Americans have a difficult time understanding why the rest of the world doesn't love us since we are beneficient in foreign aid and trumpet universally-recognized human rights. We say we want to spread democracy and self-determination around the world. And yet for all of this, we are called imperialists. Why, for example, are the peoples of the Middle East so suspicious of America's "good intentions"?
Why don't the Iraqis thank us for our eight years of sacrifice? We added to their pain, they say. In an article titled "Iraq's pain has only intensified since 2003," Sami Ramadani charges that for 30 years, the US supported the dictator Saddam Hussein and shored up his Baathist Party. The US gave Saddam no indication we'd oppose his annexation of Kuwait. Then after he did it, we reversed ourselves, and inflicted mostly pain on the Iraqi people for another 20 years through two wars, and "murderous sanctions." Once the US toppled Saddam, it nurtured a political process "designed to sow sectarian and ethnic discord." He writes bitterly:
Using torture, sectarian death squads and billions of dollars, the occupation has succeeded in weakening the social fabric and elevating a corrupt ruling class that gets richer by the day, salivating at the prospect of acquiring a bigger share of Iraq's natural resources, which are mostly mortgaged to foreign oil companies and construction firms.
In opposing the 2003 war, Ramadini, a British citizen of Kurdish origin who fled Iraq after opposing Saddam, questioned whose interests would really be served by the invasion -- he suspected only certain American and British interests would be served -- and concluded war wouldn't give his people their freedom.
"In Iraq, the US record speaks for itself: it backed Saddam's party, the Ba'ath, to capture power in 1963, murdering thousands of socialists, communists and democrats; it backed the Ba'ath party in 1968 when Saddam was installed as vice-president; it helped him and the Shah of Iran in 1975 to crush the Kurdish nationalist movement; it increased its support for Saddam in 1979…helping him launch his war of aggression against Iran in 1980; it backed him throughout the horrific eight years of war (1980 to 1988), in which a million Iranians and Iraqis were slaughtered, in the full knowledge that he was using chemical weapons and gassing Kurds and Marsh Arabs..."
Ramadani's charge that the CIA was complicit in the 1963 coup of a democratically-led government of Iraq is backed up by the memoirs of CIA operatives. In fact, Wikipedia has details on secret CIA involvement in coups of democratically-led governments in 11 countries between 1949 and 1981 -- including Syria, Iran, and Turkey in the Middle East.
Syria's president in 1949 opposed an oil pipeline American business interests wanted built, so the CIA overthrew the government and installed a criminal to make sure the pipeline was built. Once the pipeline was finished, the Syrian president was allowed to return to power.
In the early 1950s, multi-national oil companies asked President Truman to have the CIA overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran because the prime minister threatened to nationalize the oil companies. Truman refused. But when President Eisenhower came to power in 1953, the oil companies asked again and got their wish. Eisenhower authorized the CIA to overthrow the Iranian government and install the shah, who was a brutal dictator for 25 years.
In America's defense, its leadership saw these coups in the context of the Cold War and the "twilight struggle with communism." Most governments around the world were forced to align with either the United States or the Soviet Union, as allies, proxies, puppets or satellites. Turkey, because of its strategic location, was especially filled with "spy vs. spy" tension. And yes, business interests, especially oil companies, exploited Cold War tensions to gain economic advantage.
Democratic development in the Middle East for centuries has been hampered by big-power politics, and the rise and fall of empires. For 500 years, the Middle East was part of the Turkish-Ottoman empire. After World War I, that empire collapsed, and the British and French stepped in to create artificial borders advantageous primarily to themselves. Their empires collapsed, and the Americans stepped in -- through foreign aid, coups, shuttle diplomacy, and the wars in Iraq -- to maintain access to cheap oil and to protect Israel and pretty much support everything Israel does.
Those have been America's two main interests in the region. We haven't cared much about human rights in the Middle East, especially for Egyptians and Palestinians, despite our professed values. With generous foreign aid, the US shored up the dictatorship of Mubarak in Egypt for nearly 30 years, effectively blocking regime change there because he supported peace with Israel. And we've put almost no pressure for an end to illegal West Bank settlements on the Israelis, despite our stated belief that's the only way a two-state solution -- and peace -- can occur.
That said, in my experience the peoples of the Middle East find much to admire about America and Americans and welcome us as individuals to their region.