Bachmann's Insensitive Comments Rethink American Exceptionalism


Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) long history of ‘shock and awe’ political remarking reached a tipping point on NBC’s "Meet the Press," when she suggested to moderator David Gregory that the people of Iraq should repay America for every U.S. soldier killed during the war. The crude comment points to a troubling theme catching on amongst many conservative hard-liners. Things that more respectful, soft-spoken politicians of a past era would have never dared to utter have crept their way into debates and press conferences. It has become clear that Bachmann, in her provocative remarks, is threatening to damage the once respected term, "American exceptionalism."

 "It’s over 800 billion dollars that we have expended [in Iraq]. I believe that Iraq should pay us back for the money that we spent, and I believe that Iraq should pay the families that lost a loved one several million dollars per life, I think at minimum,” she remarked to Gregory, during a Sunday morning interview in which she tore into President Barack Obama’s national security policies. What was more striking than asserting that a small nation who spent most of the past decade in occupation after a foreign invasion and pre-emptive war, costing them far more in human life than us, repay America, was her ease, her sense of entitlement in suggesting they owe us big time for our losses in lives and treasure. Her comments accompany a new era of perceived crassness, intolerance, and ignorance that has begun to cast a dark cloud over the current field of "proven conservatives."

One question must be asked of Bachmann: Is your view of "American exceptionalism” hostile to the outside world? There’s little to disprove a growing sense of isolationism and ethno-centric viewpoints moving the talking heads of the party further and further to the right. What was once constructive to foreign policy debates has disappeared, and in its place has sprouted an offensive and sometimes intolerant rhetoric. Wild assertions like publicly suggesting an electric fence should be built on the border to keep out illegal immigrants have only added to the insensitivity, culminating in Bachmann’s public campaigning for Iraqi-funded reparations. Asking foreign victims of our aggression to pay up for the privilege - is this really what some see as the best America has to offer as an "exceptional" world power? 

This statement was just insensitive. Anyone who has seen the bloody war unfold in Iraq could testify to the horror of witnessing innocent deaths that some analysts say add up to the hundreds of thousands. It’s difficult to find any reaction in the still fragile nation to statements from someone as insignificant as Bachmann is to the Iraqi peoples’ daily lives, but one can imagine the gall at such a proposition, especially after surviving the living hell that was once all around them. Bachmann’s cruel comments should serve as a warning of the possible political fallout that could occur in response and threaten to permanently damage an authentic and globally respected definition of American exceptionalism.

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