Chas Freeman on Muslim death toll and its emotional/political consequences

Chas Freeman gave a speech at Tufts yesterday. Paul Woodward picked it up.

Consider, for example, the two sides of the Israel-Palestine struggle. So far in this century – since September 29, 2000, when Ariel Sharon marched into the Al Aqsa mosque and ignited the Intifada of that name, about 850 Israeli Jews have died at the hands of Palestinians, 125 or so of them children. That’s equivalent to 45,000 dead Americans, including about 6,800 children. It’s a level of mayhem we Americans cannot begin to understand. But, over the same period, Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 6,600 or so Palestinians, at least 1,315 of whom were children. In American terms, that’s equivalent to 460,000 U.S. dead, including 95,000 children.

Meanwhile, the American equivalent of almost 500,000 Israelis and 2.9 million Palestinians have been injured. To put it mildly, the human experiences these figures enumerate are not conducive to peace or goodwill among men and women in the Holy Land or anywhere with emotional ties to them.

We all know that events in the Holy Land have an impact far beyond it. American sympathy for Israel and kinship with Jewish settlers assure that Jewish deaths there arouse anti-Arab and anti-Muslim passions here, even as the toll on Palestinians is seldom, if ever, mentioned. But, among the world’s 340 million Arabs and 1.6 billion Muslims, all eyes are on the resistance of Palestinians to continuing ethnic cleansing and the American subsidies and political support for Israel that facilitates their suffering. The chief planner of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, testified under oath that a primary purpose of that criminal assault on the United States was to focus “the American people . . . on the atrocities that America is committing by supporting Israel against the Palestinian people . . . .” The occupation and attempted pacification of other Muslim lands like Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the shocking hate speech about Islam that now pervades American politics lend credence to widening Muslim belief in a U.S. crusade against Islam and its believers.

No one knows how many Iraqis have died as a direct or indirect consequence of the U.S. invasion and the anarchy that followed it. Estimates range between a low of something over 100,000 to a high of well over 1 million. Translated to comparable proportions in the United States, that equates to somewhere between 1 and 13 million dead Americans. Over two-and-a-quarter million Iraqis fled to neighboring countries to escape this bloodbath. An equal number found shelter inside Iraq. Few Iraqis have been able to go back to Iraq or to return to their homes. In our terms, that equals an apparently permanent flight to Canada and Mexico of 24 million Americans, with another 24 million driven into homelessness but, years later, still somewhere inside the country. I think you will agree that, had this kind of thing happened to Americans, religious scruples would not deter many of us from seeking revenge and reprisal against whoever had done it to us.

The numbers in Afghanistan aren’t quite as frightful but they make the same point. We’re accumulating a critical mass of enemies with personal as well as religious and nationalistic reasons to seek retribution against us. As our violence against foreign civilians has escalated, our enemies have multiplied. The logic of this progression is best understood anecdotally.

I am grateful to Bruce Fein (a noted constitutional scholar in Washington, DC) for calling attention to the colloquy of convicted Times Square car bomber Faisal Shahzad with United States District Judge Miriam Cederbaum. She challenged Shahzad’s self-description as a ‘Muslim soldier’ because his contemplated violence targeted civilians,

“Did you look around to see who they were?”

“Well, the people select the government,” Shahzad retorted. “We consider them all the same. The drones, when they hit …”

Cedarbaum interrupted: “Including the children?”

Shahzad countered: “Well, the drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill women, children, they kill everybody. It’s a war, and in war, they kill people. They’re killing all Muslims.”

Later, he added: “I am part of the answer to the U.S. terrorizing the Muslim nations and the Muslim people. And, on behalf of that, I’m avenging the attack. Living in the United States, Americans only care about their own people, but they don’t care about the people elsewhere in the world when they die.”

No amount of public diplomacy, no matter how cleverly conducted, can prevail over the bitterness of personal and collective experience.

 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East, War on Terror | Tagged , , , , , , ,

{ 9 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Citizen says:

    I sent this article to everyone I could reach in the various electronic ways. If it happened here Americans would go beserk all over the place.

  2. Bandolero says:

    I think, Chas Freeman is deeply underestimating the consequences of the war against Afghanistan. Just have a look what’s today on RAWA’s website:

    Afghan War, Afghan Holocaust & Afghan Genocide 9th Anniversary – 4.9 million dead, 3.2 million refugees: report

    Though the figures may be questionable, it’s hardly possible to measure the anger in figures against the evil empire of crusaders, which result from the crimes against Afghanistan.

    And note: RAWA is not anti-American per se, but one of the womens’ rights organisations, which once gave legitimacy to the US occupation of Afghanistan.

  3. The actual basis of comparisons between policies is the estimate of what the existing policy created/allowed, versus the estimate of an alternative policy would have created/allowed.

    In Iraqi or Palestinian or Israeli deaths and/or in American.

    During Vietnam, the very same discussion came up, 50,000 American dead as a result of US involvement (got all the news and sentiment) and 1,000,000 Vietnamese dead.

    None of the US dead would have occurred if we had never entered militarily or escalated, and likely only a few hundred thousand Vietnamese would have died.

    In Iraq, FAR more Iraqis died as the result of inter-communal violence and terror, than US direct caused.

    I’m sure that the death toll would have been much much less if Saddam was retained but contained in power. If he wasn’t contained, I expect the death toll would have been higher.

    • Bumblebye says:

      “only”
      Nuff said.

    • eljay says:

      >> The actual basis of comparisons between policies is the estimate of what the existing policy created/allowed, versus the estimate of an alternative policy would have created/allowed.

      Thank gawd that Palestinians are so “resilient and energetic”.

      DO NOT FEED THE TROLL.

    • Max Ajl says:

      Vietnamese deaths range from a now-renounced low-end estimate of 1.5 million to 5 million as an upwards bound (we don’t count brown people). So Witty under-counts by between a 33 and 80 percent. Does that seem racist to anyone?

      He is, of course, on the right thread for racists. Freeman writes that “That means finding alternatives to military intervention as the principal instrument of U.S. foreign policy, and it means returning to the American tradition of respect for the sovereignty and ways of life of other nations,” an American tradition carried out by committing genocide against the native population followed by over 200 years of aggressive wars, now invisible in this fairy-tale rendition of American history. Freeman goes on to write: “We’re accumulating a critical mass of enemies with personal as well as religious and nationalistic reasons to seek retribution against us. As our violence against foreign civilians has escalated, our enemies have multiplied.”

      Let’s ask if Freeman would be writing these words if our violence was not producing enemies. Or do we need to ask the question as though it’s rhetorical? Given the disappearance of the genocide of the indigenous population in this fairy-tale, is the issue (despite the saccharine high notes sounded in the beginning of the speech) the deaths of people in the global South? Is this at its core a moral critique or a realist critique–a reflection of what Freeman perceives as a waxing threat to American empire? The latter, I think. Raise your hands, everyone. Does this seem like a good direction for the movement–making allies-of-opportunity with imperialist racists?

      • Keith says:

        MAX- Your point is very well taken, similar to comments that I have made in the past. Our position must be firmly grounded in moral principles, not a “is it good for Empire?” critique. I conclude by noting that I find it very curious that those who deride a liberal Zionist see fit to swoon over a liberal imperialist.

      • You’re so quick and flippant with your accusation of racism.

        You did get the distinction between the US attention to its own dead and Vietnamese dead.

        But, you prefer to call me racist, rather than support the point of the prejudicial focus on American deaths.

        Wierd is all I can say.

  4. occupyresist says:

    “No amount of public diplomacy, no matter how cleverly conducted, can prevail over the bitterness of personal and collective experience.”

    That is, of course, what elites think is going to solve all their problems. They throw money at the problem thinking that it mitigates their image around the globe when in fact they have lost the ability to ‘feel’ anything for those who are downtrodden.