by Jacob G. Hornberger
I continue to be fascinated by the response of the American people to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Specifically, I cannot understand why people seem so blasé about the fact that their very own government, including the U.S. military and the CIA, have knowingly and intentionally supported and partnered with brutal dictatorial regimes that have used torture, indefinite detention, and other tyrannical measures against their own people for decades.
After all, Americans pride themselves on being a moral and upright people. Millions of Christians go to church every Sunday and pray for God’s guidance in their lives throughout the week. Most people strive to do the right thing.
Consider the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East against which people are now risking their lives in peaceful or violent resistance to their own government. For decades, the dictatorial regimes have been maintaining control over their citizenry through vicious, horrific measures.
For example, if someone criticized the regime or questioned its legitimacy, government agents would monitor the person’s activities. If the conduct persisted, the person would be arrested, perhaps in the dead of night with government SWAT teams barging into the person’s home, fully armed. The person would be forcibly taken to a government building specially designed to torture people. Electric devices would be placed on the person’s private parts. The torturers would push the button, sending charges of electricity into the person. After the torture, which could go on indefinitely, the person would be released, if he had conformed, or he could be jailed indefinitely and tortured periodically until he got his mind straight.
This is how those dictatorial regimes have maintained their hold on power — through terror, torture, and endless incarceration. The message was sent to the citizens: “We are in control. Do not resist us. This is what will happen to you if you do.”
People knew that if they violently resisted, the dictator’s standing army was fully prepared to protect national security and maintain order and stability by rounding up as many people as necessary, torturing them, jailing them, and perhaps even executing them.
My hunch is that if you asked ordinary Americans whether they consider this type of thing evil, most of them would not hesitate. They would immediately respond that of course this type of thing is evil. American Christians would undoubtedly respond that such tyrannical conduct is inconsistent with Christian principles and with the principles on which America was founded.
Yet, everything seems to change when it comes to the U.S. government’s role in the evil. Keep in mind that the U.S. government, including the president, the Congress, the Pentagon, and the CIA, fully supported and participated with those dictatorial regimes, knowing full well what such regimes were doing to their own people with those nighttime arrests, brutal torture, incarceration, and even executions.
During the entire time that all that evil conduct was taking place, U.S. officials continued pouring foreign aid into the regimes, helping them to maintain their torture facilities and to shore up their military forces. The Pentagon allied with their military counterparts in the dictatorships, helping to train them to be more effective military personnel. The CIA entered into formal partnerships in which the dictatorships’ torture teams would torture people for the U.S. government. It was all done in the name of protecting “our interests” or ensuring “order and stability.”
But if something is evil, then how can the support of such evil — how can a partnership with such evil — not also be evil?
All too many Americans will simply not permit themselves to consider the possibility that the reason that so many Muslims are angry, hateful, and radicalized is precisely because of what the U.S. government has done to people in the Middle East. It’s obviously easier to let the mind drift to how violent Muslims are or how bad a religion Islam is. Oh, sure, Americans can easily understand why Muslims would be angry and hateful toward their own tyrannical regimes. But a mindset of deference to authority — reverence for the federal government — support for the troops — nationalism — somehow precludes such Americans from seeing why people would be angry at a foreign regime—i.e., the U.S. government — that has done very horrific things to them too.
Should the U.S. government be supporting and partnering with tyrannical regimes that are admittedly engaged in evil? Should the U.S. government be involved in assassinations, coups, kidnappings, torture, abuse, humiliation, wars of aggression, undeclared wars, invasions, occupations, sanctions, and embargoes against people in the Middle East and, for that matter, anywhere else? Should the U.S. government be killing people for the sake of political goals, including regime-change operations? Is it just possible that the U.S. government’s actions in the Middle East have radicalized Muslims and others into bearing deep anger and rage toward the United States?
Is any of this consistent with Christian principles? Has God actually created a universe in which it is necessary for the U.S. government to engage with and commit evil to protect the nation and the citizenry? Does God want Americans to have a government that is supporting and participating with evil?
If we are ever going to get our nation on the right track, Americans are going to need to do some serious soul-searching on the proper role of the U.S. government in world affairs (and domestic affairs). Christians in particular are going to need to do some serious praying for moral and spiritual guidance when it comes to principles of evil and right conduct.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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