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America does not have a strong success record when it comes to “helping” other countries.
The American drive to interfere in the affairs of other countries often results in incidents such as in 1953, when America overthrew the Prime Minister Mossadeq of Iraq, installing Reza Shah as a dictator. Or in 1963, when America backed the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem, and killed 2 million Vietnamese civilians during the Vietnamese war. Or in 1973, when America staged a coup in Chile to replace President Salvador Allende with the infamously cruel dictator Augusto Pinochet, who murdered 5,000 of his critics through massacres and silenced others through rape and torture. Or in the 1980’s, when America covertly financed and armed Islamist fundamentalists in Afghanistan (which likely included Osama Bin Laden) to fight against Soviets. Or starting in 1991, when America-led sanctions and bombings of Iraq lead to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. Or starting in 2008, when America covertly used 10 times the amount of previous American drone strikes which resulted in the deaths of up to 807 civilians.
With all these horrific failures, it might seem like common sense to simply stop interfering. Yet, while America doesn’t have a strong success record on its imperialist actions, it does have a strong record of inflicting backlash against its critics.
The Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 gave the American government authority to close newspapers and jail citizens for having anti-war views. From 1955 to 1970, the FBI regularly targeted critics of American involvement in the Vietnam War and the American government jailed those who refused to serve. In 1970, the National Guard fired 67 rounds into a crowd of Kent State University students protesting the American bombing of Cambodia, killing four students and wounding nine others. In the wake of 9/11, Barbara Lee was the subject of scores of death threats and called a traitor in major newspaper editorial boards for being the sole lone vote against the authorization against the Afghanistan war, a war most Americans now believe to be a mistake.
In light of these historical missteps, it comes as no surprise that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has now faced similar accusations for daring to question the American Empire. Omar came to America at the age of ten as a refugee, force to flee because of the Somali Civil War in which American forces were involved. Consequently, Ilhan Omar was given a personal and real view of American imperialism that most Americans will never truly understand. Omar would go on to win her Minnesota representative seat with 73% of the vote.
Omar drew scorn in February for spending her time, during a Congressional hearing on Venezuela, harshly criticizing and questioning Reagan-era administrator Elliot Abrams for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the Reagan administration illegally funding and arming Nicaraguan contras under the guise of “humanitarian aid.” Omar also criticized and questioned Abrams for his role in covering up a massacre by an American-trained El Salvadoran army which left hundreds of civilians dead including 131 children. Because of this, Ilhan Omar was called “uncivil” by both Republican and Democratic officials. Elliot Abrams has now been
appointed US Special Representative for Venezuela and is in charge of distributing what the Trump administration deems “humanitarian aid” to the politically unstable country. At the time of writing, Congresswoman Omar is the only member in both the House and Senate to oppose American intervention in Venezuela.
Omar drew even more scorn last week for repeatedly criticizing the influence of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbyist group. In tweet that was later deleted, Omar wrote “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.” Despite Omar apologizing for accidentally using anti-Semitic tropes, it’s become clear that the backlash against Omar is overwhelmingly not about anti-semitism but rather about criticizing the American-Israel relationship.
Human rights groups have condemned the actions of the Israeli government repeatedly for their human rights violations, including the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to the occupied west bank, the killing of 189 Palestinian protestors including 31 children and 3 medical workers, and the frequent air and artillery strikes in the Gaza strip. Despite this, criticizing the American-Israel relationship remains a deep taboo.
AIPAC spent $3.5 million dollars last year on lobbying, resulting in bipartisan support for support for the state of Israel to the tune of $500 million for missile defense and $3.3 billion for security assistance. Last month, bipartisan support passed a AIPAC-backed Senate bill that would allow state governments to punish those who boycotted products from Israel. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer’s running mate, Garlin Gilchrist, was forced to apologize during the gubernatorial campaign for a 2009 tweet disapproving American support for Israel military.
Omar has had a slew of death-threats filed against her, yet many of her congressional peers have refused to support her. Instead, House Democrats tried to pass a bill condemning anti-semitism as an attempt to censure Omar, but decided to broaden the bill to include all types of discrimination after many members of the Jewish community spoke out against the move and supported Congresswoman Omar. Omar ended up being one of many of the “yes” votes to support the bill.
Undeterred, Omar would go on to condemn Obama last Friday. Calling Obama’s image of “hope and change” to be an illusion, as she called out his practice of droning countries and locking up undocumented immigrants. “We can’t only be upset with Trump,” Omar said fiercely, “His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was.”
America has never been good at interference despite its unified support of crushing opposition to interference. Americans should reflect on why we cling so hard to the unsuccessful idea of an American Empire and why we punish those that don’t in an almost cult-like fashion.