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America’s Remarkable Goodness: What the Critics Refuse to Acknowledge By: John Perazzo
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, October 05, 2001


AS THE INITIAL PSYCHIC WOUND of the September 11 terrorist attacks has slowly begun to scab, we are predictably hearing more and more from what Jeanne Kirkpatrick has aptly termed the "Blame America First" crowd. In short, this crowd views the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks as the desperate and understandable, if not actually justified acts of "frustrated" people who, because their previous "cries for help and understanding" purportedly fell on deaf ears, were left with no option but to communicate their supposedly legitimate grievances in the most dramatic fashion possible.

 

It is no coincidence, of course, that such a view bears striking resemblance to some interpretations of small children’s bratty behavior as a sincere, if misguided, plea for attention. This condescending, paternalistic, and self-aggrandizing perspective infantilizes terrorists and demands absolutely nothing of them neither decency, nor respect for innocent life, nor self-control, nor even the barest shred of humanity. Rather, they are seen only as frustrated, desperate, childlike creatures reacting petulantly to the woefully inadequate "parenting" skills of the United States. In this view, America bears full responsibility not only for its own wrongdoings, but ultimately for the terrorists’ as well.

The loss of six thousand innocent lives, the enlightened critics dutifully tell us, was of course "tragic," but must be viewed in the context of American transgressions that provoked the suicide hijackers to fly planes into our buildings. Among the sins most commonly ascribed to our country are "arrogance," inappropriate foreign interventions, and of course our steadfast support of Israel. A few days ago a University of North Carolina professor summed things up quite succinctly, calling for the U.S. to issue a formal apology to "the tortured and the impoverished and all the millions of other victims of American imperialism." Because we have treated the world pretty shabbily, say the critics, "the chickens are now coming home to roost."

Perhaps a case can indeed be made for that allegation if one’s standard for our country’s actions is absolute perfection; if one believes that the U.S., or any other nation, could ever conduct its foreign policy in a manner that unanimously pleased every government or potential critic on the planet; or if one holds our country to standards achievable only in a fairy-tale world wherein no nations ever threatened one another’s freedom or survival, thereby rendering foreign policy little more than a benign amusement to fill idle moments. If, however, our standard is anything short of perfection, it is difficult not to notice that America’s track record is quite demonstrably the most awe-inspiring model of benevolence in the recorded history of mankind.

Consider, for instance, what has occurred since the dawn of the Second World War. While totalitarian aggression was overrunning Europe with an insatiable savagery that laughed and spit in the face of the continent’s obvious efforts to appease and thereby curb that aggression, the U.S. Congress and President Roosevelt were reluctant to join the conflict. Their isolationist spirit, of course, was vaporized quite suddenly by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, which preceded Hitler’s and Mussolini’s declaration of war against our nation by only four days. Mobilizing intellectual, physical, and financial resources on a scale never before seen, the U.S. thenceforth restored its own military might and literally saved Western civilization from the Axis powers’ brutal ambitions for conquest and genocide.

By the War’s end, America’s economic strength was unrivalled. Indeed the U.S. was responsible for more than half the world’s manufactured goods and was by far the world’s largest exporter, its ships constituting half the world’s mercantile fleet. Notwithstanding this enviable position, however, our country refused to turn its back upon those who were less fortunate.

In March 1947 our president, outlining what came to be known as the Truman Doctrine, told a joint session of Congress: "I believe it must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." It was an eloquent expression of a nation’s willingness to abandon its previous isolationist tendencies, and to commit its considerable military and economic resources to the task of preserving democracy in the world solely for the benefit of the human race.

Three months later the Marshall Plan was unveiled, authorizing some $13 billion of U.S. aid to be channeled into Europe’s crippled economies. Particularly effective in resurrecting the economic lives of France, Italy, and Germany, it was perhaps the most successful undertaking of its kind in human history.

Moreover, the United States was far and away the principal benefactor of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), which America had helped organize in 1943. At the time of the War’s end, 90 percent of Americans favored the continued shipment of food to the hungry masses in Europe and Asia. No nation on earth, before or since, had ever demonstrated such a degree of voluntary, unsolicited generosity. By 1947, the UNRRA had shipped abroad more than 23 million tons of food, industrial equipment, clothing, and agricultural supplies. It should be noted that the $2.7 billion aggregate value of these items was augmented by another $6.3 billion in specific sums that America had provided to meet particular emergencies in many countries. Between these emergency expenditures and the resources allocated by the Marshall Plan and the UNRRA, the U.S. gave upwards of $22 billion to the cause of helping the world’s needy. In today’s inflation-adjusted dollars, this amount would be roughly equivalent to $217 billion.

According to Truman, America could not "remain healthy and happy in the same world where millions of human beings are starving." He pledged "a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas." Encountering very little opposition from Congress, the original appropriation for this purpose was $34.5 million, a figure that by 1952 had grown to $147.9 million not including the massive donations of private American companies that wished to help advance the same noble cause. By the 1970s, the American government had spent more than $150 billion on foreign aid two thirds of it outside of Western Europe spawning pockets of prosperity widely over the globe. As historian Paul Johnson observes, "This effort, in absolute or relative terms, was wholly without precedent in human history, and is likely to remain the biggest single act of generosity on record."

To this day, America’s remarkable record of aid to other nations continues unabated and of course unappreciated by critics worldwide whose own nations, incidentally, give virtually nothing to anyone. In 1998, U.S. foreign grants and credits to Western Europe totaled $258 million; to Eastern Europe $1.8 billion; to the Near East and South Asia $5 billion; to Africa $1.3 billion; to the Far East $735 million, to Canada and Central and South America $987 million.

When natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods strike other nations, no country on earth responds with greater alacrity or generosity than ours. When famine and disease decimate foreign populations, America is almost always the first and sometimes the only nation in the world to lend assistance. Recall, for instance, that in the 1980s Ethiopia was gripped by a brutal civil war into which almost all its government funds were poured even while the country was ravaged by famine. The U.S. sent enormous amounts of aid, yet was criticized by Ethiopian president Mengistu for not sending more. Presumably Mengistu expected American taxpayers to help defray the cost of the $100 million celebration he had held during the height of the famine to commemorate the tenth anniversary of Ethiopia’s socialist revolution.

When civil war and famine killed at least 300,000 people in Somalia a decade ago, America once again sent large quantities of food and medicine. When it was learned that the war’s combatants were heartlessly stealing most of the relief packages even while the country had become filled with wretched, walking skeletons it was only with U.S. leadership in 1992’s Operation Restore Hope that the situation began to improve. American soldiers, joined by troops from several other countries, were sent to Somalia to ensure the proper distribution of life-saving resources.

In 1994, when Rwanda erupted into ethnic violence that killed at least 800,000 people in twelve weeks, the United States led the world in shipping food, medicine, doctors, technicians, and medical equipment to try to save the dying masses huddled in Rwanda’s filthy refugee camps.

I ask America’s critics, what other nation today, or during any other epoch of human history, has even come close to matching this country’s record of generosity? Why do these critics feel justified in holding no other nation on earth to the lofty standards of perfection they set for the United States? And finally, why should America’s failure to attain absolute perfection as defined by the critics be cited as a rational explanation for atrocities committed against our country, while those same faultfinders casually dismiss even the most abominable practices abounding in other lands?

In Sudan today, countless thousands of black Africans are enslaved by an Islamic fundamentalist government. Under Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, adulterers are publicly flogged or stoned to death, sometimes before thousands of spectators in soccer stadiums. Homosexuals are executed by having stone walls toppled upon them. Women possess virtually no human rights. Television and radio are forbidden, music and dance are prohibited, and men are arrested if their beards are insufficiently long.

By contrast, Americans have made truly monumental strides in the realm of human rights, working tirelessly to eradicate the legacies of slavery and discrimination. The black Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson puts it well: "America, while still flawed in its race relations . . . is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protection of minorities than any other society, white or black; [and] offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of Africa." Notwithstanding this reality, our country’s critics brazenly call America a racist land, but say nothing to disparage those Muslim regions that explicitly forbid the very presence of Westerners. Indeed during last week’s Washington, D.C. "peace rally," many protesters denounced America’s military preparations for a "racist war" against Muslims.

In light of recent historical events, it is remarkable that anyone would venture to call American attitudes toward Muslim nations "racist." As Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, "America conducted three wars in the 1990s. The Gulf War saved the Kuwaiti people from Saddam. American intervention in the Balkans saved Bosnia. And then we saved Kosovo from Serbia. What did these three military campaigns have in common? In every one we saved a Muslim people." Moreover, prior to September 11 our country had provided more food and humanitarian aid to Afghanistan’s poverty-stricken population than had any other country on earth. Even now, as thousands of refugees flee their homes in anticipation of a U.S. military strike, the Bush administration has already appropriated several hundred million dollars in relief aid to help save those people’s lives. But such details are irrelevant to the "Blame America First" crowd.

Perhaps most amazing is that this post-September 11 period has been characterized by pleas for tolerance and admonitions against anti-Muslim bias from every corner of our society. Religious and political leaders nationwide have publicly issued thousands of reminders for people to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, and not to view all Muslims as terrorists or killers. Inter-faith worship services that bring together Muslims, Jews, and Christians abound. School curriculums discouraging children from stereotyping Muslims and Arabs were hastily implemented after September 11. Even our president has repeatedly taken pains to praise Islam and condemn only those specific terrorists who "pervert" that religion. Time and again, he has reminded the world that America’s war is not against Islam, but against terrorism. What other nation in human history has ever responded with such temperance to an assault so barbaric?

By contrast, Osama bin Laden and his Taliban supporters have never strayed from their blanket characterization of America as the "Great Satan," and have never attempted to distinguish between "good" Americans and "bad." Neither have they uttered a syllable of remorse for the 6,000 innocents killed on Sept. 11 – nor for the thousands of innocent children who lost their parents that day.

It is regrettable that because America’s critics, for the most part, do not understand the nature of the unbridled, bloodthirsty evil that bared its fangs on September 11, they are likewise blind to our country’s unmatched, albeit imperfect, goodness. On balance, America’s existence has been a remarkable blessing to humanity one that has absolutely no precedent in the long, tortuous history of our troubled species. Yet many of those who ought to be most thankful for America’s presence exhibit no more gratitude than President Mengistu showed fifteen years ago when he denounced the United States even while he happily allowed his unfortunate Ethiopian countrymen to die like flies.


John Perazzo is the Managing Editor of DiscoverTheNetworks and is the author of The Myths That Divide Us: How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations. For more information on his book, click here. E-mail him at WorldStudiesBooks@gmail.com



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