Hating Uncle Sam
"For Some Kuwaitis, the Ardor for America Cools." So ran the headline, in the Times, where else? Then ensued a long and rather boring piece listing the grievances of various Kuwaitis, all of whom condemned America for bombing Muslims. Needless to say, Osama bin Laden is a hero to those interviewed, none of whom were wild-eyed fanatics, but well-to-do middle-class merchants. So who gives a flying f?? is my reaction. If the Times wants to waste good trees printing what some brainwashed towelhead merchant has to say, I guess it's their business, just as it is my business to ignore such nonsense. The nature of anti-Americanism is very simple: in the Middle East it has to do with our support of Israel, first and foremost. There are no ifs or buts about this. I have traveled extensively around the area since the 60s, and have yet to meet an Arab who does not believe that were it not for American aid and support, Israel would not be kicking Palestinians around. Some, of course, are diplomatic about it, lest they give offense, whereas others are prone to spluttering and swearing when the name of Israel is mentioned.
But it's not the anti-Americanism of the Arabs that I want to touch upon?that is a given?but that of Europe. Europe was once the center of the world and deeply resents its displacement by the USA. Embarrassed at its own history of colonialism and empires, it accuses America of economic and cultural imperialism. Europe's chattering classes continually claim that Uncle Sam imposes his own values through Coca-Cola, McDonald's and Nike. In return, Europeans seek moral superiority by redefining imperialism and human rights. Imperialism no longer means direct rule of other nations, such as England over India, or Belgium over the Congo, but means the adoption of nonnative cultural values and symbols. (For example, in England, as in the U.S., Muslims are given time to pray during their work or in schools, whereas Christians are not permitted this luxury.) And human rights no longer mean life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as in the American Declaration of Independence, but are extended to banning the death penalty and to providing welfare rights as in Europe. This is the crux of anti-Americanism in Europe, and again, there are no ifs or buts about it.
Remember the time last year when America was ousted by the UN Human Rights Committee while Libya and Sudan were admitted? This was the work of European leaders, not of the Third World. European leaders are convinced of their desire to build a European Union as a force against a too-powerful America. The trouble is America is truly a free country. The U.S. has economic and cultural influence because it stands for freedom and choice. However hard Europe tries, people throughout the world know that European imperialism was based on force, not consent. How many Marines have we sent over to force Vietnamese to wear Nikes?
The cultural elite in Europe, in close touch with their counterparts over here, see Americans as vulgar, uncouth, ill-educated, religious and patriotic, the last two anathema to the chattering classes. French intellectuals during the Cold War often repeated the phrase that they would accept wearing the cap of the Red Army rather than eat American hamburgers in the Champs Elysees. They could not distinguish between military invasion and commercial choice. An English writer, A.N. Wilson, wrote that it was hard to distinguish between the brutal rape of German women by the Red Army in 1945 and the enormous escalation of VD in Europe after the American soldiers arrived. Wilson obviously has problems distinguishing between rape and consent. The Independent declared that Americans would like public executions so they could laugh, drink beer and cheer. "Then the United States would be revealed in its true colours."
When Ronald Reagan described the Soviet Union as the evil empire, European leaders were appalled. They condemned Reagan's rhetoric as provocative, rude and lacking diplomacy. Although George W. Bush has had an easier ride from European government leaders after using the language of evil to describe the terrorists, the European chattering classes have really gone after him for his lack of moral relativism. And so it goes. When the U.S. fails to speak with one voice because of its separation of powers, Europeans see it as a sign of confusion and naivete. In Europe foreign policy is exclusively conducted by the executive, in secret, and advised by an old-boys elite. There are no checks and balances whatsoever.
Finally, in my own country, Greece, some 40,000 attending a football match cheered for Osama bin Laden when asked to respect one minute of silence for the WTC dead. Greece was saved from going under the Iron Curtain by the Truman Doctrine, and benefited greatly by the Marshall Plan. But 30 years of anti-Americanism by the country's intelligentsia and media elite?not to mention the great U.S. haters, the Socialists?have poisoned Greek minds against Uncle Sam for?I'm afraid?a very long time.
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