A deep-seated and profoundly disturbing innocence lies at the heart of the way U.S. citizens understand themselves and their country. This innocence springs from the myths that undergird American exceptionalism, including the notions that the United States is committed to democracy and freedom for all, that the United States is essentially good, and that because it is good it only uses its power for virtuous ends. The passion with which these myths are embraced by a broad cross section of American citizens makes it extremely diffi cult for people to understand the brutality that has shaped U.S. behavior for decades or to appreciate other peoples and countries as equals. The presumed innocence of the United States and its citizens ensures that “we” are always the victims of the violence of others and that any U.S. attack on others is always defensive. Government offi cials can also dismiss state-sponsored terrorism, such as the 1968 massacre of Vietnamese civilians in My Lai or the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Guantánamo, as the behavior of “a few bad apples,” rather than as state policy.