MUHAMMAD: You Break it, You Own it, America

Askia Muhammad | 7/9/2014, 3 p.m.
America's friends all seem to be afraid to fight for their own countries.
Askia Muhammad

There was a time when I was still a child – just old enough to begin to appreciate the “cost” of things without yet understanding their “value” – and my mother would take me into stores of one kind or another. There would be signs which read: “You break it. You own it.”

That meant be careful how you handle these delicate items, because the store owner would hold the party responsible for breaking – and thereby rendering an item un-sale-able – something, accordingly responsible for its sale price.

That expression has its place in world diplomatic affairs as well. And now, especially since World War II and the Marshall Plan where this country gave billions of dollars to European countries in order to help them regain their pre-war footing; this even though it was not the fault of the U.S. that Europe was devastated by the Nazi-Axis between Germany, Italy and Japan. But since this country had not suffered the devastation of war in our cities and countryside, it seemed only fair that the U.S. should help the Allies after the war.

There are places on the world map this country “broke up” and paid a steep price to try to save, but which seemed content to just have their country back, never sending the U.S. a bill for any sort of “reparations.”

Vietnam comes quickly to mind. This country stuck its nose in there after the French failed to maintain Western colonial dominance in the middle of the 20th century, and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. men and women were shed. But today, the city Saigon, the jewel of America’s puppet South Vietnam is now called Ho Chi Minh City, named for the North Vietnamese leader who led his people to victory over the U.S. and reunited his country.

Agent Orange – the deadly chemical that was used to defoliate that land in search of opposition fighters – still plagues succeeding generations of Vietnamese, but they have not sent this country a bill or a demand to come clean up the mess that was made.

Iran is another place. The U.S. stuck its nose in and overthrew a legitimately elected government in 1953, ousting Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh when he started getting uppity, demanding an audit of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co., installing Reza Pahlavi – the Shah of Iran – onto that country’s “Peacock Throne.”

But that puppet got ill and when in the face of increasing tumult and demonstrations the Shah was toppled for a theocracy led by Ayatollah Ruhola Khomeini, and the U.S. allowed the dying Shah into this country for medical treatment and angry demonstrators seized the U.S. embassy and held dozens and dozens of U.S. diplomats hostage for more than a year. Price enough for nearly three decades of looting that country’s oil wealth?

But today there is a new kind of bill coming due for American meddling. And everywhere angry Muslims seem to be at the center of the confrontation. In Nigeria, there used to be an arrangement where the country’s presidency would rotate between a northerner – usually a Muslim from the military ranks – and a southern British-trained Christian or animist civil servant.