The killing of the US ambassador to Libya and angry demonstrations across the Muslim world over a tacky anti-Islamic hate video have produced the usual flood of commentary. Across the land comes the familiar cry, “why do they hate us?” That any Americans can in this day and age still be surprised that their nation is hated by many people from Morocco to Indonesia to Nigeria is by far the biggest surprise. We have learned little from 9/11.
The mass fury does not come because Muslims are irrational, violent beings. The hate video we have been witnessing: is merely the spark that ignited the combustible haze of anti-Americanism that lies over much of the Muslim world. What they do not understand is that the American imperium’s goal is to advance its own strategic, economic and political goals and keep much of the planet under its influence.
Such ambitions and behavior used to be called “imperialism. At its apogee, the Britain Empire ruled one quarter of the globe and most of the world’s seas and oceans. At the heart of this vast empire lay its “jewel,” India. Britain’s rule over India was known as the British Raj (raj meaning rule in Hindi).
In 2008, I published my second book, “American Raj.” I sought to distill my fifty years of experience in the Muslim world to explain to Americans what was really going on in the troubled region, why it was so violent and unstable, and our own errors in fostering this problem. The more I examined the historical parallels between the British Empire and today’s American dominion over most of the Arab world, the more it became evident that the U.S. had inherited the British Empire in 1945 and was copying its highly successful managerial techniques. Chief among these was divide and rule, using petty princes and potentates as surrogates, building armies of native troops known as “sepoys,” forcing the subcontinent into economic subservience and captive markets. Britain’s genius lay in managing a huge empire with tiny numbers of its own soldiers and officials.
I warned that the Mideast was seething with anti-Americanism, fury over the plight of Palestinians, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and rage against the corrupt, brutal rulers imposed by the U.S., Britain and France. In “Raj” I urged the United States to practice the values it preaches and help build real democracy in the Arab world before it was too late. The first step, I asserted, was a just settlement for Palestine. Not a single American publisher would touch “American Raj.” It was simply too heretical in challenging the myths of benign American foreign policy or predicting a coming explosion. My book was published in Canada and Europe, but not in my own country.
In December, 2010, two years after “Raj” came out, the Arab world began to erupt against dictatorship, corruption, and oppression. The revolt began in little Tunisia but soon spread to the bulwark of America’s Mideast Raj, Egypt, where the exceptionally brutal, corrupt US-backed dictatorship of Husni Mubarak was toppled. For 40 years, Washington had sustained military dictatorships in Egypt, keeping the lid on a restive population.
The angry demonstrations still flaring across the Muslim world are a volcanic eruption of anger at America. They are not terrorism or religious fanaticism, though numbers of religious fanatics are indeed involved. They are anti-Americanism in full flame. And the near universal belief among its citizens is that the western powers are stealing their oil and gas resources, abetted by corrupt, Quisling regimes. The natives are fighting back, just as they did under the British Raj. Those who know India’s history will recall the great 1857 Indian Mutiny in which “loyal” native sepoy regiments turned on their British officers and their families.
America’s armed forces and CIA are now waging military operations and assassinations in five Muslim nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and, most recently, Libya. Washington supports some of the world’s most reactionary and odious regimes. In short, there are a multitude of reasons for people in the Muslim world to be angry at America. Washington clings to its overseas empire with the same tenacity as Britain’s imperialists at a time when the United Kingdom’s postwar economy lay drowning in debt. Britain could no longer afford its globe-girding empire then, and America can no longer afford its global imperium today. Both Raj’s had feet of clay.
© 2012 Eric Margolis is a veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East [Abridged]