A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost|
|08/14/02 at 19:15:15|
From USA TODAY
By Ellen Hale, USA TODAY
OXFORD, England - On a packed train out of London recently to this
historic college town, a young American woman struck up a
conversation with her seatmate, a nattily dressed older British man.
They chatted amiably about Oxford until she worked up the courage to
ask what was weighing on her mind:
burns a U.S.
flag in Pakistan
By Peter Dejong, AP
"Why," she blurted out, "does everybody hate us?"
The man paused - but didn't disagree - before proceeding to enumerate the
reasons, from U.S. foreign policies to the seeping influence of American
In the shock wave that followed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, many
Americans found themselves asking why so many people in Muslim
countries hate the United States. But the anti-American sentiment has turned
into a contagion that is spreading across the globe and infecting even the
United States' most important allies.
In virulent prose, newspapers criticize the United States. Politicians
ferociously attack its foreign policies, especially the Bush administration's plans to attack Iraq. And
regular citizens launch into tirades with American friends and visitors.
Here in Britain, the United States' staunchest friend, snide remarks and downright animosity greet
many Americans these days. It's not just religious radicals and terrorists who resent the United States
"Now, it's everyone," says Allyson Stewart-Allen, a consultant from California who has lived in
London 15 years and heads International Marketing Partners, which advises European companies on
how to do business with Americans. The sea change in attitude toward the United States, she says,
has "profoundly" altered her advice to clients:
She now must counsel them to resist "taking digs" at her countrymen.
What happened, many Americans are wondering, to that wave of sympathy and stockpile of global
goodwill they encountered after Sept. 11?
"It was squandered," says Meghnad Desai, director of the Institute for Global Governance at the
London School of Economics and Political Science and a member of the House of Lords.
"America dissipated the goodwill out of its arrogance and incompetence. A lot of people who would
never ever have considered themselves anti-American are now very distressed with the United
States," he says.
Desai and others blame what seems to be a wave of new U.S. policies that they regard as selfish and
unilateral, stretching back to President Bush's refusal last year to support the international treaty on
Many are enraged by Bush's support for steel tariffs and farm subsidies, his refusal to involve the
United States in the new international criminal court and what is widely regarded abroad as one-sided
support for Israel and its prime minister, Ariel Sharon.
The rash of corporate malfeasance and blanket arrest of terrorism suspects after Sept. 11 further fuels
critics, who say the United States preaches democracy, human rights and free enterprise - but doesn't
In a recent article in Policy Review magazine, Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie
Endowment for International Peace in Washington, says the divide between the United States and
Europe is getting wider than ever as the continents go their different ways - one operating on a foreign
policy based on unilateralism and coercion, the other on diplomacy and persuasion.
Europeans, he says, have "come to view the United States simply as a rogue colossus, in many
respects a bigger threat to (their) pacific ideals than Iraq or Iran."
The differences, he says, are deep and likely to endure.
"Why do people attack Americans?" asks Tiny Waslandek, a social worker in Amsterdam,
Netherlands. "Because they have a big, big mouth and they mind everybody's business."
Bush's plan to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is stoking anti-American hostility to bonfire levels.
In Germany earlier this month, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder launched his re-election campaign by
denouncing what he derisively called Bush's proposed military "adventures" in Iraq. In England, the
new head of the Anglican Church and other leading bishops circulated a petition proclaiming that any
attack would be illegal and immoral.
"My sense is that much of the rampant anti-Americanism we see now is very much linked to a war
with Iraq and the Israel-Palestine issue," says Mary Kaldor, a London-based scholar on international
In the popular Straw Poll BBC radio show July 26, Kaldor debated with Washington Post reporter T.
R. Reid whether "American power is the power of the good." She argued that the U.S. role as the sole
superpower was a danger to the rest of the world.
At the end of the program, 70% of the studio audience said it agreed with her.
Anti-Americanism is nothing new. Surveys a decade ago in Britain showed that one in four people
here are what pollster Robert Worcester, a transplanted Kansan who runs the Market Opinion
Research Institute, calls "culturally anti-American."
(According to a survey taken in 1989, one in five said they found American accents irritating.)
To some degree, the resentment against the United States is inevitable now that it's the only remaining
superpower. Even so, Desai, who says that he is "very, very pro-America" and that people forget the
United States saved Europe from itself twice in the past century, notes that America has been on top
for a long time. "So what is happening now is not the inevitable result of being No. 1."
&jbsp; (Desai and many other Europeans give Washington credit for dismantling the hard-line Taliban
regime in Afghanistan, which harbored Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist network).
In recent months, polls have shown a less-than subtle change in attitudes toward Americans, U.S.
foreign policy and, in particular, the president from Texas. British newspapers reported Thursday that
secret polls commissioned by Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed "spectacular unpopularity" for Bush
among voters here.
In April, the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that less than half (48%) of Germans
consider the United States a guarantor of peace in the world, compared with 62% who did in 1993.
Nearly half - 47% - rated Americans as aggressive rather than peaceful (34%). And 44% called them
Meanwhile, in an April poll for the Council on Foreign Relations, based in Washington, Europeans
proved highly critical of Bush and what they label his unilateral approach to foreign policy: 85% of
Germans, 80% of French, 73% of Britons and 68% of Italians said they believed that the United States
is acting in its own interest in the war on terrorism.
Philadelphia transplant Susan Steele, head of Forum management company in London, has noticed
that many Europeans have started using the phrase "that's American," which is shorthand, Steele
says, for "not taking anyone else into consideration."
"People here were truly shocked and horrified by Sept. 11," says Marjorie Thompson, an American
who runs the consulting group C3I in London. "But since then, they've come to believe that the United
States is using that as an excuse for a unilateral foreign policy, and they're starting to make sweeping
Even British pop star George Michael and tennis pro Martina Navratilova have taken swings at the
United States. Last month, Michael declared he was "definitely not anti-American" after receiving
criticisms for his new single, Shoot the Dog, which lampooned the relationship between Bush and
In June, Navratilova, a Czech native who became a U.S. citizen 20 years ago, had to defend herself
after writing an article for a German newspaper in which she said that the United States now
"oppressed opinion" and that decisions there were based "solely on how much money will come out
That the United States is suffering an image problem abroad has become obvious at home. Two
weeks ago, the White House announced it would create a permanent Office of Global
Communications to enhance America's image around the world. At the same time, the House of
Representatives approved spending $225 million on cultural and information programs abroad, mostly
targeting Muslim countries, to correct what Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., called a "cacophony of hate and
misinformation" about the United States.
Meanwhile, the Council on Foreign Relations simultaneously issued a biting report warning the Bush
administration that it urgently needs to upgrade its efforts at public diplomacy to counteract the
country's "shaky" image abroad.
It called for a range of actions, from increased spending on polling of foreign public opinion and more
training of foreign service officers to giving journalists from other countries access to top U.S.
The consequences of neglecting such public diplomacy are "ominous," warns Peter Peterson,
chairman of the council and of The Blackstone Group, a New York private investment bank. He says
bin Laden has "gleefully exploited" the United States' poor public image.
"Around the world, from Western Europe to the Far East, many see the United States as arrogant,
hypocritical, self-absorbed, self-indulgent and contemptuous of others," Peterson says. "This is not a
Muslim country issue. It has metastasized to the rest of the world and includes some of our closest
New Yorker Julia Magnet, a journalist who just moved to London, found that out when she decided to
throw a Fourth of July party for British friends. Between grilled sausages and chocolate cake, her
friends launched an attack on Bush and the United States. They called Bush a "homicidal maniac"
and "stupid" and the United States the "world's biggest terrorist."
Magnet, 22, was forgiving, and she labeled their assault "uninformed" and "ignorant."
Nevertheless, she was surprised by the venom in their words.
"What I hear from people all the time now is that we're going to go to war with just about everyone
and we don't need a coalition to do it," Magnet says.
"It's obvious they are very, very disturbed by the power America now has."
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board