Americans learned, the day before their November Thanksgiving festival, that a group of no more than 10 men in Mumbai, India, attacked hotels, cafes, a train station, a hospital and a Jewish centre. The coordinated attack, with guns and hand grenades, resulted in an estimated death toll of more than 180 people. The group that claimed responsibility, Deccan Mujahideen, was previously unknown to intelligence agencies around the world, but the reasons for their anger aren't difficult to understand.
The attackers specifically targeted American and British citizens in the two luxury hotels that were under assault. They also killed residents of a Jewish center. The continued occupation of Iraq, which was spearheaded by the United States and the United Kingdom, continues after five long years and will last at least another three. Israel's occupation of Palestine and theft of its land also continues unchecked with the full support of western nations. India's Muslim population has been victimised by orchestrated mob violence. Relations between mostly Hindu India and mostly Muslim Pakistan are always strained.
So we know why the terrorists are mad and with whom. The need to ask "Why?" is understandable but ultimately useless and dishonest. Terror is usually the result of unacknowledged grievance. Muslims are mad at the United States, Great Britain and the Indian government, and those who are angry enough to commit acts of violence would obviously choose India's financial capital to inflict maximum damage and gain world wide attention in the process.
The scenes of dead bodies and bloody streets were painful but necessary to see. In five years of the Iraq occupation American television networks have not seen fit to broadcast images of dead and maimed Iraqis. That absence of vital information is shameful and keeps the country in a state of blissful ignorance. It makes already incurious and uninformed Americans more susceptible to propaganda from the government and the media.
The reaction to the Mumbai terror attacks is all too predictable. People are shocked at first, then saddened and frightened. Muslims feel compelled to apologise for their violent coreligionists. Christians and Jews are exempt from guilt by association, however. They are even permitted and encouraged to embrace the violent acts committed by individuals among them.
As always, Americans never see a connection between themselves, the acts of terror committed by their own government and anger directed at them around the globe. Empathy for terror victims in Mumbai is sadly not extended to the victims of the American government.
Warfare is the ultimate act of terror. It kills not just scores of people, but many thousands, or in the case of the Congo, millions. War is given a pass by religious groups, by politicians and by the media. It is considered an acceptable form of murder. The victims in Mumbai will be mourned by Americans, as they should be. The victims of the United States government in Iraq and Afghanistan are not.
They are considered "collateral damage" of worthy acts. Americans are told that some good will come from the deaths committed in their names. The dead victims of our government are even said to be helped by America's aggression. We have to save Iraqis from Saddam and Afghans from the Taliban. If they are killed by America's helpfulness so be it. If survivors complain they are called ungrateful and stupid or crazed fanatics who don't know a good thing when they see it.
As Americans watched the news coverage from Mumbai and felt revulsion at the sight of so much suffering, they ought to ask themselves about their own involvement in bringing suffering to the rest of the world. Victims of violence should be mourned and killers should be condemned. The terrorists who attacked Mumbai should be condemned along with soldiers from many countries who kill in even larger numbers. The Mumbai toll is shocking but less than that created by bombs that fall from airplanes or missiles and rockets that come from tanks.
It is especially important now to remember how our country creates so much suffering. The new president will have a honeymoon, a pass to start his own evil doing. It won't even be called evil doing. After all, change has come. George W. Bush, the wicked witch, is dead. All must be right with the country, even if it continues to do wrong.
*Margaret Kimberley is senior editor and columnist at Black Agenda Report.