The results of a recent Gallup poll regarding America’s image in the Muslim world gave yet another hiccup to the complacent Americans who assert that the United States is a benevolent superpower determined to promote the good of the international system.

Reflecting the views of some 10,000 people from the predominantly Muslim countries of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Kuwait, Morocco and Jordan, the polls show that an overwhelming majority of 77 per cent Muslims regarded US military action in Afghanistan as morally unjustified, describing the United States as ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased against Islam.

The most astonishing response in the poll is that 61 percent of Muslims refused to believe that Arabs perpetrated the attacks of September 11, asserting it might have been the work of the Americans themselves.

Commenting on the poll, President Bush rendered ignorance of American generosity the main reason behind such negative views and sought refuge in doing better to make known to the people the compassionate side of American policies.

While citing the example of North Korea where, according to him, most citizens of that country were not aware that the United States donated 300,000 tons of food each year to help the starving, he said, “We must do a better job of telling the compassionate side of the American story.” It seems that Bush is again making a mistake in perceiving reality.

Earlier, he had regarded the massacre of September 11 as an attack on American democracy and values.

And this time when the mood of resentment toward America and its behaviour around the world is surfacing with unprecedented pace, he is out to brand the whole matter as the work of ignorance, believing that such resentment would dissipate if people come to know about how much the US spends on human welfare.

If religion is taken into account, Bush’s response might not seem ridiculous or preposterous.

After all, a majority of Muslims wrongly believe that they are discriminated against by the US because of the religious factor. And Bush could truly denounce such views as an offshoot of ignorance.

However, when taking the US’s generosity into account, his remarks are rather intriguing.

No doubt, the US gives the largest humanitarian aid to the deserving world, but it is not ignorance of this fact that prompts people to negatively view America.

Rather, an intimate knowledge of the US’s policies prompts people to resent the US.

An examination of its policies would reveal that the US gives more precedence to its vital interests over its apparent obsession with humanitarian missions and that its hegemony and the subsequent backlash are not confined to a particular region.

Let the people know, for example, that the US has spent more than $ 153 million - more than any other country - to remove mines from all around the world, which is indeed humanitarian assistance by all counts since landmines, according to the Red Cross, are killing more than 26,000 innocent people annually.

But how could this knowledge of America’s generosity help improve its image, given the fact that it rejected a global ban on landmines only because it thought the ban would jeopardize its vital interests in the Korean peninsula, where it had sowed about two million US-made landmines along the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula into north and south Korea.

This stunning dichotomy would rather augment the curiosity of the people to know what animates this dichotomy.

Whereas knowing the reasons behind US dichotomous and lopsided policies is more likely to tarnish its image.

It is now a banality that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US became a hegemonic power, conning weaker nations, even its European allies, into following a servile relationship.

Its grand strategy revolves around acquiring and maintaining overwhelming military, economic, and political preponderance, which is premised on the belief that a smooth running of the world’s political and economic order can’t be ensured without its unquestionable superiority.

The draft of the Pentagon’s Defence Planning Guidance prepared in the early 1990s under the supervision of the current undersecretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz, argued that the United States must continue to dominate the international system and thus to discourage the advanced industrial nations from challenging its leadership or even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.

While commenting on US policies towards Europe, Benjamin Schwarz and Christopher Layne, in an article published in Atlantic Monthly (January 2002), said that almost all American policymakers held that the United States had to contain its allies as much as it had to contain Moscow, adding that by providing for the security of Britain, France, and (especially) Germany and Japan - by defending their access to far-flung economic and natural resources, and by enmeshing their foreign and military policies in alliances that America dominated - Washington prevented these former and potential great powers from embarking on independent, and (from the US perspective) possibly destabilizing, foreign policies.

Coupled with this desire for dominance is the yearning for money.

Besotted with such desires, the US grew more arrogant following George W Bush’s ascent to the presidency. He arrogantly balked at international obligations, tearing up crucial international treaties like the Kyoto Protocol despite the fact that the US, though it accounts for about 4 per cent of the world’s population, is responsible for about 25 per cent of the Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it the largest polluter.

The way the Bush administration trampled over the Kyoto Protocol reveals that in the US, in the words of former US President Richard Nixon, money is not everything, it is the only thing! The simple truth is that oil, gas and coal companies donated more than $50 million dollars to Mr. Bush to snatch the presidency, and having done so, he was obliged to pay back the donors by killing the Kyoto Protocol.

And then the Bush administration went on rewarding arm dealers, another donor group, by embarking on the war on terrorism and by creating new enemies, as was recently revealed from Bush’s attempt to provoke Iran, Iraq and North Korea by branding them as an axis of evil.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 61 per cent Muslims believe that the Americans themselves paved the way for the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

While these views might seem simplistic, they are not rare.

Many American intellectuals have also expressed somewhat similar views.

While responding to the September 11 attacks and the allegations about Osama’s involvement, Michael Moore wrote, “Our recent domestic terrorism bombings have not been conducted by a guy from the desert but rather by our own citizens: a couple of ex-military guys who hated the federal government.

“From the first minutes of today’s events, I never heard that possibility suggested.

”Why is that? Maybe it’s because the Arabs are much better foils.

”A key ingredient in getting Americans whipped into frenzy against a new enemy is the all-important race card.

”It’s much easier to get us to hate when the object of our hatred doesn’t look like us.”

While the truth behind the September 11 terrorist attacks seems likely to remain shrouded in mystery for a long period, what is visible is the fact that the US has been exploiting the tragedy to promote its agenda of world domination.

This assumption contributes more than anything else to tarnishing the US image.

That is perhaps why most European leaders seem more stringent in criticizing the US’s policies.

EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten recently criticized Washington for pursuing an absolutist and simplistic foreign policy. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer also lambasted it for having resorted to unilateral policies in recent months.

This shows the disenchantment with US policies is not limited to the Muslim world only, as the Gallup poll has suggested, but is widespread.

The German foreign policy analyst Josef Joffe, in an essay in The National Interest journal titled: “Who’s Afraid of Mr. Big?” argues that the reason that no alliance has so far formed against America is not that the European elites don’t resent it, but because America is so strong that no power in the world can balance it. “America is both menace and seducer, both monster and model,” says Mr. Joffe.

It is perhaps because of such widespread resentment of America that last year in July it was voted off both the International Narcotics Control Board and the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

But despite all these stark realities, the US doesn’t admit it has ever committed any wrong.

The American elite, as a matter of fact, views the resentment in the light of human nature, which is believed to have always resented the most powerful, or in the light of the human tendency of finding a scapegoat to soothe the pain of failure.

They seem oblivious to the fact that their wrong policies are making a dent in their own society.

The US has now grown to be the most violent nation, experiencing the highest crime rate, and has the highest number of people behind bars.

It has the world’s highest rape rate, four times higher than Germany, 13 times higher than England, and 20 times higher than Japan.

“We are often tempted to think of China as an oppressive country, but we incarcerate 500,000 more people in this country despite the fact that we have less than one-fourth the population of China,” says Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, adding that, “The United States is spending an average of $ 7,000 per year to educate a youth, and over $ 35,000 to lock up a youth.” Not to speak of the corrupt practices on the highest level that led to the collapse of an energy giant, Enron.

It is high time for Americans to know what tarnishes America’s image.

If the views of the Muslims in this regard, as revealed by the Gallup poll, are to be denounced as inspired by religious bigotry and ignorance, the Americans should at least try to assess their national policies on the basis of what Europeans think of them and what these policies are doing to their own society.

What Tarnishes America?
Karamat Khan
Frontier Post
Updated on 3/7/2002 9:14:51 AM

Posted on the Independent Newswire on 7 March 2002 Ref:

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