Nationalist illusions

To the Editor:

After thousands of years of bloody wars among contending tribes, regions and nations, is it finally possible to dispense with the chauvinist ideas of the past?

To judge by President Barack Obama’s televised address on the evening of Sept. 10, it is not.

Discussing his plan to “take out” ISIS, the extremist group that has seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq, the president slathered on the high-flying, nationalist rhetoric. “America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth,” he proclaimed.

This rhetoric, of course, is the lead-in to yet another American-led war in the Middle East. “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world,” he stated. “It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.”

Can anyone acquainted with American history really take this nationalist drivel seriously? When contemplating the “freedom,” “justice” and “dignity” that “have guided our nation since its founding,” is there no recollection of slavery, the seizure of a continent from its native people, lynching, child labor, the flouting of civil liberties, the exploitation of workers, legalized racial discrimination, and the war crimes committed by U.S. troops, most recently in Iraq?

Furthermore, all of this forgotten history is topped off with the ritualized “May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.” God, apparently, is supposed to ride shotgun for the U.S. military. Or is it really that the U.S. military and the nation are the emissaries of God?

In fairness to the president, it could be argued that he doesn’t actually believe this claptrap, but – like so many of his predecessors – simply dons a star-spangled uniform to sell his foreign policy to the American public.

American “leadership” of military operations in the Islamic world has not only done much to spark the creation of ISIS, al-Qaida, and other extremist groups, but has destabilized and inflamed the entire region. American-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – coupled with U.S. military meddling in Syria, confrontations with Iran, arming of Israel, and drone strikes in many nations – have left the region awash with anti-Americanism, religious strife and weapons (many now directed against the United States).

Against this backdrop, the U.S. government would be well-advised to adopt a very low profile in the Middle East and certainly not “lead” yet another war, particularly one against Muslims.

Lawrence Wittner

Albany, N.Y.