Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ignorance Is Strength

Andrew Sullivan has struck again. According to FAIR, he told Chris Matthews a few nights ago:
SULLIVAN: Again, it just shows that America colonizes without any real colonial talent because this is a country built on escaping colonialism, not actually imposing it.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. Well…
SULLIVAN: You're doing something against the DNA of the United States.
We've been here before, of course. FAIR points to a similar statement, "America was not born as a colonial power," by someone supposedly smarter than Andrew Sullivan, namely the Only President We've Got. But I, and FAIR, are being somewhat unfair to Obama: there should be an ellipsis in that quotation, which FAIR took from the historian Roxanne Ortiz-Dunbar's rebuttal. According to the transcript of Obama's interview with Al-Arabiya in early 2009, Obama said:
But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there's no reason why we can't restore that.
"As you say" refers to the interviewer's remark about the US, "It was the only Western power with no colonial legacy." That the US has a colonial legacy is not esoteric knowledge, aside from the fact that the US was born as a settler-colonial nation which promptly set out to claim and colonize much of North America from sea to shining sea. Even when we didn't move settlers into other countries, we set ourselves up as their rulers with the Monroe Doctrine, and ultimately installed and supported dictatorships in most of the Western hemisphere. We also built our empire by taking our competitors' possessions from them, though of course we couldn't let them go free or have anything like democracy because they weren't ready for it.

When Obama mentioned "the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world," he meant not ordinary Muslims, but the dictatorships that ruled over them. That means not only the more obvious Arab tyrannies, but Indonesia's Suharto. "20 or 30 years ago" would have been the period of the Iranian revolution, which was notably lacking in respect for the country that overthrew Iran's elected government and installed a brutal dictatorship in its place; and US support for the settler state of Israel was winning us few friends outside of the palaces of the rulers. Obama inspired a brief wave of hope and optimism among the ordinary people of the world, it's true, until he showed his true colors by continuing and extending Bush's policies.

Sullivan is a notorious ignoramus; Obama really should know better. But I guess it's true what we hear about Americans' ignorance of history; the thing to notice is that this ignorance is shaped by American jingoist propaganda.