ISLAMABAD, Oct 19 (IPS) - Addressing the American people on Oct.
President George W Bush seemed as perplexed as millions of
the ''vitriolic hatred for America in some Islamic countries''. He
''Like most Americans, I just cannot believe it because I know how
The day after Bush's remarks, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia,
Palestine witnessed more violent anti-American protests. What
this dichotomy between the American self-image and how others,
Muslims, view them?
For any foreign visitor to America, the goodness of the average
American, and the fact that immigrants rightly perceive America as
providing opportunities and freedoms denied at home is certainly
important ingredient that makes the United States the world's most
destination. Their deeply ingrained empathy, candor, humor and
endear Americans to all those who interact with them.
How is this 'good guy' transformed into the 'bad guy' abroad?
problem is that American goodness is hardly ever exported,
confined to its shores. This gap between what American says at
liberties, rule of law and democracy - is rarely practiced in
After all, what was common among a diverse group of leaders
Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Fidel Castro or Dr
They were all great admirers of America and the American
prior to assuming office. They all looked up to the United States
America, whose 20th century role and ideology had been defined by
Wilson as supporting the 'right of self-determination' of
peoples and colonies.
An enterprising American journalist, Edgar Snow, whose
account of the Chinese Communist Party's struggle, 'Red Star over
remains a classic, launched Mao on the international stage.
When Ho Chi Minh declared Vietnam's independence from France on
1945, he borrowed the opening words from the American Declaration
Independence regarding the ''inalienable right of people to life,
and the pursuit of happiness'', so inspired was he by American
Before the July 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy which
he and 12
other members of the Free Officers Movement initiated, Nasser was
close to the Americans, including the Middle East chief of the
Intelligence Agency (CIA) of that period, Kermit Roosevelt, who
covertly communicating with Nasser through Anwar Sadat.
Sukarno idolized Thomas Jefferson and his speeches were laced
Jeffersonian quotes. And when Castro launched the Cuban
Revolution, he was
confident of receiving American support.
But then, what happened? After coming to power, they became
American foes after a rude shock that the America they admired and
and the one they had read about in history books was different in
Then there were two events which were to prove a forerunner of
emerging patterns of American policy: the first successful CIA
a popular, democratic government because it was perceived to be
contrary to U.S. economic interests, DR Mossadeq in Iran in 1953.
A decade later, the CIA engineered the ouster and assassination
Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem, a friend and ally of the United
simply because he had outlived his utility to American interests.
From ousting an elected nationalist to killing a friend, the
persona was now being defined as an amoral, ruthless power whose
policy instruments were capable of anything, irrespective of
friend or foe.
It was perhaps in this context that DR Henry Kissinger once
be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is
Negativism about America has largely been derived and shaped by
predominant popular perceptions in three areas: dignity, double
The leading London-based Saudi-owned Arabic newspaper, 'Al
recently carried a poet's lament on the plight of the Arabs that
lines such as ''Children are dying, but no one makes a move.
demolished, but no one makes a move. Holy Places are desecrated,
but no one
makes a move.
I am fed up with life in the world of mortals.''
The author of these lines is not some raving radical in a
refugee camp, but Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain, and the
he has expressed represent what is by now almost a universally-
among Arabs, the poor and the elite alike.
For Muslims, the double standards they see reinforced this
For instance, when United Nations resolutions apply to Iraq, they
Israel. And nuclear weapons are even given religious labels, such
Pakistan's 'Islamic' bomb. Or terrorism is treated as a virtual
monopoly, forgetting that Timothy McVeigh, DR Baruch Goldstein
settler who gunned down 29 worshippers in a Palestinian mosque in
the Tamil Tigers, who blew up Rajiv Gandhi, were not Muslim.
Democracy, or its absence in countries that are American
another key ingredient of anti-Americanism, more so when the
has conspired or connived to undermine the democratic process.
Patrice Lumumba was ousted in 1960 in the Congo and replaced by
Mobuto. In 1965, Sukarno's replacement by General Suharto was
followed by a
massacre of almost 500,000 Indonesians, some of whose names were
proved by the American Embassy to Suharto's men. And in 1973, the
leftist President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was ousted and
killed in a
CIA-backed military coup.
It is no surprise that those peoples in these countries traced
plight at home - the injustice, the police state repression, the
and the corruption - to American actions.
However, not many Americans were aware of the adverse impact of
foreign policy on billions of lives overseas.
All that changed on Sep.11, 2001. Nineteen suicide bombers have
more damage to America's self-confidence than World War II,
Vietnam or the
Cold War combined. On Oct. 7, after returning from bombing
Sunday night, Commander Biff, head of an F-14 Tomcat squadron,
media: ''Tonight was about restoring America's confidence.''
However, restoring America's confidence must not be at the
renewing America's relationship with the Muslim world, which is
severe strains. Hence, the crisis needs to be handled with
maturity and wisdom.
Of all the hordes of Western journalists who have been in
Sep. 11, not one has reported any hostility or harassment from the
they encounter in the streets, even those in anti-American
There is no personal animosity toward any American or Westerner
people they have met, only a strident political critique and
American foreign policy, which is where the roots of anti-
Copyright 2001 IPS