Our media focus on the Arab and Islamic worlds, but anti-Americanism is everywhere – so much so that the State Department recently invited experts to a two-day conference to explain why. “Experts” aren’t needed. A glance at a foreign newspaper or a discussion with a non-American friend will explain the roots of anti-Americanism.
Take my British friend Charlie. Like so many around the world, he still seethes about events most Americans probably think of as old news – if they think about them at all.
“I cringe when I see America cry to denounce terrorism when just 10 years ago the Americans were welcoming (the Irish Republican Army’s) Jerry Adams and Martin McGuiness into their country like homecoming heroes,” Charlie wrote me. “I have mourned the death of three male colleagues who died at the hands of the IRA during the early 80s. Why the hell should I want to support the U.S. on terrorism …. Why didn’t the U.S. support the UK on her fight to beat terrorism?”
Many worldwide feel as Charlie does.
At a recent international film festival in Venice, it was reported that the longest applause was for British filmmaker Ken Loach’s segment about an exiled Chilean who writes a letter to the families of the Sept. 11 victims. In Chile on Sept. 11, 1973, he tells them, a U.S.-supported coup d’etat ushered in the era of torture and death by the Augusto Pinochet regime.
As an American of Palestinian descent, I know the USA’s unequivocal support of Israel over the Occupied Palestinians isn’t winning her friends in the Arab and Islamic worlds. I thought of relatives and friends in the West Bank as I listened to President Bush’s patronizing rhetoric about Saddam Hussein’s violation of U.N. resolutions: “Not once, not twice, but 16 times!” he angrily stated. Well, the Israelis have violated no less than 65 U.N. resolutions, and the US has vetoed many more on behalf of Israel.
Further, UNICEF reports that more than half a million Iraqi children under the age of five have died of malnutrition since UN sanctions were put in place in 1991. I wonder how many Americans know that.
Elsewhere in the Arab World, there is a belief that the non-elected brutal regimes remain out of support by the US. While democracy and development flourish throughout the Third World, the Arab World is stuck in a time warp, largely due to the policies of US-supported Arab regimes. Opposition figures and intellectuals are often jailed to prevent any viable opposition from forming.
How many remember the School of the Americas, affectionately re-named the School of the Assassins? The facility was located at Fort Benning, Georgia and intended to professionalize Latin American military officers. However, many of the officers went on to become dictators, death squad leaders, and perpetrators of the worst atrocities in the region. Manuel Noriega and Roberto D’Aubuisson were among its “distinguished” graduates.
U.S. trade with South Africa boomed during the 1960s despite Apartheid, and though the US State Department reports of Indonesia’s poor human rights record, military aid has been resumed é aid suspended after the orgy of killing by US-trained troops that followed Timor’s independence vote.
According to Human Rights Watch we failed to disclose documents detailing atrocities in Haiti. We also hindered investigations in Rwanda by refusing to expose those providing arms to the killers during the recent genocide.
We withdrew our support for the International Criminal Court é a court designed to bring war criminals to justice é much to the dismay of our Allies. We pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol é a global warming treaty é even though our Allies supported that, too. Yet, we are quick to expect support in our War on Terror.
Americans are generous and loving – when we know what is going on. We abhor human rights violations and evil leaders. We usually root for the underdog. Morality tends to be our compass. But any victory in our “war on terror” must involve a victory in the war on anti-Americanism. Our foreign policy must reflect those American values.
On the one year-anniversary of 9/11, banners at so many public events read “we will not forget.” Americans must keep in mind that others, while sympathetic to us, are not forgetting their own horrors, either.
Sherri Muzher, who holds a Jurist Doctor in International and Comparative Law, is a Palestinian-American activist and free lance journalist.