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NYT: More and More, War Is Viewed as America's
By Donald G. McNeil Jr
5/11/2001 11:35 pm Mon
[Imagine Pentagon officials tell CNN regarding the bombing of Afghan
farming village (Chowkar-Karez) which has wiped out almost the entire
population there that it was no accident:
"The people there are dead because we wanted them dead."
New York Times
November 4, 2001
More and More, War Is Viewed as America's
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
PARIS, Nov. 3 - Whatever doubts the world's intellectuals and
politicians may raise about America's war on terror, the world's
people do not seem to be voting with raised fists - yet.
Despite a war in Afghanistan that has dropped thousands of
bombs and killed some civilians, there have been no devastating
anti-American riots; there is forbearance, as sympathy for the
victims of Sept. 11 still lingers.
However, if the people follow where intellectuals and editorialists
are leading, that will change soon. Portraits of the United States
as a lonely, self-absorbed bully taking out its rage on
defenseless Afghanistan are on the rise.
More and more, the war is being seen abroad as "America
against Osama," not, as the Bush administration would prefer,
"All of us against terrorism." The intense Sept. 12 rush of "We are
all Americans" seems to have faded in the breasts of all but Tony
Blair, the prime minister of Britain, who continues to jet around
the globe more actively than American leaders themselves to
recruit support for the cause.
T-shirts lionizing Osama bin Laden are hits with those who feel
themselves the world's dispossessed and see the terrorists
striking a blow against an overweening superpower: in
Algerian-populated suburbs of Paris and the Cape Flats of
South Africa, in the streets of Cairo and Jakarta.
Newspapers in the Arab world have been full of references to
America's "Zionist- controlled press" and to the common rumors
that no Jews died on Sept. 11 and that America thinks
Afghanistan has oil.
But there are also calmer, more considered Muslim voices,
pondering the wisdom and consequences of America's actions
In the Egyptian newspaper Al Gomhuria, Samir Ragab, who is
said to be close to President Hosni Mubarak, asked: "Where are
the Americans now? We all thought they were superhuman,
equipped with invincible power, wealth and the ability to
manipulate." Because Americans bomb while being unable to
catch Mr. bin Laden, he said, "innocent civilians in Afghanistan
who complain that they have not tasted beef for three years are
suffering most of the casualties."
A Turkish editor and a Saudi royal counselor agreed that the
bombing was hurting America more than the Taliban. "As long as
the U.S. keeps killing civilians, it will not differ from the
organizations it is fighting against - the only difference is that the
U.S. apologizes," said Ismet Berkan, editor of Radikal.
Ihsahn Ali Bu-Hulaiga, a Saudi adviser, said 99 percent of the
Afghans were innocents, and added: "We watch what happens
in Afghanistan and we feel bad, and the following item in any
newscast is that the Israelis killed X number of Palestinians or
destroyed so many houses. It sends the message to us Arabs."
Because no other country has had a huge terrorist attack,
because the hundreds of overseas envelopes that spilled
powder have turned out - so far - to be hoaxes, not anthrax, the
fear so widely felt in the United States has not spread elsewhere
in the world. Instead, scrutiny of American actions, past and
present, is on the rise.
While Americans compare Sept. 11 to Pearl Harbor - forgetting
perhaps that the world was already primed to hate the Axis
powers by their invasions of Poland, France, Korea, Manchuria
and Ethiopia - a stronger sense of "What does this mean for
me?" has emerged.
Kenyans, who lost 207 people in the 1998 bombing of the
American Embassy in Nairobi, which is attributed to Mr. bin
Laden, wonder what took America so long. But other Africans
are dismayed that the world seems to have lost interest in AIDS,
which will kill 25 million, not 5,000.
Russians see parallels to Chechnya and are ready to see
America strike as brutally as they do there. The Japanese
agonize over whether to send troops. The Chinese, who have a
border with Afghanistan, seem strangely silent.
While no one speaks so forcefully for America as Mr. Blair,
presidents of countries usually skeptical of American militarism
have played along. Vicente Fox of Mexico has offered America
more oil, lamented the Mexicans who died, and said "we
consider this problem our problem," although 62 percent of his
people, in one poll, endorsed neutrality. Jacques Chirac of
France offered troops, though cynics here say he used the
nationalist card to make his opponent in next year's presidential
elections look like a cranky Old Left naysayer.
However, in newspapers around the world, the backlash is
The American notion that anger at America is simply resentment
of its culture, that foreigners are unhappy because McBurgers
outsell escargots or Stallone outsells Truffaut, is seen overseas
as just more American smugness.
When foreign writers complain about America now, their
complaints are quite specific, and foreign-policy oriented:
America should not silently let the Israelis commit assassinations,
bulldoze houses and colonize Palestinian land; America should
pay attention to Muslim fury that American troops occupy the
land of the Prophet Muhammad; America should not bomb
dirt-poor Afghan cities with no antiaircraft defenses.
When old sores are scratched, they are usually about American
foreign policies: Alfredo Pita, a Peruvian writer, recalled that the
1973 coup encouraged by Richard Nixon that killed Chile's
elected president, Salvador Allende, also began on Sept. 11.
Eduardo Galeano, a Mexican journalist, asked why 5,000 New
York deaths were televised, but not the deaths of 200,000
Guatemalans "sacrificed not by Muslim fanatics but by terrorist
militias supported by the successive American governments."
A commentary in Britain's left- leaning Guardian newspaper said
the United States had been "training terrorists" in its Fort
Benning, Ga., school for Latin American soldiers and police
officers for 55 years and suggested that the British bomb Georgia
and also drop packages of nan and curry stamped with the
America's newest "traditional friends" may be Eastern
Poles, firmly pro-American, understand that civilians die in
every war and are dismayed only that Mr. bin Laden is proving
hard to catch, said Bronislaw Geremek, a former foreign minister.
A Romanian newspaper, Evenimentul Zilei, ran a stirring
editorial, "Ode to America," that circled the globe by e-mail and
was read to American soldiers. It celebrated American multiracial
unity, its rush to help victims and its flag-flying, and described a
charity concert of Hollywood stars as "the heavy artillery of the
Africa has its hands full with poverty and AIDS. Among
intellectuals, hard feelings linger over America's refusal to attend
the United Nations racism summit meeting, over high AIDS drug
prices and, historically, over slavery.
Ethnic rioting in the continent's most populous country, Nigeria,
took a strange twist after Sept. 11. Thousands have died in
Muslim-Christian clashes in the last two years; now, Christians
have taken to wearing American flags as war decor.
In South Africa, the issue "has polarized this country on racial
lines, with whites supporting America, and anti-American feeling
very strong among blacks," said Bongani Sibeko, 40, a black
advertising executive who has lived in New York. He suggested
that frustration with American policy in the Middle East
reverberated far beyond the Arab world.
"I worked in the World Trade Center and the anger and fury I felt
will never wane - but this is against the background of the U.S.
role in the Middle East," Mr. Sibeko said. "It's very difficult to
balance images of Israeli tanks and images of those planes
The angriest are the country's Muslims - mixed-race
descendants of 17th-century Malay slaves. One radio poll found
that 85 percent "sympathized" with American victims but 70
percent thought American policies were to blame and 60 percent
thought Mr. bin Laden's guilt had not been proved.
"Of course we feel sorry for the innocent victims, but don't you
think CNN is dragging this out to the hilt?" asked Aeysha Adams,
manager of a nonprofit journalism training program, and a
Muslim. "I guess they think they're the only country that gets
bombed or where people die."
Exactly the same comment could be heard in Switzerland, one of
the world's richest countries, with a very small Muslim
"The U.S. is not used to attacks on its soil," said Claude
Monnier, the former editor of The Geneva Journal. "But 5,000
people - if you compare this to the world wars, or to Rwanda,
there is a kind of imbalance. People are beginning to be angry
here. They were moved by Sept. 11, but feel that the U.S. is
being overbearing. Normally, the Swiss are pro-American, but in
Afghanistan, we see a small and powerless country being
trashed out by the U.S. As a small country, we have some