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An American Apologizes to the World

Damned when we didn't, damned that we did.

by Jonathan Wilson
October 23, 2004

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Dear World,

I am an American citizen. On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to apologize for our conduct in global affairs over the last fifty years.

By way of explanation, or excuse, I would like to introduce to you something of the nature of an American. It is in the nature of Americans to run into burning buildings to save those who are trapped inside. This is what happened on September 11, 2001, when several hundred of New York's finest: police officers and fire-fighters, ran inside a twin pair of burning sky-scrapers. It did not occur to these hundreds that any other action was appropriate in the circumstances. They died.

On the world stage, there have been instances of "failed" or "rogue" states in which it can be said that the whole country, whether Bosnia or Afghanistan, is a "burning building." It is all very well, of course, for Americans to run into their own burning buildings. It is, gosh dang it (an American euphamism) something else entirely to run in and try to save entire countries that are melting down.

On behalf of the United States, I apologize for our hubris. We should mind our own business. 

Minding our own business was, however, the philosophy of most Americans circa 100 years ago. Then something happened called the "Great War." This was a war fought between European countries over their rights to imperialize the rest of the world, which is, incidentally, what these same nations now accuse America of doing right now. Gol'Darn it (another American euphamism) the Kaiser declared open submarine warfare on our merchant shipping. We entered the war late, in 1917, submitted our troops to the high command of French and English generals, and while we replaced the millions of Europeans who had gone before us as machine-gun fodder commanded by officers who still thought Napoloeonic tactics were supreme, we were at the same time criticized for entering the fray "late."

The Kaiser, recognizing the general disinterest of the United States, submitted to a cease-fire according to the terms of the American President Woodrow Wilson, who had submitted 14 points for a post-war Europe. This involved one of those silly optimistic American philosophies set forward decades earlier by one President Lincoln, called "with malice toward none." 

At the Versailles Conference, the American proposals were run out of town. What was bestowed upon the world instead was the ingenius Treaty of Versailles, the perfect document to both remind Americans that they are better off in isolation, while simultaneously inflaming German nationalism through its humiliating terms.

America continued to look after our own burning buildings and what not, during the inspired leadership of Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England, and the meteoric rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany. The result of all this, of course, was World War II, which entailed genocide, fire-bombings and atomic weapons, and set the stage by which the world looked to the United States as the "Arsenal of Freedom" throughout the Cold War that followed.

We silly, naive Americans, being out of step with the sophisticates of the rest of the world, began to think, "when we isolate ourselves and these other countries catch fire, some how or other we are dragged into it anyway. Maybe if we INTERVENE SOONER, we will TAKE FEWER CASUALTIES, and such resorts as ATOMIC WEAPONS WON'T BE REQUIRED.

There is also that bit about Israel. A word on that, just briefly: Among former British colonies, mandates, and protectorates, Israel is a tiny patch of ground. The withdrawal of European colonials from Africa and Asia has resulted the arbitrary creation of nation-states, and consequent wars all over those continents, including, between India and Pakistan, for example. Israel is a negligible patch of ground whose population is in total less than 10 million, rather than the hundreds of millions in Pakistan, India, and in each of various African countries. America gets blamed for extending its "arsenal of freedom" over this tiny patch of ground called Israel, as though all these other countries such as Kuwait, Jordan, the UAB and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Congo, and Angola came into modern existence in any way LESS arbitrary than Israel's modern formation.

Hence, the posture of the United States in the world ever since the Berlin airlift, the formation of Israel, and North Korea's agression into the southern half of the peninsula, all of which happened within five years of Victory in Europe day.

One difference, though, between our imperialism and that of the European powers one hundred years ago, is that we are not sending our forces all over the world in order to bring glory to the Queen, or to force local farmers to grow cash crops such as tea or opium. We send them where we think there is a fire that needs to be put out. We sent them to Somalia and we were damned that we did. We did not send them to Rwanda and we were damned that we did not.

In America, half of us would rather that we be damned that we do not intervene, and half of us would rather that we be damned that we do intervene. I am apologizing to all of those in the world who damn us because we do intervene. Perhaps in a few years, I will compose another apology to all those in the world who damn us because we don't.

Jonathan Wilson
Chicago, Illinois USA

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