average soccer team and the nearest town to London's third airport. Yet it was from neat and tidy semi-detached houses on quiet suburban streets in this prosperous part of southern England, that four young British men, Muslims all, went to die in Afghanistan, fighting for the Taliban. And it is on the shopping streets of this same town that more angry young Muslim men harangued passers-by with talk of jihad, pledging to give their lives for Islam in its fight against western oppression. Clad in designer denims, and speaking with English regional accents, youths no more than 16 years old spoke approvingly of a martyr's death on the soil of a far-off foreign country.

Moderate Muslims from the nearby mosque rushed to deny the angry rhetoric of the young radicals and disputed their right to speak for Islam, but the disturbing message was clear on TV all over Britain and the world, wherever the BBC was broadcast. It's one thing to see bearded and turbaned revolutionaries on video, sitting in a foreign desert speaking words of hate for western nations. It's quite another to watch middle-class English youths saying the same things, with every appearance of sincerity, on the sidewalks outside the neighborhood grocery store.

The depth of this alarming antipathy should provoke us to examine its causes. In this regard, it's remarkable that I find myself in at least partial agreement with, of all people, Pat Buchanan, one of the loudest spokesmen of the far right wing of American politics.

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, Buchanan summed up several reasons why America is the particular focus of so much ill will from the Islamic world:

- America props up "puppet regimes of parasite princes" who squander the oil wealth of Arabia in the "fleshpots" of the West.

- US presence on Saudi soil "defiles" the land that contains the holy places of Mecca and Medina.

- We "pollute" Islam by the products of our popular culture that "captivate and corrupt" Muslim youth.

- We "starve Iraqi children with sanctions" because Saddam Hussein defies UN resolutions, but we "give Israel the weapons to defy UN resolutions, persecute Palestinians and deny them the liberty we champion."

This much is accurate, but Buchanan goes on to describe American culture as comprising "drugs, alcohol, abortions, filthy magazines, dirty movies and hellish music," giving a fundamentalist Christian slant that diminishes his argument. Buchanan makes no mention of great American art, music and literature, or noble efforts like the Peace Corps, selflessly serving the international community. But stripped of this transparent bias, his analysis of the facts still retains some merit.

Almost as disquieting as the hatred spewing from Islamic extremists is the resentment towards the West evident in the feelings of moderate, well-educated Muslims. This isn't a function of culture, but of misconceived foreign policy on the part of Western powers. A recent article by Holger Jensen, distributed through the Scripps Howard News Service, documented the opinions of a US-educated Pakistani woman in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"We love America. . ." said the woman. "But we feel a sense of betrayal. . .because you use people, then cast them aside when they're no longer useful to you. As long as (America) needed Pakistan (in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan), you couldn't do enough for us. As soon as the Soviets left Afghanistan, you abandoned us, leaving us with a refugee problem, an economic problem, and an Islamic fundamentalist problem."

It was, of course, that precise amalgam of refugees, poverty and fundamentalism that fermented the current incarnation of Islamic militancy towards America.

But the cynical use of Islamic countries for the political and economic gain of the West is hardly new. In the aftermath of the First World War, Britain and France carved up the Middle East for their own purposes. Britain created a large "protectorate" from large parts of modern-day Israel, Jordan and Iraq to connect its North African territories with Imperial India. Within this sphere of influence London meddled in and directed Middle East politics for more than two decades, while in neighboring Iran the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, controlled by the British government (and the forerunner of today's BP), controlled the political economy of that nation.

A vivid example of this economic imperialism was the 1953 coup in Iran -- instigated by Britain's MI6 with the active support of the CIA -- which overthrew the democratic government of Mohammed Mossadegh. Iran's leader intended to nationalize that country's oil supplies, taking them back from British control so that the wealth of Iran's natural resources could directly benefit the country's population rather than boost the profits of a foreign corporation.

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