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Global Research in International Affairs Center
July 8, 2004
Dear David,
Attached please find the manuscript of The Loathing of America, edited by Barry
Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin.
In a separate attachment, in power point, is a series of tables that go with Chapter 9 by
Cameron Brown.
We will wait to hear from you.
Best wishes,
Joy Pincus
Administrative Director
+972 9 960 2736
Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, PO Box 167, Herzliya, 46150, Israel
Tel: +972-9-960-2736 Fax: +972-9-956-8605
url: email: [email protected]
The Loathing of America
Edited by
Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin
Table of Contents
The Loathing of America: Anti-Americanism Old and New
Table of Contents
1: Judith Colp Rubin, Degenerates, Bores and Materialists
2: Mark Falcoff, Latin America: The Rise and Fall of Yankee Go Home
3: Stefani Hoffman, No Love From Russia
4: Fiamma Nirenstein, Anti-Americanism Italian Style
5: Bret Stephens, United and Divided Against America
6: Yossi Klein Halevi, Twin Hatreds: Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitisim
7: Josh Pollack, Total Opposites: Saudia Arabia and America
8: Hillel Frisch, The Palestinian Media and Anti-Americanism: A Case Study
9: Cameron Brown, Middle East Anti-Americanism: September 11 and Beyond
10: Reuven Paz, The Islamist Perspective
11: Patrick Clawson, Big Satan No More: Iranians’ View of America
12: Adel Darwish, Arab Media: Purveying Anti-Americanism
13: Abdel Mahdi Abdallah, Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: A Socio-Political Perspective
14: Robert Lieber, Why Do They Hate Us and Why Do They Love Us.
15: Barry Rubin, The Usefulness of Anti-Americanism
For many Americans, anti-Americanism was once a topic solely of interest to
some diplomats and academics, a phenomenon thought to be confined to a few distant
and radical countries. The United States was, its citizens believed, loved and admired
throughout most of the world for her democratic values.
This seemed especially likely to be true in the aftermath of the half-centurylong Cold War, which ended in 1990 with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its
empire. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the apparent gratitude of those liberated from
Communism, and the spread of democracy to Eastern Europe seemed the utmost
vindication of the principles for which Americans had fought for so long.
At first, the events of September 11, 2001, when over 3000 people were killed
in direct terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, seemed likely to further a
pro-American trend. Of course, it was horrifying to perceive the intense hatred of the
United States that had inspired these actions. Yet surely the global revulsion to an
essentially unprovoked assault of this nature was spreading a wave of pro-American
sentiment almost everywhere.
Soon, however, it became clear that many of the reactions to this event were
almost as disturbing as the attack itself. Although many in the world sympathized
with America this response was often accompanied by reservations. Even worse,
many others responded by suggesting that the United States somehow deserved it.
Such sentiments were not only expressed in the Arab or Muslim world but
also by many influential individuals and public opinion polls in European countries
which Americans considered to be allies. This anti-Americanism only increased as
America sent troops to Afghanistan, to catch the perpetrators of the September 11
attacks and their protectors, and prepared for a war in Iraq that ultimately took place
in 2003.
Understanding the roots and depths of such anti-Americanism suddenly
became a top national priority, a task taken up by this book.
It should be crystal clear that anti-Americanism here is not defined as
opposition or criticism to specific U.S. policies or actions. Such divergent views are
understandable and at times quite justified. We define as anti-Americanism something
much broader, more pernicious, and inaccurate, as including one or more of the
following characteristics:
--An antagonism to the United States that is systemic, seeing that country as
completely or inevitably evil.
--A view that greatly exaggerates America’s shortcomings
--The deliberate misrepresentation of the nature or policies of the United
States for political purposes.
--A misperception of American society, policies, or goals which falsely
portrays them as ridiculous or malevolent
--A hatred for the United States which leads to a desire to slander or injure it
and its citizens.
Understanding that anti-Americanism is not a new phenomenon is the goal of
the first part of this book. In “Degenerates, Bores and Materialists,” (Chapter One)
Judith Colp Rubin describes how anti-Americanism began in Europe, even before the
United States became a country, with a belief that the land of the New World was
intrinsically inferior to that of Europe. After the United States won its freedom from
England, anti-Americanism in nineteenth-century Europe focused on the lack of
culture, inferiority of democracy and excessive materialism–criticisms that are still
made today.
After Europe, the first anti-American region was Latin America. Here antiAmericanism was motivated by American interventionism. But as Mark Falcoff
describes in “Latin America: The Rise and Fall of Yankee Go Home,” (Chapter Two)
this was far from the only cause. Other factors included perceptions of the United
States imported from elitist French culture, an exaggerated blame of all local
problems on America, and a belief that its people and society were inferior to those of
Latin America. In recent years, a resurgence of democracy in Latin America and
growing links with the United States—including a large immigrant community
there—has turned the region into one of the less anti-American portions of the globe.
Not so in Russia, as Stefani Hoffman writes in “No Love From Russia,”
(Chapter Three). Despite the Cold War’s end and the absence of Communist
propaganda both of these factors have left a bitter legacy. Hatred of America is now
employed to justify Russian failures and to build a new national identity.
The enhanced U.S. role as the world’s only superpower has revived and
expanded European anti-Americanism. This is demonstrated by Fiamma Nirenstein in
“Anti-Americanism Italian Style,” (Chapter Four) as traditional Fascist, Communist,
and Catholic influences have been reshaped by the forces of European unity and the
anti-globalism movement. Bret Stephens describes in “United and Divided Against
America,” (Chapter Five), how the gap between European and American has widened
so much that Germany and France have become among the world’s top antiAmericanism exporting countries.
One aspect of anti-Americanism shared in both Europe and the Middle East is
characterized by Yossi Klein Halevi in “Twin Hatreds: Anti-Americanism and Anti-
Semitism” (Chapter Six). While these two “satans” are often directly linked, the
antagonism is rooted in such themes as jealousy of their success, contempt toward
them as inferior, suspicion at their providing alternatives to traditional ways, and
many other features. The results are conspiracy theories which have been given a
remarkable degree of credence that they are united in a drive for world conquest.
Europe notwithstanding, nowhere can anti-America compare in its virulence to
the Middle East, especially following the end of the Cold War. One of those countries
where it is at its strongest is Saudi Arabia, from where fifteen of the nineteen
September 11 hijackers hailed. Josh Pollack in “Total Opposites: Saudi Arabia and
America” (Chapter Seven), points to the vast divergences between the two societies as
one key factor.
Similar forces are at work in the Palestinian Authority (PA), where antiAmericanism is promulgated by governmental institutions and the regime-controlled
media, according to Hillel Frisch in “The Palestinian Media and Anti-Americanism: A
Case Study” (Chapter Eight). This is especially ironic given the fact that the PA was a
virtual creation of the United States, which provided its funding and offered it an
independent state on advantageous terms.
Given the key roles of the September 11 attacks and the ensuing U.S. military
operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cameron Brown--in “Middle East AntiAmericanism: September 11 and After” (Chapter Nine)—provides a detailed analysis
of responses to these events. Newspapers grossly distorted U.S. policies and actions
while promoting conspiracy theories blaming the United States for the terrorism of
which it was the victim.
One of the main factors behind these developments was a new theory and
strategy by radical Islamist groups, seeking jihad against America. The United States
is viewed as an enemy of God and Islam which must be defeated in order to bring the
global triumph of Muslims. Reuven Paz in “The Islamist Perspective” (Chapter Ten),
shows how these forces view the United States and how promoting anti-Americanism
is a centerpiece of their strategy.
In contrast, the world’s only country with a radical Islamist regime, Iran, has
been undergoing a pro-American trend among its people, according to Patrick
Clawson in “Big Satan No More: Iranians’ View of America,” (Chapter Eleven).
Changing opinions about the United States in the rest of the Middle East will
be more difficult as the shape and forms of anti-Americanism in the Arabic language
media is all-encompassing, as Adel Darwish writes in “Arab Media: Purveying AntiAmericanism,” (Chapter Twelve). Abdel Mahdi Abdallah in “Why They Hate U.S.:
An Arab Perspective” (Chapter Thirteen), gives the Arab perception of disliking
America based on U.S. political, economic and military support of Israel, air strikes
and sanctions against some Arab countries, occupation of Iraq, support for
undemocratic Arab regimes, military bases in several Arab countries, and according
to some critics, a perceived U.S. campaign against Islam and its own citizens of Arab
and Islamic origin.
But in “Why Do They Hate Us and Why Do They Love Us (Chapter
Fourteen), Robert J. Lieber argues that support for Israel is one of several flawed
explanations for anti-Americanism since attacks against the United States too place
after despite the inaccuracy or hollowness of such charges.
Moreover, an extremely important but usually neglected aspect of antiAmericanism is its political usefulness for radical movements and dictatorships
seeking to seize or maintain their power, explains Barry Rubin, “The Usefulness of
Anti-Americanism” (Chapter Fifteen). He suggests that anti-Americanism be
examined in practical terms as an ideological instrument which is very useful as
scapegoat and distraction from the domestic or foreign policy failures of others.
This book is based on the papers presented for a project of the Global
Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary Center
(IDC). This project was made possible by a generous grant by the Lynde and Harry
Bradley Foundation for which the Center is most grateful.
We also wish to thank those staff members who ensured this project’s success,
especially Cameron Brown and Joy Pincus.
By Judith Colp Rubin
In 1831, a young German-speaking, Hungarian poet came to the United States
in search of all the values that were drawing thousands of emigrants to this new
country. Nikolas Lenau, the so-called German Byron famous for his melancholy
moods and lyrics, believed that America would be a beacon of liberty in contrast to a
Europe caught in the toils of monarchist repression. But after becoming ill and losing
money on property he bought in Ohio, Lenau became disillusioned about the
American life. Lenau poured these feelings about America into letters to friends back
home which were later published in a book and was also the inspiration for a
bestselling German novel. The novel told of a German poet in America who finds the
people there to be egotistical, materialistic, vulgar, and immature braggarts who
lacked civilization, religion, freedom or equality.1 Lenau eventually returned to
Europe “cured…of the chimera of freedom and independence that I had longed for
with youthful enthusiasm.”2
Much of Lenau’s dislike was attributed to what he perceived as the inferiority
of nature in the New World. As one who had captured birds in Europe to keep them as
pets, the poet viewed the absence of songbirds or nightingales to be a symbol of
spiritual poverty. “I have not yet seen a courageous dog, a fiery horse, or a man full of
passion. Nature is terribly languid,” he wrote his brother-in-law. “There are no
nightingales, indeed there are no real songbirds at all.”3
There was, however, one terribly ironic detail of his life that Lenau kept from
his readers. He had never intended to emigrate to America but merely went there to
invest in property he could lease out. The critic who had castigated America for being
in the toils of an avaricious materialism had gone there to cash in for himself.4 Still
such facts did not prevent the poet from influencing many in Europe about America.
It wasn’t long before British poet John Keats, who had never been in America, called
the country “that most hateful” and “monstrous” land because, the author of “Ode to a
Nightingale,” complained, it had flowers without scent and birds without song.5
In maintaining that there was something wrong with America, something that
repelled the sweet-sounding bird, Lenau was influenced by the degeneration theory –
the first version of anti-Americanism. According to degeneration, living things in
America were intrinsically inferior to Europe. The basic ideas of degeneracy theory
would be discredited and forgotten. Yet that concept would continue to be the basis, a
subbasement in effect, for the nagging proposition that perhaps what eventually
became the United States was somehow innately bad, or a lesser place entirely. It
would find support among such prominent thinkers as Germany’s three greatest
philosophers of the era – Immanuel Kant, G.W.F Hegel and Friedrich von Schlegel-and even the father of evolution, Charles Darwin.
It was not surprising that the very first debate on America, long before the
United States existed, was over whether civilization was possible there at all. America
was a land before it was a society or country. It was a strange and mysterious place,
virtually the first entirely new land Europe had discovered since beginning its own
civilization. It was almost like finding an entirely different planet. It seemed likely
that not only would the climate, soil, and other features have different effects on
human beings, but that it was doomed and destined to be clearly inferior to Europe.
The first thought of eighteenth and nineteenth century European science, then
in its own infancy and much taken by ideas of innate and permanent characteristics,
was that there was something “degenerate” about North America, lacking even the
level of development of the Aztec or Inca empires of South America, which made it
innately inferior. Why were those in this land inferior? Were they cursed by the lack
of proper religion, some racial handicap, or an environmental deficiency? In a real
sense, the last explanation was the most progressive and fair-minded since it did not
blame the Native Americans for their backwardness but posited that they were instead
victims of their environment. Indeed, the theory predicted that the same plight would
strike white Europeans who tried to settle this country.
This was no abstract or marginal debate. It involved the best minds of Europe,
the leading naturalists, scientists and philosophers of the day. Why, for example,
European thinkers asked, was the American continent so sparsely populated? Didn’t
this imply it lacked the essential requirements for human life? And even if America
could eventually be civilized, this task just beginning would require, as it had in
Europe, countless generations to achieve. Moreover, they added, in Europe nature was
fairly benign and assisted man, while in America such features as hurricanes, floods,
lightning storms, poisonous snakes, deadly insects, and epidemic diseases were a wild
force which would have to be conquered with great difficulty.
Providing answers to such questions was the Frenchman, Georges Louis
LeClerc, the Count de Buffon. Although now largely forgotten, Buffon was
considered to be the greatest biologist and naturalist of his time whose works were
widely read and quoted. In 1739 Buffon was elected to the prestigious Academy of
Sciences and became director of the Royal Botanical Garden, making him officially
the country’s top botanist.6 During the 1740s, Buffon produced his greatest work, a
multi-volume natural history that was supposed to summarize all human knowledge
about geology, zoology, and botany. Every known animal, for example, was described
in great detail. When the first three volumes were finally published in 1749 they were
translated into every European language and Buffon became an international
celebrity. In honor of his accomplishments, the king made him a count in 1771.
Aside from classifying animals, vegetables, and minerals, Buffon also divided
humanity into different subgroups along racial lines. Each type of mankind, he
believed, had originated in a single species but been modified by the climate, diet, and
physical conditions in which they lived. Of course, there was merit to this analysis but
it was also based on very little fieldwork and much erroneous information.
Buffon, who never visited America, insisted that nature there was, “Much less
varied and we may even say less strong.”7 Writing without knowledge of the buffalo
and grizzly bear, Buffon claimed that the biggest American animals were “four, six,
eight, and ten times” smaller than those of Europe or Africa. There was nothing to
compare to the hippopotamus, elephant, or giraffe.8 Even if the same animal could be
found in the old and new worlds, the version in the former was better. The puma--the
American equivalent of the lion--was “smaller, weaker, and more cowardly than the
real lion.”9
The real proof that the very land and air of America was degenerate, Buffon claimed,
was that “all the animals which have been transported from Europe to America--like
the horse, ass, sheep, goat, hog, etc, have become smaller” and those found in both
continents—like the wolf or elk—were also second-rate imitations.10
What went for animals also applied to people. The Native American “is feeble
and small in his organs of generation; he has neither body hair nor beard nor ardor for
his female; although swifter than the European because he is better accustomed to
running, he is, on the other hand, less strong in body; he is also less sensitive, and yet
more timid and more cowardly; he has no vivacity, no activity of mind…,” Buffon
wrote. In sum, using phrases like those applied by anti-Americans two centuries later
to the people of the United States, he concluded, “Their heart is frozen, their society
cold, their empire cruel.”11
What caused this degeneration? Buffon thought it due to the New World’s
being too cold and humid. While never inhaling a breath in America, he concluded
that the air and earth were permeated with “moist and poisonous vapors” which
created a “cold mass” unable to give proper nourishment except to snakes and
insects.12 He suggested that European colonists could solve these problems by
controlling the wild force of nature, but his disciples interpreted Buffon as saying
there was no hope of improving such an unwholesome place. Although it had less
effect in discouraging immigration, this negative thesis was repeated by scores of
other writers.
The great French philosopher Voltaire believed the American climate and
environment were inimical to human life and criticized France’s wars there to obtain
“a few acres of snow.”13 Even Peter Kalm, a meticulous and apolitical observer sent
by the Royal Swedish Academy on a three-year study trip to America in 1748,
described how cattle brought from England became smaller. Though he
acknowledged that many of the settlers were robust, he also said they had shorter life
spans than Europeans and women ceased having children earlier. Compared to
Europeans, the Americans were less hardy. Perhaps, he surmised, this was due to the
constantly changing weather, boiling hot one day, very cold the next day, and with a
surfeit of insects.14
The first really deliberate anti-American was probably Abbe Cornelius De
Pauw. Born in Holland in 1739 he spent most of his life in Germany at the court of
the Prussian king in Berlin. Somehow, De Pauw, who like Buffon never visited
America, became Europe’s first expert on that land, following publication of his book,
Philosophical Research on the Americans, in 1768. It was a big hit in both Germany
and France. Like later anti-Americans, he had a hidden agenda. DePauw was a
supporter of the Prussian ruler King Frederick II who was engaged in a systematic
effort to stop the emigration of Germans to America, where they would become
British subjects and enrich that rival country. In this manner, Prussia became the
world’s first state sponsor of anti-Americanism.
Echoing Buffon, De Pauw wrote that not only were animals in America
smaller than in Europe, they were of “inelegant size” and “badly formed.” When
animals were brought over from Europe, they became “stunted; their height shrank
and their instinct and character were diminished by half.”15 Indeed, everything in
America was “either degenerate or monstrous.” The natives were cowardly and
impotent. They were so weak “that in a fight the weakest European could crush them
with ease.” The women quickly became infertile and their children lost all interest and
ability to learn.16
In France, Abbe Guilluame Thomas Francois Raynal, a Jesuit priest, teacher,
economist and philosopher, took De Pauw’s arguments a step further in his own
history of the Western hemisphere in the 1770s which eventually went through twenty
authorized editions and another twenty pirated ones. “Nature,” explained Raynal,
“has strangely neglected the New World.” English settlers in America “visibly
degenerated.” Not only did they have “less strength and less courage” but were also—
he words this quite delicately—rather lacking in the art of love, tending to be
impotent and immature in this regard.17
According to Raynal, the brains of Americans were also affected by the
environment, being incapable of prolonged thought. In one of the many contemporary
remarks that reappear frequently in anti-American discourse, Raynal said that
Americans acted like those “who have not yet arrived to the age of puberty.” Why, he
asked, had America failed to produce a single good poet, mathematician or any
superior person in art or science whatsoever? Granted, he explained, Americans were
precocious but then they soon slowed down and fell far behind their European
Raynal justified his arguments by what could later be termed anti-imperialist
sentiment. The European construction of empires had brought death, disease, slavery,
and destruction to the innocent natives of the Western Hemisphere. The discovery of
America was a mistake, he insisted, and personally underwrote an essay contest on
whether America was “a blessing or a curse to mankind.”19 Since America was the
child of such evil imperialism, Raynal insisted, nothing good could come of it.
As one can well imagine, these prejudices did more than the weather to drive
Americans crazy. Benjamin Franklin, whose entire life was a refutation of the
degeneration theory, wrote a book in 1755, Observations Concerning the Increase of
Mankind, Peopling of Countries, proving that America’s population was thriving not
decaying. At a banquet he held at his home in Paris in February 1778 when he was
U.S. ambassador, Franklin asked all the guests to stand against a wall in order to see
who had really “degenerated.” All of the eighteen Americans were taller than the
eighteen Europeans there. And, in the most delicious conceivable irony, the shortest
of them all—“a mere shrimp” in Franklin’s words—was Raynal himself, the main
champion of the claim that Europeans were physically superior!20 Franklin’s
successor in Paris, Thomas Jefferson, compiled weather records to show that America
was not so cold and wet. In 1787, he had a moose shot in New Hampshire and
shipped to France, where he was ambassador, so it could be stuffed and mounted in
the lobby of his hotel to illustrate the large size of American animals.
Buffon, who retreated from the view of degeneration he had started, and
Raynal who admitted that education was spreading in America, that children were
well brought up, and that Americans had more leisure to develop their intellects than
Europeans were persuaded by these men.21
However, the degeneration theory did not disappear entirely. But by the 1830s,
with the United States a political reality, the American character was replacing the
American climate as the focus of explanation regarding its inferiority. Increasingly,
stress was placed on the idea that the American democratic experiment was a failure,
leading to a degraded society and culture.
The United States was a revolutionary experiment, a new type of country with
no monarch, aristocracy, strong traditions, official religion, or rigid class system. It
regarded itself as superior to the existing European systems and if the United States
worked every one of them might be in jeopardy. Consequently, due to unfamiliarity,
self-interest, and long-formed taste, many Europeans saw the United States as a
travesty or even as a threat if its example appealed to their own peoples. In their
critiques of America, the British put a little more emphasis on excessive equality, the
French intellectual poverty, and the Germans spiritual barrenness. Yet all these
themes are found in the critiques of each of them. It is telling, too, how much of this
criticism came out of a combination of aristocratic and romantic spirit, of leftist and
rightist ideas intertwined. Both aristocrats and romantics, conservatives and radicals,
looked down on a middle class republic that was certainly not their idea of utopia.
The emerging experts on America were almost unanimous in condemning its
political system. To have faith in the political wisdom of the common people, as one
French observer, Abbe Mably, wrote in his book about the government and laws of
the United States in 1784, was dangerous and impractical.22 Agreeing was Francois
Soules agreed and wrote in his 1787 history of the American Revolution, “In America
the wise are few indeed in comparison with the ignorant, the selfish, and those men
who blindly allow themselves led.”23
The Frenchman Louis Marie Turreau de Linieres, who had fought for the
United States during the Revolutionary War and later became ambassador to the
country, concluded that the people were incapable of reasoning, and less still of
analyzing, and it was “a fraud to call upon their authority and to provide their
influence in the direction of public affairs.24
Another French writer, Felix de Beaujour, who had been French consulgeneral in Washington from 1804 to 1811, said that unless the Senate was elected for
life and the House of Representatives restricted to big landowners, the U.S.
government would collapse in despotism or disunion.25 He was one of the first to
warn that the United States was going to dominate Europe economically while also
reinforcing all the French stereotypes about the United States – that Americans were
greedy, materialistic and vulgar -- that would prevail during the next two centuries.26
Indeed, Beaujour was so critical of the United States that a British writer translated
his book, Sketch of the United States of North America, as anti-American propaganda
for his own country during the War of 1812. Once again, an anti-American book had
achieved tremendous popularity in Europe.27
Alexis de Tocqueville’s praise of the United States is well-known to
Americans. But less quoted have been his remarks that paralleled many of the
contemporary European criticisms of its state and society. Like many other observers,
when De Tocqueville wrote about America, he was often heavily influenced by or
even actually referring to experiences in France. In the 1830s, no country in the world
had suffered more from the excesses of democracy. “Unlimited power is in itself a
bad and dangerous thing,” he wrote. “Human beings are not competent to exercise
with discretion.” But the founders of America, very aware of this danger, had—unlike
revolutionary France—created a division of powers and instituted federalism to avoid
that problem. De Tocqueville’s words seem to relate more to the reign of terror, the
guillotine, and Napoleon than to the administrations of Washington, Jefferson and
Madison: “The main evil of the present democratic institutions of the United States
does not arise, as it is often asserted in Europe, from their weakness, but from their
irresistible strength. I am not so much alarmed at the excessive liberty which reigns in
that country as at the inadequate securities which one finds there against tyranny.”28
The real threat he perceived came from the majority, whether in public
opinion, the legislature, a jury, or the high officials he saw as passive tools in the
hands of the masses. Writing at a time when autocracy was ascendant in much of
Europe, he concluded, “I know of no country in which there is so little independence
of mind and real freedom of discussion.”29 Indeed, so great was this majority tyranny
that “freedom of opinion does not exist in America…The power of the majority is so
absolute and so irresistible that one must give up one’s rights as a citizen and almost
abjure one’s qualities as a man if one intends to stray from the track which it
He added, “The tyranny of the majority has completely destroyed the moral
courage of the American people, and without moral courage what chance is there of
any fixed standard of morality?”31 Perhaps the paradox of De Tocqueville stems from
a combination of accurate reporting in describing American conditions and hostile
generalizations to dissuade his countrymen from imitating that system. The latter
position is reflected in his dire summation, where he claimed that the United States
“has proven to the world that, with every advantage on her side, the attempt at a
republic has been a miserable failure and that the time is not yet come when mankind
can govern themselves. Will it ever come? In my opinion, never!”32
Clearly, and again seemingly preaching to his audience at home, he viewed the
lack of an aristocracy as a key problem. Perhaps the worst insult used by public
opinion to force everyone’s compliance is to call dissenters “aristocrats.” The lack of
a permanent class ruling the country’s politics and culture inevitably lowers the level
of both. After all, if everyone need be elected—if there is “no aristocracy to set an
example and tone to society”—the temporary victors are more likely to put
expediency before morality. Being poor, they are more likely to be corrupt. The
“dread of public opinion,” which can raise or lower them overnight, ensures their
“lack of moral courage.”33
It was not just the French who criticized the United States government.
Frederick Marryat was a British government official, naval officer and the author of
popular sea tales. At the age of forty-five, in 1837, he made a grand tour of America
and produced a popular book about his travels, A Diary in America with Remarks on
Its Institutions. Echoing De Tocqueville, Marryat proclaimed, “No people have as yet
been sufficiently enlightened to govern themselves.”34 More bluntly, Marryat is a
reminder of where many American characteristics came from. Political equality, he
wrote, “made the scum uppermost.” American democracy “has been a miserable
failure.”35 Nevertheless, he concluded, “With all its imperfections, democracy is the
form of government best suited to the present condition of America.” 36
American-style democracy was a step backward, German poet Heinrich Heine
wrote in 1830 without visiting the United States, for it was merely a “monstrous
prison of freedom, where the invisible chains would oppress me even more heavily
than the visible ones at home, and where the most repulsive of all tyrants, the
populace, hold vulgar sway.”37
There were also just as many criticisms of the cultural side of the United
States. Frances Trollope was probably the single most influential person shaping
European perceptions of America in the nineteenth-century, as Buffon had been in the
eighteenth. Her book Domestic Manners of the Americans, published in 1832, enjoyed
a phenomenal success and was translated into several languages. Within a few years,
people were speaking of “to trollopise,” meaning to criticize the Americans. To “sit
legs a la trollope” referred to that allegedly rude American habit of putting one’s feet
on the table and slouching back in a chair.38 In response to her work, on display in
New York was a waxwork of the author in the shape of a goblin.39
So much did Trollope dislike the United States that the experience of visiting
there transformed her from an optimistic liberal regarding the prospects for
democracy to a hard line conservative opponent of change. A summary of her
impressions may be gleaned by her conclusion that the main reason to visit America is
“that we shall feel the more contented with our own country.”40
But Trollope never set out to play such an important role. In 1827 she arrived
in Cincinnati with three small children – one of whom, Anthony, became a famous
novelist who later wrote his own book about America - sent by her eccentric husband
to open a department store there. The store went bankrupt and Trollope was stranded
with her ill offspring. Desperate for money, she hit on the idea of writing a best seller
about America. Not only was the book criticized – although bought-- by Americans,
but British defenders of the United States also condemned it as an exaggerated
indictment. Still, it proved a most persuasive one.41
The mainstay of her criticism was not political but aesthetic and cultural. Like
other Europeans before her, she disliked American nature for being too wild,
compared to the highly domesticated ideal expressed in the British garden. This simile
was extended to American behavior, which she saw as too untamed and uncontrolled.
People ate too fast, had bad table manners, spoke poor English, talked too much about
politics and religion (subjects not appropriate for public conversation), and did not
respect individual privacy.
When Trollope wanted to take her meals at a Memphis hotel in a private room,
the landlady considered her request an insult. In Cincinnati, another hotelkeeper
demanded she drink her tea with the other guests or leave. People tried to engage her
in conversation when she wanted to be alone. One can imagine how American
gregariousness grated on British sensibilities. To her, it seemed to be a raw and
unkempt society too close to nature.
Asked the greatest difference between England and the United States, Trollope
pointed to the latter’s “want of refinement.” In America, she explained, “that polish
which removes the coarser and rougher parts of our nature is unknown and
undreamed of.”42
Always, the subtext was the ruinous nature of the American belief in equality,
ranging from the commonness of American political leaders to the difficulty of
finding proper servants among such people. Indeed, Trollope wrote, “If refinement
once creeps in among them, if they once learn to cling to the graces, the honors, the
chivalry of life, then we shall say farewell to American equality, and welcome to
European fellowship one of the finest countries on earth.”43
Criticism of later American culture—or even that country’s choice of
presidents—would so often come down to sneering at an insufficient elitism, an
excessive emphasis on the lower common denominator. Even when those complaints
would later come from leftist intellectuals who claimed to revere equality, the old
aristocratic disdain for the masses was often barely concealed beneath the supposed
love of all humanity.
Even the kindly novelist Charles Dickens, least snobbish of his nation in print,
where in his country he was known as a defender of the downtrodden, could not quite
shake himself loose on this point. Dickens had much that was positive to say about the
United States in his American Notes, the record of his journey there in 1842 and when
he turned against America he had at least good reasons for bitterness, having been
cheated by American speculators in a canal company fraud and by publishers who
stole his writings and never paid him royalties. Nevertheless, his conclusion was that
while the British suffer from being self-absorbed, inner-oriented characters,
Americans are colorless because they are obsessed with what their fellows think of
them, a result of that dreaded equality which makes them want to be like everyone
In Dickens’ rendition, the United States is a land of sleazy business ethics,
rampant lawlessness and violence, crass materialism, insufferable and undereducated
bores, and gluttony. Many of the critiques on this list would be familiar a century
later. Instead of an eagle as its national symbol, the hero redesigns America’s emblem
into a more appropriate animal: “like a bat, for its short-sightedness; like a [rooster]
for its bragging; like a magpie, for its honesty; like a peacock, for its vanity, like an
ostrich” for its desire to avoid reality.44 Although he concluded that Americans are
“by nature, frank, brave, cordial, hospitable and affectionate,” he condemned the
“universal distrust,” among people and “love of ‘smart’ dealing: which gilds over
many a swindle and gross breach of trust.”45
Already in the early nineteenth-century, America in the European vision was
coming to be a symbol for all the worst aspects of modern capitalism, whether viewed
from the left or right ends of the spectrum.
In his 1841 novel, Ruckblicke Auf Amerika, German Friedrich Rulemann
Eylert wrote of the unhappy experiences of a German immigrant who discovers,
“Degraded thinking, lying, deception, and unlimited greed are the natural and
inescapable consequences of the commercial spirit…that like a tidal wave inundates
the highest and lowest elements of American society. Every harmless passion and all
moral sentiments are blunted in the daily pursuit of money.”46 Fellow German,
philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer called America “the most vile utilitarianism
combined with its inevitable companion, ignorance.”47 Similarly, the French novelist
Stendhal had the hero of one novel ask himself the question: To go or not to go? He
takes a long walk and concludes the answer must be “No” because, “I would be bored
in America, among men perfectly just and reasonable, maybe, but coarse, but only
thinking about the dollars…The American morality seems to me of an appalling
vulgarity, and reading the works of their distinguished men, I only have one desire:
never to meet them in this world. This model country seems to me the triumph of silly
and egoist mediocrity.”48
Often, too, critiques of America were linked with what was seen as an
excessively elevated status for women and children, another theme often seen in later
decades, and a proof that the natural order was out of place. The underlying problem
in this allegedly exalted status was that equality had gone too far, even in an age when
no woman could vote.
Schopenhauer’s list of American sins included a “foolish adoration of
women.”49 Like others, the Frenchman Mederic Louis Elie Moreau Saint-Mery, who
owned a bookstore in Philadelphia, claimed that American women soon lost their
beauty (due to the terrible climate) and never found good taste. He also thought their
breasts excessively small. But most importantly, he and other Europeans thought they
were not well behaved, obedient, or affectionate.50
America was sarcastically nicknamed a “paradise for women.” In the classical
statement of one Eylert in Ruckblicke Auf Amerika:
Woman! Do you want to see yourself restored to your aboriginal place of
honor with your husband in the house as your slave and at your side in
society? Do you want him to dance to your tune and early in the morning rush
to buy meat, butter, vegetables and eggs, while you lie comfortably in bed and
devote yourself to sweet morning dreams?…If you want to experience the full
blessings of a pampered existence, then go to America, become naturalized,
purchase an American husband, and you are emancipated…51
As for children, Marryat insisted, “there is little or no parental control,” in America
Imagine a child of three years old in England behaving thus:
`Johnny, my dear, come here,” says his mama`
`I won’t,’ cries Johnny.
`You must, my love, you are all wet, and you’ll catch cold.’
`I won’t,’ replies Johnny.” And so forth.
`A sturdy republican, sir,’ says his father to me, smiling at the boy’s resolute
During anti-Americanism’s first epoch, much of the blame was laid on the
innately inferior nature of the land being fatally transferred to the increasingly
degraded people, unfortunate enough to live there. America was dismissed as innately
second-rate and there was nothing more to discuss. The second stage of antiAmericanism, beginning in 1800, insisted that the United States was a failure with a
ludicrous political system, an absence of culture and good manners, excessive
materialism, and an inflated role for women and children. If the United States posed
any threat it arose from being a bad example rather than any global ambitions. The
word “model” sneeringly appeared most often in anti-American literature to discredit
the idea that this country might provide an example to emulate. But contrary to these
predictions of early nineteenth century anti-Americans, the United States did not
collapse. On the contrary, it grew steadily stronger and more visibly successful. Only
when the American experiment had clearly worked--around the 1880s, when
American industrialization began to lead the world, or after 1898, when the U.S.
victory over Spain made it an incipient world power--was it no longer possible to
insist that it had failed to build a strong country. But the anti-Americans would find
the threat of American success to be an even more serious matter. And this would lead
to the third stage of anti-Americanism.
By Mark Falcoff
There is a rich literature on anti-Americanism in Latin America which goes
back to the early nineteenth century. Many of the most important early intellectual
and political figures of Latin America have been Yankeephobes, or at least expressed
harsh views on American society and culture, including the Venezuelan liberator
Simón Bolívar, the Mexican statesman and economist Lucas Alamán, Chile’s
statesman Diego Portales and Argentina’s dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas. This is not
to be wondered at; the United States was founded not only in protest against British
imperialism but as a direct challenge to Spain in the New World. Its expansion
towards the south and west—in the Floridas, Louisiana and California—were often
achieved at the expense of Spanish or Latin American physical presence. And from
the very beginning, as a society founded on protest against crown and altar,
primogeniture and entail, and bourgeois to its core, it represented a model radically
opposed to the agrarian, quasi-aristocratic societies in the same hemisphere
established through Spanish and Portuguese colonization.
However, there is no single anti-Americanism in the region to which we can
direct our attention. The phenomenon is diffuse and complex, often contradictory as
well. Moreover, styles of anti-Americanism in the region have changed over time,
reflecting the transformation of Latin American societies from rural to urban, from
provincial to global, from agrarian to industrial or semi-industrial. I propose here to
begin by delineating what I call the four major strands of anti-Americanism in the
Elitist. This sort of anti-Americanism strongly resembles the European, and
particularly French variety, which is certainly no accident. France exercised an
important ideological and cultural influence over Latin American elites in the
nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, particularly in countries with large, educated
middle classes such as Argentina, Uruguay and, to a lesser extent, Chile. It derives
fundamentally from a hatred of democracy and a scorn for the “masses”, as well as
contempt for what are seen as petit-bourgeois values. For practitioners of this type of
anti-Americanism, the United States is crass and materialist, contemptuous of art,
literature and philosophy, a country wholly given over to the satisfaction of base
desires. In some variations it is also depicted as a country with no culture whatsoever,
an undifferentiated mélange of races and nationalities which have not (and will not)
congeal into a new synthesis.
The classic example of this literature is Uruguyan José Enrique Rodó’s
saccharine essay Ariel, published in 1900. Supposedly a Socratic dialogue between a
professor and his students at the end of the school year, it is really a monologue in
which the Latins are counseled, nay, urged, to remain true to their alleged “classical”
heritage, which assured that citizens pursue a non-personal goal, such as the Greek
ideal of beauty or the Christian ideal of charity. Powers whose concerns are material
were doomed to mediocrity. In the particular case of the United States, Rodó wrote,
“great prosperity is matched by its equally great failure to satisfy the most modest
conception of human destiny.” (No need for a footnote here, I think—the work is a
classic that has been reprinted in many editions. Anyway, the source is already given.)
Perhaps not surprisingly, Ariel became one of the first truly continental best
sellers in the Spanish language. After its initial Uruguayan edition it appeared in the
Dominican Republic in 1901, Cuba in 1905, and Mexico in 1908. Today it seems a
bit antique, not to say quaint or ridiculous. But its major argument—of the spiritual
superiority of Latins to the United States--continues to surface and resurface in the
writings of anti-Americans throughout the hemisphere, even those that, as serious
leftists, might otherwise be expected to take umbrage with its obvious anti-democratic
Irredentist. Practitioners of this school specialize in raking over the embers of
old conflicts, particularly those having to do with the loss of territory to the United
States. The outstanding cases are Mexico (for the war of 1848, which terminated with
the loss of more than a third of its land area to its northern neighbor), Panama (for the
partition of the Canal zone, creating an extra-territorial strip passing through the very
center of the nation and its capital), or Cuba (for the Guantánamo naval base, ceded to
the United States in perpetuity in 1901).
Another variant would be the constant use of U.S. interventions in Latin
America to discredit American foreign policy. With the exception of Mexico (where
some people are still angry at the U.S. landing in Veracruz in 1914, even though it
served the purposes of the Mexican revolution), this critique is normally practiced less
by the countries directly affected than by other Latin Americans. For example, the
U.S. intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1966 or the alleged U.S. involvement
in the overthrow of Marxist president Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973 are both
bigger stories, so to speak, in other countries. In the Dominican Republic, the U.S.
invasion is a dim memory irrelevant to current bilateral relations; in Chile there is no
consensus on whether the Allende government was a good thing or a bad thing, and
very little tendency to attribute its fall to the machinations of the CIA.
While this sort of anti-Americanism is not typically focused on regaining lost
territory—in the Panamanian case, somewhat moot in any case inasmuch as the Zone
was returned in 1978—it does shade effortlessly into the current movement against
globalization and free trade. The argument would seem to be that, having appropriated
territory in the Floridas, Texas and much of the Western United States and seized
Panama and Cuba’s best natural harbor, the United States has now decided to finish
the job by gobbling up the continent economically. This is the view of many in
Argentina and Brazil, two countries that in the past at least harbored ambitions of
rivaling the influence of the United States, and forms the centerpiece of the
“Bolivarian” project for Latin American unity advanced by Venezuela’s soldierpresident, Colonel Hugo Chávez.
Anti-Imperialist. Or perhaps, “anti-imperialist”. I do not refer to this school as
Marxist, because while it borrows from some Marxist (and even more, Leninist)
categories of analysis, we need to remember that Marx himself regarded imperialism
as a positive historical force in certain contexts, including parts of Latin America. The
best example is Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America (1968), which is
probably the largest-selling political tract in Latin American history (it has also had a
modest success in the English-speaking world). The argument of Galeano, like Rodó
an Uruguayan, is that Latin America is poor because its wealth has been despoiled by
multinational, but particularly American, corporations, from which it follows that a
country is pursuing its national interest most when it restricts or eliminates American
involvement in its economic life.
A watered down, or perhaps more sophisticated, version of Galeano’s
argument is found in the writings of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the founder of what
is called the dependency school of economic analysis. This line of thinking can be
summarized very simply: the world economy is a zero-sum game, from which it
follows that some countries are rich because others are poor. Oddly enough, having
done so much to advance this ideology, Cardoso found himself thrust into the finance
ministry and the presidency of Brazil in the early 1990s, putting into practice policies
that were exactly the opposite of those which would follow from his analysis. This
explains, among other things, why anti-globalization ideologies have replaced it in
most of Latin America.
Sentimentalist/racialist/populist. Here we have anti-Americanism at its least
sophisticated, but perhaps most pervasive. Americans aren’t “nice”. They are “cold”,
“unfeeling”, “unfair”, contrasted with the allegedly sociable, warm-hearted, generous,
hospitable Latin Americans. At times Americans are “xenophobic” and “racist” (this,
when they resist unlimited and illegal Latin American immigration to the United
This kind of thinking was quite popular in the first half of the twentieth
century, when the Americans with whom most Latins, including elite Latins, came
into contact with were limited to mining engineers, traveling businessmen, political
hacks appointed (often inopportunely) to diplomatic posts, or (in the cases of Mexico
and Cuba) American tourists. Some national stereotypes (particularly our alleged
penchant for violence) have been reinforced by American movies or television sitcoms. For reasons explained below, for the most part this school has been in decline
for some time, although the passage of Proposition 187 in California in the 1990s
(restricting government services to illegal immigrants and their children) gave it a
new lease on life.
Two remarks seem called for here. First, it should be evident that these four
strands are not discreet or mutually exclusive; one finds evidence or portions of each
in different combinations throughout Latin American discourse. Second, and very
much related to it, anti-Americanism of the left and the right tend to blend together
seamlessly, with extremes often touching and overlapping. Thus anti-capitalist (and
anti-modernist) elitists can find common ground with “anti-imperialists”, even though
their motivations are different and their vision of the good life utterly at variance.
Special Characteristics
No doubt much of what I have written above could be compared to similar
ideas current in other regions of the world. Now, however, I want to turn to those
aspects which I consider uniquely Latin American.
Latin Americans regard themselves on something of a plane of equality with
the United States. They, too, are new world societies founded roughly at the same
time—I say “roughly” in terms of European notions of historical time. This adds an
extra edge of irritation that one end of the hemisphere has progressed so much faster
and farther than the other, and has prompted a search for comforting explanations.
A comparison with Europe and the Middle East is in order here. Europeans
naturally take pride in the antiquity of their civilization and its centrality to the
Western tradition. In that sense they are right to regard the United States—a spin-off
of something far more complex—as an aberration to be deplored in the worst of cases,
an unfinished project in the best. The Latin Americans can hardly view the United
States in this light since their own societies are at best only a hundred years older.
Insofar as the Middle East is concerned, the differences are obvious—here we
are dealing with an entirely different civilization based on a drastically different set of
religious and social values. Although there is an Arab component to Spanish and
Portuguese culture, it is still a variant of European civilization, infinitely less remote
and exotic than say, that of Syria or Iran. This alone encourages invidious
Latin Americans cannot imagine a world without the United States, and what
is perhaps more important, they have no wish to do so. This may be another way of
saying that the region exhibits a particularly strong example of the famous “love-hate”
First of all, Latin Americans need a whipping boy—somebody to blame for
their failure to create dynamic, successful societies. Since the United States is the
principal investor and banker, as well as the leading purveyor of geopolitical
influence, it naturally follows that whatever is wrong must have to do with malevolent
designs at the White House, the State Department or the Pentagon. Latin Americans
feel powerless before the United States, whose hegemony, as they call it, cannot be
readily explained except in terms appropriate to a melodrama. Were the United States
to sink into the ocean tomorrow, many Latin Americans, particularly Americaphobes, would experience a terminal existential crisis.
Second, Latin Americans need an emergency exit in case things go bad at
home. Needless to say, that exit is not located in Germany or Lichtenstein. While
Spain and France have always held appeal for the cultured members of the elite,
growing European restrictions on immigration and Europe’s stagnant economies have
made the United States the destination of choice.
Third, Latin Americans are constantly demanding things from the United
States; it is the only major power from which anything significant can be expected-whether it be immigrant visas, loans, grants, scholarships, or technical assistance.
What is perhaps more important, it is expected that the United States will be
forthcoming with such assistance.
Fourth, Latin American societies are now strongly influenced by U.S. products
and lifestyles, and do not wish to give them up. Perhaps in no area of the world is
product identification with U.S. way of life as intense and widespread at all social
levels as in Latin America. The ultimate American lifestyle—a kind of collage made
up of selected aspects of Miami and Los Angeles—is now also the ultimate Latin
American lifestyle.
Fifth and finally, a strong orientation toward the United States is Latin
America’s only geopolitical alternative. Europe has other fish to fry, and Latin
American unity is a non-starter. To be sure, on a rhetorical level, regional unity is
often held up as a desirable alternative to “subordination” to or “dependency” on the
United States. For example, Brazil for many years has been trying to become the pivot
of a Latin American commonwealth, something along the order of the European
Union. But Brazil’s own economic problems, combined with cultural and linguistic
differences, have canted the continent northward. Most countries are anxious for a
free trade agreement with the United States.
Latin America is also unique in that unlike Europe or the Middle East, where
anti-Americanism is in the ascendancy, there are some important countervailing
forces at work.
The first of these is a decline in the status of intellectuals, who in the past have
played an almost sacramental role in these societies as keepers of the anti-American
flame. There are various reasons for this. Latin American writers and artists as a
group have suffered a serious decline in prestige, often for having struck ridiculous
ideological poses (from the Argentine poet Leopoldo Lugones, famous for the phrase
“the hour of the sword has struck” to Mexican Communist artist David Alfaro
Siqueiros who participated in an attempt to kill Leon Trotsky, then in exile in
Mexico). The growth of a democratic political culture has shifted control of discourse
to elected officials or leaders of civil society, that is, people who actually get things
done. In a broader sense the growth of urban middle-class societies, the growth of
mass media, and consumerism have all devalued the intellectual vocation (although it
probably still ranks higher than in the United States and Canada, if not Western
Europe). Finally, the creation of mass enrollments in Latin American universities has
devalued advanced degrees and the whole notion of higher education.
The second is the role of immigration to the United States. Whereas twenty
years ago the Latin American population of the United States was limited to
Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans, today every country in the region, including
Brazil, has a significant U.S. diaspora. The Spanish language is now so widely spoken
that American television has responded by establishing its own Spanish language
channels, and American book publishing is starting to bring out titles in Spanish for
the U.S. domestic market. Moreover, Latin Americans are now found not only in the
historic venues—the warm-weather states of the south and southwest—but in the
northeast, the upper Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest. In contrast to immigrants in
the nineteenth or early twentieth century, most of today’s Latin American immigrants
go back and forth to their home countries, so that even in very remote parts of Latin
America there are people who know about the United States not from television or
movies so much as from the first-hand experience of relatives who actually live there.
This acts as an antibody against much misinformation or disinformation, since—as
one Chilean put it to me—people know that even émigrés who don’t do particularly
well economically in the United States still end up better off than if they had remained
at home. The presence of such a large Latin diaspora—one with vital and continuing
links to the region—also renders the United States far less “foreign”.
The third is a lack of serious Latin American interest in other parts of the
world. To be sure, for many decades Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and parts of Brazil
had a largely unrequited love affair with Western Europe, particularly France. While
there is still some interest in these countries among the intellectual and social elite, the
average person could not be less interested. The name of the game is the United
States. Naturally there are regional variations—the farther south one moves the
stronger the fascination with Europe, the farther north the more with the United
States. But what is remarkable is the degree to which the United States has become
almost the sole pole of orientation.
The fourth and last is the end of the Cold War and therefore the disappearance
of a driving ideological force in the service of a rival superpower. It is certainly true
that not all Latin Americans who disliked the United States were communists or even
left-wing; but it is also true that Soviet propaganda and Soviet images of the United
States had a surprisingly wide currency, picked up even by some people on the right.
Also, much of the infrastructure of the left, including the creation of vest-pocket
universities, was financed by East bloc embassies and governments.
If one compares Latin America to Western Europe, I suppose the biggest gap
would have to do with President George W. Bush. Latins are less anti-American than
they are anti-Bush (although I acknowledge that many anti-American Europeans say
the same thing, but I, for one, think they don’t really mean it). The reason for this is
the sudden shift in U.S. attention after September 11, 2001. President Bush is deeply
resented for devoting so much time and concern to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the war on
terror when Latin Americans of all political persuasions believe that he should be
spending every waking hour thinking about them and their problems. The fact that he
came to office pledging to raise Latin America’s profile in U.S. foreign policy makes
this betrayal—as they see it--all the more bitter.
Latin Americans do not personalize their anti-Americanism. They tend to like
Americans as people, or at least they always say they do. The traditional mantra is,
“we like you; it’s your government we don’t like,” passing over the inconvenient fact
that we elect our government every four years and in some rough way determine its
shape and direction. The unusual circumstances attending the election of President
Bush might give them some temporary refuge on this score, but most of the time they
are wide of the mark.
Let me conclude by saying that I consider anti-Americanism in Latin America
a far more superficial phenomenon than it is in many other parts of the world. For
example, anti-Americanism in Canada is an obvious necessity for a country that
would otherwise have serious problems of self-definition. And it is a glue, possibly
the only conceivable glue, to hold together the emerging European Union. Or antiAmericanism can be explained as a logical (or at least understandable) response to
particular foreign policies in the Middle East (the failure of the United States to get
the state of Israel to dismantle the West Bank settlements or even to get the state of
Israel to dismantle itself; support for the oil sheikdoms of the Gulf or the monarchy in
Saudi Arabia, etc.) or China (our support for Taiwan, or rivalry for great power status
in Asia).
To be sure, we will continue to see manifestations of anti-Americanism in
Latin America, but these will be mostly rhetorical or symbolic—whether at the United
Nations, at the annual Ibero-American summits, or in the form of inopportune
statements by diplomats and foreign ministers. The best example is the clownish
president of Venezuela, Colonel Hugo Chávez, whose anti-U.S. and anti-globalization
rhetoric is patently ridiculous in light of the fact that his country depends strongly on
the export of a single product—oil—to the United States. Whatever its concrete
political and military implications in other regions, in Latin America antiAmericanism has lost its sting, its cutting edge, and its real importance.
By Stefani Hoffman
Anti-Western Roots
At the outbreak of the latest U.S.-led war in Iraq, anti-Americanism was once
again very fashionable around the world, with Russia no exception. Russian
businessmen were refusing to serve U.S. and British citizens; consumers were
boycotting American goods53; and polls showed that only three percent of Russians
were rooting for U. S. President George W. Bush to win the conflict whereas 58
percent wanted Iraq to win.54 Indeed, the anti-American chorus was so loud that
Aleksandr Dugin, the leader of the anti-Western Eurasian Party seemed to feel that he
was in good company. “Nothing is so popular in Russia today as disliking America,”
he wrote in March 2003.55
Anti-Americanism has a long genealogy in Russia. In this article, I shall look
at some of the sources of anti-Americanism before discussing its components in the
post-Soviet period. One should keep in mind, however, that in the earlier period, it
was more a matter of anti-Westernism than anti-Americanism. After World War II
America was seen as the leading power of the capitalist West and therefore Soviet
propaganda was directed mainly against it.
Part of Russia’s hostility to the West derives from a perpetual—and never
fully successful — attempt at self-definition vis-à-vis a mythical West.56 These
definitions took on practical, political, and metaphorical dimensions whose implications
are still debated in Russia today. For the eighteenth-century tsar, Peter the Great, the
founder of the northern capital St. Petersburg and known for his effort to “break a
window through” to the West, this entailed primarily introducing modern ways and
technology such as the martial and naval know-how that would make his country as
powerful as European states. Yet he also perceived "westernness" as entailing a certain
image, and he therefore insisted on practical, stylistic changes, too—for example,
removal of the traditional beard and the adoption of western dress. Peter was not,
however, willing to adopt any Western principles of governing that would lead to a less
autocratic regime.
The reaction to Peter’s imposed reforms set the terms for the intellectual
debates of the nineteenth century between Slavophiles and Westerners. The
Slavophiles adopted a basically anti-Western position, regarding Peter's changes as a
dreadful, forcible imposition of alien ways that interrupted Russia's natural
development and spoiled the supposedly idyllic relations between ruler and people.57
Russia, according to the Slavophiles, was in essence different from the West. This
strain of thought perseveres with various permutations among many of today’s critics
of the West in Russia who oppose the West/U.S. on civilizational grounds.
In contrast, the nineteenth century Westerners viewed a turn toward the West as the
only path that could save Russia from despotic, autocratic rule and lead to a modern,
rational state and society. According to this view, Russia was not so much different as
backward in comparison to the West. A similar-minded group exists in Russia now
but its constituency seems to be dwindling. The lines between the ideological camps
were not always that clearly drawn and each group showed some ambivalence in its
basic attitude toward the West. After all, both groups had been influenced by the ideas
of leading European thinkers of the time. The Slavophiles, on the one hand, had
borrowed some of their ideas from Western romanticism; some had traveled in the
West and wrote of it with affection. The Westerners, on the other hand, although
admiring of Western principles, were also critical of the reality in the West. Perhaps,
to a certain extent, a psychological factor was at work—the need to compensate for
the dismal state of affairs in Russia by both finding virtues at home and faults abroad.
This disappointment with the West, for example, stimulated the noted Westerner
Alexander Herzen to develop the theory that undeveloped Russia had the potential to
reach socialism before the West.58
The Soviet Period
In the Soviet period, it is useful to distinguish between the initial stage and the
Cold War period. In the latter, anti-Westernism was instrumental, used to create an
identity built on the negation of its opposite. It was carefully controlled from above
and disseminated in the mass circulation daily press, books, broadcasts, agitprop
lectures at work and ubiquitous large posters. Soviet propaganda contrasted Western
imperialist capitalism to Soviet internationalist socialism. Slavophilism was out of
favor, but under the guise of a class approach, the Communists ascribed some of the
same negative traits to the West as the Slavophiles had—excessive materialism and
individualism, bourgeois philistinism, and lack of compassion for minorities and the
The regime used anti-Westernism/anti-Americanism not only for political but
also for psychological manipulation as was typical of totalitarian regimes. In a book
of the perestroika period, The Psychology of Post-Totalitarianism in Russia,59 Leonid
Gozman and Alexander Etkind describe the totalitarian consciousness as a rather
child-like state in which uniformity was preferable to individualism and the citizens
accepted the authorities’ picture of the world as the easiest way to attain happiness.
This world was simplistically divided into black and white. The problems of the good
people in the world (for example, in the Soviet Union or Third World) were attributed
to the evil designs of outside forces. Thus Soviet propaganda thrived on the obraz
vraga or enemy image, which, particularly after World War II, was represented by the
U.S., sometimes assisted by the Zionists. The view of the U.S. as the “worldwide
gendarme” that was trying to impose its will on the rest of the world was cultivated
during the Cold War years and flourished in the closed Soviet society. This image was
revived in modified form during the latest Iraq war enabled such images to flourish.
Colleagues who grew up in the Soviet Union assure me that there was also a
high degree of envy in the negative portrayal of the U.S. Unwilling to admit its own
failures, the Soviet regime tried to darken the image of its superpower rival. This
provided some psychological comfort as an antidote to feelings of inferiority and
humiliation.60 Analysts point to the presence of envy in current anti-Americanism as
The picture of the U.S. was not completely black; in fact, Russians were
encouraged to adopt certain praiseworthy characteristics. From the earliest days,
America’s technological achievements were credited to their raw energy, efficiency,
and industrious work ethic. The generation that grew up under Stalinist rule was urged
to combine the Russian revolutionary scope with an American business-like manner.
The post-Stalinist Soviet leadership was aware of the dissonance between
reality and the propagandistic view of America as can be seen from remarks by Fedor
Burlatskii, who served as an adviser to several Soviet leaders. After Khrushchev’s
visits to the U.S., including one with his notorious performance of angrily thumping
his shoe on the table at a U.N. meeting in October 1960, he told a session of the
Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, “In America,
communism has already been built. There everyone lives well. Everyone has his
home, car, bank savings, etc.” Subsequently, Khrushchev insisted on including the
famous slogan “Catch up to and surpass America” in the party program of 1961.62
The insulated populace, however, had little independent information with which to
verify the official line. In the decade after the war, for example, the propaganda
machine had the average citizen convinced that the typical Soviet worker was better
off than his American counterpart.63
Cracks in the anti-American wall of Soviet propaganda grew larger during the
“Thaw” period, starting in 1956 with Khrushchev’s revelations of Stalin's crimes at
the Twentieth Party Congress. This was a period of intellectual ferment, the
publication of relatively daring works of literature and the questioning of many
official values. It was also a time of youthful rebellion against the stodgy Soviet
reality. For the newly created counterculture, America was not only freer
intellectually; it was also “cool.”64 The generation of the 1960s—the so-called
shestidesiatniki—prepared the ground for the pro-American attitudes of the early
Although some intellectuals involved in foreign policy analysis and decision
making were evolving toward a desire for greater integration with the West in the
period between the Thaw and perestroika, on the official level, Soviet antiAmericanism flourished.65 Indeed, under the leadership of CPSU General Secretary
Leonid Brezhnev (1964-82), images proliferated in the media of the U.S. as a nation
of imperialist warmongers that persecuted progressive people around the globe, were
indifferent to cultural values, and cultivated a jungle-like individualism.66 In the
1970s and first half of the 1980s, anti-Zionism was an integral part of state-sponsored
anti-Americanism. Each element was depicted as nurturing the other’s evil designs.
Cartoons from the CPSU newspaper Pravda in the 1980s about the Israeli invasion of
Lebanon graphically illustrate the supposed interconnections and even suggest
ideological links with Nazism.
In the Brezhnev years, anti-Americanism and antisemitism were elements in
ideological struggles among the Soviet elite between a strongly nationalist,
Russophile approach and a more traditionally Marxist or reformist one. The
nationalists—whether supporters of a form of national Bolshevism from inside the
establishment or dissidents dissatisfied with the regime—were invariably antiAmerican. They deplored not only what they regarded as America’s imperialist
ambitions but also its system of government and individualistic values.67 Then as now
the anti-Westernism was tinged with antisemitism.
The Nobel prize-winning writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a representative
in the 1970s of a relatively moderate stream among the Russian Orthodox dissidents
that rejected a Westernizing path for a new Russia. It is indicative that, while calling
for a Russian national renaissance, he specifically criticized a spirit of
"internationalism-cosmopolitanism" (in Russia this unambiguously implies a negative
Jewish influence) "in which our entire generation was brought up."68 Russophile antiAmericanism of various stripes continued to develop through the 1980s into the postSoviet period69 and I shall discuss it in that context.
Perestroika and the Post-Soviet Period
In Western perceptions, the perestroika period is associated with the policy of
glasnost’ that entailed greater openness to the West and with the Soviet leader
Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of new political thinking that deideologized the Soviet
approach to foreign policy and, in effect, hastened the end of the Cold War. At the
same time, however, it is important to note that opposition to perestroika and its
consequences set the stage for the anti-Americanism of the post-Soviet era. Moreover,
the greater freedom of press, assembly, and so forth enabled public manifestations of
anti-Americanism and antisemitism that in the past would have been curtailed by the
Soviet regime. At first, as the communist ideology went into its final free fall under
Gorbachev, economic and political reformers proudly regarded a pro-Western
orientation as part of their social identity and a sign of their rejection of communist
values.70 They enthusiastically foresaw a future in which Russia would be an
accepted, integrated, “normal” member of the international community. Gorbachev,
for example, spoke about the expectation of a common “European home” for Russia.
As Gorbachev’s attempts to restructure the Soviet Union yielded little success in the
economic or social spheres, reformers began to place excessive unrealistic
expectations on the U.S. to save the situation through economic and political support.
The U.S. democratic market model was idealized as the opposite of Soviet stagnation
and authoritarian rule.71 The positive evaluations of the U.S. in the Russian
intellectual community and in public opinion polls peaked between 1991-93, in the
early years of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency.72 Typically, in that period, the economist
and acting prime minister, Yegor Gaidar, emphasized the importance of developing a
Western-style market economy and Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev conducted a
foreign policy that stressed the importance of integration into the West.
The reasons for the resurgence of anti-Americanism in the post-Soviet period
are related to many of the themes that have already been mentioned—psychological
discomfort and attempts to compensate; the persistence of old patterns of thinking and
the search for a new identity; economic hardships; envy and the need for a scapegoat
on which to place the blame for inadequacy and failures. With the disintegration of
the Soviet Union and the emergence of a unipolar world led by America, the U.S.
became the understandable target of hostility on the part of the losing side in the Cold
War conflict—a side that nevertheless needs some assistance from the “winners” in
order to rebuild and reassert itself.
When the Soviet empire collapsed, the general Russian populace experienced
a feeling of loss—of national pride, of their history and culture, and of personal
dignity and security. Russia had never really existed before as a nation-state and polls
at the time showed that people felt distress over the loss of superpower status.73
Leonid Gozman compared the feelings of loss of the citizens in the post-totalitarian
state to those of a drug addict who has gone cold turkey.74 Forces opposed to reform
and seeking a return to the old order and the revival of the USSR exploited these
feelings, blaming the breakdown directly on the U.S. In the first post-Soviet years, the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation, for instance, used open and primitive
anti-Americanism in conjunction with antisemitism as one of its main political tools
in its efforts to reassert itself as a significant political force.
The new Russian state faced domestic and international dilemmas that fed into
the bitterness against the West. The issues included the fighting in Chechnya, which
the West viewed from the angle of civil rights violations but Russians regarded as a
threat to the integrity of the Russian Federation itself; concern over the fate of about
25 million Russians who wound up living outside of the Russian Federation’s borders
in the other states of the former Soviet Union (the so-called near abroad), and plans
for the expansion of NATO to Eastern Europe. The NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in
1999, which was seen as a U.S. initiative, brought anti-American feelings to new
heights75—although more on the level of words than of behavior.76
The problems on the personal level—the reduction in income, the rise of
crime, and the decline in public health and other services after the collapse of the
USSR—were particularly weighty and all contributed to a deep unease about the
present. These issues affected the popular mood more than any other ones. As one
political scientist commented, “The overwhelming majority of Russians do not care
about foreign policy. Foreign policy has always been an elite sport in Russia, and this
is even more the case now, given the enormous domestic problems that the country
must face.”77 Indeed, in public opinion polls carried out by the Russian Public
Opinion Foundation (VTsIOM), domestic concerns are usually rated as of greater
importance than any foreign policy issues. For example, in VTsIOM polls conducted
in September 2001, February 2002 and February 2003 about 46 percent of Russians
surveyed said they were indifferent about the U.S.78
Soviet-trained minds, quick to find conspiracies, began to view the disparate
phenomena as perhaps some sign of evil designs against the Russian state and people.
Perhaps, they reasoned, they had been naive in believing that the West was trying to
help Russia when, in fact, the U.S. moves were really all part of some diabolical plot
to bring about Russia’s utter collapse. The suspicion of the West extended to its
media: according to polls, during the NATO bombing, the Russian public trusted
Russian rather than Western reports of certain events.79
By the second half of the 1990s, very few political or other public figures
continued to adhere to a belief in the desirability of following a firm Western, proAmerican path. Most of the dominant political groupings had some form of antiAmericanism in their repertoire.80 In this they were to a certain extent responding to
the hostility to the West that resided—more often passively than actively—in the
Russian population.
Anti-Americanism of Oppositional Forces
In delineating the various anti-American trends that developed in the postSoviet period,81 it should be noted that in post-Soviet Russia, the old terms of right
and left have lost their meaning and analysts have applied various other terms to
designate the political orientation of different groups. In general, political parties are
still weakly developed in Russia and foreign policy is not the most important point of
differentiation among them.82
Anti-Americanism is stronger among the various nationalist opposition groups
than it is among the circles closer to President Putin and it goes beyond expediency or
populist goals.83 They see America as a dangerous antithetical force that threatens
their civilization. To varying degrees they can be seen as heritors of the Slavophile
tradition—some indeed see themselves as continuing that ideological or philosophical
train of thought84 whereas others utilize Slavophile terminology in the contemporary
political struggle. The nineteenth century Slavophiles emphasized the contrast
between Western Europe, which developed according to patterns set by Roman
Catholicism, the Reformation and the Renaissance on the one hand and Russia, which
adopted Christianity from Byzantium and never underwent a process similar to the
Western Reformation on the other.
Despite the significant differences among the modern nationalist counterparts,
they all tend to contrast Western democracy, market capitalism, individualism,
rationalism and secularism to rule by consensus, Russian collectivism, intuitiveness,
religiosity, and spirituality. They reject the modernization project in its standard
Western form85 and speak of a special path for Russia, regarding globalization
processes as a direct threat to Russia’s uniqueness and even to its very existence. In
addition, they accuse the West of causing ecological as well as social and economic
devastation in Russia. These groups generally consider that Russia should strengthen
alliances with countries and forces that oppose American hegemony such as Iran,
China, Libya, Syria and so forth. As in the past, this anti-Americanism is usually
linked to antisemitism because the Jews are regarded as the bearers of Western
civilization or those who influence U.S. decision-making.
There are, however, differences among the opposition groups. The combined
communist-nationalist flank is often referred to as the “red-brown alliance.” A main
component, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) found it
expedient to adopt a patriotic Russian stance without discarding some of their Soviet
luggage. CPRF leader Gennadi Ziuganov contends that the introduction of capitalism
into Russia was a U.S. ploy to impoverish the bulk of the nation in order to reduce
Russia to a mere colony of the West.
Ziuganov places his ideas in the wider context of the international debate
between proponents of a strategy of limiting the world’s economic growth or
conserving present production levels in order to solve global economic problems on
the one hand and advocates of a strategy of “stable development” on the other. He
describes the first as directed at consolidating the “new world order” based on a U.S.
strategy of perpetuating a division of mankind into a “golden billion” that enjoys the
benefits of modern technology on the one hand and a raw material supplying
periphery that is exploited and subjugated on the other. In contrast to that approach,
Ziuganov favors the strategy of stable development that implies developing
productive forces and raising the living standard of the worldwide population.86
According to his interpretation, socialism and communism in their “modern meaning”
have the historical mission of implementing this strategy. In order to foil the alleged
American plot, in his view, it is necessary to rebuild either the Soviet empire or the
Russian one (essentially a variation on the Roman Empire) and have a centralized,
authoritarian form of government and some form of command economy. The
Communists have adopted the Russian Orthodox Church as an ally in their patriotic
anti-Western stand.
Some other groups adopt a more extreme form of ethnic Russian nationalism
combined with anti-Westernism/ anti-Americanism.87 Vladimir Zhirinovskii’s Liberal
Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) is one such grouping that has played the antiAmerican card although inconsistently. It should be noted that the philosophical trend
in modern Slavophilism denies legitimacy to the Slavophile pretensions of these
groups, referring scornfully to all the “communoid variations on the themes of
collectivism, Sov-patriotism, or Natsbolshevism.”88
Adherents of a Slavophilic Russian Orthodox direction for Russia such as
Alexander Solzhenitsyn continue with the criticism and suspicion of the West, in
particular of America, that was voiced in the Soviet period. For example, during an
interview for Russian television on March 13, 1995, Solzhenitsyn charged that Russia
was letting itself become an "ideological" colony of the West.89 This, he explained,
exposed Russia to dangerous influences trying to break down its "ideological defense."
In particular, he referred to the potentially detrimental effect of grants from the Soros
foundation and other U.S. government-funded organizations. He was not the only one to
make this claim. At the same time publicity was given to allegations of a report prepared
by the Russian counterintelligence agency contending that the real goal of grants by
Soros and other Western funds was not aiding Russian institutes to progress toward a
market economy but advancing U.S. foreign policy goals aimed at eliminating Russia as
a competitor to the only remaining superpower.90
Anti-Americanism is present in a varying degree in the different versions of
Eurasianism that are popular in Russia today.91 Eurasianism is associated with a
movement that first developed in the Russian émigré community in Europe in the
1920s, then split and died out in the 1930s. The current manifestations cover a
spectrum from broad general assertions by centrist political figures or political
commentators92 to extremist views with fascist or Nazi overtones. The more moderate
direction of Eurasian thinking could be seen in the foreign policy views of Evgenii
Primakov, who served as foreign minister and prime minister in the mid 1990s. The
various strands of this movement maintain that Russia is neither eastern nor western
but a unique entity that must seek a third way of development. The idea of a unique
way for Russia overlaps with Slavophile-inspired thinking but the Slavophiles focus
on the Slavic ethnic group and the Orthodox (pravoslavnyi) religious confession.
Eurasianists, however, emphasize the Turkic-Mongol admixture to the Russian
ethnos, seeing it as a source of Russian centralization and authoritarianism—
characteristics that they admire. Rejecting what they view as a Western-imposed
hierarchy of cultures with the West European/American one at the top, they postulate
that all cultures have an equal value. Eurasianists tend to admire the theories of the
ethnographer Lev Gumilev, son of the poet Anna Akhmatova, seeing in them support
for the idea that the West has exhausted its potential, whereas Russia promises vitality
and renewal.
A leading theoretician of modern Eurasianism is the philosopher Aleksandr
Panarin.93 His views are more theoretical and moderate than those of nationalistoriented political populists such as Ziuganov but they serve as a basis for cruder
expositions of anti-Americanism. Panarin, too, opposes a U.S.-led Westernization
project for Russia, asserting, “Modernization can occur only in the style of an
intercultural dialogue and not as an attempt at a mechanical transfer.”94 In effect,
Panarin accuses the West of applying a double standard to the detriment of Russia—
that is, it advocates political pluralism within Western culture but at the same time
denies this pluralism from without when it asserts that the only path to modernization
is through Westernization. Although Russia did not develop Western-type partypolitical pluralism, Panarin maintains, it tolerantly cultivated socio-cultural pluralism
within the Eurasian expanse.95 In his view Russia should follow a model that offers a
more attractive alternative to either a Western technological model that distances man
from nature, treating the latter only as a lifeless object to be exploited and an Eastern
view that completely subordinates man to nature.96
Aleksandr Dugin, leader of the Eurasian Party, is on the extremist fringe of
modern Eurasianism.97 He is a prolific publicist, promoting his and his followers’
views on the internet site His theories, a “delirious
combination of Gumilev, Soloviev, Nietzsche, and theorists of fascism, contemporary
and historical”98 are anything but consistent although anti-Americanism is an essential
constant. He has, in fact, proposed anti-Americanism as a “reliable platform for a
stable consolidation of the entire Russian society.”99 Dugin believes that the Eurasian
heartland, which in his conception extends from Ireland to Vietnam, will inevitably
clash with the maritime, mercenary U.S and its British ally.100
In relating to the Jews, Dugin distinguishes between two psychological and
cultural types. The first is characterized by what he views as positive traits—religious
fanaticism, mysticism, and idealism and the second by rationalism, coolness toward
religion and an interest in personal enrichment. The first type, he contends, gave rise
to the messianic, russophilic supporters of the Bolshevik Revolution whereas the
second corresponds to the typical Western rational money-grubbing capitalist.101 The
author’s sympathies are clearly with the first type, whom he sees as allies in the
struggle against the U.S.-led West. This dual approach helps explain why there is
even a small but fanatic branch of Jewish Eurasians in Israel who also profess antiAmericanism and a mystical, religious world view and seemingly are not fazed by
Dugin’s antipathy toward “Westernized” Jews and their ilk. More surprisingly, the
Jewish Eurasians in Israel seem to ignore the fact that Dugin also counts among his
allies Islamic fundamentalists that are irreconcilably opposed to the State of Israel.
Russians from the political center tend to downplay Dugin’s influence; yet he has
collaborated with a publication of the Defense Ministry, taught courses on geopolitics
at the Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces and was an adviser to
Gennadi Seleznev, speaker of the Russian State Duma. The successors to the Soviet
intelligence services seem to welcome his anti-American views and the ex-head of the
Federal Security Bureau, President Putin, has at times shown some sympathy toward a
milder version of his views.102
In this context it is worth noting that Eurasianists—and other Russian
nationalist groupings as well—refute Samuel Huntington’s idea of a clash of
civilizations that pointed to Russia as a particularly vulnerable country.103 They do not
view Islamic or Chinese civilizations as a threat but rather as potential allies in the
effort to achieve mutually acceptable security and economic goals and to avert U.S.
domination. Panarin, for example, suggests that Russia should reject Huntington’s
“heresy,” distance itself from the demoralized post-modern West and offer a Eurasian
civilizational alternative that encompasses the East, but “not the east of theocracy and
Muslim fundamentalism but a new Pacific Ocean East, that has shown its ability to
master the Enlightenment without falling into decadence.”104
Russian nationalists also do not accept Francis Fukuyama’s thesis about the
end of history. This concept is based on the assumption that the only path to
modernization is the Western one of market economy and democracy and any other
alternative would doom a country to backwardness. As has been mentioned already,
Russian nationalists reject what they view as a Western/American attempt to impose
an alien “world order” on their country and believe that Russia should follow its own
unique path that would enable it to prosper while retaining traditional values and
There is another form of oppositional anti-Americanism in Russia that is
somewhat related to Western European leftists’ criticism of America rather than to
Slavophile notions. According to this view, anti-Americanism stems not from Russian
envy, scapegoat seeking etc. but from objective negative factors in America itself.
America is regarded as neither truly democratic nor individualistic. Rather, it is
viewed as an Orwellian, totalitarian barrack where democracy only leads to restraints
on individual liberties; in fact it has become a carbon copy of the old Soviet Union,
proclaiming one set of principles and embodying another.105
The Ruling Elite
Among the ruling elite, anti-Americanism has generally been manifested in a
moderate form based more on expediency than on ideological conviction. It is not part
of any party stance as it is, for example, with the CPRF. In fact, neither President
Yeltsin nor Putin has served as the head of a political party although each has exerted
influence on a party or parties—referred to generically as the “party of power”— that
basically promote the presidential outlook. In his approach toward the U.S., President
Putin has gradually evolved toward an essentially pragmatic approach that avoids
sharp extremes. He clearly articulates that Russia cannot be a rubber stamp for U.S.
unilateral actions and it must pursue its own national interests. Russia’s national
interests, however, are still in the process of being defined although as seen in Putin’s
last two speeches to the Russian Federal Assembly, a most important goal is clearly
the economic revival of the country, which entails integration into global economic
structures. International recognition of Russia as a major power whose opinion must
be taken into account is another element although Putin seems more aware than his
predecessors that economic development is essential to backing up this aspiration.
In the context of these economic goals, President Putin has consistently
yielded to the U.S. on issues that could give rise to a confrontation as, for example,
the expansion of NATO eastward, the U.S. abrogation of the 1972 START treaty or
the development of the U.S. national missile defense program. At the time of the 9/11
attacks in America, Putin came out squarely on America’s side; he was the first to
offer sympathy to President Bush and he cooperated with the U.S. in the campaign
against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Russia not only permitted U.S. planes to fly routes
over Russian territory but also did not object to the U.S. use of fly over routes and of
air bases in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Those who saw Islamic
fundamentalist extremism as a threat to civilization in general and to Russia in
particular supported the president’s response.106 The Russian public showed sympathy
for the U.S. after the attack but, apparently, for only a short period. 107 A component in
the change in attitude was a belief that Russia didn’t get anything in return for the
alleged one-sided concessions that it made to the U.S.108
The U.S.-led war in Iraq presented a tricky balancing act for Putin. On the one
hand, given his economic goals, he did not want to damage U.S.-Russian relations
irreparably. On the other hand, he wanted to defend various Russian economic
interests in Iraq, in particular unrealized oil contracts, and deflect opposition and
popular criticism that he was excessively pro-American in his approach. The timing
was also important— about half a year before parliamentary elections. As one
commentator noted, “Given Russia’s weak civil society, policymakers, including the
president, can ignore the public easily enough. But once in a while public opinion in
Russia becomes important. This occurs, of course, around elections.”109
These somewhat contradictory considerations led to what often seemed like an
erratic Russia approach in the first months of 2003 in which at times it seemed like
Russia would refrain from actively opposing U.S. war plans but in the final stretch it
squarely supported the anti-war views of France and Germany. During the war, as
mentioned at the beginning of the article, public opinion polls registered strong antiAmerican feelings. In Russia, however, unlike in the West there were few sizable
public demonstrations against the war. Several commentators, moreover, suggested
that Russia’s interests would be better served by seeking ways of reaching a
compromise with the U.S. on the matter.110 When the U.S. appeared to be quickly
achieving its military goals in Iraq, the president himself seemed to want to cool the
anti-American ardor, and he uttered more conciliatory remarks, declaring that a defeat
for America would not serve Russia’s interests.
In the final analysis, Putin’s vacillations during the Iraq war period do not
seem to have seriously harmed either his relations with the U.S. or his standing in
Russia. This was evident in the meetings between Bush and Putin at the 300th
anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg at the end of May and at the Putin and Bush
summit in Texas at the end of September. At the same time, the public’s antiAmericanism, which was fairly passive in any case, seems to be subsiding.111
Prospects for the Future
Anti-Westernism or anti-Americanism in Russia has a long pedigree;
presumably, it also has a future but the specifics are difficult to predict. We can,
however, point to certain trends and suggest what factors might be influential in
determining its form. It is useful to differentiate between the popular and political
levels. The existence of anti-American attitudes among the public at large and its
influence on the ruling elite are difficult to pinpoint, particularly in light of the general
apathy about political matters. The meaning of anti-Americanism/anti-Westernism
itself is very vague and depends on what is being measured and the nature of the
sample. Is it hostility to the American political system or specific U. S. actions, to the
U.S. president or way of life, fear of U.S. intentions regarding Russia or rejection of a
Western model of development for Russia?112 Thus there may be a large discrepancy
at a given time between the percentage of respondents who have negative feelings
about the U.S. and those who consider that Russia should cooperate and seek
integration with the U.S. and other Western countries.113
The public mood is very changeable. Views on whether the U.S. represents a
serious threat to Russia show considerable fluctuations over time. For example, a poll
of 500 representatives of the elite at the end of September 2000 showed that 53.2
percent perceived the U.S. as a real danger to Russia114; a poll conducted by the
popular radio Ekho Moskvy in September 2003 showed that 73 percent of those
polled viewed China as more dangerous than the U.S. and only 27 percent regarded
the U.S. as more dangerous for Russia.115 Incidentally, the negative feelings about the
U.S. are not necessarily stimulated by major foreign policy issues. For example,
Russians’ negative feelings about the U.S. increased sharply at the time of the 2002
Winter Olympics when popular sentiment considered that Russian athletes had been
treated “unfairly.”116 It is worth noting that, despite setbacks in relations, most
Russians seem to regard them as temporary. Thus during the U.S. bombing of
Yugoslavia, 52 percent of those surveyed considered that relations would return to
normal after the crisis in Kosovo ended.117 At the end of April, 2003, after the U.S. led
forces had taken Baghdad, over 60 percent of Russians polled by the Public Opinion
Foundation considered that Russo-American relations ought not to be spoiled because
of the Iraq war whereas only 16 percent held the opposite view.118
In short, not only is Russian public opinion about the U.S./West a vague
category, but also the effect of such views on the political process is questionable.
Despite this caveat, it seems that the public at large possesses a residual distrust of the
U.S. accumulated during the Soviet era and perpetuated as a result of dissatisfaction
with the outcome of processes started in the perestroika period and it is wary about
the virtues of Western democracy.119
To varying degrees, the political forces in the country find it expedient to play
on these sentiments to further their political goals, and when faced with the need to be
elected, they fear bucking these attitudes. This is particularly true of the “redbrowns”—the CPRF, Zhirinovskii’s LDPR, Dugin’s Eurasian Movement and others.
Despite President Putin’s more pragmatic, non-confrontational approach, no doubt
with the upcoming elections in mind, he was not averse to sending a message of antiAmericanism to the Russian public during the Iraq war.120
Several factors suggest that it is premature to assert that a victory of Putin’s
supporters in the parliamentary elections and his own victory in the presidential
elections in March 2004 will guarantee a decline in Russian anti-Americanism. For
one, in recent months the Russian media has been full of reports about power
struggles around the president in which the real issue is who will succeed Putin at the
end of his second term.121 Among those vying for power are members of the power
ministries and related agencies (security, defense, interior, military-industrial
complex) and members of the diplomatic and civil services, among whom anti-
American and antisemitic feelings have remained strong. The camp favoring an
alliance with the U.S.122 includes part of the presidential administration, some
business figures, and foreign policy experts.123 No one seems to know for certain
whether Putin controls the various groupings or vice versa. If the anti-American
groupings gain the upper hand, this could influence foreign policy even while Putin
remains president.124
Second, by appealing to anti-Americanism during the Iraq war, Putin may have let the
genie out of the box. As one analyst noted, “…the Kremlin’s appeal to populist
nationalism at the expense of the United States might have helped stir up forms of
nationalism and ethnocentricity that could return to haunt it.”125
This negative reaction is less likely if Putin achieves notable economic success
and revives a sense of security and well being among the populace. In that case, he
may succeed in defusing anti-American sentiments related to frustration, envy and
feelings of inadequacy.126 The fear of Islamic extremism and of terrorist attacks still
provides an emotional bond with America and modifies irritation about the activities
of the “world cop.” But, as some commentators have noted, the seeds of antiAmericanism are merely latent, not uprooted and they could possibly bring forth new
shoots if Russia finds itself in less favorable circumstances.127 In that case, the
ideological opponents of the West will reinforce anti-American tendencies, blaming
the West for Russian failures and urging an anti-Western third way. It may be worth
noting that dire predictions in the early 1990s that Russia was heading toward a
Weimar situation were not realized at that time.
By Fiamma Nirenstein
On the eve of the beginning of Italy’s presidency of the European Union in
July 2003, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi chose a path of international daring by
supporting the United States. He hoped that his determination to be a bridge between
a malevolent Europe and the antiterrorist front would create a special role to Italy and
also cover up with international support his serious internal problems. But he
achieved the opposite result. The United States became hated even more in Italy,
helped by the strong delegitimization that his enemies projected onto him. The
leftwing political opposition found strong allies to form a large anti-American pacifist
alliance based on long-held historically Italian views. Anti-Americanism has found
entree into the churches, the local sections of Forza Italia (Berlusconi’s party) and
most of all La Lega, the populist rightist party, and the ex-Fascist right currently
sitting in the government. It has created a bizarre situation in which while Italy’s
highest public official –one of the lone few in Europe -- is pro-America, intellectuals,
the media, government and much of public opinion view the United States with deep
disapproval, intellectual contempt, envy, and even hate.
As during the era of Fascim and after 1945 in the environment of the
Communist sezion” (neighborhood cell) or in the Church parrocchie (parish) the
United States has become a subject that arouses hostile feelings to which few people
dare to publicly object. The situation is identical to that which occurred in Italy during
post-World War II when the Christian Democrats led a pro-American government,
which subsisted on its connection with NATO and American aid, but in which antiAmericanism was the politically correct public opinion.
Italian anti-Americanism is historically rooted in Fascism, Communism and
Catholicism, all of which converge in the current anti-global movement. After the war
in Iraq started, colorful, stripped “peace flags” could be seen hanging from windows
from Sicily to Venice. (How ironic for a country which in its extremely post-national
mood has renounced flags!). Several features characterize this anti-Americanism.
First, it is a widespread religion, embraced by intellectuals and journalists, offering a
strong widespread ideology that speaks to the future of the country itself. Second,
with is indifference toward democracy among other factors, this anti-Americanism is
reminiscent of the totalitarian origin of Italy’s anti-Americanism which was born
primarily in the twenty years of the Mussolini fascist experience Third, antiAmericanism is the only cement still remaining which a destroyed left can use to
connect with people of the larger anti-global movement. Fourth, at the European
level, so lacking in common aims and common ground, anti-Americanism is the
cement that allows French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder to join in a sort of common struggle to which many Italians desire to join.
Fifth, an anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic attitude represents the most barbaric and hardnosed face of anti-Americanism as much as anti-Americanism is a face of antisemitism in many cases. This intellectually repulsive mix is very important, and
doesn’t mind appearing and operating at levels that defy the local antifascist national
memory and ethos, and even the law.
All of these points have one common denominator: Italy doesn’t have a deep
tradition of democracy. Advocates of Catholicism and Communism, Italy’s main
cultural modern ideological components, care much more about social issues than
about the civil and human rights guaranteed by democracy. But anti-Americanists are
not so foolish as to present their cause as an unbridled, unqualified attack on America
in its entirety. The Europeans in general, and Italy in particular, have an elaborate way
of attacking the enemy by professing admiration for the United States’ “great tradition
of democracy,” thus resorting to an intellectual invention that dates back to the fifties.
The technique is to create the “Altra America” (other America) of Kennedy, Clinton,
Bob Dylan, Woody Allen, blacks and feminists belonging to the liberation
movements. The “Altra America,” provides the left-wing Italian soul with a rational
for not condemning as a total monster and threat to humanity the nation that, after all,
saved the country and all of Europe from Nazism and Stalinism. Even Enrico
Berlinguer, Secretary of the Communist party, declared in the 1980s that he felt safer
under the NATO umbrella, and the vast majority of Italians were never serious about
becoming part of the Soviet bloc. Nor did Italy, with a weak post World War II prime
minister, Giulio Andreotti, have a divorce from the United States as did France during
the presidency of the powerful Charles De Gaulle. And while anti-Americanism in
France is a basic and unchallenged instinct for a nation that sees itself as superior, in
Italy, still grappling with a clear self-identity, it is something to be debated.
Moreover, the governments of Italy, for thirty years dominated by the Catholic party
(Democrazia Cristiana) were still deeply engaged in the cold war on the side of the
United States even if the Church was pushing against secularisation and the
emancipation of women, in a word, against any moderniztion trend identified with
the United States. Most Italians welcomed any sign of modernization in a country that
had been dominated by the corrupt, parochial, secluded, ignorant, and hungry
dictatorship that fascism had provided.
Italians saluted the Americans who entered Rome on June 4, 1944. They
brought a fresh breath of culture, together with chocolate, Colgate, soap and blankets.
America, through the Marshall Plan, gave Italians the money to finance a new age of
democracy, the emancipation of women, boogie woogie, American authors (F. Scott
Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway) and role model actors (Humphrey Bogart, Gary
Cooper and John Wayne). It was a real revolution, a liberation that the Italians
registered in the deepest part of their subconscious. From the 1950s to 1970s, during
the rise of the worst brand of imported Soviet anti-Americanism, that “Altra America”
was still loved and defended by our intellectuals even if also branded as a stupid loser,
a sort of European American, soft and pacifist and basically anti-capitalist whose
worst enemy is the USA itself, its ruling class which wishes to dominate the world
and sends its youth to fight, in Vietnam then, in Iraq today. I would argue that as a
matter of basic fact, this is a symptom of the unstructured nature of Italian antiAmericanism. Does this make the phenomenon of anti-Americanism less aggressive,
less dangerous? No, because its power was magnified and exacerbated by the loss of a
sense of identity experienced by Europe and its left.
Returning to the subject of the war in Iraq and its affect on anti-Americanism
in Italy, consider some of the commentary and how they delight in the loss of
American life. A famous Italian columnist and senior editor, Eugenio Scalfari, writes
in a mainstream newspaper, “La Repubblica” on August 24, 2003 after the terrorist
attack against the United Nations in Baghdad:
“We have to sound the alarm [about the diffusion of a war of cultures] because the
real, principal engine of the metastasis [of terrorism] is just the image of the marine
sitting in his tank, ready to shoot any moving target that might appear suspicious;
neurotic, because of the ambushes, because of the hostility, serving a tour of duty that
he is not prepared for …that poor boy [the Altra America!] has already won a
[limited] war but bought it with dollars, while he actually lost the (world) peace; he
attracts all the terrorists without being able to kill them…while after four months,
Iraqi towns are still without water, medicine, aid…The primary mistake was not to
make the peace between Israel and Palestine [sic]as the first priority and, just in case,
to postpone the Iraqi war…But Bush and his hawks wanted the war; they needed it
badly. So they made it and allowed the Palestinian priority to be forgotten…Now the
goverment of the USA is asking the United Nations for a resolution that authorises the
influx of more troops and money …[and that would give more power to the UN].
Powell has already said “no”; about Rumsfeld, there’s no point in talking; those
hawks use oil as a nutritive basis…so the conflict will continue, the mullah…will stir
up the fires of fanaticism, while Bush from the decks of his many aircraft carriers will
invoke the Christian God of the army of the righteous. Until such time as, just to prop
up his political fortunes, President Bush starts another preventive war against Iran,
which is right there, within reach of his cannons."128
The article reveals well-understood patterns of American behavior, which don’t even
require any evidence. You just have to mention it, and the Italian public will repeat it
on social occasions and teach it to their children. The pattern includes a conspiracy
theory, where the genuine motives of America are very far from the declared ones, but
are concealed in its ontological need to make war. In this case, that the war is
motivated by greed – oil -- and power games, and that it will self-expand, from Iraq to
Iran, for example, for the sake of power and of war itself. The poor but neurotic
American soldier is a blind instrument of American power, a machine of death, ready
to kill and be killed, because he is basically an idiot. Again, the L’altra America.
Meanwhile a primitive Bush -- who is also an idiot, but he is the boss, maybe even the
dictator -- uses a primitive God just as the mullah uses it, with no difference. Religion
in the hands of the Americans becomes a cynical instrument of hatred.
On the same day, when the UN were attacked in Baghdad, Il Manifesto, a
Communist anti-global newspaper read mostly by students, defined the attack simply
as “Bush’s defeat.” The UN is characterized surprisingly as something that in recent
years has become “the back of the shop of the USA” which “after the embargo [on
Iraq], slaughtered the Iraqi population and forbade reconstruction.” It was struck by
righteous terrorists because it helped the United States. And the results of the war?
“America gave birth to a monster.” The monster is the war, by which America is
obsessed, and terrorism, that America invented and that is basically right in its
struggle against imperialism.129
More subtly, a very important columnist and intellectual, Barbara Spinelli,
wrote on the same day a front page article in La Stampa where she bluntly asks: “Why
is there a conflict? To defy terrorism? To convince the Arab population to distance
itself from Islamic fundamentalism? Or maybe Bush’s aim is another: to safeguard the
image of an invulnerable superpower, to show the UN and Europe that the control of
the entire world is firmly in American hands, to dominate from up close the regimes
that own the resources that we all need, oil…. But none of these aims has been
achieved…..The war, like a ship being steered by a drunk captain, sails toward shores
that the American captain searches for with blind eyes.”
This view of the United States took some time to develop fully after
September 11th, when the most venerable among the Italian newspapers, Il Corriere
della Sera, declared “We are all Americans” on the front page. Exactly like the French
daily, Le Monde, did. For a few weeks the horror prevailed, and sympathy for the
losses dominated the Italian general state of mind, just to lose ground at the very
moment when it became clear that instead of accepting the role of victim, the United
States was going to react and even to become the leading force in the war that Bush
declared against terrorism. Spinelli writes in the same article previously mentioned
that “Bush has chosen only one way, the military one [among many that could have
been chosen]; it’s the same choice adopted by the Israeli government, and nobody
knows who is imitating whom, in this fatal belief in the indispensability of weapons.”
War is the magic word that resurrects anti-Americanism, especially when it is
coupled with the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace in the Middle East is
a sort of a “call of the wild” for the tents of thousands of antiglobal, anti-imperialist
youth when the Italian government even if at the time it was a left wing government,
in September 2001 approved the participation of some military units in the war in
Afghanistan. On October 14, 2001, tens of thousands of anti-global, Communist and
Catholic youth marched from Assisi to Perugia with the same leaders of the centristleft government which one week before had proposed sending the Italian troops. They
so created a wave that the entire left was soon obliged to follow to avoid remaining
isolated. The furious slogans were unfurled: “USA and Israel - the real terrorists”;
“Yankee, be careful - somebody could bomb you.” “Disarm the sky and the earth”;
“Terrorism is the tragedy to avoid; war is the enemy to beat”; “No global war, neither
with Bush, nor with Bin Laden”; “War and terrorism are business for the rich.”
The leading newspapers, the intellectuals, the left and the populist right
immediately got the message: either you join or you lose this colorful crowd of youth,
nuns, priests, farmers, workers and Arab émigrés waving red flags, peace flags,
Palestinian flags and flags with the face of Che Guevara and Saddam Hussein. After
years of retreat and of attrition, of absence from the squares and the streets, after so
many years of isolation and on the verge of being dispersed, the left suddenly found
its way back to the mass movements and to the symbol of a flag, after the red flag had
been buried, of anti-Americanism. It was an oversimplified, backward yet deeply
Fascist and Communist anti-Americanism that gave up on the long road that led from
the cold war toward the acceptance of a new international scenario. The cowardice,
envy and parochialism of the Fascist anti-Americanism had returned, fueled by the
desire of the left to find its piazza masses again and of the Catholic movement’s belief
that their battle for life in its mystical sense is fulfilled by pacifism. Third worldism
came back dashing away all the crimes and the misdeed of the dictators and the
About the war in Afghanistan, Tiziano Terzani, winner of many journalist
awards, wrote: “Those B-52s are here not only to bomb the refuges of Bin Laden, but
to remind everyone: who are the new policemen, the new judges, the new owners and
puppeteers of this country... It’s the Talibans’ turn now to become the new victims of
the Americans who want to avenge their dead, but most of all to establish the idea of
their invulnerability."130
The sources of this anti-Americanism are many indeed, but the central one is
grounded in Fascism. Consider what Mussolini said in a dialogue about “the forces
that threaten Europe”: “I have a great sympathy for the [American] people… But I
have no sympathy for its government. The American constitution, under the deceptive
standard of democracy, brings to power authentic capitalistic oligarchies, which I call
‘plutocracies.’ These are oligarchies made up more of huge economic interests, than
of ideas and principles…American products...will need to glut the world market.
Therefore, beyond business and in defense of business, it will not be inconsistent to
find those products on a battleship or on the wings of a bomber.”
Having explained the theory that pushes him to banish American products
from the Italian fascist market, Mussolini ventures a ramble into the values that
inspire his political attitudes. “It’s out of the question that among the Italians there is a
spread of American tastes and attitudes, certainly extraneous to our way of life:
music, Negro or too Yankee; awful cocktails, feet on the tables, chewing gum...I
raised my battle standard against if necessary, I’ll rally the Italians
to an economic and spiritual autocracy.
Since then, from Julius Evola, the Fascist philosopher to today’s Marcello
Veneziani, the youngest of the deeply right-wing intellectuals, the political
antagonism to the U.S. comes from a moral and esthetic revulsion that Mussolini
expressed thus: “The American imperialist pretense of dominating the world is not as
with many other imperialisms, the pretense of substituting an old power with a new
one: it is the barbaric pretense of lowering human intelligence and dignity all over the
What is being said today by the anti-American democratic public opinion is
not a pale shadow, but a surprisingly mirror image of the words of the fascist dictator.
After the end of fascism, there were still plenty of writings claiming that even the
liberation of Italy and the Marshall Plan was a cynical business operation aimed to
weaken Italian independence.
And even if, as noted, the Christian Democrats pragmatically welcomed the
American help and stood firmly on the side of the American military and of the
NATO alliance, the Church still contributed the principal moral basis for the positions
enumerated before, and never changed them officially, even up until the present antiwar position of the Pope. There are hundreds of Catholic thinkers and several popes,
including the last one, John Paul II, who see American society as a source of immoral
secularization, and modernity and as a guarantee of spiritual bankruptcy. According to
this interpretation the divinization of money made the governing class of America
greedy and evil, and the man in the street as a pawn in the hands of a spurious
democracy. The Church holds a long lasting and enduring responsibility. It is
responsible for the human issues just as much as totalitarian thought is responsible for
the political ones.
Pius the XII, in his radio message on Christmas 1954, expressed his concern
for Europe, the spirit of materialism and technology by (this, from the man who was
not able to utter a word about the problem of peace during World War II!) declaring
himself “worried about the materialistic view of the peace problem….We think
particularly about those [the Americans] who judge the question of peace as a
technical problem, and regard the life of individuals in a technical, economical
framework.. With free trade, they think, will come eternal peace.”
Such criticism cannot be defined as a rightist attitude, but rather was affected
by and in turn affected the left. For instance, in the Catholic arena, the criticism
leveled by the right against mixed-pedigree America with its melting pot of blacks,
Hispanic, and Chinese émigrés, is seen from an opposite point of view. In the fifties
and sixties in a series of articles in the prominent and respected monthly “La Civiltà
Cattolica,” the United States is accused of favoring a blonde, North European
immigration and of indulging in racist standards. The Church in the years of
reconstruction has offered the rising Communist party a serious theoretical basis for
its current agitation.
Consider this from Padre Brucculeri in the “Civiltà Cattolica,”: “The welfare
of men [for the American] is similar to the welfare of a herd…Our rich allies from
beyond the Atlantic Ocean do not simply give us money and weapons but,
unsolicited, they also give us Malthusian advice…. …mediocre demographers and
obtuse economists..” They are, he adds, “Monstrous, animalesque, cruel." Or Father
Baragli in the same periodical: “America is civilization that will produce the next war
just to make selfish use of the annihilating power of atomic energy, its last and most
marvelous discovery.” These words were written during the years of an intensive
process of Americanization, when the Fiat 600, the TV, the shower, urbanization,
music and emancipation of women were changing rural and traditionalist Italian
society. And with its strong intuitions and instinct for survival, the Church, looking
for hegemony in Italian society, didn’t choose the path of relating only to the
backward right, but also spoke the language of the left. The Communist stereotypes of
the American that emerges in the voice of the historical leader of the Communist
Party Palmiro Togliatti are a replica of the church’s portrayals: “America, a strongly
selfish people that knows no other god but the dollar.” They are people who “are
interested in producing and selling weapons all over the world to ignite a new world
The melding of these three cultures into one anti-American religion makes it
an extremely strong cancer. Paradoxically, the historical disaster that beset the left
with the fall of the Soviet Union and of the Berlin Wall, has improved its fortunes. To
whom but the antiglobal pacifist movement would the left sell its newspapers, ask for
votes and preach from the TV screen since they were fortunate enough to meet on
their way anti-Americanism and anti-Judaism as a cement for all the Italian
extremism? When the left, immediately after the attack on Afghanistan, understood
that their entire constituency could be unified under the flag of peace, it didn’t take
them long to move beyond that position. We are all Americans, so we all have the
right to become anti-American. The traditional Italian sympathy for the Arab world,
which is reciprocated, is part of the anti-imperialist rhetoric. So, if it was a little
embarrassing for them to be on the side of the Taliban and afterwards, of Saddam,
still it was very easy to discover that the real guilt of expropriations, domination,
slaughters, deportation-- indeed all the international crimes that provoked terrorism -had actually originated in the imperialist politics of the United States. The
responsibility for terrorism shifted from the perpetrators to the victims, exactly as it
happened in the case of Israel.
The emphasis on the value of life (Catholic philosophy), the value of the poor
(Communist philosophy); and the value of a culturally independent society, as
opposed to the assault of the American culture, merged in Italy in an unreasonable,
and very dangerous, movement, that unites under the flag of a backward, miserable
and irrational culture. This is typical of a rural and primordially young industrial
society with an anxious public in search of identity. The linking of Bush and Sharon
shows how in the Italian mind they are connected in the most dangerous and
condemnable nightmare for the easy Italian life – the outbreak of war.
The comparison to Hitler of both these leaders has also been made in Italian
demonstrations, on the radio, and in the extreme leftwing press. The idea of the
Jewish lobby that pressures Bush to protect Israel from the just rage of the persecuted
Palestinian is prevalent in Italy, too. A university professor told me: “Well, war on
terror must certainly be fought, but if we ask ourselves where are its origins,
everything points to Israel. So the [attack on the World Trade Center] Twin Towers
are a consequence of that.” When I asked, “Let’s say you are right, then what would
you do today?” His answer was crystal clear: “If the reason for this entire
international clash is Israel, then the United States will also have to abandon it to its
destiny and let it disappear. America, as usual, is imposing solutions on the world that
are against any sense of justice. The Arabs are right: Israel is an extraneous body, a
means of colonization by the USA, which must disappear.”
This kind of attitude is one that justifies anti-Americanism and even terrorism.
It creates a culture where the old world with all of its values, its basically fascist
culture of the village and the church, feels historically counterpoised to a culture that
they consider rootless and in which economy, profit and the expansion of welfare
prevail over social cohesion. Those embracing this old world fascist culture have the
fantasy that in the American society the ascendancy of a technical mindset brought
mankind to a condition of stupidity, simplicity, and an inability to elaborate on the
complexity of human life, accompanied by a greedy escalation in accumulating that
feeds its leadership. This culture is the same as that seen by the terrorists. It is a
culture of illusions and of blaming others for our diseases. This culture is the waters
where terrorists can swim and find a haven. It’s the dangerous dream palace of the
Europeans, similar to the dream palace that brought the Arab society to deep
economical and ideological troubles, and to a war against everybody.
By Bret Stephens
Never in postwar history have the political differences between the United
States and Europe seemed so stark, and never have the geopolitical implications been
more consequential.
In Greece, a public opinion poll finds that more people have a positive
view of Saddam Hussein than of George Bush. In Germany, a cover story of the
newsweekly Der Spiegel entitled “Blood for Oil” shows an American flag with
M-16s crossing fuel pumps in the style of hammers and sickles. In Britain, Michael
Moore's Stupid White Men, a polemic against America's foreign and domestic policy,
stands atop the bestseller list; in France, it was Thierry Meyssan's L'Effroyable
Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud), alleging that America's “military-industrial
complex” was behind the attacks of September 11. Meyssan's book sold 500,000
The contempt is fully reciprocated. “Shameful, for me it's truly shameful,”
said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of the refusal by Germany, France and
Belgium to support fellow NATO member Turkey in case of Iraqi attack. In private
conversation, Bush dismisses Europeans who “tend to wilt” and reportedly did not
speak to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder for months. In Brussels, a
congressional delegation led by Republican Senator John McCain and his Democratic
counterpart Joe Lieberman advocated a 50 percent reduction in U.S. troop strength in
Germany, to 35,000 soldiers from the current 70,000.
“Today, the very definition of common security and, indeed, of common
purpose is being questioned,' writes Henry Kissinger. 'The issue of American
dissociation from European colonial interests now seems almost historically
quaint... It is our European allies who dissociate from American.”
Yet this is also a highly selective reading of European opinion. True, among
West European publics, opposition to the Iraq war was widespread. But among
European leaders generally, support for Bush's position was considerable on the part
of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In Eastern Europe, support for the American position was even more
widespread, with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland all furnishing material
support for the war effort. Together, these countries have a population of 220 million.
Are they not also European?
The dispute, then, is within Europe as well as between the United States and
Europe. French President Jacques Chirac described the behavior of East European
leaders aligned with the United States on the question of Iraq as “infantile and
dangerous….They missed a good opportunity to shut up,” Chirac said following a
dinner summit with other EU leaders in Brussels. “These countries are very rude and
rather reckless of the danger of aligning themselves too quickly with the Americans.
Their situation is very delicate. If they wanted to diminish their chances of joining the
EU, they couldn't have chosen a better way.”
Blair explicitly defended the East European views as “particularly valid
[since] they know the value of Europe and America sticking together.” But it was
only France, Germany, and Belgium that took a hard line against the United States on
the Iraq issue.
All this brings to light something important. Within Europe, the debate
over Iraq—and over American policies and society more broadly--was not, at bottom,
about Iraq but rather about who should lead Europe and who should lead the world
generally. Certainly, France has Europe's largest military; Germany its largest
economy and largest population. The institutions of the European Union are modeled
on France's bureaucracy and its dirigiste principles; Germany supplies the money.
Together, they see themselves as Europe's natural leaders and role models.
And they also see this leadership as contingent on competing with the United States
and setting themselves apart from its positions. The point is, though, that it cannot be
taken for granted that Europe wants to be a counterweight to U.S. power and an
obstacle to U.S. policies.
So do Europe and the United States share a common set of political, social
and cultural values, or is there such a thing as “European” values, which not only
differ, but might clash, with American ones?
To a certain extent, European differences with the United States are real, the
product of different values, ambitions, histories and perceptions. On the rights and
duties of the individual, Americans follow John Locke and John Stuart Mill;
Europeans, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. On economics, Americans
broadly stand for free enterprise, Europeans for social democracy.
History conditions Americans to think that they march abroad as liberators;
but history more often reminds Europeans of their legacy of conquest and
colonialism. For America, civilization means know-how, the overcoming of nature
through technical means. For Europe, it means culture and its diffusion through
language and education.
Still, as Otto von Bismarck said, “Whoever speaks of Europe is wrong; it is
a geographical expression.” For decades, European statesmen have been trying to
prove Bismarck wrong. Speaking of the European Coal and Steel Community,
forerunner to the EU, German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer insisted that its “political
meaning [was] infinitely larger than its economic purpose.” Half a century later, the
introduction of the euro currency was hailed--or derided--less for its monetary
benefits than for its political possibilities.
The United States, it should be remembered, was long an advocate of
European integration, never seeing it as a rival or danger. “It is only a fully cohesive
Europe,” said John F. Kennedy in 1963, “that can protect us all against fragmentation
of the alliance. Only such a Europe will permit full reciprocity of treatment across the
ocean, in facing the Atlantic agenda. With only such a Europe can we have a full
give-and-take between equals, an equal sharing of responsibilities, and an equal level
of sacrifice.”
That, at least, was the American view when a “fully cohesive Europe” was
an abstraction and the Soviet Union a reality. Now we have something closer to the
opposite. Russian gross domestic product is today comparable to Holland's. By
contrast, in 2001 the combined GDP of the 15 members of the EU was close to $8
trillion, against America's $10 trillion. The EU accounts for 18.2 percent of world
imports (the United States consumed 23.5 percent), and 18.4 percent of its exports,
three percentage points higher than the United States. The expanded EU starting with
2004, stretching from Cyprus to Estonia, has a combined economic weight close to
parity with the United States.
On paper, then, the EU has the resources of a superpower, which is not
always to the liking of the United States. For example, it reacted angrily when the
EU's Competition Directorate squelched the multibillion dollar General ElectricHoneywell merger in 2001 after the deal had been approved by U.S. authorities. Nor
was America pleased when Europe banned its beef and grain exports, when Airbus
overtakes Boeing as the world's leading supplier of commercial aircraft, or when the
EU threatens suit against Microsoft for its allegedly monopolistic practices.
The differences are not relegated to commercial issues only. The EU
howled against the Bush administration's refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol
in the winter of 2001. It opposed American plans to scrap the 1972 Anti Ballistic
Missile Treaty and develop its missile defenses. It engaged in freelance diplomacy
with North Korea. It vowed to press ahead with an independent European military
force at the expense of NATO and over serious US misgivings. Differences over war
with Iraq were hardly the beginning of this friction.
There are also generalizations, which contain some truth, of different
orientations between Europe and the United States. If Europe prefers multilateral
solutions to global problems--on environment, on weapons proliferation, on conflict
Resolution--it's because multilateralism has worked so well within Europe. If
Europeans appear to prefer patient diplomacy--infinitely patient, it sometimes seems-to imposed solutions, it's because experience teaches them that process can have a
meliorating, and therefore substantive, effect on outcomes. If Europe sometimes
appears to obstruct US designs for the sake of obstructionism, it's because Europe
believes that a balance of power is a better guarantor of world peace than American
Yet generalizations are also deceiving, and the European Union is as much a
veil as it is a construct. The storybook history of the EU is one of former enemies
learning the virtues of coexistence and interdependence. But there is also a counterhistory. Of France, seeking national advantage by leveraging the resources of
Germany in order to dominate the continent and reassert its status as a world power.
Of Britain, turning to Europe for lack of options as its empire crumbled and its
influence waned. Of Germany, using the EU for moral resurrection. Of Spain,
Portugal, Ireland, Greece and to a certain extent Italy, for whom the EU has above all
been a great fount of subsidies.
For all these countries, the EU has been a great force multiplier and a
terrific soapbox. It offers minor political figures - the foreign minister of Sweden, say,
or the prime minister of Finland - the chance to cut a global figure, at least when their
countries assume the rotating, six-month presidency of the European Council. It has
also served as a kind of escape hatch for national politicians seeking to escape tricky
political questions--immigration is one example--by passing the buck to Brussels.
Yet the EU has hardly erased national ambitions and created a Europe united
in policy and style, a champion of altruistic multilateral cooperation, against an
America which is by way of contrast self-interested and unilateralist. France routinely
ignores EU privatization directives when they touch on sacred cows such as
Electricite de France, and Germany flouts EU-stipulated ceilings on budget deficits.
What's more, in the debate over the future of EU institutions, France and Germany
have attempted to substitute for the rotating presidency of the European Council with
a long-term presidency, most likely occupied by one of their own citizens.
The EU has also notably failed to submerge national identities into a
collective European conscience. True, there is an elite strata of Europeans in the
Brussels bureaucracy. But ordinary Europeans often chafe at the EU and the endless
stream of directives it issues regarding the definition of chocolate, the proper handling
of Pecorino cheese, standards for the production of toy guns and so on. They distrust
what they see as a remote institution, democratically unaccountable, impenetrably
bureaucratic and so corrupt that the entire leadership of the European Commission
was forced to resign in 1999.
Many Europeans also dislike what they see as an effort by France and
Germany to be treated as the de facto spokesmen for Europe. Britain and the EU's
smaller member states are aware of this type of problem. This “new Europe” wants a
better-integrated, economically more competitive continent, but not at the expense of
its American ties. And it wants a Europe of equal partners, not one in which the selfanointed core sets both agenda and pace. This is a Europe that compliments the
United States in its values, attitudes and policies, not one that gropes for a way through posture, obstruction, or the proclamation of a 'European' approach - to
counterbalance it.
This is the basis of the extraordinary Wall Street Journal op-ed, signed by
the prime ministers of Spain, Italy, Britain, Portugal, Hungary, Denmark, and Poland
and the president of the Czech Republic, which called for solidarity with the United
States in its confrontation with Iraq.
“The real bond between the US and Europe,” the authors wrote, “is the
values we share: democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of
law....In standing firm in defense of these principles, the governments and people of
the United States and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their
convictions. Today, more than ever, the trans-Atlantic bond is a guarantee of our
While no doubt the EU has been an economic success, its failure to take
shape as a coherent political and military entity explains the secondary and largely
hortatory role it plays geopolitically. Because of the historical accident of France's
permanent seat at the Security Council, it can delay and obstruct US military action in
Iraq. It cannot stop it.
Nor can Europe enforce its will anywhere else in the world: not in the
Balkans, where it was unable to muster the collective will to prevent mass murder
from taking place on its doorstep; not in the Middle East, where its habit of scolding
Israel has eradicated what prestige it might otherwise have enjoyed; not even in its
former colonial possessions in Africa, despite so many French military interventions,
none of them enjoying UN sanction. In the Ivory Coast, protesters against the
presence of French troops carried signs reading, “America welcome in Ivory Coast,”
“France bye-bye,”' and “Bush help us, Chirac is criminal.”
To a great extent, this European geopolitical failure is the result of choice.
Since the end of the Cold War, defense expenditures in every European nation have
declined below 2 percent of GDP, as compared to around 3 percent in the US. This
has taken place inexorably; despite repeated pledges at the EU level to fund and
deploy a rapid reaction force.
Yet this choice is not surprising. A Europe that enjoys the benefit of
America's security umbrella hardly requires vast military forces of its own, except as
a vanity. Then too, as Robert Kagan observes, Europe's military weakness serves as
its own kind of defense: “It is precisely America's great power that makes it the
primary target, and often the only target,” he writes. “Europeans are understandably
content that it should remain so.”
Europe is simply not prepared to assume the burdens of a true superpower.
The EU's great foreign policy initiative of the 1990s, the Euro-Mediterranean
partnership (also known as the Barcelona Process), after years of earnest discussion
came to nothing. Its participation in the Middle East peace process is mainly a
diplomatic formality. It has nothing useful to contribute to a resolution of the Korean
For all the talk of Europe's wish “to make our voice heard, to make our
actions count,” as Commission President Romano Prodi put it, the bulk of what passes
for a foreign policy in Europe is mere posturing. The problem is not so much of a lack
of resources or of ambition but rather that Europe is not quite sure just what that
mission should be, and how substantially it differs from America's.
Is Europe the champion of social democratic ideals, and a counterweight
to the “savage capitalism”' of Britain and America? Maybe, but the notion is
becoming harder to sustain given Germany's and France's decade-long worsening,
economic plight. Is Europe the guardian of international legal norms? Possibly, too,
but these seem weak reeds in the face of al-Qa’ida style terrorism. Should Europe
unite simply to provide an alternative pole of power to the United States? Plausible,
yet it isn't apparent why Europe should expend itself to oppose what most Europeans
still believe is a benign hegemony.
If the stereotypes of political differences as a basis for anti-Americanism are
limited in scope, despite the passion with which many Europeans hold them, what
about the cultural argument. It is certainly possible to make the claim that there are
many problems with American culture and society. As a civilization, America is a
marvel: Think of the efficiency of U.S. markets, the soundness of its governing
institutions, its technological inventiveness, its military prowess, its respect for hard
work and enterprise, its being a land of opportunities and second-chances.
As culture, however, America is something else. Think: Marilyn Manson
and Tom Cruise. Super-size portions and Jane Fonda workout videos. Hollywood,
political correctness, gangsta rap, Oral Roberts, “self-esteem.” The unworldliness of
the average high-school student, the pseudo-worldliness of the average college
student, the provinciality of much of the country's middle class.
“I am profoundly linked to America,” writes Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci
in her extremely pro-American book, The Rage and The Pride. “Even though I
condemn her flaws and mistakes and faults. Her too frequent oblivion to the noble
principles on which she was born and grew up, to begin with. Her childish cult of
opulence, her inconsiderate waste of richness, her moral hypocrisies, her bullish
arrogance in the financial and military fields....her paucities in education.... her
constant glorification of violence and brutality.... her sordid and obsessive exhibition
of sex, her boring deification of homosexuality, her immoderate and boundless
There is nothing said in Europe that is not also stated in the United States
about the vulgarity of much on the American scene. In the 1990s, William J. Bennett
churned out titles like The Death of Outrage, The Broken Hearth, and The De-Valuing
Of America. Robert Bork wrote a book called Slouching Toward Gomorrah, in which
he argued that what passed for American culture--high-, middle-, and low-brow--was
the sheerest garbage. Daniel Patrick Moynihan coined the phrase ”defining deviancy
down” to describe the inexorable debasement of American morals.
All this happened during Bill Clinton's presidency, when it was popular
among conservatives to fret about American malaise. But now that Bush is in office,
the opposite is true: conservatives love to talk about the robustness of American
values, and interpret European contempt for the administration as nothing but rank
anti-Americanism and an unwitting expression of their own moral decadence.
There are also many things to be said in favor of aspects of the European
way of life compared to that in the United States. Still, it is easy to fall into
stereotypes on both sides. It is easier to believe in European dignity versus American
vulgarity if you have never been to a European soccer tournament.
Still, in Europe, broadly speaking, it's the reverse: European culture is
gliding at least at a high level while the civilization is decadent. For over a decade, the
continent's combined growth rate has averaged less than half that of the United States.
There is no European Silicon Valley, nor anything like an enterprise culture except in
the gray and black markets. European politicians are generally either mendacious
(Germany's Gerhard Schroeder) or corrupt (France's Jacques Chirac) or both (Italy's
Silvio Berlusconi). At the EU level, bureaucracy and hollow sloganeering reign.
European foreign policy is mostly feckless except when it's opportunistic. Europe's
militaries are a joke.
Yet Europe has culture: not just a massive cultural inheritance, but also
pride in that inheritance. Consider the difference between American and European
cities. The former are feats of invention and reinvention, the latter of preservation. Or
consider differences in education: American children are schooled early in
“alternative histories,” minorities, “herstories,” the Chinese, Timbuktu, creative
doodling. European kids get Western Civilization, Latin, art history, two or three
European languages, the cello. Approximately seventy percent of Continental
Europeans speak English; I doubt five percent of native-born Americans speak a
second language.
There's more. Go to a European concert hall; at least half the audience will
be under 40. In America, classical music is mainly for old people. European twentysomethings frequent cafes, where they sit down and converse. Their American peers
go to bars, where they stand around and hope to get picked up. Europeans travel
frequently outside their borders; Americans rarely do. Americans run the world and
know relatively little about it; Europeans don't, and know a great deal.
None of this should flatter Americans, though it shouldn't exactly flatter
Europeans either. If Americans generally only speak English, it's because, unlike
Germany, Holland, Belgium or Switzerland, the United States isn't closely bordered
on all sides by countries speaking something else. If Americans rarely go abroad, it's
because to do so usually means the cost of a trans-oceanic flight. Americans may not
know much about history. Then again, the whole purpose of the United States is to
escape the sordid muck of the past.
What these differences do explain, however, is why Europeans and
Americans so often misunderstand and dislike one another. Americans look at
Europe as a civilization and see a failure. They're right. Europeans look at America as
a culture and see failure. They're right, too.
It would be an excellent thing for Americans and Europeans to start
appreciating one another for their virtues. But what ought to be complimentary-European culture, American civilization--will likely only remain a source of friction.
Americans aren't about to adopt European manners. Europeans won't adopt American
methods. It's a pity for them both.
For America, the loss is basically intangible: the steady coarsening of
life, art and thought even as the country becomes richer and more powerful. For
Europe, the loss is very tangible: the adoption of social, political, and economic
policies that are meant to embody some uniquely “European” approach but are in fact
simply foolish.
Consider, for instance, France's 35-hour work week, which was passed in
2000 ostensibly as a measure to increase employment. Of course, nothing of the kind
happened but the point was that the French don't want to become the kind of society
in which it is normal to work 50 or 60 or 70 hours a week, as is routine in the United
States. Much less do they want to exchange their six weeks of annual vacation for
America's two. Because to do so, they fear, would turn the French into nothing but
French-speaking Americans, whose values, pleasures and ambitions are shaped
decisively by what they do for a living.
This is a perfectly legitimate aspiration. But the concern is overwrought.
There are plenty of French, Italians, and Germans who do work 70-hour weeks. They
are no less French, Italian or German for it. There are also lots of Americans who
work 35 hours a week while remaining resolutely American in their tastes and habits.
The way one works makes no difference to the language one speaks, the food one
likes, or the trade-offs one makes between work and play. Look at Hong Kong: they
practice the most “Anglo-American” form of capitalism imaginable. This does not
make them American. It makes them rich Chinese.
The fact is, French-ness and German-ness and American-ness and Chineseness go very deep. This is not determined by the modes of production, as Karl Marx
would have it. It's determined by all the myriad things that go into making a nation:
history, geography, ethnic composition and so on. Most importantly, cultures are
adaptable things. They can take on new technologies, new systems of economic
incentives, new forms of government, and yet remain identifiably themselves.
The same goes for America's civilization; it too is adaptable. It makes no big
difference what food people eat, what movies they watch, how men and women relate
to one another, whether schoolchildren are taught about the Athenian or the Aztec
empires. Which is another way of saying that Americans could eat better, watch more
intelligent movies, rediscover the arts of courtship and romance, and teach their
children something about Western Civilization without doing any harm to the
institutions of the republic. It's merely a matter of choice and decision.
But there is an extensively European view that they are people who unlike
Americans know how to enjoy life, have a sense of proportion and balance between
work and play, eat wisely, spend wisely, have a better appreciation of history, and are
connoisseurs of art and of wine.
There is much truth in this self-image but much illusion as well. One of the
regular claims in this regard is the strong European sense of family. You Americans
go off to college, live far away with your parents, and rarely communicate with them.
In Europe we are with our family. We live together and sit down at proper meals
Nevertheless, in the summer of 2003, between 10,000 and 15,000 elderly
French people died in the heat of boiling apartments because they could not afford to
turn on their air conditioners. What was equally horrifying was that when families
were informed that their grandmother was dead and in a refrigerated morgue they
decided they did not want to cut short their holidays to deal with the problem.
Many similar points can be made about how the European self-image is
deceptive, while the boasting about high levels of culture are usually something that
applies to the high levels of society in economic or intellectual terms.
Finally, there is the question of how much European antagonism toward the
United States was due specifically to the personalities, politics, and policies of
President George W. Bush’s administration. On this point, there are a number of
stereotypes that quickly break down on examination.
It was, after all, the Bush administration that, at considerable diplomatic
risk, sought a new UN resolution against Iraq and obtained one with unanimous
consent. This was a choice it made freely precisely to preserve the alliance and not to
appear or be unilateralist. The United States hardly required Europe's assent to
conduct a successful war against Iraq. The French, by contrast, espouse
multilateralism because that strategy gives France an influence not merited by the
strength of its economy or size of its military.
Facts notwithstanding, though, the caricature prevails. The United States is
an imperialistic bully out just for itself. Europe is the repository of all that's decent in
the West. Between them, so the argument goes, the cultural, economic and political
rift deepens.
To a large extent, this picture is a media invention. According to a survey by
the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Germans, 63 percent of the French, and 75
percent of Britons retained a favorable view of the United States during the Bush
presidency. Majorities in Europe also supported the U.S.-led war on terror, while
between two-thirds and four-fifths of respondents believed Iraq was a serious threat to
the world. By wide margins, too, respondents in Britain, France, Germany and Italy
thought the world would be more dangerous if another country matched America
Of course, holding favorable views of the United States is one thing; of the
Bush administration and its policies, another. But while the survey showed that
America's popularity had declined somewhat since Bush became president, what's
striking was that even at the height of its supposed unpopularity, America remained
broadly popular in Europe and elsewhere.
At the same time, though, there was a great deal of double standard setting
based on the hatred of Bush by key sectors in Europe. In this framework, consistency
was often abandoned. After all, there were few complaints when the Clinton
administration sidestepped the UN over Kosovo to avoid a Russian veto, then
proceeded to bomb Serbia from the inaccurate heights of 15,000 feet to avoid antiaircraft fire. Nor was much anger stirred by the Clinton administration's refusal in
1997 to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Yet Bush's refusal to do the same was made to
appear as taking a sledgehammer to the Western alliance.
But matters do not rest there. Precisely because of America's great power, it
is held to higher standards. “If one wants to be a world leader,” says Romano Prodi,
president of the European Commission, “one must know how to look after the entire
earth and not only American industry.” Thus, if France inserts troops into one of its
former colonial possessions, it is only exercising its usual prerogatives in its
traditional sphere of influence. Whether it succeeds or fails, the footprints it leaves are
small. But when the US walks the earth, the ground shakes. It is, says the German
newsweekly Der Speigel, an “unfettered Gulliver.”
It's a shame this point usually finds expression in tedious anti-American
rants, because it has some merit. The United States may wage war in the Muslim
world without fear of a restive Arab minority at home; France cannot. The United
States may think it's in its interests that there be a Palestinian state established
according to a precise timetable. Some Israelis would disagree. Conceivably, America
could remove its troops from the Korean peninsula and then destroy the North's
atomic facilities. But it would be South Korea and Japan that would be left to face the
“Throwing off the legitimacy of the UN, preferring force over law, means
taking on a heavy responsibility,” said Chirac. However else one may feel about
Chirac's conduct, his point is inarguable. Yet it is also curiously unreal in
understanding how American policy works.
Take, for instance, the idea that America might resolve the problem of North
Korea in an “irresponsible” way by withdrawing its troops from South Korea and then
sending firing cruise missiles into the Yongbyon nuclear facility. From the standpoint
of U.S. national security interests at their most narrowly defined, this would probably
be the best way to deal with the problem. No American casualties, a huge potential
threat to its security removed.
And if North Korea retaliated against Seoul, this could be rationalized by
saying that the South Koreans were not being good hosts to the American presence
and the world could live without Daewoos and Hyundais. Indeed, given the hostile
cynicism toward U.S. behavior—for example, the attribution of a U.S. attack on Iraq
to oil greed—one could even develop a conspiracy theory that the crisis was fomented
to benefit American automakers.
The point is that a number of former world powers would not have hesitated
to behave in this manner. But the United States would not act that way and in their
hearts everyone--the South Koreans most of all--knows it.
Similarly, if, as Der Speigel claimed, the battle with Iraq was a war for oil,
why would not the United States take over Saudi Arabia militarily, not a hard task.
After all, most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, Saudi Arabia proselytizes for the
most fanatical brand of Islam, and the regime is hardly one worth keeping. But
everyone knows America won't do this, either, perhaps because even those who most
actively promulgate the image of an imperialistic, greedy, aggressive United States
don’t really believe it themselves.
The temptation for America is isolationism, not world conquest. With so
much power at its disposal, the United States uses it comparatively sparingly. When
Russia wanted to invade Chechnya for a second time in 1999, it invented pretexts-there are good reasons to believe Putin's security services planted bombs in Russian
apartment complexes--to do so. But America is different.
The problem with anti-Americanism, though, is so many in Europe have
been saying such things and persuading others. As the United States was about to end
an Iraqi regime that subjects its own citizens to the most brutal torture and murder, it
was accused of abandoning its moral standing.
When the United States was simultaneously retaliating against an Afghan
regime that helped the terrorists who murdered three thousand Americans and trying
to help the people who were its victims, Britain's Guardian saw fit to ponder the
question: “Who asked Mr. Bush to 'save civilization'? Which bits of the planet does
Mr. Bush term uncivilized? Some would say Afghanistan; others might nominate west
All the same, perhaps it is just as well. The world may hold the United
States to a higher standard, but so do Americans. It is that which has made the nation
not only powerful but exceptional. And it is this that, when all is said and done,
proves their critics wrong.
By Yossi Klein Halevi
Last January, during anti-globalization protests in Davos, Switzerland, an
Associated Press photograph taken of the event showed several demonstrators
carrying a golden calf. One of them wore a mask with the face of Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon; another, a mask of American Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld. The Rumsfeld figure wore a large Star of David. In that photograph is a
convergence of the recurring themes of Europe's millennia old-hatred of the Jews, and
of the contempt for America expressed by many Europeans since the 19th century.
Consider the golden calf, fashioned by the Israelites when Moses delayed returning
from Mt. Sinai: That was the first betrayal by the Jews of their Divine mission, the
biblical moment intimating that God had chosen the wrong people. And crucially, it is
a golden calf, resonant with Marx's phrase that money is the Jews' "worldly god" - a
charge often leveled by European intellectuals at Americans. Finally, it is Rumsfeld,
not Sharon, who is wearing the Star of David - and the notion of Jewish domination of
Washington is precisely what defines the latest permutation of anti-semitism and
A key characteristic of those hatreds is their entwinement. One is often an
expression of the other. And they have been nurtured by similar resentments and
fears. There is jealousy: Both America and Israel, each in its way, are extraordinary
success stories. And there is cultural contempt: Both Jews and Americans have been
portrayed in European and Muslim intellectual discourse as crass, money grubbing,
and hypocritical.
Though anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism resonate most deeply in Europe
and in the Muslim world, those two regions are now moved by opposite motives for
demonizing America and the Jews. Muslim demonizers have adopted the old
European contempt for America and the Jews as rootless and godless peoples.
America isn't only hated for being the political patron of Israel; Israel is hated for
being a cultural carrier of America. The Jewish state, after all, allows women to dress
as “provocatively” as they choose, permits an annual gay pride parade in both Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem and conveys an exuberance that seems like rootless anarchy to
the Middle East. Ali Mohammad Besharati, a senior Iranian government advisor,
recently explained why September 11 may have been a joint American-Israeli plot:
"The American nation is a nation without roots. Therefore, this type of nation is ready
to utilize any means and methods in order to pursue its goals."131
That contempt for alleged rootlessness was a key component in traditional
European hatred for Americans and for Jews, who were seen as harbingers of a
rootless world. Diaspora Jews of course embodied that terrifying spirit of rootlessness
- a ghost people haunting the nations, as the Russian Zionist thinker Leo Pinsker put
it. America was perceived as the concretization of that threat. America terrified
much of pre-World War II Europe -as it terrifies much of the Muslim world today with its vision of a world where the slow accumulation of social and religious
identities is replaced by a high-speed, high-volume, constantly shifting culture. A
world remade in America's melting pot image, would be a global culture controlled by
Hollywood Jews and a borderless world of finance controlled by Wall Street Jews.
But where Europeans once despised America and the Jews as rootless enemies
of tradition, now Europe's demonizers despise America and the Jewish state for being
excessively rooted - for rejecting the new European cosmopolitanism in favor of
unilateralism, nationalism, and territorial possessiveness. As for the old accusation of
American and Jewish godlessness, secular Europeans fear an America and Israel
maddened by religious zeal. I would argue that European resentment toward America
and Israel comes, in part, from an unconscious European sense that those two nations,
founded on a biblical sense of mission, have betrayed their messianic calling. Having
repeatedly rescued Europe in the 20th century, America has now exchanged its role as
savior, in European eyes, for destroyer. That duality - of savior and Satan - also
applies to Europe's tortured relationship with the Jewish people. Hatred for Israel
tends to be a replay, in secular form, of traditional Christian contempt for the Jews.
Once again, Jews have betrayed their redemptive mission - this time in the postHolocaust era, to be carriers of the new "religion" of human rights. And Europeans,
with their passion for klezmer music and Woody Allen films, have embraced the
suffering, wandering Jew - in fact Europeans in some sense are trying to become that
wandering, cosmopolitan Jew. But instead of endorsing Europe's post-nationalism
and being worthy of its love, Jews abandoned their historic mandate, as victims, and
chose a nationalist identity which, in European eyes, celebrates land and power and
and by so doing transformed victims into victimizers. Once again, "physical Israel"
has betrayed its calling. Implicitly, it is Europe, with its commitment to peace and
human rights, that has learned the lessons of World War II, and that is still, however
secularized, "spiritual Israel."
Anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism help Europeans cope with their two
historical burdens, the Holocaust and colonialism. By transforming Israelis into the
new Nazis, Europeans lessen the uniqueness of Nazism, which becomes a generic
term for oppression. And by attacking Americans as the new colonialists, Europeans
prove they've repudiated colonialism. A recurring motif of European antiAmericanism, already evident in the 19th century, is the notion of a uniquely
American hypocrisy. Once America spoke in the name of freedom yet permitted
slavery; now America speaks in the name of democracy yet ignores human rights.
Last week, on September 11, Le Monde chose as its memorial cartoon an image of a
plane marked "U.S." crashing into twin towers marked "Chile 1973." Hypocritical
America pretends to be a victim yet is in fact a victimizer. Similar notions of Israel as
a victimizer masquerading as a victim are routine in European discourse on the
Middle East. In the demonizers' political passion play, America and Israel assume the
role of Pharasees, hypocrites who promise freedom and democracy but deliver the
golden calf. In the new Europe, many equate virtue with powerlessness. And so what
is particularly galling about America and Israel - what truly defines them as Pharasees
-- is that both invoke the language of idealism to justify their use of power. The
Jewish problem with Europe seems to be one of timing: When Jews were powerless,
many Europeans worshipped power and despised the Jews for their supposed
cowardice. Now, when Jews have regained power, many Europeans worship
powerlessness and despises the Jews for their supposed aggression.
Last winter, I was in Rome just after the massive demonstration against
American intervention in Iraq, which drew about three million people. The
atmosphere in the city was frightening in its political uniformity. Peace flags hung
from seemingly every balcony. Nowhere did I see a sign, a sticker, expressing an
alternative position.
Instead, there was this grafitti: "Sharon-Bush-Blair: the real axis of evil." In citing
Ariel Sharon and George Bush, rather than Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein, as
symbols of evil - and note that Sharon appears first in that anti-trinity - Europeans are
not merely opposing the foreign policies of America and Israel but demonizing them.
The lack of a relationship to objective reality in that political critique can be seen in
the demonizers' timing. Demonization of America intensified after it was attacked on
its mainland for the first time since 1812. Demonization of Israel intensified after it
became the first country in history to voluntarily offer shared sovereignty over its
capital. The twin demonization of America and Israel is the vindication of the Iranian
mullahs' notion of the Great Satan and the Little Satan. And there's another
vindication at work here. The old Soviet Pravda routinely invoked the "Tel AvivWashington Axis," imagining a Nazi Israel and an all-devouring America. That
perspective has now become mainstream in much of the European media. At least so
far as the attitudes of many Western Europeans toward the United States and Israel
are concerned, the Soviet Union has posthumously won the cold war.
In the last two years, the demonizers have focused on the Bush
administration's neo-conservative Jewish advisors as proof of the existence of that
"Tel Aviv-Washington Axis." Like the pre-World War II isolationists of the America
First Committee, who warned against a "Jewish war," the new demonizers are
obsessed with the neo-Conservatives - or "Likudniks," as they're often disparagingly
called - who have dragged America and the world into war, all for the sake of Israel.
Referring to the Jews, the French ambassador to England, Daniel Bernard, is reported
to have said, "Why should the world be in danger of World War Three because of
those people?" The venerable catchword "cabal" has made a comeback, finding its
way into critiques from rightwing isolationist Pat Buchanan to Labor Party MP Tam
Dalyell. With the emergence of a neo-conservative "cabal" - manipulative and Jewish
- the demonizers have finally found their proof. In a recent op-ed in the International
Herald Tribune, columnist William Pfaff cited a list of all the contemporary political
figures who are destroying American foreign policy. All of them happened to be Jews
-Ariel Sharon, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz (and what a gift to the demonizers is
that name, "Wolfowitz"). Pfaff writes that President Bush took up the neoconservative project, "with seemingly little or no grasp of its sources, objectives or
assumptions." Gentile dupes are as essential to the demonic passion play as
manipulative Jews.
The hunt in the U.S. government for Jewish conspirators - Jews who acted
primarily as Jews, on behalf of "the Jews" - began after World War I, when
demonizers named Bernard Baruch, who represented President Wilson at the
Versailles Conference, as a war-monger who had pushed America into war to further
Jewish world domination. Henry Morgenthau, President Roosevelt's secretary of
finance during World War II served a similar imaginary role. The Nazis routinely
referred to America as a Jewish-dominated mongrel nation. "My feelings against
America are those of hatred and repugnance," Hitler said, "half-Judaized, halfnegrified, with everything built on the dollar." According to Albert Speer, Hitler
fantasized about attacking New York's skyscrapers, striking a blow at the heart of
international Jewish finance. The lunatic militias of America's Mid-West have picked
up the theme, warning about the Jewish lobby's takeover of Washington, what they
call ZOG - Zionist Occupied Government.
Now, though, you don't have to be a Nazi or a paranoid militiaman to discern a
Jewish conspiracy to destabilize and control the world via Zionist domination of
Washington. Increasingly it is the left that has taken up, in new form, the warning
against ZOG. In significant circles, the notion of saving America from the Zionists –
the Sharon-Wolfowitz Axis -has become axiomatic.
Among the most telling pathologies of the new demonization is the
convergence of extremes of left and right against the common Zionist-American
enemy. In France, Jean Marie Le Pen attacks global capitalism and Bnai Brith,132
while on the far left, Jose Bove, one of the charismatic leaders of the antiglobalization movement who vandalized a McDonald's to protest American influence,
declared that the attacks on French synagogues were being orchestrated by the
Mossad133, In Germany, neo-Nazis wearing kaffiyas march in demonstrations together
with radical leftists wearing kaffiyas, chanting the same slogans against globalization
and waving the same Hizballah flags. Horst Mahler, leader of the neo-Nazi NDP, is a
former member of the far-left Baader-Meinhoff gang. Here is what Mahler had to say
on September 12, 2001: "The aerial attacks on Washington and New York mark the
end of the American century, the end of global capitalism, and also the end of the
Jehova cult and of Mammonism."134 Mahler precisely expressed the sensibility of
those demonstrators in Davos, with their Rumsfeld mask and Star of David and
golden calf.
The convergence between extreme left and right in support of radical Islamism
was prefigured in the Entebbe hijacking in July 1976, when Palestinian terrorists,
aided by members of the far-left German Baader Meinhoff Gang, imposed a
"selection" on the passengers, some of whom were Holocaust survivors, separating
the Jews from the non-Jews. For several decades, the folly of the German hijackers who turned to the far left to prove how different they were from the Nazis, yet ended
up attacking Jews - helped discredit anti-Zionism, at least on the German left. One of
those deeply affected by Entebbe is Germany's foreign minister, Joshke Fischer, one
of Israel's best friends in Europe. Tragically, though, the Entebbe warning has
dimmed. Today, those German Marxist hijackers are an apt symbol for those who
would affirm their humanity by demonizing America and the Jews.
By Josh Pollack
In the past, anti-American sentiments and actions have played an important but
episodic role in Saudi politics and foreign relations. The oil embargo of 1973-74 is the
outstanding example. But since the end of the Cold War, anti-Americanism in word
and deed has become one of the central features of the Saudi political landscape.
The change signals the erosion, if not collapse, of the bargain that has in the past
characterized U.S.-Saudi relations: an ongoing transaction of economic and security
relations without cultural exchange--or more precisely, without any forms of cultural
exchange that visibly contravene Saudi Arabia's conservative Islamic self-portrayal.
Security relations, too, could not so obviously signify dependency on a non-Islamic
power that they trampled the image of an Islamic Kingdom, sovereign and pure,
standing guard over the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina. Never entirely stable, the
U.S.-Saudi bargain is now undergoing a metamorphosis under the heat of a new and
withering antagonism.135
On the Saudi side, the emergence of that new antagonism--vehement and
sometimes violent--can be traced to several developments: the steady growth of
American influences on Saudi society, through travel, education, business, and global
news and entertainment media; the decline of common external threats, which had
tended to suppress the intensity of differences between the two countries; and a series
of events, starting with the Persian Gulf War, that exposed, highlighted, or
symbolized both unacceptable Saudi dependence on the United States and
unacceptable American influence on Saudi society and mores.
In Saudi Arabia, America is not merely a symbol of modernity, but for decades has
been the prime agent of modernization. Nowhere else in the region have large
American businesses and government agencies been so disproportionately important
in the life of a nation. This relationship extends well beyond just commercial ties
between a major oil producer and a major oil consumer. Saudi Arabia's substantial
and modern industrial and commercial infrastructures have been built up since the
1930s, largely on the strength of Saudi natural resources and American expertise.
American construction firms and oil companies have played major roles in this
The central expression of American involvement in Saudi economic development
is the Aramco oil consortium, which prior to its nationalization in the late 1980s, was
both the country's largest private employer and also a de facto economic development
and social welfare agency in the Eastern Province, the Kingdom's economic
heartland.136 Another major example is the Bechtel Corporation, the San Franciscoheadquartered global construction and engineering giant, whose activities in Saudi
Arabia over the course of the last half-century include an array of pipeline, oil, gas,
water, transportation, telecommunications, and power projects, collectively extending
into the billions of dollars.137
Military modernization has proceeded along similar lines. The U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers has built an extensive military infrastructure on Saudi territory.138
American defense-aerospace firms have supplied the Saudi military establishment
with many billions of dollars' worth of sophisticated arms, often in excess of its ability
to wield them effectively. Finally, two American military training missions have
operated continuously in the kingdom for decades. They remain in place even after
the recent departure of the last American combat forces from the country.
By the early 1980s, the Saudi national security strategy had also become tightly
meshed with America's own regional and global preoccupations, including the postdétente confrontation with the Soviet Union. In the Persian Gulf, revolutionary Iran
menaced the interests of both countries, and the Communist threat had already
reached Saudi frontiers in the form of the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen, as
well as subversive activity in Oman. Further afield, but scarcely less alarming, was
the potential Soviet military threat to the Persian Gulf.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 not only served as the immediate
inspiration of the Carter Doctrine--a public presidential pledge to use force in defense
of the Gulf region--but appears to have accelerated the above-mentioned program of
military construction in the Kingdom. (In an unexpected twist, military facilities in
Saudi Arabia completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during the 1980s
would prove crucial during the wars with Iraq.) Reflecting the country's new wealth
and its government's relative freedom of action, Saudi Arabia also funded U.S.backed rebel activities in Communist or leftist states as widespread as Afghanistan,
Ethiopia, Angola, and Nicaragua.139
But because the claim to Islamic purity is the central ideological support of the
Saudi state, the Saudi-American embrace has been conducted at arms' length. From
the 18th century to the present, the legitimacy of the Saudi dynasty has been linked to
its sponsorship of the religious revivalism of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Islamic
purity assumed an even more profound role following the annexation of Hijaz in the
1920s, when the kingdom became home to the holy cities of Islam and the annual
pilgrimage whose administration is one of the chief responsibilities of the Saudi
government. (To this day, no non-Muslims are permitted in Mecca and Medina; in
earlier times, scarcely any permanent non-Muslim presence was tolerated on the
Arabian Peninsula outside of Yemen.) In recent decades, the ruling family has placed
an increasingly greater emphasis on Islam and the Holy Places, first to counteract the
Arab socialist claims associated with Nasserism, and later to counteract its own
perceived closeness to the United States and the West, a matter of especially
pronounced concern after the Mahdist takeover of Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979.
Madawi al-Rashid relates an oral narrative describing the Saudi king's
management of the initial opening to the United States in 1933, during the negotiation
of the oil concession. The literal accuracy of the anecdote is less significant than the
understanding it conveys: an uneasy minuet of mosque and state opened a zone of
toleration just sufficient to permit a Western presence inside the Kingdom:
The day was Friday, the time for noon prayers at Riyadh's main mosque.
Shaykh ibn Nimr, the imam of the mosque in Riyadh, was delivering his usual
khutba (sermon) to a large audience. Ibn Sa'ud was listening. The shaykh
recited several Qur'anic verses including 'And incline not to those who do
wrong, or the fire will seize you; and ye have no protectors other than Allah,
nor shall ye be helped' (Qur'an, sura 11, verse 113). Ibn Sa'ud was furious. He
asked Shaykh ibn Nimr to step down. Ibn Sa'ud began to recite sura al-kafirun:
'Say: O ye that reject faith. I worship not that which ye worship, nor will ye
worship that which I worship. And I will not worship that which ye have been
wont to worship, nor will ye worship that which I worship. To you be your
way and to me mine' (Qur'an, sura 109, verses 1-6).140
The far-reaching Saudi-American relationship passes through this narrow opening.
Westerners inside the kingdom live apart from Saudis, either in hotel rooms or within
walled compounds where they have reproduced a Western lifestyle. Outside of these
spaces, anything incompatible with the kingdom's conservative Islam is unwelcome.
Women must be covered, and either alcohol or any indication of non-Muslim worship
is kept strictly out of sight.
Similarly, Islamic sensitivities have tended to restrict the extent and visibility of
any American military presence. Since the early 1960s, significant American combat
forces normally have been kept at a distance--"over the horizon," in the parlance of
the 1980s--even as less effective Muslim troops hired from Pakistan have been
quartered inside the Kingdom for extended periods.141
But the pursuit of American educational, business, and travel opportunities by the
Saudi elites, including the royal family, has simply leapt over these local boundaries.
Accordingly, a major avenue for the transmission of American social and intellectual
influences into Saudi Arabia has appeared "behind the scenes," on university
campuses and other locales in the United States, and increasingly also in the global
electronic media. These influences have supported the emergence of a persistent
reform movement with a middle-class orientation and liberalizing ideals.142
At the same time, the old ties have frayed considerably since the end of the Cold
War. While the oil supply relationship remains unchanged, the kingdom's economy no
longer depends on American expertise. Similarly, the United States remains important
to Saudi national security, but even before the decade was out, the especially close-
knit security relationship of the 1980s was showing signs of strain. The growing
uncertainty of the United States as a supplier of advanced arms had encouraged the
Saudis to find alternatives in the United Kingdom and China.143 And in the years prior
to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, neither Iran nor the Soviet Union could
inspire the old anxieties. The Saudi-American relationship was coming unmoored
from its traditional couplings. In widely published remarks, King Fahd told Saudi
military and security officials, "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not tied to anyone
and does not take part in any pact that forces upon it any sort of obligations.…if
things become complicated with a certain country we will find other countries,
regardless of whether they are Eastern or Western… We are buying weapons, not
In this uncertain time, with the role of the United States in Saudi Arabia seemingly
on the decline, the Persian Gulf War came as a blow to traditional Saudi sensibilities.
The American military and media buildup in the kingdom revealed to Saudis the
extent of their dependence on a distant, non-Muslim power. In Islam's formative
centuries, Christians and Jews came under Muslim protection, not the other way
around; for Saudis, whose country lies at the very heart of Islam and who have never
experienced colonialism, the reversal came as a shock. Shortly thereafter, the
overwhelming defeat of Iraq's army eliminated any renewed sense of a threat next
door that might have re-cemented ties.
The American buildup also stirred concerns that Western mores and would
liberalize and corrupt Saudi society. The worst fears of the traditionalists about a new
"openness" were realized in November 1990, when a group of educated Saudi women
staged a protest in Riyadh to demand the right to drive cars, and in December, when a
group of Saudi liberals petitioned the government for broader participation in political
The result was an upsurge of anti-American sentiment expressed in the voice of a
newly militant Islamic revivalism. Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi, meditating on
the fate of Mecca under the protection of the U.S. Air Force, described it as a
response to a sense of impotence in the face of the American invasion, in both its
military and cultural aspects:
The Muslim man had to be alert, on the defensive, with one eye on the hudud
that hemmed in the women, the other on the frontiers of the empire. What
happens when the two boundaries give way, and both at the same time? The
enemy is no longer just on earth; he occupies the heavens and the stars and
rules over time. He seduces one's wife, veiled or not, entering through the
skylight of television. Bombs are only an incidental accessory for the new
masters. Cruise missiles are for great occasions and the inevitable sacrifices.
In normal times they nourish us with 'software': advertising messages, teenage
songs, everyday technical information, courses for earning diplomas,
languages and codes to master. Our servitude is fluid, our humiliation
The new opposition centered on the activities of two ulama, or Islamic jurists,
Shaykh Salman al-Awda and Shaykh Safar al-Hawali, who circulated audiotaped
sermons denouncing the United States as an occupying power. The supporters of the
so-called "awakening shaykhs" petitioned the senior ulama and the rulers to demand
Islamic reforms and the participation of ulama in politics and governance. By 1994,
both shaykhs had been arrested, and London was becoming the center of gravity for
the Sunni Islamist opposition in exile.146
In the following years, the "American occupation" remained a touchstone for
opponents of the royal family, who came to include veterans of the Afghan jihad. In
November 1995, a bomb killed seven foreigners, including five Americans, at a Saudi
Arabian National Guard training site in Riyadh. Another bomb killed 19 U.S. Air
Force personnel at the Khobar Towers housing facility in Dhahran in June 1996,
although this second attack appears to have been the work of Saudi Shi'ites connected
to Iran. In August 1996, the former mujahidin organizer and Sudan-based Saudi
oppositionist Usama bin Ladin published his "Declaration of War" against America
and the Saudi royal family. His first grievance was "the occupation of the Land of the
Two Holy Places--the foundation of the House of Islam, the place of the revelation,
the source of the message, and the place of the noble Ka'ba, the direction of prayer for
all Muslims--by the armies of the American crusaders and their allies."147
To bin Ladin, the al-Saud family had forfeited its right to rule by its failure to
adhere to proper shari'a (Islamic law), and by its inability to defend the country
independently of the "American crusader forces," whose presence he also blamed for
the kingdom's economic problems. Similarly, the February 1998 proclamation of
jihad by bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida organization compared the American forces defending
the kingdom to devouring locusts. The occupiers of the peninsula were "plundering its
riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and
turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the
neighboring Muslim peoples." He held the Saudi royal family to be acquiescent in
these outrages.148
By the end of the decade, the worst of the surge of anti-American feeling seemed
to have passed. Western armed forces in Saudi Arabia had lowered their profile, and
the government felt confident enough to release the "awakening shaykhs" from
prison. But the legacy of the 1990s, building on the disorienting experience of the
Persian Gulf War, was a supply of money and recruits for bin Ladin's organization,
the extent of which was not entirely apparent before the campaign of suicide
bombings that commenced in Riyadh in May 2003 and the ensuing crackdown
throughout the Kingdom. The attempts of the ruling family to counteract the
opposition by burnishing its own Islamic credentials yielded the terms of the
argument to the extremists, and ultimately served to increase their freedom of action
and access to resources. Among the actions cited by the regime in its own defense
were "spending on Islamic aid, the establishment of Islamic charitable organisations
abroad, and the funding of Islamic education."149 These moves proved, at best,
counterproductive; subsequent revelations strongly suggest that al-Qa'ida was among
the beneficiaries. A Council on Foreign Relations report of October 2002 found that
"[f]or years, individuals and charities based in Saudi Arabia have been the most
important source of funds for al-Qa'ida; and for years, Saudi officials have turned a
blind eye to this problem."150
The outburst of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000 was accompanied by
ubiquitous broadcasts of Israeli military actions in Gaza and the West Bank on Arabic
satellite television, inspiring a new wave of anti-American feeling in Saudi Arabia.
These sentiments were frequently explained in terms of a perception that the United
States was, by dint of "silence" about Palestinian suffering, offering unlimited support
to Israel. Critics generally described the Bush administration as reluctant to intervene
in any manner that would put a stop to Israeli military actions in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip. A typical editorial called for the United States "to take urgent action to
halt Israeli aggression against the Palestinians… like it or not, after years of
unqualified U.S. backing for Israel, that country's acts are taken to be an American
Arab sympathy for the Palestinians during a violent conflict with Israel comes as
no surprise. But the persistence with which Saudis, including members of the royal
family, took the intifada as an occasion to criticize the United States requires
explanation. One reason for this perspective is simply the belief that making demands
on Washington may get results. The idea, often exaggerated but not wholly
unwarranted, is that American leaders have the ability to affect Israeli
decisionmaking, and that Saudi leaders in turn can influence American decisions. On
more than one occasion during the intifada, Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah was able to
portray this avenue for pro-Palestinian action as a major justification for continued
ties with the United States.
A second, more complicated reason for linking Israeli military actions to America
relates to continuing unhappiness with American and British military activities in
Saudi Arabia, including the projection of air power against Iraq out of Prince Sultan
Air Base (PSAB), sometimes without notifying Riyadh of planned bombing raids.152
This situation continually revived the troublesome memory of the Persian Gulf War
and the underscored the Kingdom's continuing dependence on a non-Muslim power
for its security. Perceived as a standing affront to the sovereignty of Muslims in their
own heartland, the basing arrangement was routinely characterized by the extremists
in terms of occupation and oppression. Saudi criticism of America for the highly
visible actions of the Israeli military therefore seems to reflect popular anger and
humiliation over the role of the American military in Saudi Arabia, but displaced into
an area where the government was more willing to allow Saudis to express their
feelings. By the same token, leading members of the ruling family found in the
embrace of the Palestinian cause an opportunity to assert their independence from the
United States and reassert their credentials and legitimacy at American expense.
In a December 2000 interview, an unnamed senior prince told an American
journalist that the "reputation of the United States in the Arab region has dropped to
zero," adding that "too biased a stand makes an awkward situation for America's
friends."153 In April 2001, the Saudi government pledged $225 million in aid to the
Palestinian Authority, which it had refused to aid during the peace process era of the
For months, Crown Prince Abdallah refused repeated requests to visit the White
House, apparently in response to President George W. Bush's frequent meetings with
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and his refusal to meet Palestinian leader Yasir
Arafat. In a June 2001 interview with the Financial Times, Abdallah delivered a
veiled rebuke to Washington by hinting that the American role in resolving the
Middle East crisis had become so passive that it was now up to the Saudis to provides
In the fall of 2001, in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks-described more fully below--leading members of the royal family contributed large
sums of money to a televised fundraising event intended to support the families of
Palestinian shuhada.156 At the same time, Abdallah began to implicitly portray Saudi
ties with the United States as a balm to the suffering of the Palestinians. News reports
described Abdallah as having revealed to a gathering of prominent Saudis a letter to
President George W. Bush, stating that "a time comes when peoples and nations part.
We are at a crossroads. It is time for the United States and Saudi Arabia to look at
their separate interests. Those governments that don't feel the pulse of the people and
respond to it will suffer the fate of the shah of Iran." This ultimatum allegedly had
been rewarded with a renewed American commitment to the emergence of a
Palestinian state. Unnamed American diplomats confirmed the existence of the letter,
although one described the passage cited in news reports (i.e., the quote that appears
above) as "embellished."157
All these dynamics played out again of the course of a few weeks in March and
April 2002. In the middle of March, Vice President Dick Cheney toured Middle
Eastern capitals to secure support for a war with Iraq. Arab leaders, including Crown
Prince Abdallah, sent him home with the message that progress on the IsraeliPalestinian front would be necessary first. Abdallah also took advantage of the visit to
accept an invitation to the United States after a number of earlier refusals.158
In late March, in a gesture of dissatisfaction with American leadership, Abdallah
unveiled an anticipated Arab-Israeli peace initiative at an Arab summit meeting in
Beirut. But the Beirut Declaration was overshadowed by a series of large-scale
terrorist attacks in Israel, followed by the Israeli army's reentry into the urban centers
of the West Bank. The unusual occurrence of protest demonstrations, including in
front of the United States Consulate in Dhahran, suggest the intensity of feeling in
Saudi Arabia at that moment.159 While still in Beirut, Abdallah delivered bitter
denunciations of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and announced to reporters that
he had secured from Washington a guarantee of Arafat's safety.160
Crown Prince Abdallah's visit to the United States, which took place at President
Bush's ranch in Texas in late April, was preceded by a dramatic warning in the pages
of the New York Times from an unnamed "person close to the crown prince", "It is a
mistake to think that our people [i.e., the al-Saud] will not do what is necessary to
survive… and if that means we move to the right of bin Laden, so be it; to the left of
Qaddafi, so be it; or fly to Baghdad and embrace Saddam like a brother, so be it. It's
damned lonely in our part of the world, and we can no longer defend our relationship
to our people [i.e., the Saudi public]."161
Scheduled to last two days, the visit ended after five hours of meetings, in which
the Crown Prince warned the President of a "deep rift." In another indication of
Abdallah's lack of confidence in American efforts to date, the Saudis presented the
Americans with an eight-point proposal for moving the Israelis and Palestinians into a
cease-fire and a peace agreement along the lines of the Beirut Declaration. The
meeting did not conclude with the customary joint statement.162
The devastating terrorist attacks on the United States by a group of 19 Arabs loyal
to Usama bin Ladin, including 15 Saudis, successfully appealed to pent-up resentment
against America, reportedly prompting spontaneous celebrations in Saudi Arabia and
other Arab countries.163 The attacks also unleashed a wave of recriminations from the
United States. A barrage of criticism from congressmen, journalists, and activists
spared no aspect of Saudi society, starting with the government's widely perceived
tolerance for terrorist activities if not actual complicity, and moving from there to the
Kingdom's lack of democracy, freedom of religion, or rights for women.
Americans' anger tended to prompt rebukes even from normally pro-American,
reform-oriented Saudis, who recoiled at what they considered unreasoned hostility,
and voiced alarm at the treatment of foreign Arabs in the United States. Their
responses to Americans' sudden wrath included the abrupt return of Saudi students, a
sharp fall-off of Saudi tourism to the United States, and the reported divestment of
billions of dollars. Many consumers also embraced--at least verbally--boycotts of
American brands such as Coca-Cola, helping to build a market for new products
whose makers pledged to distribute some of their proceeds to the Palestinian cause.164
A Gallup poll conducted in late January and early February of 2002 found 64
percent of Saudis to have an unfavorable view of the United States.165 This would
seem to be a high number in light of the longstanding relationship, but no earlier data
appears to be available for comparison.166 A Zogby International poll conducted in
February, March, and April 2002 found 51 percent of Saudis to have an unfavorable
view of the United States. Eighty-seven percent of Saudi respondents had an
unfavorable impression of American policy toward the Palestinians.167
Regardless, many Western-oriented Saudi writers found ways to defend their
national honor against American attacks without disregarding their own enduring
interest in ties with the United States. Their ripostes tended to express resentment at a
perceived betrayal, while holding out hope for a future reconciliation. One particular
approach was to attribute the problems to the Bush Administration, suggesting that
the United States would begin behaving more rationally after a change in power.
Another view points to the temporary ill effects of September 11 on the American
national psyche.168
But the most common view, one also expressed by leading members of the royal
family, has held that the problem is neither the Administration nor the United States
as a whole, but an anti-Saudi "smear campaign" conducted by a small handful of
critics, frequently portrayed as either exclusively Jewish or controlled by Jews. In
January 2002, Crown Prince Abdallah told a New York Times correspondent, "The
people of the kingdom have not been affected by what certain newspapers publish and
you know who is behind this media."169 Even some prominent ulama, apparently
mirroring the royal family's agenda, have spoken about the "smear campaign" in
narrowly anti-Jewish terms, rather than broadly anti-American ones.170
After September 11, the Saudi government also was confronted with rapid
American preparations for war in Afghanistan, and the possible reactivation of the
anti-American and anti-regime militancy that had followed the 1990-1 Persian Gulf
War. While quickly breaking off relations with the Taliban, the authorities sought to
restrict the scope and visibility of the American war effort on Saudi territory.
Spokesmen, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, hinted in advance that
any American requests to send aircraft against Afghanistan from Saudi bases would
not be welcomed. Reflecting early concerns about a possible new war with Iraq, they
explicitly ruled out attacks on any other Arab country from Saudi soil, a point they
would reiterate at tense moments to come.171 Only in September 2002, after President
Bush reversed himself and sought a new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq did
Prince Saud relax this stance.172
Leading princes also mobilized against any signs of renewed upset, downplaying
the remaining foreign military presence in the kingdom, and describing it as
consensual, non-aggressive, and internationally sanctioned. Defense and Aviation
Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, addressing the citizens of the conservative
bastion of Qasim, the hometown of Shaykh Salman al-Awda, reminded his audience
of the professions of faith reaped during the Persian Gulf War, in an attempt to recast
the perceived crusade as a hajj. Sultan insisted:
that there is no military agreement between the kingdom and the United States
or any other European country. He added that we do not accept that a single
soldier remains in our country to fight the Arabs and the Muslims.
"We sought the assistance of some forces when an Arab country [Iraq]
occupied another Arab country [Kuwait]. When the problem was solved with
the return of Kuwait to its people, all the forces were withdrawn and the only
soldiers in our country are Saudi soldiers."
He claimed that more than 6,000 soldiers of those who participated in the
war to liberate Kuwait embraced Islam, particularly in al-Qasim, and
performed the pilgrimage to Mecca. "Many of them are members of the U.S.,
British, and Russian forces, and we thank God for this blessing." Prince Sultan
said that 40 French, British, and U.S. planes which fly over southern Iraq in
accordance with a UN Security Council resolution and concluded, "We do not
trust the Iraqi regime."173
Despite these efforts, the start of the war in Afghanistan was marked by a wave of
small-scale bombings and shootings of Americans, British, and other Westerners
residing in Saudi Arabia. The authorities preferred at first to deny any significant
terrorist presence, and instead arrested other Westerners and charged them with the
killings, which they claimed were related to the illegal trade in alcohol.174
As the widely anticipated American-led invasion of Iraq increasingly took on the
appearance of inevitability, officials from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs began to
struggle to hold preachers to an apolitical line, declaring that Friday sermons "should
be aimed at uniting the nation on the principles instead of dividing people, driving a
wedge between them, and raising political issues that should not be discussed during
Friday sermons, because it is not a media channel or means of spreading rumors."175
Even if the Saudi leaders were aware that they could not plausibly camouflage all
U.S. war preparations reportedly proceeding in their country, they appeared to be
pressing hard to block any open expressions of dissent that might galvanize a new
internal opposition.
In keeping with these requirements, the televised sermon of grand mufti Shaykh
Abdul Aziz al-Shaykh, before a reported two million pilgrims on the plain of Arafat
during the hajj in February 2003, warned against sedition in the name of patriotism or
"protecting rights." The mufti instead dwelled on variations on the rhetoric of the
"smear campaign," declaring that Islam "is being targeted today by its enemies," who
are attacking the Muslim religion, "and even school curricula. They claim that these
curricula call for terrorism and deviation. They say many things. They also target the
nation's economy. They try to dominate it and link to their own economy."176
Opposition nevertheless appeared to be widespread and intensely felt. In the week
before the commencement of combat, a group of Saudis, described as 200
intellectuals, both men and women, published a petition both condemning the war and
demanding a measure of democracy at home.177 Once the battle commenced, while
the Saudi government expressed its deep concern, the editorialists voiced revulsion at
a conflict they envisioned as the use of high-technology firepower against helpless
civilians--a close parallel to Saudi and other Arab descriptions of the Palestinian
One news report published during the first week of the fighting described how just
a few of the prominent, educated Saudi women invited to a tea at the U.S. embassy
chose to attend, and how those who did attend used the occasion to deliver speeches
and letters of protest.179 Another report from the same week claimed that the air war
was being directed from inside Saudi Arabia, but most Saudis remained unaware of it.
An unnamed "senior Arab diplomat" in Riyadh described the country as a "volcano"
ready to erupt, and suggested that if the public were aware the location of the air
operations center, "they'd be in the streets."180
Public opinion survey data also suggests an intensification of anger around this
time. A new Zogby poll conducted in July 2003, once the occupation of Iraq was well
underway, found 70 percent of Saudis to have an unfavorable view of the American
people, up from 51 percent the year before. 81 percent took an unfavorable view of
U.S. policy towards Iraq, essentially unchanged from before. Ninety-four percent had
an unfavorable view of U.S. policy towards the Palestinians, up from 87 percent the
previous year.181
The actual peak of anti-American sentiment in Saudi Arabia may have occurred
with the bombings of May 2003, when al-Qa'ida brought unrestrained violence into
the capital, killing Saudis, Americans, and other foreigners alike. One of the
compounds attacked belonged to the Vinnell Corporation, which trains the Saudi
Arabian National Guard on contract for the U.S. military. The royal family appears to
have concluded that it now faced an intolerably dangerous situation, and shifted its
mixed strategy of suppression, redirection, accommodation, and exploitation of antiAmerican sentiment towards a much greater degree of suppression, backed by
considerably more forthright language about terrorism. In August, Crown Prince
Abdallah turned Islamist rhetoric on its head, assailing "the corrupt aggressors in the
holiest places on Earth--Makka and Madina."182
Still, while the United States military remains in Iraq, and while the Palestinian
intifada continues, anti-American sentiment in Saudi Arabia is likely to remain high.
Even if one were to assume an easing of regional conflicts, the absence of any
excessively overt Saudi dependence on the United States for its security needs, and a
sustained convergence between American and Saudi interests in fighting al-Qa'ida,
the continuing struggle between reformers and traditionalists alone would remain
likely to perpetuate tensions. In this unlikely scenario of minimum friction, Saudi
conservatives can be expected to continue to oppose what they perceive as pernicious
social influences stemming from the United States. It is more likely that American
military power also will continue to play a prominent role in the Persian Gulf region
and will continue to attract resentment as well. Under these conditions, it is not easy
to envision an early return to the relatively stable and cooperative U.S.-Saudi relations
of the past, as difficult as they often could be.
By Hillel Frisch
Broadly speaking, there are two basic reasons for growing anti-Americanism
amongst Arab Palestinians. The first is that Arab Palestinians had little affinity to the
democratic and liberal values the United States represents; the second is that they
often had divergent interests.
Arguably the most popular Arab Palestinian leader of all times, Hajj Amin alHusayni, had much to say on pan-Arabism, pan-Islamism and local nationalism in his
writings. By contrast, he said virtually nothing on democracy and liberalism, allying
with Nazi Germany.183 Yasir Arafat, founder of resurgent Palestinian nationalism,
also never indicated any views that drew him to the American vision of civilization.184
In recent decades, the main new development in Palestinian political thought has been
the rise of a radical Islamist movement. The proportion favoring liberal standpoints
has remained minute, as shown by surveys conducted by Palestinian research centers.
In such a normative and ideological setting, there are no shock absorbers that
can in any way soften the effects of substantial differences between the policies of the
United States and the Palestinians’ worldview, despite the Palestinian realization that
only the United States can deliver for them the prospect of the state.
Through such a normative prism, it is difficult for Palestinians to acknowledge
that the United States forced Israel to vacate the Sinai in 1956; refrained all these
years from moving its embassy to Jerusalem; consistently regarded the territories
beyond the1967 armistice lines as “occupied territories” and the settlements there as
illegal; and has since the Madrid peace process, pressured Israel to “roll back,” as well
as engineering two major offers of a Palestinian state on good terms in 2000 at the
Camp David talks and in the Clinton Plan. Most recently, the United States has
repeatedly saved Arafat from a more severe siege or expulsion by Israel and pressed
Israel on several occasions into returning to the pre-September 2000 lines.
Divergence over interests and ideology between Palestinians and the United
States, of course, extends far beyond the Palestinian-Israeli arena. Both Palestinian
officials and the media take a radical pan-Arab stance on almost all issues related to
the Arab world. The basic view that Western imperialists are bent today, as they have
been in the past, on dividing and subordinating the Arab world, and that the United
States leads this campaign is as prevalent in Fatah as it is in the more radical factions.
This is why Arafat and the PLO backed Saddam Hussein in the 1990-1 Gulf War.
Almost nothing the United States does in the Middle East is regarded as above
suspicion. In this sense the Palestinian press is little different from its Syrian and
(former) Iraqi counterparts. Adherence to the pan-Arab formula became clear in the
course of al-Hayat al-Jadida’s coverage during the first week of February, which is
subsequently analyzed in this paper.
Assessing Palestinian anti-Americanism: A Methodological Note
It is not surprising that under these ideological and political conditions, groups
such as MEMRI or Palestinian Media Watch find numerous and rabid displays of
anti-Americanism in the official and officially supported Palestinian media to
translate and disseminate.
For example, a feeling that the United States’ involvement in Palestinian
politics reflects an historic and bitter clash of civilizations may be found in a sermon
broadcast on the Palestinian Authority (PA) television station on September 5, 2003
by Ibrahim Madiras:
If we go back 1400 years in time, we find that history is repeating
itself, worshipers of Allah. The Prophet Mohammed… was besieged
by two powers, Persia in the east and Rome in the west. These
represent the Soviet Union and America of today.… Persia fell first in
the east, just as Russia fell first in the east, and America will fall, may
it be Allah’s will, just as Rome fell in the west. However [the fall of]
Rome necessitated further challenges, closing of ranks and Muslim
sacrifices. The battle with Rome, in which its power ceased,
necessitated challenges and resistance from the Muslims, just as
America today, her allies and protégés, the Zionists and others,
necessitate further sacrifices from our side and closing ranks, oh
Muslims, and we will be victorious.… By closing ranks the prophet
succeeded in overcoming Rome, the strongest state, which is
equivalent to America today, without the fall of even one Muslim
shahid [Martyr]… The Prophet succeeded, through Muslim unity and
arousing faith, in overcoming the America of then, just as we will
defeat America, as long as it supports our enemy, as long as it adheres
to its positions against our people, our issue and our holy places, and
against our people and its leadership, as long as it adheres to these
wicked positions. We will defeat her, may it be the will of Allah. We
see America as the number one enemy, as long as it supports our
enemy. Aren't we killed by American planes? Are our homes not
being destroyed by American tanks? Are we not being bombed by
American missiles...185
Where official Palestinian sentiment lies in the context of post-war Iraq is
equally clear. In his piece entitled “Shaa'hid and the Shahid” [The Witness and the
Martyr--a play on words], one writer in the Palestinian daily al-Ayyam condemned
Iraq’s Shi’a religious leaders for standing on the sidelines when morally they should
join the ranks of the martyrs in killing American soldiers to fight against Iraq’s
There is consensus in Iraq that American and British forces symbolize
military occupation of Iraqi territories... Recent activities against
[American] forces including helicopter interception, bombing of
command centers and convoys and attacking political targets
undoubtedly prove that the resistance is getting stronger. And that
there are many reasons, foremost among them the occupation’s fascism
and cruelty, which helps the flow of many to the Iraqi resistance... The
Khawza [Shiite religious institutions] admit publicly--and cannot do
otherwise--that the U.S. forces are invading forces, but they [the
Khawza institutions] offer unclear and unconvincing ways for the long
run concerning the attitude towards them [the U.S. forces]. The
Khawza Shiite institutions try to achieve historic benefit from the
presence of these forces... even if this involves participation in the
Ruling Council, which is appointed by the American Governor!!!
Are the [institutions of the] Khawza capable of maintaining this
dangerous balance?! Are they capable of reaping substantial
achievements... in this way; after all, the people of the Shiite
Congregation historically have been Martyrs [Shahids] and view the
Martyrdom [Shahada]--since their first Martyr [Shahid], Ali, as a
sacred obligation. Can the Khawza convince the Shiites to [merely]
witness [Shaa'hid] the increasingly fierce armed resistance due to the
increased American repression and humiliation of the entire Iraqi
people... Will the Khawza keep silent and [merely] witness [Shaa'hid],
leaning toward the American occupier in the middle of a sea of
Martyrs [Shahids]?186
Palestinian anti-Americanism is also reflected in cartoons. Particularly striking
are a series using the image of the Twin Towers to portray Iraqis and Palestinians as
the victims of United States policies and actions, in an obvious and deliberate twist of
The cartoon of two smoldering towers of “Iraq” and “Palestine” for example,
appearing in late 2003, was so well received after it was printed in al-Quds, that it was
reprinted two days later in al-Hayat al-Jadida, the semi-official daily. Other cartoons
were copied from other Arab dailies. For instance, in one a fearful Uncle Sam runs
away in terror being chased by the date “September 11.”187 In another, the U.S.
response to 9-11 is said to be immoral and imperialistic: the Twin Towers are
depicted over a mass of dead bodies, victims of American “imperialism.”188 Another
variation of these included the twin towers that form a hammer which attacks the
Muslim-Arab world in a cartoon marking the second anniversary of the attack, with
the text reading: “September 11--the day of the greatest conspiracy against the Arabs
and Muslims.”189
Though such media items might be numerous and emanate from the official
and semi-official media, they do not necessarily indicate the intensity of antiAmerican sentiments and their propagation. The method of random choice still leaves
the possibility (weak as it is given the absence of democratic and liberal practices in
the PA) of different and competing views of the United States being expressed as
Methodologically, and more important normatively, the appearance of specific
items may indicate intention but not overall impact of these articles, news items and
cartoons. The effect of an anti-American article once a week is different than such an
article on a daily basis; different weights must be given according to where it appears
in the newspaper. What must be done then is to engage in content analysis of the
media over time. The sample for the following analysis is the first seven days of
February 2003 of al-Hayat al-Jadida, which is the most “official” newspaper of the
three Palestinian dailies that also include al-Quds and al-Ayyam.
Counting articles versus engaging in a subtle content analysis of the paper’s
coverage of the United States yields slightly different pictures. A quantitative account
clearly demonstrates a strong anti-American bias. Over three-quarters of the fortynine news items and articles regarding U.S. policy and actions printed in al-Hayat alJadida during that week were anti-American. Only 10 percent either objectively
represented the incumbent U.S. administration’s perspective on Iraqi affairs--the issue
most of these news items addressed during that week--or related positively to
American considerations or actions.
Table two: Articles on the United States by author’s origin and content190
However, taking into consideration the type of criticism that was aired in these
articles yields a slightly different picture. Overall anti-American sentiment may be
divided into two types. The first is civilizational--a perspective that assumes an innate
enmity between the United States and its objectives with those of the Palestinians in
particular and Arabs in general. The second type is instrumental--those criticisms
related to specific policies of specific administrations. During the period under
consideration, the newspaper mostly aired articles of the latter, milder variety.
Generally speaking, the articles from foreign sources, most of which were
translations of articles from the United States and Western press, were mild in tone
and substance.191 By contrast, the Arab and Palestinian articles and news items tended
to reflect the more hostile civilization perspective. Most neutral were short new items
usually reported by foreign new wire services. Considerations of space (measured by
square inch) or placement in the newspaper (headlines, front versus back pages etc.)
did not have any impact on the general findings.
Nor is anti-American sentiment, prevalent as it may be, the major theme of the
Palestinian media. The reason is simple: hatred of Israel is by far its all-consuming
focus. Of the approximately 150 articles and news items that appear daily in al-Hayat
al-Jadida (minus culture, sports and business items) over one-third are devoted to
hatred of Israel. By contrast, there were a total of only 49 news items and articles
relating to the United States over one week--which equals one day’s coverage of
The difference is also qualitative. On Israel, almost all the coverage is
vociferously anti-Israeli. By contrast; coverage on the United States is more
variegated even though it is overwhelmingly negative as well. The contrast is
highlighted best in comparing the two headlines, which appeared on February 1, the
first issue analyzed. The headline regarding Israel was entitled “The Leadership
Emphasizes its Adherence to the Choice of Peace Despite Israeli Arrogance
(Ghatrasa) and Barbarism.” The headline concerning United States policy was more
veiled: “The President [Arafat] criticizes the Silence of the International Community
Regarding the Israeli Government’s Infringement of the Accords.” In the body of the
news item it becomes clear that what was meant was an alleged U.S. criticism of
Israel: “The President asked, ‘How could…Israel be allowed to violate agreements
signed at the White House?’”
Even when the headlines later in the week regarding Iraq clearly expressed a
position opposing moves by the United States, they were still mild in comparison to
coverage of Israel. On February 5, a main headline read: “The War Plan: The
Occupation of Iraq and Its Division into Three States.” It is extremely doubtful
whether United States officials ever expressed such a desire, let alone construed it as a
policy objective of the U.S. government. Casting aspersions that the United States
was eager to divide Iraq into three “duwaylat” (the pejorative term for a balkanized
state in pan-Arab rhetoric) fits well into the “Sykes-Picot” prism through which so
many American moves in the Middle East are construed. The main headline
appearing on February 6 was entitled “Most of the States in the Security Council are
Not Convinced by ‘Proof’ of Powell against Iraq.” Quotation marks in Arabic as well
as in other languages, is a means of casting doubt on the word within them. In this
case doubt was being expressed regarding the quality of the evidence Powell
Anti-Americanism is also less blatant because the top Palestinian leadership,
Arafat and the personalities involved in international negotiations such as Abu Ala’a,
Abu Mazen, Sa’ib Ariqat, Nabil Abu Rudayna, and Yasir Abd al-Rabbu refrain as a
general rule from disparaging or condemning the United States. For the media, this
effectively means that the considerable criticism of the United States does not often
appear as a leading headline or on the front page.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida relies mainly on foreign and Arab sources in its coverage
on non-Palestinian affairs. The overriding issue during the week surveyed was Iraq,
particularly United States preparations for war and Powell’s attempt to curry support
for such a policy within the United Nations. One could safely assume that had a time
period in which the United States was involved in mediation between Israel and the
Palestinians been chosen, more Palestinian commentators would have written on the
United States as well.
Most of the articles on the subject were taken from the foreign press. As a
general rule, they reflected a list of distinguished analysts writing in equally
prominent newspapers. Four articles by John Alterman, head of the Middle East
program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, David
Francis in the Christian Science Monitor, Nicholas Kristoff culled from the
International Herald Tribune and Patrick Seale’s “The American Empire on the Eve
of a Strike,” appeared on the same page in the February 1 edition. All were critical of
U.S. policies in Iraq. On February 2, it was the turn of Paul Kennedy, a well-known
professor of history from Yale University, to argue on the basis of historical precedent
against getting involved in Iraq. Three other articles, which appeared in the middle
section of the newspaper, two by Americans, one by a Spanish analyst, concurred.
Geoffrey Kemp, another prominent American policy analyst, took a mildly antiadministration approach the following day. On February 4, the paper translated six
articles authored by Americans and European analysts and thinkers. The piece by
Michael Walzer, a well-known political philosopher, could be considered mild, even
bordering on neutral. Walzer, though opposed to direct United States intervention,
called upon the international community to acknowledge the threat Iraq posed and
called for a strong international authority to impose all sanctions short of war,
including military means, against Saddam. James Zoghby, the veteran Arab lobbyist
in Washington, authored one of the more militant articles.
The two pro-administration news items aired in the newspaper were both
connected to senior administrative officials. On February 6, a half-page interview
with Condoleezza Rice was culled from the Egyptian al-Ahram. A lengthy article
written by Colin Powell stating the administration’s position appeared the next day.
All in all, the newspaper’s choice of articles in the international press, though
biased against the administration, was probably little different from the fare presented
in the average European newspaper. However skewed, it was nevertheless impressive
in quality and even slightly variegated. At least two of the other types of coverage
under review, articles authored by Arabs and the news items, presented a less
benevolent perspective regarding the United States and its interests in the area.
To be exact, the only Palestinian commentators who wrote on United States
policy in Iraq dealt with it solely through the prism of Palestinian interests. Nabil
Amer, the former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and a former confidante of Yasir
Arafat argued that the war was likely to increase the Palestinian predicament in the
face of an even greater imbalance of power between a state supported by an even
more powerful superpower and a national movement. He argued that only reform and
real institution-building will address this increasing imbalance--an obvious jab to his
former mentor, Arafat. He warned that the Israelis were likely to try to use the time
they gained by the focus on Iraq to create facts on the ground inimical to Palestinian
interests. Amer argued that only putting an end to the armed conflict would serve
Palestinian interests during this difficult experience. Hasan al-Kashif presented a
similar argument.
These almost neutral perceptions contrasted sharply with a long, bitterly
critical article written by Muhammad Hasanin Heikal, a prominent journalist and
confidant of former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser, which appeared in the
newspaper on February 1, 2003. Identifying the United States’ wars as imperial and
wasteful, he claims that the Arabs can react to such imperialism and hegemony in
three of four ways, all with dubious effectiveness. The first by extending the arm of
friendship, a strategy which has become impossible since 1948. Equally implausible
is reacting by outright confrontation. The third is slowly sliding into a confrontation
and the fourth, the most plausible, is sweating it out.
Even the latter alternative he argued was difficult to achieve since the United
States is so intermeshed in the affairs of the Arab world. In short, the Arabs are in a
difficult predicament. Heikal’s analysis of the United States is unflattering, to say the
least. The United States, he claimed, runs its affairs like a business, bereft of soul and
dignity and driven exclusively by the calculation of costs and benefits. He offers as
proof its treatment of the late shah of Iran. Heikal claimed that the United States
drains the Third World of its finest brains without investing a cent and exploits its
immigrants to death as slaves. Politically, the U.S. does not recognize borders and is
forever engaged in conducting wars.
On the following day, former Egyptian Field Marshal Halim Abu-Ghazzaleh
claimed that the U.S. goal was not the mere removal of Saddam but to create a state
that will be under its own control. In another article entitled “The State of the
Union…or the State of Iraq,” Ahmed Umrabi tried verifying who was the real
aggressor: “You would think that Saddam had encircled the United States by land, air
and sea! Is Iraq really threatening?” Obviously, he concluded, hidden agendas such as
Iraqi oil, Israel, and the resolve to maintain the present state of Arab weakness were
the determining factors behind the U.S. drive against Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
On a slightly different issue, a professor from Qatar in an article published on
February 3 reacted to Colin Powell’s statement regarding American plans of
democratization in the region by asking how the United States was only willing to
spend $29 million to democratize the Arab world compared to the billions it expended
on Israel. Powell’s initiative also placed the Arab intellectual in a catch-22 situation,
the author maintained. He ought to support democratization but how can he support it
when it is seen as a directive from outside, especially when it is part of a larger
American imperial plan in the Arab region to force the Arabs to abandon the rights of
the Palestinian people? Look, he argued, what happened to the Palestinian leadership
which placed its trust in the Americans. Only deep reform of individual Arab regimes
and Arab collective action could counter imperialism in general and American
imperialism in specific.
There were also Arab analysts who wrote milder articles. A Saudi Arabian
political scientist could not understand how Uncle Sam could stop the zakat (charity)
from flowing to groups accused of terrorism and also claimed the United States had
accused Islam of terrorism. Khairi Mansur in his “America… and the Forty Noble
Souls” praises the forty Nobel Prize winners who had decided “to stand up against the
madness in the White House since 9-11.” They are warning “of the follies of going
into war without assessing its ramifications. Why should the United States citizen
think that the generals are any smarter in strategy than these men of such intellectual
stature?” Buhan Salih, joint prime minister in the regional Kurdish government in Iraq
wrote the only article in support of war authored by a resident in the area. He,
however, is not Arab.
One can safely assume that only a small, though perhaps influential, elite read
the long articles by Western, Arab or local Palestinian commentators, which account
for most of the news items surveyed. This is perhaps why it is so important to take
into account the nature of the short news items, particularly those focusing on
Palestinian involvement in developments related to Iraq. These suggest not only the
prevalence of anti-Americanism in Palestinian political circles, but its propagation by
the official leadership. In fact, it was the Palestinian Authority and the PLO who, in
organizing “the street” or “the masses,” caused anti-Americanism to take on a rabidly
radical coloration.
On February 4, secondary students organized what was described as a
“massive” procession in northern Gaza in solidarity of the Iraqi people. An
accompanying photograph showed demonstrators with posters of Saddam Hussein. A
similar news item covered a demonstration in Qalqilya organized by the Popular
Committee of Support for Iraq. In the context of Palestinian media behavior, the very
fact that the newspaper covered these events reflected official approval. After the
capture of Saddam Hussein, for example, al-Hayat al-Jadida did not cover much
larger demonstrations that occurred in Gaza. On February 5, the same day in which
the headline “The War Plan: The Occupation of Iraq and Its Division into Three
States” appeared, a lengthy news item reported that Interior Minister Hani al-Hasan
warned that preparations must be made to confront the difficulties that Palestinians
will face “in the wake of the aggression on Iraq.” He was addressing the graduation
ceremony of a military training program in Ramallah. The affair was organized by the
Commission of Political and National Guidance for the PA’s security forces.
On the same day, the National Center for Research and Documentation, an
official PA body, organized, in conjunction with a private research group a roundtable
to discuss events in Iraq. The newspaper reported that “political speakers and jurists
emphasized that Iraq and Palestine face the same enemy and that their resolve and
steadfastness in the face of aggression is the common denominator in bringing about
the defeat of the enemies of the Arab nation, renewing their call to strengthening the
spirit of steadfastness and resistance and [the obligation] of the Arab masses in
bearing their historical responsibility in blocking the aggression on sisterly Iraq.”
On the following day, it was the turn of the National and Islamic Forces, the
loose coalition between Fatah, the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, which called for a
procession in Ramallah in support of Iraq and against the aggression. They
condemned the vicious campaign of preparations for aggression against Iraq. When
the procession did take place, Sakhar Habash, a veteran member of the Fatah Central
Committee, the keynote speaker, described the U.S. president as “no more than an oil
merchant and a trader in the blood of peoples.” “The Iraqis were able to win through
steadfastness 12 years ago and they will do so now,” he promised.
In Qalqilya at a conference held under the slogan “In steadfastness and
resistance we will defeat the plot of American and Zionist aggression against
Palestine and Iraq,” the governor of the province, Mustafa al-Maliki, condemned the
American attack on Iraq and the double standard concerning weapons of mass
destruction and Israel. He produced a long list of America’s “true” motives behind the
aggression against Iraq. They included: stealing Iraqi oil, protecting Israel, dividing
Iraq into three confessional and weak states as a preparatory move in doing much the
same in other Arab states (the Sykes-Picot paradigm), drawing away scientists and
controlling the world, and finally, finishing off the Palestinian problem according to
Zionist desires. The mayor of the town spoke as well. Needless to say, both officials
would have never attended without Arafat’s approval. After all, they are beholden to
him for their positions.
The Palestinian leadership, based on analysis of the semi-official al-Hayat alJadida, is clearly anti-American. Probably the most striking finding is the difference
in the intensity of the expression of anti-Americanism between the PLO and the PA
on the one hand, and the newspaper itself on the other. The newspaper tries to present
a variety of viewpoints although they are hardly balanced. This is reflected in its
extensive use of articles appearing in the foreign press. Unfortunately, the small airing
of opinions expressing a deviation from the common anti-American content of most
of these articles appears in the most “elitist” type of journalistic writing--the long
analytical articles that are probably the least read. Even so, the overall message of the
newspaper remains anti-American. Suffice to note that throughout its coverage, the
term used to describe the approaching United States campaign against Iraq was the
“American aggression (‘udwan).”
Palestinian anti-Americanism was far more prominent in institutions related to
the PA, especially those with a mass base or deep reach into Palestinian society such
as Fatah or the security forces. Not only do these organs reflect anti-Americanism,
they propagate it. That these institutions are related to the PA, which enjoys direct and
indirect U. S. aid--and, in the case of the Palestinian security forces, have even been
the beneficiaries of U.S. professional training--has had no bearing on their actions or
By Cameron S. Brown
In what typifies a world now transformed by instantaneous global
communications, within a mere two hours of the time two airliners had crashed into
the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, not only had
millions in the Middle East heard of the attack, but the Associated Press and Reuters
had already published stories describing their celebrations of the news in the West
Bank and Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.
While many experts have attempted to extrapolate wider political and social
implications about the region (and especially about Saudi Arabia and Egypt) from the
attack, the attack itself was really the work of a few extremists. What is far more
instructive about the region’s political realities and the attitudes of its people is the
manner in which Middle Easterners reacted to that event, as well as others like it. This
chapter will consider the reaction of public opinion to three events that were most
symbolic of U.S. interaction with the region in the past several years: the September
11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan, and the 2003 Gulf War. Examining these, it
becomes clear that not only were the reactions to September 11 demonstrative of
Middle Eastern feelings about the U.S. in general, but that these sentiments are much
deeper and more malevolent than in other regions around the globe.
Popular Celebrations
Middle Eastern political life is often characterized in the press by its many
large angry protests, which are frequently not organized at the grassroots level, but
rather by the regime or ruling party. Yet, one important lesson from reaction to
September 11 is that anti-American sentiment is not solely dictated from above. Even
if it is fed by constant propaganda, that propaganda has apparently been extremely
effective at convincing the majority of Middle Easterners that the U.S. is an evil
empire bent on regional domination, and fully supports the “mass murder” of
Palestinian men, women, and children.192
While some would later try to downplay the initial celebrations as having
included but a handful of people, multiple news sources reported roughly 3,000
people pouring into the streets of Nablus in the West Bank alone, distributing sweets
to passers-by (a traditional gesture of celebration), chanting “God is Great,” honking
horns, flashing the sign for victory, carrying Palestinian flags, and shooting in the air.
Similarly, though in some cases much smaller, celebrations were also reported in
Gaza, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, as well as the Palestinian refugee camps
of Balata, ‘Ayn al-Hilway and Rashidiyeh.193 Capturing sentiments repeated by many
interviewed at the time, Mustafa, a 24-year-old gun-toting Palestinian, told a Reuters’
reporter, “I feel I am in a dream. I never believed that one day the United States
would come to pay a price for its support to Israel.”194 On an even more radical tone,
Muhammad Rashid, another Palestinian demonstrator remarked, “This is the language
that the United States understands and this is the way to stop America from helping
the Zionist terrorists who are killing our children, men and women everyday.”195
Palestinians, however, were not the only ones jubilant upon hearing the news.
“We’re ecstatic. Let America have a taste of what we’ve tasted,” said Ali Mareh, a
Lebanese resident of Beirut. Another added, “People are happy. America has always
supported terrorism. They see how the innocent Palestinian children are killed and
they back the Zionist army that does it. America has never been on the side of
justice.”196 Reports would later emerge describing how upon hearing news of the
attacks many Saudis immediately passed out sweets or slaughtered animals for
celebratory feasts. Other Saudi admirers of bin Ladin sent one another congratulatory
text messages on their mobile telephones.197
These sentiments did not disappear immediately afterwards either. Especially
keen to support bin Ladin were Islamist movements. Three days after the attacks in
New York and Washington, about 1,500 Palestinians, mainly supporters of Hamas,
marched in a Gaza Strip refugee camp carrying a large poster of Usama bin Ladin. 198
That same night, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, Abdullah Shami, declared, “What
happened in the United States made us extremely happy....”199
In addition to the initial celebrations, many editorials and columns in the
papers throughout the region were equally harsh. In Bahrain, Hafedh al-Shaykh wrote
one of the least sympathetic assessments on the day after the attacks in the semiindependent Akhbar al-Khalij, “The U.S. now is eating a little piece from the bread
which she baked and fed to the world for many decades...”200 A commentary written
by the Iranian columnist S. Nawabzadeh in Keyhan International, a paper run by the
office of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i, carried a similar reaction:
The super-terrorist had a taste of its own bitter medicine on Tuesday, when the
pride of its financial and military power came crashing down in New York and
Washington....[The attack] did not draw any sympathy from oppressed
humanity around the globe although political leaders for the sake of
diplomatic courtesy expressed verbal condemnation. For world public opinion
the mood of the majority... agreed that the United States deserved it. They
nevertheless felt pity for the ordinary American citizen who was made to bear
the burden of the criminal policies of the successive administrations.201
A lecturer from the University of Lebanon, Mustafa Juzo, attempted to explain
that people were rejoicing:
...because of the penetration of the bastion of American colonialism and the
offensive within its home turf. No one thought for a moment about the people
who were inside the tallest of the world’s towers as they burned; everyone
thought of the American administration and rejoiced at its misfortune, while
its leaders scrambled to find a place to hide.... Can anyone really believe that a
people of whom the United States has killed hundreds and thousands times the
number of people killed in New York and in Boston [sic], is sorry, and is not
happy, when he witnesses this smack to the face of its most bitter enemy? 202
Dismay, Shock and Condemnation
By no means were all the reactions of Middle Easterners solely ones of
celebration. Indeed, many expressed shock and disbelief. “Who could believe this is
happening in the capitals of the world’s only superpower?” one Beirut resident asked
in wonder.203
Scores of commentators condemned the event as a barbaric attack on innocent
civilians such as Rafiq al-Khuri who wrote in the moderate Lebanese paper al-Anwar,
“The crime is so horrendous that it is unacceptable even to the worst enemies of the
United States.”204 Similarly, Muna Makram Ubayd of Egypt, a former member of the
People’s Assembly’s Foreign Relations Committee, described the attack to the paper
al-Akhbar as “a horrific act that still leaves us in shock.... No words can describe the
crime that victimized such a high number of innocent people.”205
In one of the strongest denunciations carried in the state-owned Egyptian daily
al-Akhbar, columnist Mahmud Abd al-Mun’im Murad in his piece “A Black Day in
U.S. History” wrote:
There is no doubt that what happened in the United States... is the most
terrifying and abominable terrorist incident in history. There is no room for
gloating or being vindictive, for it is meaningless. Terrorism is objectionable.
Any person with a live conscience condemns it. Terrorism, bloodshed,
and killing innocent people should be condemned whether the victims are
Palestinians, Israelis, or Americans. We are all human beings, and we must be
distinguished from beasts and animals living in the jungle.206
Even in Iran, a country whose government has spent decades demonizing the
U.S., numerous writers and politicians alike condemned the attack, and especially the
civilian casualties. In the reformist daily Mellat in Tehran, for instance, Abdolhoseyn
Herati denounced: “The shocking explosions in America... [which] hurt the alert
conscience of all of humanity; and one can dare say that this rapacious act was a
crime against humanity.”207 Somewhat surprisingly, even the hardline Siyasat-e Ruz
carried a column by Yashar Dadgar rebuking the attack: “Any act that victimizes
innocent people, whatever their race or nationality, for achieving the goals of greedy
international powers by their wrong policies, is severely condemned, and is a terrorist
and anti-human act.”208 Rajab’ali Mazru’i, a member of the Majles from Isfahan and
head of the journalists association, said in an interview with the Iranian Students’
News Agency (ISNA) that “the terrorist attack in America is to be strongly
condemned, because those who lost their lives in this incident were mainly ordinary
people, [people] who were deprived of their right to live in the blink of an eye.”209
One important telltale sign about the difference between anti-American
sentiment in Iran versus the Arab world is that Iran was the only Muslim country in
the Middle East in which unorganized groups held public displays condemning the
attacks and sympathizing with the victims. The first such demonstration reported
occurred two days after the attack when around 200 young residents of Tehran, many
wearing black in a sign of mourning, held a silent candle-lit gathering. A few days
later in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, Iranian and Bahraini soccer players observed a
minute of silence in honor of the attacks’ victims before starting their match.210
Yes, but…
Most condemnations, however, were not outright, unqualified condemnations.
While around the world commentators sought to provide explanations and draw
conclusions regarding the causes for the attack, there were several aspects permeating
the majority of Middle Eastern reactions which distinguished them from the
mainstream reactions appearing elsewhere. First, most writers and people interviewed
rebuked the attack and regretted that individual Americans suffered, but then hastened
to pin the blame primarily on mistaken U.S. foreign policy rather than on the mistaken
claims and doctrines of the terrorists. Moreover, they suggested that the conclusion to
be drawn from this experience was that America was the truly guilty party and must
make amends by changing its errant policies.
Second, many people conceded that large numbers of innocent American
civilians had died and that this was terrible, but that as Arabs or Muslims, they
understood this better than anyone because it was only a taste of what their people had
suffered for many years. Arguably, part of the reason behind the appearance of these
two caveats in so many of the region’s condemnations was that without them, it
would be difficult for many to integrate these attacks into their worldviews, and
especially their self-image, held before September 11. For many who had grown up
on the conception of themselves as the victims of aggression by so many various
powers and for so many years (some would say centuries), it seemed beyond reason
that Arab Muslims could suddenly be murdering while Americans, citizens of the
world’s strongest power, were innocent victims. However, in adding these caveats to
their condemnations, not only did those reacting publicly reinforce the self-conception
of themselves as the eternal victims, but they also served to justify the attacks, thereby
encouraging rather than to discouraging future attacks on Americans.
One typical editorial in the Palestinian daily al-Quds stated: “Nobody who has
a live conscience and human feelings, whether he is Palestinian or otherwise, could
not have been moved by these events and expressed sympathy for the families of the
U.S. victims, regardless of the U.S. political stances that are totally biased to Israel
and Israel’s use of the most advanced U.S. weapons to curb the Palestinian
The London-based, Iraqi-backed daily al-Quds al-Arabi carried a similar
message in its September 12 editorial. While regretting the victims and condemning
“this terrorist act because such actions cannot serve any cause,” the paper added that
the reason for the attack was that “U.S. policy... supports the Israeli aggression against
the Arabs unreservedly, and targets the Arab and Islamic countries with its blockade
[making] the U.S. administration the most hated one in the whole world.” The piece
summarized the paper’s sentiments clearly, saying, “We regret and are pained by the
innocent blood of the victims of these operations. We hope that the political experts
and decision-makers in Washington share with us the same feelings toward the
victims of the unjust U.S. and Israeli policies.”212
Other newspapers made parallel calls to differentiate between the “innocent
citizenry” and the “misguided government.” In Amman, the most widely circulated
(and partially government funded) daily, al-Ra’y, editorialized:
A distinction must be made between the U.S. Administration’s policies that
are generally biased toward Israel and the American people who aspire to
world peace based on justice and development. The American people are
misled by the dominant Israeli and Zionist media and by the strong influence
of the Jewish lobby in the United States.... Perhaps what happened in the
United States yesterday should serve as a reminder of the ongoing acts of
oppression, aggression, killing, suppression, and starvation in the land of
In Lebanon, this argument was also frequently made. George Hawi in the proSyrian, radical-oriented al-Safir began an article “Beware of a New Crusade” by
condemning the attack and rejecting terrorism. However, Hawi indicated that his
disagreement was with the tactics, not the goal: “It is not in this way that imperialism
should be fought. It is not in this way that one can confront ‘the new world order’ and
its barbaric onslaught on the nations and countries of the world.” He went on to
condemn all aspects of American foreign policy and the society in general: “It
[America] is a society of absolute violence, free from any moral restrictions, scruples,
or religious and humanitarian values.... Have we not seen such violence against Iraq,
Libya, Palestine, and Lebanon, and also against Grenada, Nicaragua, Cuba,
Yugoslavia, and Kosovo?”214
In the Bahraini publication Akhbar al-Khalij, Ali Saleh declared, “What
happened yesterday was a tragedy that is greater than the tragedies resulting from the
continuous raids by American fighters against Iraq... the attacks on Libya... the F-16s
bombarding Palestinian houses and American made Apache helicopters hunting
Palestinian leaders. It is a horrible tragedy for which I have to express my sadness and
sorrow and give my warmest condolences to President Bush and the American people
hoping that they learn something from what happened.”215
One member of the Iranian Majles, Seyyed Rajab Hoseyni-Nasab, in an
interview with the Persian daily Siyasat-e Ruz, said that, “the human aspects of the
event are tragic, and we have to sympathize with the American people. But at the
same time, the American people have the right to ask their politicians, ‘What was the
reason behind so much accumulated hatred?’” The parliamentarian continued, “We
hope... this tragedy will also be able to help America correct its internal policies, and
maybe even its foreign policies, which have, little by little, drawn the focus of
terrorism toward the heart of that country.”216
Perhaps the harshest “yes, but” came from Syrian Arab Writers Association
chairman Ali ‘Uqleh ‘Ursan, who, in the association’s newspaper al-Usbu’ al-Adabi,
described his reaction:
The deaths of the innocent pain me; but the eleventh of September--the day of
the fall of the symbol of American power--reminded me of the many innocents
whose funerals we attended and whose wounds we treated... I remembered the
funerals that have been held every day in occupied Palestine since 1987... I
remembered Tripoli [Libya] on the day of the American-British aggression,
and the attempt to destroy its leader’s house as he slept; then, his daughter was
killed under the ruins.... I remembered the oppression of the peoples in Korea
and Vietnam... ...I began to say to myself, when I saw the masses fleeing [in]
horror in the streets of New York and Washington, ‘Let them drink of the cup
that their government has given all the peoples [of the world] to drink from,
first and foremost our people...’ I [felt] that I was being carried in the air above
the corpse of the mythological symbol of arrogant American imperialist
power, whose administration had prevented the [American] people from
knowing the crimes it was committing... My lungs filled with air and I
breathed in relief, as I had never breathed before.217
One revealing indicator of public opinion in the Arab world was a survey of
Palestinian public opinion conducted by Bir Zeit University about three weeks
following the attacks. One of the most fascinating findings was the response to the
question: “If it is proven that the party responsible for the attacks in New York and
Washington is of Arab-Islamic descent, should these groups be seen as representing
Arabs and Muslims as a whole?” Fifty percent of the respondents answered yes (54
percent in the Gaza Strip), and only 42 percent said no. Further, only 25 percent of the
respondents agreed that “the United States [is] justified in attacking those parties
responsible for the attacks on New York and Washington,” while nearly 70 percent
disagreed. On the other hand, only 26 percent of those surveyed believed the attack
was consistent with Islamic law (Shari’a), while 64 percent disagreed. As far as the
ramifications for the attacks were concerned, Palestinians seemed quite split, with 43
percent holding the opinion that the attacks “are consistent with Arab interests” while
47 percent disagreed.218
Insert Graphic 1: Palestinian public opinion
Three months after the September 11 attacks, the Gallup organization carried
out an extensive series of face-to-face interviews with 10,000 residents of nine
predominately Muslim countries. While empirical evidence suggests that many in
Arab countries likely would have responded very similarly to the Palestinians in the
immediate aftermath of the terror attacks, after several months had passed, the
consensus of most Arabs polled (as well as Iranians, Turks, Indonesians, and
Pakistanis) was that the attacks were unjustifiable. In Kuwait and Lebanon, 69 percent
responded that they viewed the attacks as unjustifiable—in Morocco, it was even
more clear-cut: 86 percent condemned the attacks.219
Insert Graphic 2: Where the attacks justifiable?
Official Condemnation, Distancing and Damage Control
The official reactions to the terrorist attacks of September 11 were nearly
identical throughout the region. Almost every leader attempted to achieve three things
in the immediate aftermath of the attacks: to condemn the attacks, to distance
themselves and their countries (or organizations) from direct responsibility, and to
engage in damage control if it appeared that their people had seemed too festive after
the attacks. Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, for example, was quick in
offering condolences to the U.S. president, saying “These tragic actions contradict all
human and religious values.”220
Even Iranian Expediency Council Chairman, and former president, Ali Akbar
Hashimi Rafsanjani deplored the attacks on the United States, calling the damage
inflicted on the American people “a wide-scale bitter human catastrophe at the
international level.” While he cautioned the U.S. against any “hasty, illogical and
miscalculated” reaction and criticized its perceived double standard on terrorism,
Rafsanjani declared that Iran sympathizes with the victims of the terrorist attacks
irrespective of the lack of political ties between the two countries.221
Given the previously mentioned televised coverage of celebrations in
Palestinian areas and his own former association with terrorism, Yasir Arafat was
both the leader who had the most work cut out for him and the one who could afford
least to criticize American foreign policy. After a high-level meeting at his seaside
office in Gaza City, he told Western reporters, “We are completely shocked… We
completely condemn this very dangerous attack, and I convey my condolences to the
American people, to the American president and to the American administration, not
only in my name but on behalf of the Palestinian people.”222
In addition, Arafat personally donated blood for those injured in the attacks in
a well photographed moment at a Gaza hospital, and then called for a midnight
Christian-Muslim mass in Bethlehem to pray for the American dead and injured. The
PA also organized an afternoon candlelight march to the U.S. consulate in east
Jerusalem to commemorate the victims of the attacks, and a few days later, had all
Palestinian schoolchildren stand for five minutes of silence.223 The Palestinian leader
also forbid any signs of jubilation, ordered Palestinian reporters (including those
working for Western media) not to mention any support for the attacks, and told his
security forces to block any additional filming of celebrations.224 In an effort to
counter the damage already done, Palestinian officials alleged that those who
celebrated following the attacks were just “a handful of people,” or alternatively, were
children tricked by cameramen into acting like they were happy in exchange for
In remarks reprinted in al-Akhbar, Egypt’s President Husni Mubarak
described the attacks as “ugly.”226 He added in a CNN interview that “the Egyptian
people share a sense of grief” over the attacks and claimed that Egypt was cooperating
in sharing information that might help.227 However, when asked in an interview with
United Press International, “What motives lie behind the kind of all-consuming hatred
of the United States demonstrated by such acts of barbarism?” Even Mubarak--a close
American ally and major beneficiary of U.S. foreign aid--hinted that America’s
“faulted” policy was the source:
The feeling of injustice... Muslims everywhere see America giving arms to the
Israelis to kill Muslims and America not putting any conditions on the arms it
gives free to Israel. Muslims see the media taking the side of Israel whatever it
does. Public opinion is seething against an America which continues to
support Israel irrespective of Sharon’s policies that are designed to prevent the
Palestinians from having their own state.228
While some leaders (like Mubarak) added an element of guarded criticism of
America’s “faulted” policy in addition to their condemnation of the attack, the only
official endorsement of the attack came from Saddam Husayn. On the Republic of
Iraq television station, the Iraqi dictator told his countrymen that, “Regardless of the
conflicting human feelings about what happened in the United States yesterday, the
United States reaps the thorns that its rulers have planted in the world.”229
Another fascinating aspect of the official reaction to the September 11 attacks
was the nearly immediate and total denial of involvement by groups who have
sometimes competed to claim responsibility for bloody terror attacks in the past. For
instance, while Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Nafiz Azzam was telling the media
that his organization was not involved in the attacks and that, “the Islamic Jihad war
will continue against the Zionist enemy because they are our enemy, no one else,”
Hamas spokesman Abd al-Aziz al-Rantisi, had almost identical remarks: “Our jihad is
against the Zionist enemy and not against American civilians, or American targets.”230
Two other radical Palestinian groups, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of
Palestine (DFLP) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)--both
PLO member groups--also quickly denied any connection to the attacks.231 Most
incredibly, a spokesman for the PFLP--a group that in 1970 hijacked three planes
simultaneously and two more in the two days that followed--even went so far as to
claim that the attacks were too complex and demanding to be the work of a single
Hizballah, which in the past carried out suicide bomb attacks against U.S.
targets in Lebanon and kidnapped (and sometimes killed) U.S. citizens there, was the
only group to wait several days before denying involvement. In a statement eventually
faxed to the Associated Press, the organization said that it regretted the loss of
innocent life, but that the reason for “this level of hate” against the United States was
America’s “oppressive” policies all over the world.233
A Different Take Outside the Middle East
Although many Middle Easterners were so equivocal in their condemnations
of the attack, in many instances faulting American foreign policy as its cause, many in
the Third World--on whose behalf numerous Middle Easterners claimed to speak-reacted in exactly the opposite manner. Even in several Muslim countries outside the
Middle East, the tone of the response to the terror attacks was totally different. The
largest Bengali daily in Bangladesh, for instance, the independent Dainik Janakantha,
was absolute in its condemnation of the attacks and made no remarks about American
foreign policy being to blame. In its editorial on September 12 entitled “We are Hurt;
We are Outraged,” the paper wrote, “Dastardly cowards, the most deplorable and
cruelest of human species, the terrorists, have hit the United States of America....
Thousands upon thousands of innocent people were killed as a result of the attacks of
these beastly cowards.... We condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”234
The Turkish media was also outspoken in siding with the United States, which
was not surprising given the long alliance between the two countries. In a typical
response, Ertugrul Ozkok argued in his column in the country’s most popular
newspaper, Hurriyet, against those “who were trying to find extenuating
circumstances for terrorism and trying to justify terrorists’ actions even forgiving
them....” The author concluded with statements largely unmatched by his Middle
Eastern counterparts: “There are no longer any reasons to justify terrorism anywhere
in the world.... Those planes fell on all our houses yesterday.”235
While many non-Middle Eastern Muslim publications did urge the United
States to go slow before accusing Muslims in the attack and cautioned against bloody
reprisals, the only parallel to this trend of squarely placing the blame for the attack on
the United States was the sensationalist and hardline Islamist Akit in Turkey, which
cited America’s support for Israel and claimed that the U.S. “murders Iraqi children
with bombs.”236
Conspiracy Theory Number 1: The U.S. Government or Opposition Did It
For a remarkable number of Arabs, Iranians, and Pakistanis--even in some of
the most respectable publications--the idea that U.S. foreign policy was indirectly to
blame was insufficient, as it meant that Arab Muslim terrorists were still directly to
blame.237 In response, these writers constructed all sorts of fantastic plots concerning
‘who was really behind the events of September 11th,’238 many of them claiming that
American domestic opposition groups or even the United States government itself
were the actual perpetrators of the crime.
For instance, a column by Samir Atallah in the London-based, Saudi-backed
al-Sharq al-Awsat hypothesized that “George W. Bush was involved in the operation
of September 11, as was Colin Powell.... The reasons for this are as follows:…
[George W. Bush] won the election by a miniscule majority.... His presidency was in
doubt from the beginning.... [But] after September 11, George W. Bush is the first
president since Roosevelt with both parties behind him, with no one opposing him.”239
On the eve of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, a writer in the Syria
Times cited American “experts and analysts” who have argued “that the events were
the creation of some intelligence and top-brass officials.” The paper claimed that the
true passenger lists of the planes listed not a single Arab name, and that instead, “the
Sept.11 planes were guided electronically from the ground in the same way spy
pilotless planes are guided.” The paper cited another “investigator” who claimed that
“the two towers could not be completely destroyed in such an accurate and precise
way without the existence of explosives planted beforehand in strategic places inside
the two towers.” The paper concluded, “Hence, all accusations about the Arabs and
Muslims’ ‘direct involvement’ in the tragic events were mere lies. Recent events,
when the flagrant superpower is militarizing the world and pursues a war-mongering
policy with a view to imposing total American hegemony on the entire globe, do not
rule out the fact that some U.S. top brass officials were actually behind the bombings
in New York and Washington.”240
More frequent than the accusations of involvement by the American
government, many conspiracy theories pointed the finger at domestic American
extremists, and specifically recalled the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal
Building. The Bahraini mouthpiece al-Ayyam, for one, intimated that “there are many
suspected organizations and we must not forget what radical rightists in the United
States did in Oklahoma...”241 A day later, the Urdu language Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s
widely respected and second largest daily, published an editorial insinuating that
because “Only a person with thorough knowledge of U.S. aviation and
communication systems... [and with] extraordinary intelligence and skill to penetrate
a sophisticated system” could execute the attack, “It is likely that some freak U.S.
citizen (citizens) was behind this terrorism.”242
In its front-page editorial “A Blow from Within,” the Iranian Siyasat-e Ruz
agreed that because the attacks were carried out according to “a complicated
methodical, technical and intelligence plan, [it] must have been [done] by a group or
organization that has precise intelligence, access to America’s vital and sensitive
center, access to high quality weapons and explosives and infiltrators in those
organs.” The most likely suspect were “dissident elements in the American
community, especially the American military, who played the main role in the
explosion at the Oklahoma federal center.”243
Conspiracy Theory Number 2: The Zionists (or the Mossad) Did It
The most popular conspiracy theory however, repeated countless times by the
media and average citizens alike, was that the Israelis planned and executed the
attacks.244 This is especially ironic, of course, since many of the same individuals
simultaneously claimed that the attacks resulted from popular anger at American
mistreatment of Muslims or of the whole world, thus requiring the United States to
change its policy.245
The Jordanian columnist Ahmad al-Muslih, for example, wrote in the
respected al-Dustur, “What happened is, in my opinion, the product of Jewish, Israeli,
and American Zionism, and the act of the great Jewish Zionist mastermind that
controls the world’s economy, media, and politics...” Al-Muslih developed his
rational further:
The goal of the suicide operations in New York was, in my opinion, to push
the American people, President Bush, and NATO to submit even more to the
Jewish Zionist ideology and the historical goals [it has held] since the Basel
Congress in 1897, under the Zionist-Jewish slogan of ‘Islamic terror’...
Jewish-Israeli-American Zionism is... trying to lead the Americans and its
worldwide allies to world disaster.246
Some thought that even if Arabs had actually perpetrated the attack, it was still
at the bequest of the Mossad (the Israeli equivalent of the CIA). Dr. Rif’at Sayid
Ahmad, director of the Yafo Center for Research and Studies told the Egyptian paper
al-Akhbar, “I don’t rule out the involvement of highly efficient intelligence agencies,
such as [the] Mossad, in the event.” He added, “The perpetrators may have Arab or
Islamic features or accent, but the Mossad may be behind them.”247
Many Iranians were also quick to point their finger in the same direction. For
example, in its analysis piece “All fingers point to Israel,” Jomhuri-ye Eslami
surmised that due to the attack’s “immensity,” “complexity,” and the incredible
coordination required, “There is no reason to believe that the Zionist regime-exploiting its extensive diabolical network and also its presence and influence deep
down in the governmental system of America--has not committed these activities,
taking into account the record of savage massacres by that regime.” The Israeli
motivation, it was claimed, was “to shore up American assistance and support… The
Israeli regime knows that only by inflicting such a wound and blaming it on ‘Islamic
terror’ could it wipe out any dissent to current American policy.”248
While the passing of time may have changed Muslim attitudes regarding the
justifiability of the attacks, it apparently did little to alter their impressions as to who
had committed them (which may have permitted them to agree that they were
unjustifiable). Amazingly, this trend continued even after the videotape of Usama bin
Ladin gloating over the success of the attacks was broadcast on al-Jazira in December
2001.249 In the previously mentioned Gallup Poll, for three Arab countries--Lebanon,
Kuwait, and Morocco--the single most frequently named source for the attacks was
Israel (Saudi Arabia and Jordan did not allow for questions regarding September 11 to
be asked). In Iran, the most commonly given response was the U.S. administration or
domestic elements. In none of the seven countries polled did a majority think that alQa’ida was responsible for the attacks; in fact, Turkey was the only country in which
a plurality thought al-Qa’ida was responsible.250 Overwhelming majorities in Kuwait,
Pakistan, and Indonesia, and pluralities of Iranians and Lebanese rejected the claim
Insert Graphic 3: Who did it? Conspiracies
Insert Graphic 4: Did Arabs co it?
The Perpetrators of the Attacks were not Arabs or Muslims: We’re Incapable
While significant disagreement existed as to who “really” committed the
September 11 attacks, one trend was clear: very few were willing to accept that Arabs
or Muslims were responsible. The trend seems to illustrate a deeper notion of Arab
self-perception, for while scores of writers in the Muslim Middle East attributed to
Israelis extreme cunning, competence, and skill (in addition to unmatched
wickedness), they also believed that no one in the Arab or Muslim world was
competent enough to perform such a colossal feat.
Egyptian Strategic expert Tal’at Muslim, for example, asserted in al-Akhbar
that that the resources available to Arab and Islamic organizations are “well below”
what it would take to carry out such an operation.251 Likewise, in an article entitled
“Why were Arabs and Muslims Accused of Terrorism?” Hatim Abu Sha’ban, a
member of the Palestinian National Council, wrote that U.S. officials were looking in
the wrong direction. “They accused... the least likely to be the perpetrators in light of
this operation’s nature, which requires great planning capabilities, knowledge of
information, and mobility on the part of the criminals who committed this terrorist
One Pakistani military affairs expert, General (ret.) Mirza Aslam Beg, also
insisted that the attacks seemed to be the work of experts “who used high technology
for destruction.” The former military man stressed that this mission could not have
been done by an ordinary pilot. “Are Palestinians, Iraqis, or Afghans capable of doing
this?” he asked.253
Yashar Dadgar in a column written in the Iranian Siyasat-e Ruz went further,
suggesting that even Usama bin Ladin was incapable:
Given the dimensions and the complexity of this operation on the one hand,
and America’s advanced intelligence and security systems on the other, is it
possible that bin Ladin’s... group, with [its] limited financial resources, could
be responsible for such a precise and coordinated operation, during which
eight [sic] passenger planes were hijacked from New York’s airport within 60
minutes? Are they capable of carrying out such a large-scale operation?254
Yet, there is at least one indication that at some level, many Muslims are fully
aware of who is responsible for the September 11 attacks: since the attacks, support
for bin Ladin has grown. When asked in the spring of 2003, “Who do you have the
most confidence in to ‘do the right thing’ in world politics,” Usama bin Ladin was the
most popular choice for Palestinians and the second most popular in Jordan, Morocco,
and Pakistan. In this survey (conducted by the Pew Research Center) bin Ladin beat
out George W. Bush, Vladamir Putin, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, King Abdullah,
Yasir Arafat, and Kofi Annan.255
Reacting to the Reaction
In what might be the most intriguing aspect of the reaction to the events of
September 11th, there did appear a small number of brave Arab thinkers who sought
not to shift the blame of the attack, nor to say what it showed about America--but
rather, dared to suggest what it might show about the Arab world. Most of these
intellectuals even pointed to the reactions of their compatriots as additional evidence
of the problems they depicted.
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, dean of the Faculty of Islamic Law at the
University of Qatar, began the article he wrote in the London-based al-Hayat by
challenging the religious leaders who “call for Jihad against the crusade against
Islam,” asking, “Will we leave the Jihad to the hysterical preachers and politicians,
who are declaring a war that will destroy everything... Do they have the right to incite
the public to become involved in acts of sabotage, that victimize innocents and
damage state interests?” From this criticism, however, he moves on to what he
considers to be the “root causes” of terrorism:
In my opinion, the human soul, and primarily the Muslim soul, is repelled by
terrorism. But terrorist ideas fall on fertile ground when societies are ruled by
a fanatic culture that the people absorb in doses. Opponents are blamed of
religious heresy; opposition is blamed of political treason. This is a culture of
terrorism, which is [easily] absorbed by those who have been exposed to
inappropriate education. This culture is rooted in the minds of those who
suffered from a closed education that leaves no room for pluralism.256
One of the boldest articles to appear along this vein was a piece penned by
Kuwaiti university professor Ahmad al-Baghdadi, entitled, “Sharon is a Terrorist-And You?” which was first published in Kuwait and then was later reprinted in the
Egyptian weekly Akhbar al-Yom. In his biting commentary, Baghdadi charges that
while Sharon might be a terrorist, at least he does not terrorize the citizens of the
country that elected him, imprisoning its writers and intellectuals. On the other hand,
Baghdadi asks, “didn’t the Arab [rulers] carry out terrorism against their [own]
citizens within their [own] countries? Persecuting intellectuals in the courtrooms [of
Arab countries], trials [of intellectuals] for heresy, destruction of families, rulings that
marriages must be broken up [because one spouse is charged with apostasy]--all exist
only in the Islamic world. Is this not terrorism? The [Arab] intelligence apparatuses
that killed hundreds of intellectuals and politicians from the religious stream itself...
Isn’t this terrorism?”
Pushing the envelope even further, Baghdadi probes, “Iraq alone is a neverending story of terrorism of the state against its own citizens and neighbors. Isn’t this
terrorism?... The Palestinian Arabs were the first to invent airplane hijacking and the
scaring of passengers. Isn’t this terrorism?”257
While most Middle Easterners eventually came to view the terrorist attacks of
September 11 as morally unjustifiable, overwhelmingly, the Gallup Poll found they
were even more likely to consider the American response--the military offensive in
Afghanistan--morally unjustifiable (the sole exception to the trend was Turkey).258
Without a doubt, this is an important indicator of exactly how deep-seated the
animosity is towards the United States. As one Arab analyst surmised, the core cause
of this hostility comes from the fact that “No matter what the United States does--and
even it has the full right--it all seems to many people in the Arab region as a kind of a
‘conspiracy’ against them as Arabs and Muslims. The fact that the issue is not so, or
that it is different, is not important, as long as this is the viewpoint that determines and
influences the political behavior of the Arabs in general.”259
Insert Graphic 5: General reaction to the war in Afghanistan
Insert Graphic 6: on Iran
This idea of an American conspiracy was apparent in the responses Gallup
received to their question, “Why do you think the U.S. is taking military action in
Afghanistan?” The top unprompted, spontaneous responses volunteered by
respondents in several Muslim countries were:
The U.S. is attempting to extend its control in the Middle East, the Persian
Gulf, and Islamic countries
The U.S. wants to start a war against Muslims and Arabs
The U.S. wants to gain control of Afghanistan’s natural resources, including
The U.S. wants to establish political control in Central Asia
In about half the countries surveyed, these explanations even beat out the
standard explanation put forth by the U.S. (i.e., that the military actions were in direct
response to September 11 and are based on the desire to destroy al-Qa’ida and capture
Usama bin Ladin).
This suspicion held by many in the Middle East was greatly inflamed by a
constant barrage of anti-American vilification throughout the region’s media.
Commentators constantly referred to the “slaughtering” of the innocent Afghan
people or described the U.S. air raids on Afghanistan as a “the ugliest form of state
terrorism.”260 In reaction to a U.S. Defense Department briefing early in the war in
which one official commented on the Taliban’s persistence, al-Akhbar columnist Dr.
Hassan Rajab wrote, “[The] Taliban’s steadfastness has indeed come as a stunning
surprise for the Americans and their British allies. This is because they never learn the
lessons of history. They are unable to depart from a racist, snobbish and arrogant
outlook that makes them blind to the mentalities of other people outside their
materialistic, opportunistic civilization that does not know patriotic and religious
feelings and national identity.”261
In the Egyptian government owned daily al-Ahram, the paper’s chief editor,
Ibrahim Nafi’ (a man personally appointed by President Mubarak), not only accused
the U.S. of dropping its humanitarian aid to Afghanis in areas full of land mines, but
also claimed, “there were several reports that the humanitarian materials have been
genetically treated, with the aim of affecting the health of the Afghani people. If this
is true, the U.S. is committing a crime against humanity by giving the Afghani people
hazardous humanitarian products…”262
Likewise, press accounts in the region attacked the Northern Alliance while
glamorizing the Taliban. For instance, in his previously mentioned article, Rajab
claimed, “The Northern Alliance, on whom America relies, is nothing but a group of
murderous opportunists who rape women and who are hated by the Afghani
people.”263 A day earlier in al-Quds al-Arabi, ‘Abd al-Bari Atwan wrote:
The Taliban are no match for the United States and Britain. Yet, they have so
far demonstrated such toughness and steadfastness that arouse the admiration
of many. The Taliban have proved to be a hardy adversary, and have
withstood the air strikes. All the U.S. air raids and psychological warfare have
failed to cause rifts in the Taliban’s ranks. More important, the Taliban have
achieved a major moral victory vis-à-vis the huge military campaign targeting
it.... the Taliban have absorbed the brunt and have withstood the early strikes,
considered crushing by U.S. military standard.264
While across the globe the majority of governments and public opinion were
against the American invasion of Iraq, the Middle Eastern reaction to the war was
quite unique, and again, demonstrates several particularly distressing indications
about the depth of loathing and malice that factor into Middle Eastern anti-American
Over so soon?
One of the most telling statistics in this respect was the response to the
question (as part of the Pew survey mentioned above) regarding the reaction to the
lack of Iraqi resistance to the American invasion. While nearly 80 percent of
Germans, Italians, and Canadians, as well as 68 percent of Spaniards and 59 percent
of French respondents said they were happy that the Iraqis had put up little resistance,
every predominately Muslim country showed that the overwhelming majority was
disappointed (Kuwait was the sole exception). It appears that most people in Morocco
(93 percent), Jordan (91 percent), Lebanon (82 percent), Turkey (82 percent),
Indonesia (82 percent), and the Palestinian Authority (81 percent) would rather that
more Iraqis and Americans would have died so long as the Iraqis’ (and by extension,
their own) pride remained intact. On the other hand, in only one non-Muslim country
were more than 50 percent of the respondents disappointed by the lack of resistance,
although even then, South Korea’s 58 percent pales in comparison to the numbers
seen amongst Muslims.265
Insert Graphic 7: Iraqi Resistance
The hope that Iraq would frustrate the American invasion saturated the
region’s media from the very beginning of the war. For instance, the editors of alAhram wrote in one their editorials:
Two weeks after U.S. and British troops invaded Iraq without United Nations
authorisation the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people continues.... The Iraqis
have not recoiled in fear before the [massive] fire power of the invaders as was
widely trailed by Washington and London. Apart from the small garrison town
of Umm Qasr across the border from Kuwait no major Iraqi towns have
succumbed to the invaders.... It is clear that the Iraqi people do not regard the
invading British and American troops as liberators.266
Yet, with many Middle Eastern and American analysts having predicted that
the biggest, hardest battle would be in Baghdad, when that city fell after only a couple
of days and with minimal resistance, it was perceived by many as nothing shy of a
calamity for Arab pride. In its editorial “Baghdad Will Rise Again,” the largest
Palestinian daily al-Quds eulogized:
With the fall of the capital of Arab capitals, the hopes the nation pinned on
Baghdad’s steadfastness and death defying fight against the aggressors were
shattered. It is hoped that this catastrophe, which will be added to the series of
consecutive Arab setbacks and defeats over the past 100 years, will bring
about a new awareness and a real awakening for the Arab nation and the
Islamic world….The fall of Baghdad is a catastrophe, but will not be the last
one. The Anglo-American victory will encourage the colonialists to swallow
more Arab capitals and shape the Arab world in such a political, cultural, and
social way that would satisfies Washington and London. They will thus
abbreviate the Arab and Islamic culture into a distorted image of the western
material culture.267
American war crimes
At the same time that Muslims wanted to see stiffer resistance to American
forces (with seeming disregard for the loss of life that would ensue), they also were
quick to determine that the U.S. and its allies had not tried hard enough to avoid
civilian casualties during hostilities. Virtually all Jordanians (97 percent) and
Palestinians (95 percent), as well as the vast majority of Moroccans (91 percent),
Turks (88 percent), Indonesians (83 percent), and Pakistanis (81 percent) responded
affirmatively to this question. While other countries, like Germany (52 percent),
France (74 percent), and Russia (72 percent) were also critical of the war and the
American effort to avoid casualties, no non-Muslim country polled reported over 80
percent on this question. Of course, this does not mean that there was global
consensus on the issue: several non-coalition countries (Canada, Italy, and Israel)
reported over 50 percent did believe the U.S. and its allies had thoroughly tried to
avoid civilian casualties during the war--and this group also included the Muslim
Arab country of Kuwait (59 percent).268
Insert Graphic 8: avoid civilian casualties
Once more, even a cursory glance of the media coverage during the war leads
to the conclusion that the media was unquestionably fostering this impression of
massive American brutality. For instance, a few days after the fall of Baghdad, Amir
Naffakh, an Iraqi political analyst speaking from a studio in London, asserted on al-
Jazira satellite television that three Republican Guard divisions, which were
attempting to regain the city’s airport, were wiped out when the U.S. used a nuclear
weapon against them: “Hours later, the three divisions started their move. They were
so powerful and organized that they would have tipped the balance in favor of the
Iraqi forces, given that the U.S. forces were unable to face half of this force. In order
to decide the battle in their favor, the Americans used a new weapon. It is believed
that they were new and special tactical nuclear bombs. The bombs killed tens of
thousands.” Of course, Naffakh then used the fictional event to minimize Saddam
Husayn’s previous crimes, “In the past, Saddam Husayn used chemical weapons in
Halbjah but this was completely different. Iraqi soldiers were transformed into
skeletons the moment the bombs were dropped. This means that the battle was
extremely fierce and a massacre ensued in which tens of thousands were killed.”269
Al-Ahram painted an image of the U.S. engaging in a reckless use of all
ordinances in its possession, as if they had not the slightest concern for who or what
might get hit:
The road to Baghdad has been strewn with cluster bombs, electromagnetic
pulse bombs and the dreaded Missile Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB), the socalled Mother of All Bombs. The battle for Iraq’s major cities, and especially
the capital Baghdad, will necessitate a ruinous intermingling with the urban
civilian population of Iraq. Such combat can only aggravate the already
widespread anger felt by the Iraqi people, and by Arab and Muslim peoples.
The extensive damage and wanton destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure
has to be repaired by the aggressors.270
While some made wild accusations, others used the more common approach of giving
a general indictment. Al-Ayyam columnist ‘Abdallah ‘Awwad, for instance, wrote,
“Before the horror, death, destruction, and plunder perpetuated by the arrogant
American murder machine, the weak can do nothing but look for a more lethal
weapon to defend themselves.... The weak who possess no means of resisting [their]
destruction, plunder, and death will again awaken to confront the American culture of
murder and destruction.”271 Likewise, in his sermon from a mosque in Gaza (which
was broadcast by the official Palestinian Authority television station and the Gazan
voice of Palestine), Shaykh Muhammad Jamal Abu-Hannud asserted that the “Brutal
Americans have no mercy on children and women…. They are killing the Iraqi people
to liberate them. They are destroying an unarmed people for the sake of a better life.
Oil is for blood. This is the law of the jungle. This is U.S. brutality.”272
Meanwhile, still other commentators referred to unspecified ‘massacres’ and
‘war crimes’ as if they were already common knowledge. In his article following the
fall of Baghdad, Ali Nasrallah wrote “The U.S.-British aggression against Iraq... will
not end with the brutal massacres and war crimes committed against innocent Iraqi
people in the past 20 days.” Nasrallah then proceeded to air another common
assertion, that the war was a play for regional domination:
Achievement of the joint interests of the United States and Israel requires the
absence of a united and strong Iraq. It also requires domination of the region
and redrawing its political and geographical maps. As is known, this was both
the motive and aim behind creating the current crisis and waging the current
war of aggression, as was admitted by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
before the Senate and other officials in the U.S. Administration.273
Lastly, many Arabic media outlets were not only quick to pin the indirect
blame for the looting in Iraq on U.S. forces (i.e. for not keeping order), but actually
quoted numerous sources saying that the Americans actually encouraged or paid off
the looters. One al-Jazira story gave both versions without a hint of refutation:
As everyone in the crowd expressed their collective dismay over the anarchy,
one university teacher said he had witnessed some U.S. soldiers encouraging
the looters to plunder a university. “I saw for myself how the U.S. troops
goaded Iraqis to loot and burn the University of Technology,” claimed the
professor Shakir Aziz….
Many also suspected sinister designs behind the lawlessness.
between patrolling his neighborhood of Al Mansura against looters, Ahmed
Aziz al-Hadithi alleged that “the looters were spies bought off by those who
wanted to destroy Iraq.”274
Not just in Israel’s interest, the war was launched for Israel
As is often the case in the Middle East, pundits and preachers alike could not
discuss events in Iraq without assuming that the region’s boogeyman was somehow
involved. The most basic and widespread assumption was that Israelis were taking
advantage of the war in their dealings with the Palestinians. In a Friday sermon
broadcast live over Saudi Arabian government owned television, Shaykh Abd al-Bari
Bin-Awad al-Thubayti berated the “tyrant Zionist forces,” which, he claimed,
exploited the preoccupation with Iraq “to expand their influence on the land of
mujahid Palestine, the land of prophets and the cradle of heroism.” The imam
concluded with a prayer that God “strengthen Islam and Muslims, humiliate infidelity
and infidels, and destroy the enemies of Islam. O God, destroy the tyrant Jews,
infidels, and the enemies of Islam.”275
In al-Ahram, one pundit suggested that the U.S. decision to invade Iraq was
“nothing more than yielding to expansionist and racist views of the Zionist right and
an expression of the hostile and Fascist trend of the U.S. right-wing hawks.”276 More
specifically, the Saudi paper al-Riyadh postulated that Israel and the U.S. stood to
gain from any impending Iraqi brain drain, “one of the Israeli and U.S. conditions is
to deprive Arabs from scientific power, which is capable of introducing changes to the
infrastructures of education and science… Therefore, the United States could gain by
taking these scientists and depriving Iraq [of] them.”277 In her briefing to the Arab
League’s Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, Umayma Jalahma claimed
that the war in Iraq was timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim. Jalahma,
a professor at Saudi Arabia’s King Faysal University who had previously accused
Jews of using blood to make food for the Purim holiday, also suggested that Israel
planned to use the war to rehabilitate the oil pipeline that once linked Haifa to the
Iraqi city of Mosul.278
The initial appointment of General Jay Garner (who had previously signed a
pro-Israel declaration) as the military governor over Iraq was especially useful as
ammunition for those advancing Zionist conspiracy theories. The chief editor of alAhram al-Masa’i, Mursi Atallah, thought Garner’s installation would even “upset
power balances in the region.” Clearly, then “It seems this is one of the main aims of
a war designed to serve Israel’s goals and purposes.”279 Jalal Duwaydar, editor of the
Egyptian al-Akhbar, echoed the sentiment, determining that the move was meant “to
serve the Zionist and Israeli interests.”280
Lastly, in an effort to further delegitimize the war, many attempted to detect
any trace of actual Israeli involvement on the side of the Coalition. In his column
“Has Israel Participated in the U.S. Aggression Against Iraq?” Wajih Abu Zikri
suggested that indeed, “there [is] evidence that Israel has participated in the U.S.-led
aggression on Iraq. Iraqi forces have found an Israeli-manufactured missile, which did
not explode. Reports have also said that... Israeli commando forces [were] operating
in the Iraqi territories alongside U.S. commandos.” Abu Zikri went even further to
suggest that Israel actually participated “in forming the U.S. military plans to launch a
strike on Iraq. The U.S.-Israeli cooperation was not restricted to the U.S. commitment
to inform Israel in advance of any plans to launch attacks on Iraq, but it was evident
that the Israeli side takes part in the formulation of the U.S. military plans.”281
Crying for Saddam
Following the fall of Baghdad and the pulling down of Saddam Husayn’s
various statues in the city, the New York Times (a publication which had largely been
against the war) said in its editorial, “Opinion about this war has been divided from
the beginning. Now that Mr. Hussein’s rule has ended, there is unity among goodhearted people everywhere, a hope that what comes next for the Iraqi people will be a
better, freer and saner life than the one they had before.”282
Yet, this was one final area in which the Middle Eastern reaction to the Gulf
War differed from that of the rest of the world--only in the Middle East did observers
feel the urge to mourn the passing of Saddam Husayn’s regime. For example,
Palestinian Authority Deputy Minister of Planning and International Cooperation,
‘Adly Sadeq, wrote of Saddam, “The man... was a thorn in the eyes of the
imperialists. We will never change our mind [about him], no matter what humiliation
and deception. [We know] that the man made mistakes, which are an inevitable part
of the experience of great leaders who rule complex societies in dangerous
geographical regions during difficult times.”283
Majorities in most of the Muslim world appear to have similar sympathies: 85
percent of Palestinians, 80 percent of Jordanians, 67 percent of Indonesians, 60
percent of Pakistanis and 53 percent of Moroccans felt that Iraq would have been
better off had Saddam Husayn stayed in power (the exceptions were Kuwait and
Lebanon, in which only 10 and 37 percent agreed respectively). Again, although they
were not in favor of American policy, the French (21 percent), Germans (15 percent),
and Spaniards (14 percent) were still able to separate their disagreement with
American policy from their perception of Saddam Husayn. Even the South Koreans,
whose level of anti-American and anti-war sentiment usually ranked among the
highest of non-Muslim countries, were overwhelmingly convinced (65 percent vs. 24
percent) that Iraq would be better off without Saddam.284
With so many Muslims believing that Iraqis would be better off with Saddam,
many Middle Eastern observers had a hard time explaining why Iraqis cheered the
Zionist-inspired imperialist crusaders as they entered Baghdad instead of trying to kill
them. As with the denial of celebratory images following the September 11 attacks,
the most common tactic was simply to deny that the pictures actually portrayed
reality, but rather, were scenes carefully filmed by the news media to further U.S.
propaganda. The editors of the Palestinian paper al-Hayat al-Jadida claimed, “The
scenes of hysterical outpourings of joy intentionally taken by TV cameras after the
Iraqi regime collapsed were attended by 100 or 200 people, while the hundreds of
thousands of people in Iraq who chanted in support of Saddam Hussein were
In al-Ra’y, the most prominent Jordanian paper, columnist Fahd al-Fanik
responded in similar fashion to his own disbelief and self-doubt caused by the scenes
coming from Baghdad:
It is... not strange to find in Baghdad, a city of five million citizens, a number
of “scoundrels” of around 200 individuals [willing to] join the occupation forces in
the acting out of bringing down the statue of the president who was until that black
day the symbol of resistance to the occupation and defiance of the tyrannical power.
But the strange thing is for these theatrics to turn into television scenes whose aim is
to cause a shock to the Arab individual and shake his self-confidence and push him
into despising himself and giving in to the might of the tyrannical power that came to
rule him and control his wealth. Those whom we saw on the screens of satellite
televisions are not the Iraqi people and do not represent a sample of them. They are a
group of people that are found in every nation and some of them might be from the
5,000 Iraqis who were trained by the U.S. intelligence to assist the invaders against
their country.286
The second tactic, employed by some of those brave enough to even believe
what they were seeing, was to minimize the celebrations as ephemeral. Those
adopting this tactic suggested that eventually the Iraqi people will “discover that the
rule of one despot can be replaced by a more despotic regime,” and then “they will no
doubt resist the [American] occupation.”287 Editor-in-chief of the Egyptian weekly
magazine al-Musawwar, Makram Muhammad Ahmad, likewise claimed that “the
U.S. [plans] to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqis by offering the thirsty some
water and the hungry a morsel,” is bound to fail “because not a single Iraqi would
believe that the Americans came to liberate him.”288
Those who rejected the standard line
Similar to the aftermath of September 11, coming out of the Arab world were
several eloquent voices who rejected the region’s misinterpretation of events. They
criticized the commentators who had utterly failed to comprehend why Iraqis had
rejoiced at the demise of Saddam Husayn’s regime. Just as with the post-September
11 critique, these writers generally saw these failures as part of a fundamental
problem with the society at large. (Unlike the previous critique, however, this
criticism was largely confined to publications supported by those countries that had to
some degree supported the U.S. efforts.)
‘Abd al-Rahman al-Rashid, editor of the London-based Saudi daily al-Sharq
al-Awsat, was one of these brave leading liberals who throughout the war condemned
not only Husayn and his regime, but the general pro-Iraqi coverage of the war by the
Arabic media as well. Following the climatic fall of Baghdad, al-Rashid published a
commentary entitled “Saddam Did Not Fall Alone.” Al-Rashid’s words speak for
It is not Saddam Hussein who fell yesterday. What fell is more significant than
Saddam. What collapsed are the big lies that accompanied him, praised him,
and glorified him. Also collapsed are the minds that insisted on falsifying the
facts of both [the] present and history, that prevaricated in the name of the
Iraqi people. Before the eyes of the whole world, the Iraqis decided in favor of
truth, by themselves, in their own capital of Baghdad.… [Because they
expected stiff resistance in Baghdad] yesterday morning’s images shocked the
Arabs more than anyone else. It shocked the Arabs from Manama in the Gulf,
in the furthermost East, to the furthermost West, in Casablanca on the
Atlantic, and all the cities in between…. They [had] demonstrated
continuously, believing that they were defending the Iraqi people, while in fact
they were defending Saddam…
Shocked were the people of Cairo, where fundamentalists, nationalists,
leftists, and the misguided led marches in which they announced their
willingness to volunteer. They led marches in which they volunteered to
defend Saddam’s Iraq. But yesterday morning, the [Arab] television stations,
including al-Jazira, which throughout the war had participated in a campaign
to defend Saddam and his regime, did not manage to conceal the scenes of the
joy of the masses in the capital--without being able to explain it. Therefore,
yesterday’s scenes of the Baghdadis demonstrating and tearing down and
urinating on the portraits of their dictator, pulled down the biggest lie in
contemporary Arab history.289
Considering the Middle Eastern reaction to September 11, the war in
Afghanistan, and the 2003 war in Iraq, it is possible to discern several important
features that were common throughout. First, there was a total distortion of facts
throughout discussion of these events, most especially concerning the policies or
actions of the United States.290 Though specific incidents are almost never offered as
proof (and when they are, they are frequently entirely fictional or widely
exaggerated), commentators often charge America with the most heinous acts, and
especially of having committed numerous massacres (which are always of women and
children). Instead, accurate reporting of the basic facts is replaced by a constant
referral to conspiracy theories and an extremely warped historical narrative. In this
context, analysts ascribe the most demonic of intentions to U.S. decisionmakers,
starting with the constant desire to control the region’s oil supply to simply wanting to
tyrannically dominate the entire world. In this regard, Israel almost always gets
special mention, as it is often assumed that Washington is simply doing Israel’s
bidding (not to mention actively aiding in supposed Israeli massacres of Palestinians).
Not surprisingly, the hatred for the U.S. amongst Middle Easterners is deeper
and more spiteful than anti-American sentiment in other parts of the world. While
others were outraged after the September 11 attacks, many in the Middle East
celebrated. While the rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief when the hostilities in
Iraq ended quickly and without excessive casualties, Middle Easterners were enraged
that it had ended so quickly and without more American casualties, but at the same
time, were quick to charge the U.S. with Nazi-like massacres. Much of the Arab
world was even willing to believe that the Iraqis themselves would be better off under
Saddam Husayn (a man who actually had tortured and massacred thousands upon
thousands of his own people) than under temporary U.S. occupation.
A second major factor behind this loathing is that in many ways, the collective
self-esteem in Arab world is extremely low. Even worse, it is not just that every Arab
state is failing by most standards, but the non-Muslim infidels are succeeding. Yet,
intense jealousy is not the only ramification of this low self-esteem; many in the Arab
world have actually come to believe that they really are incompetent—to the point of
believing that they could not have conceivably been capable of perpetrating the
September 11 attacks. While few realistically expected the Iraqis or the Taliban to
defeat the Americans in war, that they were both defeated relatively quickly only
brought this self-esteem to a new low.
Lastly, there is a small group of individuals who see these problems for what
they are, and instead of urging followers to fight harder, want these incidents to
become opportunities for the Arab world to discard its illusions. If the Arab world is
to reclaim its former glory, it will only be because these reformers have succeeded in
the Herculean task of changing the worldview of their peers.
By Reuven Paz
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks and the onset of a global war against
terrorism led by the United States, anti-Americanism has become an integral part of
world politics. The debate over war in Iraq and then the war itself, invoked even
more anti-Americanism in the Arab and Muslim World, as well as in parts of Europe.
In parts of the world, anti-Americanism is also linked to anti-Globalization.
Yet, the leading element of anti-Americanism in contemporary world politics is the
radical Islamist one, which, since the 1990s, has viewed the United States as its
strongest and principal enemy. This perception, especially after the American
occupation of Iraq, is often accompanied by a demonization of the United States in an
apocalyptic sense within a concept of a war that heralds the end of the world.
The roots of Islamist anti-Americanism were deep long before the rise of the
Jihadist movement in the 1990s, or the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. They were
developed by the anti-American atmosphere of secular Arab regimes, such as the
Nasserist and Ba'thist ones, and encouraged by their alliance with the Soviet Union.
Millions of Arabs grew up with and were indoctrinated by anti-American slogans, and
the perception of the United States as an enemy that was plotting against them by
supporting Israel.
Secular Arab anti-Americanism was mainly political, and not part of a cultural
worldview. But, it heavily contributed to the development of Islamist antiAmericanism, by contributing one very important element -- the sense of a global
Western conspiracy against the Arabs and the Arab and Muslim world.
The sense of confronting a conspiracy is a crucial element in understanding
contemporary Islamist anti-Americanism. It provides the Islamists with their main
justification and motive for developing the image of the "American enemy." The fact
that the Islamists became the leading proponents of anti-Americanism in our time
supported the notion that a cultural clash of civilizations was occurring. In previous
decades, Arabs and Muslims had vacillated between being pressured by their
governments to espouse political hatred of the United States, while, at the same time,
there was admiration for its culture, education, freedom, and wealth. Millions of
Arabs and Muslims had been dreaming about immigration to the United States and
some of them managed to fulfill these dreams. The Islamists managed to turn this dual
situation among certain circles--especially intellectuals and highly educated Muslims-into a war of cultures. They spread anti-American feelings, not to mention support
and justification for terrorism against the United States.
The first Islamist to declare a cultural war against the United States and Western
civilization was the Egyptian scholar Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966). Qutb was a senior
official in the Egyptian Ministry of Education in the late 1940s, and a member of the
then influential movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1949 he was sent to the
United States for two years to study methods of education. During the two years that
he spent in the United States, he began to develop his radical ideas and doctrines,
which, in the 1960s and 1970s, would become the philosophical basis of a wide
spectrum of Jihadi groups.
Malise Ruthven, who spent time exploring the writings of Sayyid Qutb, wrote that
he "was as significant in that world as Lenin was to Communism." Ruthven
characterized his visit to the United States as "the defining moment or watershed from
which 'the Islamist war against America' would flow."
Sayyid Qutb wrote many articles and letters from the United States. Many of them
were collected in a book published in Saudi Arabia in 1985.291 Many references to his
views on the United States are found in his writings, including his monumental
interpretation of the Koran, "In the Shadow of the Koran" (Fi Zalal al-Koran).
In his letters and writings, Sayyid Qutb laid the foundation for the perception that
American society, and hence Western culture, was the new form of Jahiliyyah--the
pre-Islamic period, which represents ignorance of God's rule and the rule of arbitrary
law instead. In his famous book, Milestones (Ma'alim fi al-Tariq), Qutb draws the
most important element of his conclusions from his interpretation of Western society
in the American paradigm:
The leadership of mankind by Western man is now on the decline, not because
Western culture has become poor materially or because its economic and
military power has become weak. The period of the Western system has come
to an end primarily because it is deprived of those life-giving values, which
enabled it to be the leader of mankind.
It is necessary for the new leadership to preserve and develop the material
fruits of the creative genius of Europe, and also to provide mankind with such
high ideals and values as have so far remained undiscovered by mankind, and
which will also acquaint humanity with a way of life which is harmonious
with human nature, which is positive and constructive, and which is
Islam is the only System, which possesses these values and this way of life.
From these conclusions, he then defines the nature of the clash between Islam and the
West/United States:
The enemies of the Believers may wish to change this struggle into an
economic or political or racial struggle, so that the Believers become confused
concerning the true nature of the struggle and the flame of belief in their hearts
becomes extinguished. The Believers must not be deceived, and must
understand that this is a trick. The enemy, by changing the nature of the
struggle, intends to deprive them of their weapon of true victory, the victory,
which can take any form, be it the victory of the freedom of spirit….292
Qutb argued that the worst form of colonialism, which had outlasted the formal
end of European colonialism, was "intellectual and spiritual colonialism." He advised
the Islamic world to destroy the influence of the West within itself, to eradicate its
residue "within our feelings." Anti-Americanism, according to Qutb's philosophical
legacy for the generations that followed him, was "the greater Jihad" in Islam--the
Jihad of the self or Jihad al-Nafs. This Jihad would therefore require the emergence of
a new generation of Muslims who should fight the West primarily in their own minds
long before moving to launch a military Jihad.
Twenty-five years after Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, one of his major followers, the
Palestinian Dr. Abdallah 'Azzam, spiritual father of Qa'idat al-Jihad, wrote an article
in Afghanistan that set the principles of the group that would become al-Qa'ida:
Every principle needs a vanguard (Tali'ah) to carry it forward and, while
forcing its way into society, puts up with heavy tasks and enormous sacrifices.
There is no ideology, neither earthly nor heavenly, that does not require such a
vanguard that gives everything it possesses in order to achieve victory for this
ideology. It carries the flag all along the sheer endless and difficult path until it
reaches its destination in the reality of life, since Allah has destined that it
should make it and manifest itself. This vanguard constitutes the solid base
(al-Qa'ida al-Sulbah) for the expected society.
As long as the ideology - even if it originates from the Lord of the Worlds-does not find this self-sacrificing vanguard that spends everything in its
possession for the sake of making its ideology prevail, this ideology will be
still-born, perishing before it sees light and life. The motto of those who carry
this ideology forward must be:
'Call your partners (of Allah), and then plot against me, and give me no
respite. My protector is Allah, who has revealed the Book. He will choose and
support the righteous.' (Surat al-A'raf, 195-196)…
Now America is trying to grab the fruits of this great Jihad and to rule
without recourse to Allah's book. Accordingly, the solid base has to face
international pressures and temptations from all over the world. But they
refused to bow their heads before the storm. They decided to continue their
march along a path of sweat and tears and blood.293
Sayyid Qutb not only laid the basis for radical Islamist anti-Americanism, but was
also one of the ideologues that most influenced the emergence of various trends of
present-day Islamism and its sense of being attacked by a global, American led,
Islamists tend to give a "scientific" cover to their analysis of global and historical
developments. However, their analysis is rather unscientific since the model for the
norms of true Islamic behavior is always Muhammad the Prophet and the first
generation of Muslims (Al-Salaf al-Salih). Further, the way to relate to this model is
through evidence derived from a series of citations from the sacred sources of Islam,
and the historical developments of the Muslims.
In some ways, Qutb's influence was similar. He wrote his impressions of American
society and culture at a time when the United States was still a mystery for most
Muslims, especially in the Arab Muslim world. The enemy then was Great Britain,
either in the Arab world, India or Malaysia. In the 1950s, even the creation of Israel
was still perceived as a British conspiracy.
In the eyes of many Islamists, the change of developments in the Middle East and
the growing direct involvement of the United States made Sayyid Qutb seem quite
prescient. Therefore, his writings about American society and culture became a kind
of sacred source to refer to in developing the blunt anti-Americanism of the 1990s.
Sayyid Qutb introduced anti-Americanism to the Islamic world. His followers
developed and merged this element into their interpretation of Islam, and made it a
part of the religion and one's religious duties.
An Egyptian Islamist, Dr. Tareq Hilmi, opened his October 2003 article entitled
"America that We Hate," with the statement: "We worship Allah by hatred of
America." Then he gave a summary of the reasons for this hatred, culled from
numerous other articles and publications:
"This is the America that declared war against Islam and the Muslims under
the title of world terrorism. This is the America that gives unlimited and
unconditional support for the Zionist entity. This is the America that wants the
Muslims to surrender and submit to the forces of occupation, otherwise they
are considered terrorists. This is the America that is using weapons that are
internationally prohibited to crush the Muslims of Iraq and Afghanistan, and is
using its planes and missiles to attack the Muslims in Palestine. This is the
America that protects the agent governments in the Islamic world, which act
against the will of the Muslim peoples… The history of America is full of
evilness against humanity…
"This is the America that occupies the world with the culture of sex and
deviation. This is the pagan civilization in Christian disguise… This is the
American civilization whose object is the body and its means is materialism.
The spirit has no place in the system of American values. They are dressed
with Christian clothes on hearts that know nothing but stealing, robbing, and
occupying the possessions of others. Has America left one place in our lives as
Muslims without corrupting it?"294
These kinds of articles are primarily aimed at "The cursed, who are not fighting by
Jihad… their brothers are killed and they remain asleep… their sacred laws are
violated and they remain calm… they love miserable life and hate the honorable
death." These articles portray the United States as the "mother of all evils" in the
world. They demonize American politics, culture, and society, in everything they do.
Is this just the search for the devil and its allies by religious people indoctrinated by
Islam to divide the world into two strict parts--the world of Islamic belief and
sovereignty (Dar al-Islam) vis-a-vis the world of the infidels against whom there must
be waged a constant war (Dar al-Harb)?
The answer lies in the emergence of what we might call the "culture of global
jihad." Since the 1990s, anti-Americanism, like the doctrines of modern Islamic antiJudaism and the doctrines of a global conspiracy against Islam and the Muslims, has
been a means to mobilize the Muslim world within the culture of global Jihad. Such a
culture is as much based on the enemy as it is on its own particular innovations.
The public support for Islamist terrorist groups, so vital to their success, is the
consequence of several social and psychological factors underlying the Islamic socialpolitical renaissance:
--Islamic and Islamist movements and groups have succeeded in the past three
decades in planting in Arab and Muslim societies the notion of a global cultural war,
in which they are confronting a global conspiracy against Islam as a religion, culture,
and way of life. Thus, many in the Islamic world now view concepts synonymous in
Western political culture with terrorism and political violence to be Islamic religious
duties. Such concepts include Jihad, Takfir (refutation), Istishhad (Martyrdom,
including by suicide), and Shahid (Martyr). The central notion, common to most of
the Islamic movements and groups--those that carry out terrorism and political
violence, and those that justify it and feed the atmosphere that promotes such activity-is that of being in a state of siege, which calls for self defense. To those who believe
in this concept, the confrontation justifies the use of all means--particularly when
these means are given religious legitimacy.
--Many of the Islamist and Islamic movements and groups have succeeded in
convincing many in the Muslim world that they represent the true contemporary
interpretation of Islam. Moreover, most of these groups developed out of the
perceived need to return to the earliest fundamental sources of Islam. Thus, they
based their views on Islamic scholars like Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taymiyyah of the
Middle Ages, and Ibn Abd al-Wahhab of the 18th century, who were the leading
fundamentalist religious scholars, as well as the most unyielding.
--The success of the Islamist movements lies in the basic diversity of Islam.
However it also owes a lot, on the one hand, to the lack of a single Islamic center that
enjoys the confidence of the majority of the Muslim world, and, on the other, to the
control the modern secular regimes in the Arab and Muslim World have over the
religious establishments. Large parts of the public view those religious establishments
as servants and puppets of the secular state ('Ulama' al-Salatin), whose interpretations
and rulings buttress the interests of the state. Thus, Islamic and Islamist groups and
individuals have become the spiritual guides of a large Islamic population, and
maintain a great deal of power and influence.
--Most of the Islamic movements and groups, primarily those that emerged during
the 1970s and after, portray the Arab and Muslim regimes--and in some cases
rightfully--as symbols of arbitrary oppression and distortion of the social justice that
is rooted in orthodox Islam. Thus, they instill in and bring their followers to
sympathize with and support those who present themselves as the protectors of the
weaker elements of society. In many cases they manage to recruit the social, political,
cultural and economic elements that are protesting against various Arab and Muslim
regimes. These elements also see themselves as opposing the alleged global enemies
and conspirators: The United States, Israel, the Jews, Western "Crusader" heretic
culture, etc.
--The Islamic socio-political revival, particularly since the 1960s, has been linked
both to social changes in the Arab and Muslim World, and to the formation of an
educated middle class in different countries. This middle class has in part distanced
itself from Western secular modernization and the institutions of the modern state: the
military, government administration, social and economic institutions controlled by
the state, the public media, etc. Another part of this class--mainly members of
respected professions such as physicians, lawyers, pharmacists, engineers, academic
scholars, or merchants who have suffered from the state's tendency to nationalize the
economy--have found in the Islam propounded by modern Islamists the solution to
their problems. This process created a large and highly educated group of individuals,
who viewed themselves as a social vanguard, and adopted Islamic and Islamist
theories as the basis of their social struggle.
--The next stage was characterized by massive activity within the existing Islamic
groups, along with the formation of new Islamic radical groups, followed by the
publication of new doctrines and ideologies that did not necessarily correspond with
orthodox Islam. Many of these new doctrines won many adherents in the course of the
ensuing violent struggle.
--All these processes assisted the Islamist groups in gaining more power and public
support, and enabled them in some cases to attract a certain segment of society who
were protesting and struggling for increased human and civil rights. But, there is
another very important element to note here. This is what we may call the "Islamic
atmosphere" that is created by movements and groups that are not connected to
political violence or terrorism, some of whom even publicly condemn it or express
their reservations about the use of violence. Their importance concerning antiAmericanism lies in two linked elements:
-- These groups and movements carry out the vast majority of political, social,
cultural and educational Islamic work, both in the Muslim world and among Muslim
communities in the West. Therefore, they serve as the most important elements in
creating and preserving the "Islamic atmosphere" that is used by more extremist and
violent Islamist groups. They are, in many cases, a sort of greenhouse for the
emergence of violent groups as well as the preservation of worldviews where hostility
towards the West or Western culture dominates.
-- On the one hand, the social, political, cultural, economic, educational, and
charity infrastructures of these movements are the main avenues of finance and
support for Islamic projects that, as a by-product, are also used to finance violent and
terrorist groups. On the other hand, they are most active in consolidating Muslim
communities in the West, and therefore set the stage for massive fundraising, political
support, and, in some cases, recruitment for militant Islamist groups, among their
--The Islamist "terrorist culture" can be sketched as a pyramid. The base is the
large-scale activity of the Islamic moderate and non-violent groups, associations,
institutes, and projects of all kinds. The top of the pyramid is the radical Islamists and
pro-terrorist activity. The middle is the various processes that refine certain social
elements into hatred, revenge, and the search for power and violence. This violence is
in many cases indirectly supported and financed by innocent elements as a result of
the culturally violent influences.
These elements are consolidated through the creation of a common enemy -- the
United States. Ayatollah Khomeini tried to use this anti-Americanism to export his
Islamic revolution to the Sunni Muslim world, but failed. The scholars that stand
behind Qa'idat al-Jihad are using anti-Americanism to create a culture of global Jihad,
which they hope will spread all over the Arab and Muslim world to Muslim
communities in the West -- and eventually the whole world -- thus opening new fronts
in the war against the same enemy. United by hatred of the United States and the
sense of a global conspiracy, this war is conceived as an asymmetric war of selfdefense. In such a war, Jihad becomes terrorism justified as a religious duty.
The first Islamic ruling (Fatwah) to legitimize the September 11 attacks by Qa'idat
al-Jihad, was issued by the Saudi Salafist Shaykh Hammoud al-'Uqla al-Shu'aybi:
… Having said this, you should know that America is a kufr state that is
totally against Islam and Muslims. In fact it has reached the peak of that
arrogance in the form of open attacks on several Muslim nations as it did in
Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Philistine, Libya and others, where it -- America -allied with the forces of Kufr such as Britain, Russia and others in attacking
and trying to exterminate them. Similarly, America expelled the Palestinians
from their homes and housed the 'brothers of pigs and apes' in them; and stood
firmly in support of the criminal Zionist state of the Jews, giving them all they
need in the form of wealth, weapons and training.
How then can America after all these things not be considered an enemy of
the Muslim nations and at war with them?
But, because they have reached the peak of tyranny and arrogance; because
they have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union in the hands of the Muslims in
Afghanistan, they thought that they are the Ultimate Power above which there
is no power. Unfortunately, they forgot that Allah, the Exalted and Mighty, is
stronger than them and can humble and destroy them.
We pray to Allah that He helps His Religion and raises His Word and
exalts Islam and the Muslims and the Mujahideen and to destroy America and
its followers and those who assist them. Verily He has that power and is able
to do so.295
Al-Shu'aybi paved the way for the issuance of dozens of fatwas by many scholars,
all of them Arabs, which gave Islamic legitimacy to every act of terrorism carried out
by Islamists against the United States, Western targets, or Israeli and Jewish ones.
Dozens of Islamist scholars legitimized not just acts of terrorism but the wish to
destroy the United States. Since September 2001, the object of the war against the
United States is not just to push the Americans out of the Middle East, but also to
follow the Americans to their homeland in order to destroy it. The easy occupation of
Iraq played a great part in this development. Another element was the shift in alQa'ida's policy to begin launching terrorist attacks against Westerners on Muslim soil
as well, even at the cost of Muslims being killed as well.
Anti-Americanism was no longer just an ideology to consolidate support for
Islamist groups, but a justified Jihad as an integral part of religious personal duty. It
became the war of the Army of God--Jund Allah--against the army of the Devil--Jund
al-Shaytan. It was accompanied by apocalyptic visions, marked by the end of the
United States.296
The Saudi Shaykh Salman al-'Awdah, a leading figure in crafting Islamist
doctrines of Global Jihad wrote in one of his articles entitled the "End of History":
… I pray for Allah to witness with our own eyes his victory over the dominant
infidel nations of the West. We wish him to show us and our descendents the
collapse of these nations that controlled the Muslims, enslaved them,
dominated their minds, ruled their media, and destroyed their economy. May
Allah take revenge on them. The oppressors are the swords of Allah on earth.
First Allah takes his revenge by them, and then against them.
The same as Allah has used, in Islamist eyes, the United States in order to
destroy the Soviet Union, so he will take revenge against the Americans by
destroying them. 297
The nature of Islamist anti-Americanism is cultural rather than military or political.
It is based on the sense of an ongoing and eternal global conspiracy against Islam and
the Muslims. The threat emerged in the Prophet's time, continued with the Crusaders,
and through the Muslim defeats in the twentieth century, until salvation emerged in
Afghanistan in the form of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the emergence of
Qa'idat al-Jihad and similar groups. The United States is just another force in history
that represents the devilish factors seeking to fight the true believers.
Surrounded and supported by such doctrines, Islamist anti-Americanism is part of
a broad religious worldview. Hence, it is not subject to compromise. In Islamist eyes,
since this is a war of self-defense and an asymmetric one as well, hatred of the enemy
is total. As a result of the religious nature of this worldview, Islamists are publishing
dozens of fatwas, articles, and books, which rely on the Koran and the sacred Islamic
sources to mobilize large parts of the Muslim world into adopting various degrees of
In December 2001, one of these scholars, Muhammad Abu 'Arafah, wrote an
article that became very popular. It is entitled "The Glorious Koran Foresees the
Destruction of the United States and the Drowning of the American Army."2981
According to the author, the article is an analysis prepared shortly after the September
11 attacks. The "analysis" is based on the Koranic stories that were taken from the
Bible about Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. According to Abu 'Arafah, the end of the
United States is going to be in 2004, with the end of the rule of President George W.
Bush, "Ramses the 2nd."
Present day anti-Americanism makes such articles very popular among Islamist
youngsters, whether they actually believe it or just read it as expressions of wishful
thinking. Yet there is a strong wish for a very violent revenge. As the only
superpower, the United States is perceived as the major target against which to
channel this struggle for Muslim honor. Islamist anti-Americanism is also a kind of
default act among a wide range of Muslims, and easily adoptable by broad circles.
As long as there is a need for an enemy and for revenge, anti-Americanism will
remain part of Islamist religious and cultural doctrines, and will go on fueling the
Islamist Jihad, either its violence and terrorism, or its political element. A change
away from this approach can only come from within the Muslim world, through social
and cultural developments.
By Patrick Clawson
While anti-Americanism has deep resonance in the Arab world, the situation is
quite different in Iran, where the United States has in recent years become profoundly
popular. One indicator was the September 2002 poll commissioned by the Iranian
Majlis’ national security committee which found that 74 percent of Iranians favored
resumption of relations with the United States and 46 percent felt that U.S. policies on
Iran were “to some extent correct,” despite the fact that Iranian media constantly
harped on Bush’s “axis of evil” remark in his January 2002 State of the Union
speech.299 The Ayandeh Institute pollsters who conducted this poll, Abbas Abdi and
Hossein Ali Qazian, were sentenced to jail terms of eight and nine years respectively
for “publishing nonscientific research.”
Why this change from the days of the 1978-1979 revolution and 1979-1981
hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran when millions of Iranians poured on to
the streets to chant “Death to America?” It is worth understanding why this change
has happened both as a case study of regime propaganda and the response by public
opinion as well as its importance in the regional context.
The Iranian Exception
The principle reason for pro-American sentiment in Iran today is that the United
States is a staunch opponent of the hated clerical regime. Bush pointed to this factor
when in his 2002 State of the Union he explained his “axis of evil” remark by
condemning “an unelected few [who] repress the Iranian people’s hopes for freedom.”
There are fewer better explanations for why so many Iranians today are proAmerican than Bush’s July 12, 2002 statement:
“The people of Iran want the same freedoms, human rights, and opportunities as
people around the world. Their government should listen to their hopes. In the last
two Iranian presidential elections and in nearly a dozen parliamentary and local
elections, the vast majority of the Iranian people voted for political and economic
reform. Yet their voices are not being listened to by the unelected people who are the
real rulers of Iran. Uncompromising, destructive policies have persisted, and far too
little has changed in the daily lives of the Iranian people....There is a long history of
friendship between the American people and the people of Iran. As Iran's people
move towards a future defined by greater freedom, greater tolerance, they will have
no better friend than the United States of America.”301
As one astute observer of the Iranian scene summed his impressions from two
years of travel around Iran, “America’s greatest allies in Iran are the hardliners
themselves; their constant anti-American rhetoric has made the United States even
more popular among the Iranian people.”302
That said, the failures of the reform movement have also done much to drain antiAmericanism out of the Iranian system. The hopes for reforms from within the
Islamic Republic, which were so high after the unexpected 1997 landslide victory of
President Mohammed Khatemi, have died. Khatemi proved unwilling or unable to
bring about meaningful change and the clerical hardliners have reasserted control,
shoving aside the president and parliament to run the country through the judiciary
and the revolutionary institutions (such as the Revolutionary Guard Corps) which
report directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. 303
Khatemi’s dream had been to inaugurate “a dialogue of civilizations” based on
people-to-people exchange with Americans and other Westerners, but without official
government-to-government relations. But Khamenei and his faction explicitly and
repeatedly rejected such a shift, refusing also to change Iran’s policies to which
Washington objected. 304 The reality was that the hardliners who control power
blocked even this people-to-people initiative. Not even friends of revolutionary Iran
such as Columbia University’s Gary Sick could get visas to visit the country. As was
the case with so many others of his policies, Khatami’s attempt to modify the
revolution’s anti-Americanism – into opposition to U.S. government policies
combined with friendship with the American people – failed.
The aftermath of the U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq provided
remarkable evidence about how far the pro-American sentiment has gone.305 On June
22, 2003, the Iranian newspaper Yas-e Now published a remarkable poll that had
originally appeared on the "Feedback" web page of the Expediency Discernment
Council, run by former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Those polled were given the question, "What are the actual demands of the Iranian
people?" and a choice of four answers. They responded as follows:
• 13 percent chose the answer "solutions to the problems of people's livelihood, and
the continuation of the present political policy"--in other words, the current hardline
• 16 percent chose "political reforms and increases in the powers of the reformists."
• 26 percent chose "fundamental changes in management and in the performance of
the system for an efficient growth"--a position often identified with Rafsanjani.
• 45 percent chose "change in the political system, even with foreign intervention."
The fact that 45 percent of respondents endorsed foreign intervention if
necessary is all the more surprising considering two factors: first, the continued
imprisonment of 2002 pollsters Abdi and Qazian; and second, the ominous rumors
circulating in Iran that the United States is considering an invasion of the country,
though these had no basis in fact.
If the poll showed mass opinion, two interesting letters indicated that many in
the elite are concerned about how far pro-Americanism has gone.306 On Mohammed's
birthday ( May 19, 2003), 196 prominent clerics and intellectuals issued an open letter
to "express our complete dissatisfaction with the rulers in Iran." The sharp criticism
focused on "the unelected institutions" which are "united against the wishes of the
people"--phrases that echo those used by Bush. The letter warned that present policies
"might provide an excuse to some groups who desire freedom to sacrifice the
independence of the country," in other words, a U.S. invasion might be welcomed. It
added, "We must learn a lesson from the fate of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein and
understand that despotism and selfishness is destined to take the country down to
On May 25, 2003, forty percent of the Parliament (Majlis) members signed a
letter to Supreme Leader Ali Hossein Khamenei. The letter carefully refrained from
any criticism of Khamenei, but its tone was otherwise tough. It warned, "Perhaps
there has been no period in the recent history of Iran as sensitive as this one [due to]
political and social gaps coupled with a clear plan by the government of the United
States of America to change the geopolitical map of the region." Insisting on
"fundamental changes in methods, attitudes, and figures," the letter warned, "if this is
a cup of hemlock, it should be drunk before our country's independence and territorial
integrity are placed in danger." The hemlock phrase was used by Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini to explain his 1988 decision to end the war with Iraq.
Neither of the two letters was mentioned in Iranian newspapers, television, or
radio because of a ban imposed by the Supreme National Security Council, chaired by
President Muhammad Khatami. (This ban belies the commonly held notion that
Khatami-era Iran enjoys press freedom.) The Council's concern appears to be the
spreading mood in Iran that the country is at risk of a U.S. invasion because of
provocative actions by the hardliners. It is interesting to observe that such perceived
risk emboldens reformers to step up their criticism of hardliners, contrary to the
theory widely heard in the West that U.S. pressure hurts reformers. Indeed, there is
by now an established pattern in which U.S. criticism of the hardliners is seized upon
by reform elements as a reason why repression should be eased, so as to create
national unity and to deprive Washington of a pretext for attacking Iran.307
What has occurred in Iran is much deeper than a reflexive “enemy of my
enemy is my friend” attitude. The last few years has seen a far-reaching debate
among wide sectors of society about the basic issues of Enlightenment thought. On
issue after issue, intellectuals have come to argue for the values which America
champions, from rule of law to free speech and representative government.
Interestingly, many arguments are heard for the state to stay out of religious affairs.
A leading intellectual has written a book–from prison, no less–arguing that democracy
is incompatible with a state religion.
Hossein Mostafa Khomeini, the grandson of Aytollah Ruhollah Khomeini and
himself a prominent cleric, speaks eloquently–from the podium of the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington–about the importance of individual liberties and a
secular state, while applauding America as the embodiment of these values.308 Indeed,
when asked, “What do you think is the best way for the government of the United
States to behave in order to encourage the liberation and the freedom of the people of
Iran?, Khomeini responded,
The best way is for the United States to help the movement towards democracy,
democracy in Iran. They should look at this issue very seriously and not as
dispassionately as they have been, waiting for something to happen and then get
involve....One should think how deep the problem and the pressures are in Iran on the
Iranian people, that there are so many of them who in fact crave for some sort of
foreign intervention to get rid of this calamity.
It is no exaggeration to say that America has won the battle for the hearts and
minds of the Iranian people, and the hardline clerics have lost.
At the same time, though, there does remain much anti-Americanism in Iran. In
particular, three strands of anti-Americanism bear closer examination.
--Proud Iranian nationalists are suspicious that the United States wants to block Iran
from what they see as its natural place as leader of the region.
--Leftist Third World socialist ideas shaped the entire generation now running Iran,
clerics as well as secular intellectuals (though this ideology has no attraction for the
-- Nativists, a group that goes far beyond just religious conservatives, are deeply
hostile to U.S. influence—directly or otherwise—because of their fear it undermines
Iran’s culture and traditional lifestyle.
For American intellectuals, it is an article of faith that Iranians became antiAmerican because of the 1953 overthrow of Mohammd Mossadegh. For instance,
James Bill writes, “After its part in the overthrow of Muhammad Mosadegh in 1953,
the United States found itself the object of growing Iranian criticism...Iranians of all
political persuasions increasingly formed a negative image of the United States.”309
Mark Gasiorowski argues that after Mossadegh’s overthrow, the Shah was able to
hold power only because he was a client of the United States, lacking domestic
The reality of the matter is rather more complex. For one thing,
Mossadegh’s overthrow came in no small part because of his increasing isolation on
the domestic political scene. As Barry Rubin wrote, in the final months, “Kashani [a
major clerical figure] went over to the opposition; whole sectors of the National Front
[the political movement that had supported him] broke away; and dozens of deputies
resigned.”311 Mossadegh may have God-like status among leftist foreign intellectuals,
but, as Rubin noted, “In the days after Mossadegh’s removal, the shah and Zahedi [the
new prime minister] seemed as popular as the National Front leader [Mossadegh] had
ever been.312
Indeed, the clerical establishment then and now--as well as in the
intervening years--have been largely hostile to Mossadegh. That said, there can be
little doubt that many Iranian nationalists were profoundly disappointed at
Mossadegh’s failure and that, as the Shah became more authoritarian, memories of the
bad parts of the Mossadegh legacy faded as a legend of a golden age grew.
The nationalism of which pro-Mossadegh sentiment was a symbol was by no
means necessarily Marxist, much less Communist. Some of these nationalists were in
fact more sympathetic to the clergy than to the left. A good example was the first
prime minister after the 1979 revolution, Mehdi Bazargan. Indeed, the first postrevolutionary government was full of such figures from the reconstituted National
Front, such as Hassan Nazieh, who became chairman of the National Iranian Oil
This nationalism was profoundly skeptical of the United States, but willing
to work with it, so long as Iran got the respect it felt it deserved. During the heady
days after the revolution when they were an important part of the power elite, the
National Front leaders virtually never attacked the United States. Indeed, in the
summer of 1979, Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Amir Entezam was working to
normalize relations with the United States.313
This nationalist strand had broad support. The hardline cleric Ayatollah
Mohammed Beheshti acknowledged in 1980, “It has to be confessed that there are
several million Iranians who prefer a liberal government to a militant Islamic
government.”314 It was against this liberal nationalism that the Islamic clerics had to
wage a vigorous campaign in 1979-81. Indeed, the taking of the American embassy
in September 1979 was as much directed against the domestic liberal element as it
was against the United States.315
The great fear among the revolutionary hardliners – the clerical element that
won out and the leftists who wanted the revolution to go further than the liberals had
taken it – was that the liberals would reconcile with the United States and establish a
democratic, market system consistent with many U.S. values, though with Islam as a
state religion. Indeed, the increasingly desperate attempts during 1980 by the
Bazargan government to resolve the U.S. embassy hostage crisis were precisely
because it saw how anti-Americanism was being used to undermine their position –
starting with the December 2, 1979 ratification of the cleric-empowering, liberalismending Constitution.
In other words, the hardline clerics’ fear was that the heirs of Mossadegh – the
new National Front – would work with America and for American-style values. That
is hard to reconcile with the view that America’s overthrow of Mossadegh is the root
of Iranian anti-Americanism.316 Nationalism may be a factor in Iranian antiAmericanism, but it is much less significant than two other elements, namely, Third
Worldism and nativism.
Third Worldism
Third Worldism is that mix of socialism and anti-imperialism which
blames the West, especially America, and the local elites which work with it for the
shortcomings in developing countries, offering a vision of a more equitable and
prosperous society once the evil West is forced to give up its death grip on the
countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It is hard to overestimate Third
Worldism’s influence on Iranian intellectual life between 1963 and 1988.
The “outstanding intellectual” of Iran in the 1960s was Ali Shariati.317 While
studying for his doctorate in sociology and Islamic studies in Paris, he translated
Fanon, Guevara, and Sartre and was injured demonstrating against the Algerian war.
Returning to Iran in 1965, he lectured at the Husseinieh-I Ershard, a Tehran religious
meeting hall financed by the heirs of Mossadegh’s movement. His lectures before his
1977 death, interrupted by jail time from 1972 to 1975, were extraordinarily popular,
circulating on cassette and in transcription. He was the most popular writer on Islam
for pre-revolutionary young, urban Iranians.318 His theme was that Islam was the
answer to the evils of capitalism in Iran. Shariati made Islam hip, in no small part by
his connecting Islam to Third Worldism, including to political and cultural antiAmericanism. He also disassociated Islam from the clerics, whom he and his
audience saw as backward. Not surprisingly, the clerics once in power devoted much
effort to undercutting Shariati’s influence.
While the clerical establishment hated Shariati, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
took a neutral stance, being well aware of Shariati’s popularity among the young.
Presumably in response to the enthusiasm for anti-Western Islam seen in the Shariati
phenomenon, Khomeini began to use many Third Worldist phrases.
Whereas his 1963-64 polemics against the Shah which led to his exile were
in no small part directed against leftist reforms–land reform and women’s suffrage–
his discourse by the late 1970s made Islam sound compatible with Marxism. Ervand
Abrahamiam provides numerous examples: “The lower class is the salt of the earth;”
“In a truly Islamic society, there will be no landless peasants;” “We are for Islam, not
for capitalism and feudalism.”319 Abrahamiam explains how Khomeini changed
traditional Shiite interpretations:
Instead of paying occasional lip-service to the ‘meek,’ he aggressively espoused the
general rights and interests of the mostazafin [“a loose term used to depict the general
populace: the meek, the poor, the masses,” Abrahamian explains]. Instead of talking
of institutional reforms, he called for thorough political and cultural revolutions.
Instead of preaching quietism.. he exhorted the faithful to protest.
It is in this context that Khomeini fit his campaign against America. No
longer confining himself to his 1960s complaint against American decadence, he now
used language which sounded like it came from Marxist propaganda:320
They [the Pahlavi government] have given all our oil to foreigners, Americans and
others. They gave that all to the Americans, and what did they get in return? In
return they received arms in order to establish military bases for Mr. America. We
gave them both oil and military bases.”
This marriage of Third Worldism with Islam was the potent mixture which
fueled the Iranian revolution. The Third Worldist element, essential to winning the
support of urban youth, dictated that this revolution would be profoundly antiAmerican, not just anti-Shah.
Once the Shah was overthrown, the clerics devoted themselves to
consolidating power at the expense of not only the liberal nationalists but also the
Marxist left. By 1983, they had destroyed the secular parties, such as the pro-Soviet
communist Tudeh party and the Fedayeen Guevarist guerrilla group.321 But the
clerics’ main fire was directed against the Mojahedin (the People’s Mojahedin of Iran,
PMOI, or Mojahedin-e Khalq, MEK). This was no small event. By mid-1981, the
Mojahedin newspaper had become the most widely read in Iran, and they were able to
regularly draw tens and tens of thousands into the streets for protests against clerical
rule – plus they made an alliance with Iranian President Bani Sadr against the
clerics.322 The clerics hit back hard. Not content with their street toughs attacking the
left, the clerics threw tens thousands of leftists in jail, torturing many By the account
of Khomeini’s designated successor, ten thousand were killed in one month alone.
Bani Sadr had to flee the country in June 1981, taking off for Paris in the presidential
plane along with Mojahedin leaders with whom he then cooperated politically for
several years.
The ferocity of the attacks led the Iranian left and intellectual circles generally
to hate the clerics as their main enemy. The West no long seemed as terrible as it
once did. Indeed, since the clerics made anti-Americanism a defining characteristic of
their rule, the left slowly moved away from anti-Americanism. By the late 1980s, the
Mojahedin were presenting themselves as the great friends of the United States and
American values.
In short, one of the hardline clerics’ accomplishments is that they drained
Third Worldist anti-Americanism out of the Iranian intellectual and cultural scene.
Pro-traditionalist thinking or Nativism has strong roots in Iran. One of the
most important modern Iranian authors, Jalal al-Ahmad, wrote an influential book in
1962 entitled Gharbzadegi--a made-up word usually translated as “Westoxication.”
His theme was how Iranians are abandoning their traditions to ape the West, at the
cost of losing their culture and history.323
His argument was rooted in leftism: “By providing a passionate eulogy for a passing
era and its customs, Gharbazedgi articulated a Third-Worldist discourse very much
skeptical of what the West had to offer.”324 While his work was not specifically antiAmerican, it was no great leap for his readers to see that the fascination with America
which was so palpable in 1960s’ Iran was the most obvious aspect of what al-Ahmad
was attacking. Complaints about the loss of socio-cultural identity as well as
reinforcement of traditional values were major themes of Iranian intellectual life from
the late 1950s on.325 Indeed, Boroujerdi describes the 1960s and 1970s as “the
heyday of nativism,” showing how its influence was powerful in academia.326
Al-Ahmad was a secular, leftist intellectual who nevertheless recommended
making use of Iran’s religious traditions as the most effective vaccine against Western
influence. 327 This strand of thinking became a major element in the formation of the
Third Worldist-religious alliance which was central to the success of the 1978-1979
revolution. The cement holding them together was one part the secular left’s embrace
of cultural traditionalism, plus one part the clergy’s embrace of Third Worldist antiimperialism. These two strands came together to make a powerfully anti-American
In other words, the nativist element in Iranian anti-Americanism is more than
religious reactionaries rejecting the modern world and all its ways for age-old
traditions: Iranian nativism is also the cry of the secular intellectual wanting to
preserve Iran’s poetry, music, paintings, and traditions. This makes Iranian nativism
extraordinarily different from cultural conservatism in much of the Arab world
because it includes a defense of Iran’s secular culture.
Arab cultural conservatism is more closely tied to religion and opposes local secular
culture. For instance, Saudi cultural conservatism is a rejection of modern science as
much as of modern rock music or Hollywood films. Abdel Aziz Bin Baz, the longtime official religious leader of Saudi Arabia argued until his 1999 death that Muslims
have a religious obligation to hate Jews and Christians in general.328 To be sure, Bin
Baz rejected American values, but that was part and parcel of his general opposition
to modern thought. He wrote a book on the theme that anyone who believes that the
earth revolves around the sun should be killed (this from the man who had to approve
all textbooks used in Saudi schools).
Some Bin-Baz-like attitudes can be found in Iran. For instance, once the
clerics consolidated their rule in the early 1980s, they banned all singing in public (or
on the radio) by women. Indeed, the only allowed style of male singing was
determinedly old-fashioned. But that is not the only direction in which the clerical
nativist impulse could go. When in the 1960s, Khomeini objected to the playing of
Western-style music on Iranian radio, he complained that not enough was done to
promote Iranian culture.329 And within a few years after taking power, the Islamic
Republic gave a boost to the Iranian film industry, seeing Iranian films as a
counterweight to Western influence.330 The Iranian filmmakers, who were generally
leftists of a strongly anti-American bent, were acceptable to the Islamic Republic’s
hardliners so long as their films drew the young away from Western influence.
But as in so many other areas of Iranian life, this anti-Western/anti-American alliance
of the modern left and the traditional clergy has come apart. Now, the filmmakers are
harassed by an Islamic Republic that dares not openly ban them but which detests
them because they mock the hypocrisy and corruption of the hardline clerics.
The history of Iranian cinema in many ways parallels that of Iranian
intellectual and cultural life in general. Whereas anti-Americanism was a prominent
strain across the political spectrum in the 1970s and well into the 1980s, the hatred for
the hardline politicized clerics has become the driving force of the last decade. In that
context, anti-Americanism is subordinated, though not entirely gone.
Implications for Understanding Anti-Americanism
The most obvious implication of the Iranian experience is that antiAmericanism among Muslims is not some natural and eternal condition, nor is it the
inevitable by-product of strong U.S. support for Israel. Indeed, Iran’s experience is
more consistent with the theory that anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is the byproduct of local conditions: when an unpopular government (the Shah’s) was allied to
Washington, Iranians were anti-American, whereas when another unpopular
government (that of the hardline clerics) was hostile to the United States, Iranians
were no longer anti-American. More study is needed to examine exactly which local
conditions make anti-Americanism more likely and which make it less likely. In
particular, it would be interesting to know if – as the Iranian case suggests – one can
make the generalization that U.S. support for an unpopular government makes anti-
Americanism more likely while U.S. support for freedoms of a people living under
authoritarian rule makes anti-Americanism less likely. It would be useful to compare
the Iranian and Iraqi experiences in this regard.
Iran’s evolution from a country where anti-Americanism was strong in the
1970s to one where it is weak thirty years later has gone against what is thought to be
the general trend world-wide. Further research would be needed to determine why.
One hypothesis worth exploring is that anti-Americanism in much of the world may
have been fed by increasing U.S. power (economic, cultural, and military), whereas in
Iran, U.S. influence was dramatically reduced after 1979. Finally, it is worth
contemplating that anti-Americanism in Iran faded during a time when the U.S.
government had comprehensive economic sanctions in place against Iran and when
the U.S. government frequently harshly criticized the Iranian government. This
experience suggests that in the Muslim world, U.S. pressure against an authoritarian
government does not necessarily sour the local population on America. That is
consistent with U.S. experience in the former Eastern bloc – an experience whose
relevance for U.S. policy towards authoritarian governments in the Muslim world
bears more study.
By Adel Darwish
During a dinner in London with British and Gulf Arab officials in early 2003, our
conversation touched on what is commonly known as "the usual blunders in
American foreign policy." But two senior Gulf diplomats stressed another side of
America, how U.S. doctors treated patients at American mission hospitals in Iraq,
Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia long before oil was found and money lured
Western professionals to the region.
"We were a de-facto part of the British Empire and ruled by London; yet it was
American mission hospitals to which we turned when we were sick and needed
medicine," said one of the Gulf diplomats. A diplomat from another Gulf country
added that many of his fellow countrymen received their primary school education at
American mission schools.
That these diplomats raised the issue in genuine gratitude to the United States--and
perhaps to remind their old colonial masters how much they valued America's
positive contribution to their lives--was striking since not a single American was
present around the dinner table that evening. Such views greatly contrast with the
editorial line taken by the majority of Arabic language media both in and out of the
Middle East. From these newspapers, television and radio, one would hardly believe
that a whole generation in Arabia, the Gulf, the Levant and North Africa still feel any
gratitude to the Americans for the help they provided.
The shape and forms of Anti-Americanism in the Arabic language media is allencompassing. They include:
--Selective showing of negative images about America in drama, films, literature,
and news items.
--Selective use of phraseology and headlines. This tactic has traditionally been
employed to inflate the ego of constituency readership or to highlight a certain
cultural or ideological bias while undermining opposition to that line. For example,
the Arabic press whose owners come from various countries call world-renowned
heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yaccob--who is ethnically a non-Arab, Egyptian Copt 331 -an "Arabic surgeon," while a taxi driver caught fiddling the fare or a shoplifter is
referred to as an Egyptian. In such a context, Arabic subeditors deliver a subliminal
message to influence readers and listeners. Such is the case when the Arabic press
highlights that "an American priest is sentenced to 10 years in jail for sexually
assaulting children," without mentioning that the victims too were Americans and
Christian churchgoers.
--Exaggerating or sexing up of headlines without facts to back them up. For
instance, on August 29, 2003 the leading headline in al-Quds al-Arabi, a London
Arabic paper, was "Sharon Coordinating with America to Attack Gaza," even though
there were no direct quotes or any information backing up the headline.
--Selective reporting and highlighting negative news about murder, rape, high
crime rates in the United States, while ignoring or deemphasizing positive news.
--Use of cartoons carrying powerful images and conveying effective messages.
Most cartoons show Uncle Sam or American marines supporting Sharon, or Uncle
Sam tilting the scales of justice, undermining the UN, or preventing it from doing its
job. In one cartoon, Uncle Sam is a doctor stepping on the oxygen tube that helps a
Palestinian patient to breath while the latter has his wallet stolen by Sharon. In a
similar cartoon, Sharon, blessed by Uncle Sam, is sucking the blood of a Palestinian.
--Editorial writers, columnists and television commentators who are obviously not
reporters that could be challenged to produce evidence or mention facts, spin antiAmericanism in their columns unchallenged. Some of them write long analytical
pieces that pass as news based entirely on rumors or conspiracy theories, such as
America is occupying Iraq to secure oil wealth, to remove a possible threat to Israel
and to subject Arab nations to its dominance. An editorial in al-Quds al-Arabi on
August 29, 2003 claimed that electric power lines, water supplies and utilities were
destroyed in Iraq by fire from American invading forces, which came to colonize Iraq.
A columnist on August 14, 2003 claimed that America is plotting to make
McDonald's hamburgers the most popular Iraqi dish instead of the Masgouf fish.
--Selective edited translation of analysis, columns and reporting from American,
British, European and Israeli press of negative writings about America. At the same
time, other, more positive, foreign articles about America are ignored by Arabic
editors. This ploy gives more credibility to anti-American pieces since they are
written by Americans or Europeans.
Citing the above list makes one wonder, why and when exactly did Americans
become a target for hatred? Ironically, during the past two decades that have
witnessed the dramatic rise of anti-Americanism, Americans continued missionary
traditions throughout the region. The hostages kidnapped in Beirut in the 1980s or
shot at in Yemen in 2002 were aid and medical workers and teachers. They were all
engaged in humanitarian work, belonging to organizations that can hardly be
described as an instrument of American foreign policy, and most of them, on a
personal level, are quite fond of Arabs.
It is also noticeable how the rise of anti-Americanism in the past two decades
coincided with a massive increase in media outlets, such as satellite television
services like al-Jazira, al-Arabiyya, and Abu Dhabi television,332 as well as the
Internet. In May 2003, Egyptian commentator Nabil Sharf el Dine asked on the Arabic website: "Who has brainwashed North African students who wear
American jeans, consume American products and communicate with each other via
American computers and American websites to organize demonstrations to burn the
stars and stripes, or pelt American embassies with eggs day after day, when common
sense indicates that they should have been demonstrating to improve their meager lot
in the first place?"
Few would dispute that there are some obvious blunders in American foreign
policy but there are also other, generally more powerful and long-term reasons for
anti-Americanism in the Middle East.
The loathing or fear of democracy by the region's dictatorships is a major factor.
Equally important is European influence, both colonial and post-colonial, in fostering
anti-Americanism. Since there is no true free contest for power that tests the
popularity of policy in elections, autocratic rulers keep an eye on public opinion and
public mood, which in turn has a great impact on their foreign policy, leading to a
catch-22 situation. On the one hand, Middle Eastern leaders use anti-American public
sentiment as an excuse to both distance themselves from American foreign policy
activities which would genuinely help their peoples, and to manipulate that public
mood to their own advantage, like delaying reform or blackmailing Washington into
giving more aid. On the other hand, those governments do little to persuade the
media, which they often control, to soften or reduce the strong message of antiAmericanism. There are even occasions when those governments encourage the trend
of anti-Americanism, sometimes to deflect domestic criticism of their policy away
from them.
Most of the regional media is on automatic pilot, cruising on a course set by the
editorial hierarchy during the heyday of pan-Arab nationalism and alliance with the
Soviet bloc. Those editorial teams are part of mini-media empires where the editorial
line is left over from the days when they were aspiring to positions of power in the
ruling establishment. Press clippings, diaries of intellectuals, and literature in the
1960s show how left-wing Marxist trends, beginning with the Egyptian governmentdirected media during Gamal Abdel Nasser's time, controlled large sectors of the
media. Using all possible ways to shape public opinion these campaigns terrorized
liberal intellectuals and writers of different views into either silence or submission.
In a series of articles printed in Al-Hayat, a London based daily, in August 2003,
about development of literature and literary criticism trends, Egyptian writer and
media historian Husayn Amine identified Egyptian philosopher, Mahmoud Abbas alAqad as the only writer/philosopher in the late 1950s and 1960s who stood up to the
"left-wing Mafia of Marxists and Nasserites in the field of media and art who
managed within a decade to create an unprecedented reign of terror in Egyptian
intellectual life." Amine continued:
They established their own school of literary criticism and art built on Marxist
fundamentalism. Their writing style and expressions were harsh in their
onslaught on liberals not following their Marxist line. They terrorized artists
and writers into confining expression to what they called socialist realism. No
one dared to compose a poem or write a short story or paint a picture that
didn't conform to Colonel Nasser's brand of nationalism and socialism.
This literary oligarchy was selective in translating American literature during the
so-called "thousand book project" to translate into Arabic that many books every year.
The project was dominated by Russian, Soviet bloc, French and Latin American
books. Those American books that were translated were written by left-wing authors
who were victims of McCarthyism and who painted American life in a negative light,
omitting the fact that American liberal democracy tolerated such criticism in the first
When President Anwar Sadat started his liberal political and economic reforms by
ending the one-party "Socialist Union" dominance over all aspects of Egyptian life
and making peace with Israel, he could not win the state-controlled media to his side.
Ironically, the tyranny of the left pushed Sadat into a paradox. Although genuine in
his reforms to restore the multi-party liberal system which existed around an elected
parliament before the 1952 Nasser coup, Sadat was so frustrated by Nasserites' and
Marxists' control of the media that he resorted to undemocratic measures such as
purging the media of some prominent figures and rounding up others for several
weeks just to be able to mobilize enough public support to implement the final stage
of the peace treaty with Israel. Still, despite the obvious long-term national benefits to
be gained from liberal reforms, Egypt's media oligarchy were so entrenched in their
position that Sadat could not influence a permanent change in the editorial line that
was institutionally anti-American, anti-peace and anti-Israel.
Anti-Americanism in the Middle East today is part of an ongoing policy of
targeting an outside enemy, with the United States replacing the old colonial power in
this role. It has always been a convenient tool, or excuse, to delay fulfilling the
promises given to the masses for embarking on much needed programs of political
and constitutional reform, as well as liberalizing the economy and political life. Media
in most of those nations is far from free, and often under direct state orders or
pressure to whip up anti-American feelings.
State-controlled media exaggerate external threats which are often more imaginary
than real. Unfortunately for America, most of the threats are associated in one form or
another with the United States and its dominance over world politics, trade and
technology. Thus, the main Arabic media line on the war in Iraq is to suggest that
America's intervention is purely to control oil resources, blackmail or threaten Saudi
Arabia, set up military bases as a launch pad for attack on other Muslim nations, and
blackmail regimes into toeing the American line.
Some other "threats" presented by the media are: globalization; Zionism; rightwing Christian conservatism and evangelism condemned as modern crusaders;
secularism or atheism; the Internet and its degrading influence on the young and
moral fabric of society and its push on Arabic and Islamic societies to embrace the
infidels' culture; Hollywood and its harmful influence and the stereotyping of the
"Arab" or the "Muslim" in negative roles (which is often interpreted as part of a
"Zionist" or "Jewish" conspiracy); and the corrupting influence of Western fashion,
children's television, or toys like Barbie dolls and Pokemon, to name but a few. The
most popular subject is America's support for Israel.
But anti-Americanism also dominates non-state controlled media or independent
media operating commercially, including scores of newspapers and television
channels owned by businesses in Egypt, Lebanon, the Gulf and several owned by a
consortia made up of Middle Easterners and Europeans in the West. Some are
mouthpieces of political parties which are fundamentally anti-American in their
ideology -- either Marxist, Arab nationalist, or Islamist.333 Others are financed by
autocratic regimes to promote their message, or simply are threatened into taking an
ideological line which includes anti-Americanism.
In places where the press is almost free--especially in reporting foreign issues--as
in Egypt and Lebanon, or totally free like Arabic papers in Europe and North
America, writers are subjected to the influence of the retainer. Islamic organizations
or Arab regimes will pay a key editor of a newspaper in Egypt, London or Lebanon a
large retainer--double or triple his salary--to write a weekly or a monthly column in a
Gulf or Lebanese publication. As a result, the writer censors or manipulates news and
reports in the media organ in which he is employed in order to please those who pay
him the retainer.
Even with media organs that are self-financed or financially independent one finds
anti-Americanism played up to increase circulation or appeal to a wider audience. For
example, the al-Arabiyya and al-Jazira stations began as free media but then used
systematic anti-Americanism to boost the number of their viewers. Television
channels that were launched to "balance" al-Jazira were soon emulating both its
tactics and message. In the absence of an effective, practical, workable way to
measure the number of viewers and assess their purchasing power in relation to
television, advertisers rate a network's popularity by the volume of viewers' calls and
emails during popular talk shows. The majority of those Arabic talk shows are
shouting matches, something like Jerry Springer, which polarize viewers and
encourage them to flood the show with calls, emails, faxes, and mobile phone text
messages. Most of the shows are anti-American either directly or by exploring some
conspiracy theory of imminent threat to Islamic and Arabic culture from "American
and Zionist powers."
A token voice of reason is permitted to appear on the show but then is drowned out
by the shouts of slogans from high-profile Islamist or Arab nationalist participants
chosen for their popularity and loud voices. The presenter usually sides with the
sloganists against the voice of reason, who appears to break a taboo by using rational
argument and facts to challenge common beliefs. The host's job is to uphold the
popular values and repel any challenge to traditional slogans.
Most of the phone calls and emails, whether by coincidence or editorial design-since it is suspected they are filtered for this purpose--condemn the rational guest as a
"negative defeatist." At best, he is portrayed as someone misled and brainwashed by
Western propaganda. At worst, he is portrayed as an American or Zionist agent who
might be threatened with death by callers. Thus, the "viewers' participation"
reinforces the mood of anti-Americanism and conspiracy theory, upheld in the end by
the host as the "democratic expression of the majority of viewers."
With such media displays coupled with public manifestation of anti-Americanism
in other organs shaping and directing public opinion--alongside places of worship,
political rallies and students demonstrations--leaders become more entrenched in their
reluctance to cooperate with America or even to use their huge powers to urge editors
to balance their presentations.
Ironically, such anti-Americanism both derives from and reinforces the prevailing
totalitarian ideology which, in turn, threatens the very existence of those regimes who
encouraged it in the first place. The sloganists, known to Egyptian and some Arab
liberals by Egyptian sarcastic slang as "Qawmagiyah Arabgiyah, Islamgiyagh,
Harbagiyah and Awantagyieh"334 thrive on accusing those leaders of being American
stooges. They may be branded conspirators with Zionism, traitors to some fantastic
ideal like the "Arab nation" or heretical Muslims cooperating with infidels against the
"Islamic Umma." (Community of Muslims). Such entities exist in the media matrix
that brainwash people into believing in their existence even though they have no
presence in the real world.
It is within this media-created virtual reality that a North African or a Sudanese
student who can hardly afford a bus-ride, doesn't demonstrate to improve his lot, but
instead demonstrates in opposition to America and Israel in support of the
Palestinians, and yet has never met a Palestinian--let alone an American--in his life.
Is anti-Americanism an indigenous product of this region? My analysis indicates
that in a majority of cases the actual content of it is actually a European import. For
example, one often finds a variation on the social anti-Americanism that derives from
the traditional snobs of British and European conservative backgrounds who are still
bemused by the fact that the "colonies" have "suddenly" become the world's dominant
superpower. Although this light-hearted, snobbish anti-Americanism is quite
harmless, even entertaining as Europeans laugh at the Americans' gullibility and their
shallow view of the world in an affectionate way, in its Middle Eastern version this
takes on more dangerous overtones in which the history and nature of American
society are portrayed as evil.
The other main source of anti-Americanism is the political variety which has long
been the property of the left as developed during the Cold War. This fed on American
policies which might either have been mistaken or were made to appear so. All
positive motives and deeds by the United States were filtered out of the picture.
For example, a good case could be made that Egypt's regime has overwhelmingly
benefited from American action. The United States supported Nasser when he seized
control of Egypt in 1952 and saved his regime four years later when President Dwight
Eisenhower intervened against close U.S. allies to stop their attack intending to
overthrow him. There was ‘point 4,' a U.S. aid program to Egypt in Nasser's early
years, renewed in the late 1970s, when the United States also became Egypt's main
supplier of weapons.
Nevertheless, Nasser's propaganda machine was strongly anti-American. While
this was mainly the product of radical Arab nationalist politics, there was also a
cultural factor. In Egypt, as in other Arab countries, the well-educated intellectual
elite that ran culture and the media were educated in France, where they learned antiAmericanism from both its French and leftist sources.335 Given the influence of
Egyptian cinema, news, and entertainment products on the rest of the region, these
ideas soon spread.
Even at a time when Britain and France were still more important than the United
States in the region, the target of Nasser's propaganda was America. This is especially
striking given the Anglo-French involvement in the 1956 attempt to overthrow him
and the French role as the colonial power fighting against Algerian independence.
Later, as Soviet bloc training and influence increased, this anti-American tendency
was reinforced. By the 1960s, whenever there were accidents or disasters in Egypt,
often caused by the corruption or incompetence of officials, the media blamed them
on CIA plots to overthrow the regime.
During this period, an individual's ability to travel to the West was much reduced
due to government restrictions or a deteriorating economy. Only a handful--mainly
from the newly emerging ruling elite and their cronies--had their passports renewed or
was granted exit visas, instead of the thousands in the past who in earlier years
managed to go on vacation in Europe or travel to America for vacation or education.
National policy in Egypt, Syria and Iraq was to send students for higher education to
the Soviet Bloc.336 This combined with a noticeable drop in the number of Westerners
and Americans living in the region thanks to the nationalization of property, an
unfavorable investment climate, and other restrictions. Western culture and contacts
were less accessible to most Middle Easterners living under those regimes.
Hollywood movies, television soap-operas and dramas became almost the only
window that remained open on American life for millions in the Middle East and
fostered a generation whose cultural frame of reference included many negative
images of America. Censorship on art, films and books nourished anti-Americanism,
too, because it was the best works that were considered dangerous. Anything of a
more sophisticated level might challenge the ruling ideology while superficial films,
banal music, and trashy books were thought harmless.
By the same token, though, they reinforced the image of America as having a
worthless culture and being merely a violent society full of criminals, perverts, and
gangsters. Scenes which would have counter-balanced strong anti-American feelings
were censored out; while left-wing and Marxist critics filled newspaper space and airtime with their "critical analysis" of the films proving their negative view of America.
The once free and independent press was turned into Soviet-style newspapers,
influenced by the French socialist intellectuals' ideas about the role of the intellectual
as a "witness of his age" and the Stalinist notion of the intellectual's historic
commitment in building a socialist society. The result was that editorial, commentary
and news were melted into one product. Reporting became a statement of ideology or
repeating the rulers' slogans rather than informing with facts. As this style of
journalism became dominant throughout the region, the media began relating most
events to Zionist or CIA conspiracies. If the policies of the regimes failed, the finger
was not pointed to those responsible or to the waste of the nations' resources, but
rather to the fault of America for the latest defeats.
The new oil wealth in the Gulf and North Africa created media centers in the
1970s and 1980s with considerable budgets at editors' disposal, but there was a severe
shortage of skilled editorial and production staff. Vacancies were opened for
journalists from Egypt, Lebanon and later for many Palestinians. The mix was
interesting, as the majority were left-wing Marxists, socialists, or secular Arab
nationalists who now found themselves working for conservative and traditionally
Islamic bosses. Thus, to get across their political positions, the journalists downplayed
social radicalism and espoused instead positions which the owners could not reject-the need for unity, support for the Palestinians, and hostility to the United States.
This campaign had long-term effects. Anti-Americanism grew among the target
audiences in the Gulf and North Africa. No matter how much the United States
backed the regimes, the effort to discredit the United States continued. At a time when
America was backing Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, convoying the oil tankers of Arab
states, or saving Kuwait from Iraqi annexation, there was no change in the tone and
intensity of the propaganda.
Clearly, there has been a lasting impact on the minds of Middle Easterners. Even
American involvement in overthrowing Saddam did not repeal the decades of antiAmerican teaching for Iraqis. They were fully prepared to believe that the United
States will return Saddam to power, turn Iraqi assets over to Israel, or created the
September 11 attacks as an excuse for aggression.
One ironic result of the war in Iraq was the creation of what an Egyptian
commentator called "Saddam's widows and orphans," referring to the hundreds of
journalists throughout the Middle East who were formerly bribed or secretly
employed by Saddam's regime. Angry with America for ending a lucrative source of
income, they continue to poison readers' and viewers' minds by putting the worst
possible face on American actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the region in general.
All of these problems, however, do not mean there are no positive forces in the
region. An interesting example has been the evolution of al-Sharq al-Awsat, which is
one of the few media outlets actually generating enough income as an independent
enterprise. It responded to the September 11 crisis by greatly expanding its use of
articles and columnists from American newspapers through syndication deals. Its own
reporters moved to a higher level of objective reporting, while liberal columnists were
added to give the paper more balance. The result was that the newspaper's circulation
expanded, especially in Iraq though its price there was much higher than other
Growing numbers of journalists reporting in Arabic are genuine in wanting to do a
better job and openly discuss the shortcomings of the media. At a May 2003
conference on the Arabic media in Kuwait, Saudi editor Othman al-Omeir presented a
strong critique of the quality of news outlets which won support among many of those
present. He was the creator of, a comprehensive and often updated news
site which has gained a wide audience among liberal and democratic writers. It has
also paid close attention to ethnic non-Arabs whose voice is rarely heard in the Arabic
Other Arabic language websites, like Nahdat Misr in Cairo or Hydpark 2000 in
London, or Arabic News or Egypt online, are also emerging to present an alternative
picture to what is generally published. Some television shows are also trying to
present more balanced current affairs programs and have begun to invite Americans to
present their case as well.
Such voices of reason are by no means enough in quantity to reverse the tide of
anti-Americanism. But at least there is a growing minority of listeners, readers and
viewers who are no longer prepared to accept the dominant version spread by
totalitarian media as the only truth.
By Abdel Mahdi Abdallah
Hostility to the United States is hardly a new phenomenon, yet the multiple
sources and symptoms of anti-Americanism in the Arab world make it difficult to
arrive at an accurate cause. In general, though, Arabs give three main reasons for their
hatred and antipathy toward America.
First, U.S. political, economic and military support of Israel, which enables Israel
to defeat the Arabs and continue its occupation of their land.
Second, U.S. air strikes and sanctions against some Arab countries and its
occupation of Iraq.
Third, U.S. support for a number of undemocratic Arab regimes, its military
bases in several Arab countries, and according to some critics, a perceived U.S.
campaign against Islam and its own citizens of Arab and Islamic origin.
Under a continuous and concentrated campaign of the Arab mass media against
America, many Arabs found themselves without much choice except to hate America
and Israel and their leaders, and consequently, to join or to passively support Islamic
movements or terrorist organizations.
It is true that America has been trying to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict on the basis
of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 for the last 30 years. It sponsored
peace treaties between Israel and both Egypt and Jordan and established military
bases in some Arab countries to protect them. It is also true that America provides
Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Yemen and other Arab countries with economic and military
aid. America fought Iraq in 1991 at the request of Kuwait and other countries and
with the participation of forces from Egypt, Syria and the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) countries.
Yet it is also true that the Arab people saw all the above-mentioned U.S. actions as
American efforts to protect Israel, as well as some Arab regimes that serve American
interests. It is widely held that by these actions, the United States never intended to
promote and/or sustain development, democracy, or human rights in the Arab World.
As demonstrated by the Pew Center's 2003 public opinion survey of 44 countries,
the United States has faced rising anti-Americanism almost all over in the world.337
People in these countries are opposed to American unilateralism, its decision to wage
war on Iraq and other countries, its Strategic Defense Initiative (commonly referred to
as the “Star Wars” program), drive for globalization, as well as its business, human
rights, and environmental practices.
Hatred for America burns brightest in the Arab world, Pakistan, and other Muslim
countries, where, America's critics claim, the U.S.'s hegemonic designs are centered at
present. However, the vast majority of the people in the world believe the United
States does not take into account the interests of their countries when making regional
or international policies.
With this in mind, the war on Iraq fueled anti-American sentiment and divided the
United States from the publics of its traditional allies and new strategic friends. Huge
majorities in the Arab and Islamic worlds, France, Spain, Britain, Germany and
Russia opposed the use of military force against Iraq. This sentiment was evident in
the widespread demonstrations and rallies that took place across the globe. Anti-war
activists argued that the war was motivated by a colonialist desire to control Iraqi oil,
and they asserted that the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians was the
greater threat to stability in the Middle East. Moreover, many Arabs believe that the
real intention behind the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a desire to further Israel's security
and oil supply.
The sources of Arab anti-American attitudes are complicated and cannot be
explained on the basis of one single factor. Rather, there are internal and external
reasons for Arab hatred of the United States, which can be divided into four groups:
1. America's support for Israel and its position on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
2. U.S. military attacks and sanctions against some Arab countries and its military
bases in the Arab world.
3. U.S. support for some authoritarian Arab regimes, and its hostile policies toward
Islam, and its own citizens of Arab and Muslim origin.
4. U.S. hypocritical behavior regarding democracy and human rights in the Arab
The following will explore the logic behind each of these arguments.
Political Support
During the last fifty years, the United States stood beside Israel in every conflict
with the Palestinians and the Arabs. There is a very obvious reason for that, namely,
that America considers Israel its closest ally and the only reliable strategic partner in
the Middle East. Therefore, America has provided political support for Israel at the
UN Security Council, the General Assembly, and other international organizations.
American political support for Israel is widely seen by the Arabs as being at their
expense, consequently, this generated and continues to generate hostility against
America in the Arab world.
While the U.S. government was always involved in the efforts to solve the ArabIsraeli conflict, its positions (official and otherwise) always differed with the
consensus in the Arab world. The United States, for instance, never called Zionism
colonialism; and--with the exception of the 1956 Sinai campaign--it never forced an
immediate Israeli withdrawal from occupied Arab territories, as the Arab world
demanded. Moreover, the U.S. frequently uses its veto power to block most any
resolution at the UN Security Council that would condemn what Arabs see as Israel's
excessive use of force against the Palestinians.
Jibril Rajub, security advisor for Yasir Arafat, commenting on one U.S. veto of a
resolution said it, "provided cover and protection to the Israeli occupation and support
for the destruction and killing of the Palestinians."338 His statement was shown on all
Arab television satellite stations and was broadcast together with a horrible scene of
eight Palestinians being killed by the Israeli army in October 2003. There is no doubt
that the connection between the U.S. vetoes and the Israeli attacks against the
Palestinians will continue to generate hostility and terrorism against the United States
throughout the Arab world as long as this conflict continues.
Economic Support
Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. aid in the world, receiving just under one-fifth
of total U.S. foreign aid. Since 1949, but especially after September 1970, the U.S.
has given Israel over $85 billion dollars in aid and grants. U.S. aid is seen as an
American effort to strengthen Israel's economy and as helping to fund Israel's
occupation of the Palestinian and Arab territories. Israel, critics of the U.S. argue, is
one of the richest countries in the area and there are many Arab and African countries
that are in need of such aid more than Israel. At the same time, other Arabs argue the
opposite -- that without this aid Israel's economy would collapse. In other words, the
United States cannot "win," whatever it does it will be criticized.339
It is worth noting here that the United States has provided many Arab countries,
including Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority and others with
economic aid, however, the people saw that aid as U.S. support for the undemocratic
regimes in those countries and not for real development.
Military Support
The United States provides Israel with sophisticated arms such as attack
helicopters, jetfighters, and missiles that are used to target Palestinians, frequently
killing innocent civilians (which most Arabs believe is done intentionally), destroying
homes, stores, and other buildings, and were for many years used against Lebanon, as
well as in destroying the Iraqi Osiraq reactor in 1981 and sent plane into Syria in the
fall of 2003 to destroy a terrorist camp after an attack by Hizballah terrorists.
The United States is committed to maintaining Israel's security as well as its
qualitative edge over all Arab countries, which has enabled Israel to defeat the Arab
countries in some of its wars. U.S.-Israel joint arms development and sales is seen as
another form of assistance to Israel, which allows it to maintain its military superiority
over the Arabs. One commentator explained U.S. military aid as perhaps stemming
"from a desire for Israel to continue its strategic and political dominance over the
Palestinians and the region as a whole. It has long been in the U.S. interest to maintain
a militarily powerful and belligerent Israel dependent upon [itself]. Real peace could
undermine such a relationship."340
Some Arabs argue that without this generous American military aid, Israel would
have been unable to defeat the Arab armies and continue its occupation of Arab land.
President Nasser announced during the 1967 war that the American and the British
were involved in attacking Egypt (though later accounts would prove this assertion
false)341 and that they provided Israel with military assistance. The Arab masses,
according to Abu-Odeh, "Believed that the Arab defeat was due to the Americans and
British offering military assistance to Israel."342
This interpretation of the relationship between U.S. support for Israel and its
victories over the Arabs has been accepted and repeated again and again by many
Arab politicians, military officers and journalists during the last fifty years. This view
has been strengthened by repetition in the Arab mass media, seminars, rallies,
sermons in mosques, and by the political elite and the regimes themselves that U.S.
support for Israel is unfair, unbalanced, racist, and the main reason for Israel's
victories and humiliation of the Arabs. Supporting this view is the use of U.S. made
jetfighters, helicopters, artillery and tanks in Israeli air raids and bombardment of
Palestinian and Lebanese territories, the killing of many civilians, and the destruction
of their homes and property.343
The American occupation and similar actions in Iraq undoubtedly contributed to
the anti-Americanism and anger among Arab peoples. Arab satellite stations and mass
media provide 24 hour coverage of Israeli and American aggressive actions in
Palestine and Iraq and commentators passionately make the link between the two
Here as above, it must be mentioned that the United States provides many Arab
countries (such as Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Yemen) with military aid and training,
while it provides sophisticated arms training and military protection to others, such as
the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) counties. But again, such aid is seen as a U.S.
effort to strengthen the ability of friendly, yet undemocratic, Arab regimes to stay in
power and to suppress their people, rather than to defend Arab countries or to fight
U.S. Policies toward the Arab- Israeli Conflict
The Arab perception of the American position is that it is completely supportive of
Israel,345 and that America always adopts Israel's point of view in this conflict. Many
Arabs see the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq as part of a U.S. effort to protect Israel
as well as to obtain oil for itself.346
On the first count, Arab political figures say that the U.S. administration condemns
the killing of Israelis by Palestinian but not the other way around.347 They add that the
United States uses double standards when dealing with the question of nuclear
weapons in Israel and the Arab world since the United States has never brought
Israel's capabilities to the attention of the UN nor initiated sanctions against Israel for
its unconventional weapons programs, though it has done both against Arab states.348
The Arab public sees U.S. positions in the Arab-Israeli conflict as biased and feels the
U.S. government is not an honest broker in the conflict.349
The question that the Arabs have continuously asked themselves for the last halfcentury is why the United States provides Israel with such generous political,
economic and military support. The answer that has been given to them is that the
West and especially America created Israel and that Israel was their only reliable
strategic alliance against the Soviet bloc during the Cold War and is still their outpost
in their efforts to control the area.
What is not mentioned is that America is also committed to the security and
existence of many Arab regimes and provides them with military and economic aid.
But the Arab people don't appreciate U.S. economic and military aid to those
countries because they believe that U.S. aid simply supports those undemocratic
regimes and not the countries' people. Of course, Arab regimes and Arab media do
not discuss U.S. aid to their own countries very much, and this has led many to think
that a large part of this aid eventually ends up in the private accounts of corrupt
members of the regimes.
U.S. Attacks and Sanctions Against Some Arab Countries
The United States has pursued what were perceived to be hostile and aggressive
policies towards many Arab countries, such as its air strikes against Libya, Sudan and
Iraq, which resulted in the deaths of many innocent Arab civilians. This is in addition
to its invasion and occupation of Iraq on false premises, its political and economic
sanctions against Iraq, Libya, Syria and Sudan, and its allegedly inhuman treatment of
Arab and Muslim prisoners--especially in Camp X-ray, the Guantanamo Bay
detention center. The scene of heavily chained prisoners led and guarded by armed
solders with their heads pushed down was portrayed as outrageous and cruel.
Also considered outrageous and cruel were reports of the American government's
discrimination against its own Arab and Muslim citizens, especially after the
September 11th attacks. Thousands of Arabs and Muslims were reported to have been
detained or mistreated due solely to their ethnicity or religion, which was perceived as
the result of a racist policy. The Arab media reported that, as a result of this policy,
thousands of Arabs quit their studies or work and returned to their countries preaching
anti-Americanism. U.S. embassies in the Arab world refused to give visas to many
Arab citizens and there was reportedly mistreatment of Arabs at U.S. airports. The
United States was also said to be carrying out "media campaigns against Islam."350
It is worth noting here that U.S. involvement in the Iraq issue in the 1990s came as
a response to a request from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, who then
invited the U.S. armed forces into their respective countries. Egyptian, Syrian, and
GCC units fought under the leadership of U.S. forces in the 1991 war against Iraq,
and the GCC countries financed a majority of that war.351 U.S. sanctions against Iraq,
it is claimed, were enacted on behalf of the GCC countries in order to weaken the
Iraqi regime and to reduce its threat to those countries. In return, the GCC countries
provided America with bases and logistical support to fly over Iraq during the 1990s.
U.S. Military Bases in Some Arab Countries
The presence of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Bahrain-as well as regular military training and exercises with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco--is
viewed as a new American colonialism and a way to strengthen American control
over Arab oil. In addition, this new American colonialism is believed to seek control
over Arab political and economic affairs in order to secure American domination of
the Middle East. America has used those bases on a number of occasions, such as its
invasion of Afghanistan, the ten years it enforced the no-fly zone over Iraq, and later
to invade and occupy Iraq. Similarly, one frequent claim is that America supports the
ruling regimes in the region, securing their loyalty to America by training troops loyal
to the regime and by sharing intelligence.
Rami Khouri, a well-known analyst in the region, stated the suspicion succinctly,
"There is a sense by many ordinary people and politicians that the moves against Iraq
are an effort to redraw the map for the strategic interests of the United States and
Israel."352 Similar arguments have been made by Usama bin Ladin, who said that the
existence of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, especially near Mecca, violated
Islamic law, which forbids any non-Muslims from entering that sacred area. He called
for jihad against the United States stating as his primary reason, "The very presence of
the United States occupying the Land of Islam in the holiest of places in the Arabian
Peninsula where America is plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, and
humiliating its people."353
It is worth noting once again that the U.S. bases and training exercises came in
response to requests from some Arab countries and thus do not constitute imperialist
actions. Nevertheless, many Arabs argue that the establishment of U.S. bases is
intended to provide support and protection for Israel, some friendly Arab regimes, and
to secure American interests in those countries.
U.S. Attacks against Islam and the Clash of Civilization Thesis
In his well-known "clash of civilizations" thesis, Samuel Huntington argues that
cultural and religious differences are a major cause of international conflict in the
post-Cold War era and asserts that Islam in particular encourages Muslim
aggressiveness toward non-Muslim peoples. According to Huntington, "Some
Westerners have argued that the West does not have problems with Islam but only
with violent Islamic extremists.... But evidence to support [this assertion] is lacking
… The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is
Although the administration of President George W. Bush insists that the U.S. war
on terrorism is not a war on Islam, this is not what is reported in the Arab media, in
speeches by Arab leaders, and in the minds of many Arabs. For example, Bashar alAsad, the Syrian leader, told the 10th Islamic Summit Conference in Malaysia that the
September 2001 attacks on the United States:
Provided the opportunity and pretext for a group of fanatics and ill-intentioned
people [who were part of U.S. administration] to attack human values and
principles…. Those fanatics revealed their brutal vision of human society and
started to market the principle of force instead of dialogue, oppression instead
of justice and racism instead of tolerance. They even began to create an ugly
illusory enemy which they called 'Islam,' and made it appear as if it is Islam
[was responsible] while Islam is completely innocent of it.355
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad went on to say, "We, the whole
Muslim umma [community], are treated with contempt and dishonor. Our religion is
denigrated. Our holy places desecrated. Our countries are occupied." All Muslims
were suffering 'oppression and humiliation' with their religion accused of promoting
After September 11th, many journalists, television presenters, academics, and
members of Congress attacked Islam or portrayed Arabs as terrorists. These ideas are
widely reported in the Arab media. For example, Rev. Franklin Graham said of Islam,
"I believe it's a very evil and wicked religion."357 Fox News Network talk-show host
Bill O'Reilly denounced the teaching of "our enemy's religion" and compared the
assignment of a text on Islam in an American university to teaching Mein Kampf in
1941.358 359
However, some Western polls concluded, "Islamic attachments have relatively
little explanatory power so far as political attitudes are concerned. There is at best a
weak relationship between the degree of religious piety or strength of Islamic
attachment on the one hand and, on the other, attitudes either about war and peace or
about democracy."360 In other words, those individuals for whom religion is most
important are no less likely than others to favor compromise with the United States,
democracy, human rights and so forth. In Jordan, over 90 percent of university
students believe that there is no contradiction between Islamic teachings and
democracy or human rights.361
When the United States asks for changes in the Arab media or educational system,
some Arabs respond that this is part of the "Bush-Sharon" effort to dominate the
region. They see American efforts to modernize Arab curriculums and textbooks as a
"deliberate U.S. policy to impose American-Israeli culture on the Arab world and to
destroy Arab culture."362
U.S. Support for Some Authoritarian Arab Regimes
The ways in which U.S. policies are explained to the people might be convenient
to some Arab regimes, diverting the anger of the masses onto America instead of
toward the many political and economic problems in their countries. The paradox here
is why America has never challenged these hostile Arab regimes' positions. Why does
the U.S. government continue to support those regimes that advocate antiAmericanism?
The only logical explanation for the U.S. position, it is commonly believed among
Arabs, is that the United States believes that the alternative to the present
governments would be Islamist regimes. This mistaken support of the status quo
increases anti-Americanism by associating the United States with the current rulers.
An alternative would be to press the regimes for real and gradual change toward
democracy. Fortunately, the U.S. government has begun to realize its mistake and has
started to develop a new policy.363
But another source of anti-Americanism has been America's support for some
authoritarian Arab regimes that are unpopular with their own people. The United
States provides those regimes with a large amount of economic and military aid,
which helps them stay in power. The United States has never linked its aid to a
process of democratization and therefore, this aid was never seen as aid for the
people. U.S. economic aid is very much needed in many Arab countries but it should
be directed to socio-economic development and not used for security or for buying
useless arms and military hardware. Daoud Kuttab has argued: "When the average
Arab citizen tries to reconcile his desire for domestic freedom, his feelings of
frustration at home, American support for his government, and the increasing
presence of Western culture he is caught in the middle. It is easier to lash out at a
distant America than to risk raising one's voice against the local dictators." He added
that popular Arabs' support for America "will be hard to muster until Arabs are able to
live as they wish, without oppression and without restrictions. Once Arabs are able to
voice concerns about their own government without fear of reprisals, their focus will
turn inward."364
Indeed, the United States can do much to help the Arab people to achieve this goal
by solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, withdrawing its forces from the region, and
linking America's aid to democratization programs and improvement of human rights.
It should replace its military aid with economic assistance, uncover Arab regimes'
secret accounts in Europe and U.S. banks and press them to use them in development.
The continuation of the status quo in which millions of Arabs are oppressed and
powerless is the main reason for the Islamization of the Arab masses, who can only
join Islamic organizations or become more religious since political parties, political
participation, free press and speech are forbidden. Arab regimes can deny their people
democracy, but cannot prevent them from joining Islamic organizations or becoming
more religious, since to do so would be interpreted as hostility towards Islam.
Since the September 11th attacks, many Arab countries have suffered a regression
in their level of human rights and political participation. According to Khouri, the
repression "is widely seen by Arab citizens as their states' preferred means of
participating in the war against terrorism, given most Arab states' very high reliance
on American military and/or economic assistance. This has tended to heighten antiAmerican sentiments at popular levels and within political elites."365
Hazhir Teimourian argues that anti-Western feeling throughout the Arab world
mainly reflects the Arab people's discontent with their governments. He believes that
they see their "governments as [the] most corrupt and authoritarian, and because [the]
U.S. gives billions of cash every year to some Arab regimes, the public opinion
assumes those regimes are [lackies] of the United States."366
Of course, the United States does have common interests with some Arab regimes
and has supported them in return for guaranteeing U.S. influence and interests in the
area. As one former U.S. government official put it:
Perhaps most perverse of all, we allow the moderate Arab states to deflect
domestic criticism on to the U.S. and so breed anti-Americanism because, they
tell us, this makes it easier for them to rule which ensures that we get their
support on regional issues…. These regimes are corrupt, despotic, and
unresponsive to their peoples' aspirations and there is a near universal view in
the region that the United States keeps these regimes in power because they
serve our purposes.367
It is in this context that the new policy of pledging support for democracy in the
post-2001 era emerged.
At the same time, however, anti-American sentiments spread through thousands of
editorials, seminars, lectures, interviews and articles. Articles with titles like "An
Answer to George Bush's question: 'Do the Arabs hate America or do they hate
America's policies?'" and "Who is the Victim? Between America's Missiles and
Sharon's Tanks, "where the U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Iraq were compared to the
policies of Ariel Sharon.368 An article in a leading Egyptian opposition newspaper
claimed, "The United States deals with Egypt like a schoolchild, where the United
States is the teacher, both preparing the exam and grading it."369
American Hypocritical Behavior Toward the Arab World
U.S. government officials frequently speak about democracy and human rights, but
their actions often do not support either democracy or human rights in the Arab world.
Rather, democracy is undermined by the American support for some Arab repressive
regimes. Furthermore, the U.S. government never pressed Arab regimes to become
democratic nor to respect human rights. Arabs say America would never call for
democratization because those undemocratic regimes are the best agents of America's
interests. They sell oil at prices said to be determined mainly by America, open their
countries for U.S. military bases, facilitate American control and domination over the
Arab Worlds' economic resources (including oil), and convert the Arab world into a
huge consumer market for U.S. products.370 In addition, Arab governments are
purported to make unnecessary large arms deals worth billions of dollars, which
allegedly give them a capacity to suppress the people rather than use the money for
socio-economic development.
This hypocritical behavior is said to be reflected in a U.S. invasion of Iraq to
"liberate" those people while a regime in Kuwait was reinstalled without the U.S.
demanding major democratic reforms, or America defending Saudi Arabia without
asking that government to widen political participation to include the masses, or the
U.S. not objecting to a military coup in Algeria against the Islamist party after it won
the elections. Aside from all this, the dominant view in the Arab world is that U.S.
foreign policy regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict is shaped by the pro-Israel lobby.371
A number of recent opinion surveys in Arab and Islamic countries provide a look
at the views of ordinary men and women, and at the factors shaping these attitudes
and values. Until recently, there has been very little serious political attitude research
conducted in the Arab world, which has made it difficult to challenge stereotypes
about Arab public opinion. In more recent surveys, however, there emerges a
consistent patter of a "strong dislike for American foreign policy but much more
nuanced, and often quite positive, attitudes toward American society and culture and
toward the American people." This confirms what Americans visiting the Arabic
world often hear in one-on-one conversations, summarized by one researcher as:
"When you return to the U.S., give my love to the American people and tell your
president to go to hell!"372
A Zogby poll conducted in spring 2002 confirms this notion and shows that "men
and women in different age groups have favorable opinions about U.S. education,
freedom, and democracy [while] almost no respondents have a favorable attitude
toward U.S. policy...".373 Monem also asserted a similar view:
Ask anyone in Egypt what country they would like to visit, and they will
probably say America. Ask them what movie they would like to see and it will
probably be an American film. Ask them what school they would like to
attend and they will name an American university. They may disagree
violently with American policies, but they don't hate America. This is the
Ussama Makdisi argues that "anti-Americanism is a recent phenomenon fueled by
American foreign policy, not an epochal confrontation of civilizations. While there
are certainly those in both the United States and the Arab world who believe in a clash
of civilizations and who invest politically in such beliefs, history belies them." Over
the course of the twentieth century, and especially after the Cold War, U.S. policies
toward the Arab world are said to have changed profoundly.375
But Arab hostility is primarily directed at specific U.S. policies, not at America or
the American people. Thousands of Americans work and travel in the Arab world and
the majority of Americans enjoy the experience, have Arab friends, and rarely
suffered personal harm, at least until U.S. direct military intervention in the region
began in the early 1990s.
Furthermore, large numbers of Arabs wish to migrate, study, or work in America.
The Zogby poll shows favorable attitudes were expressed by substantial numbers of
Arab respondents when asked not only about American education and freedom, but
also about American science, movies and television, and the American people in
general. By contrast, judgments about virtually all aspects of U.S. Middle East policy
were very unfavorable. This means that antipathy toward America does not flow from
cultural dissonance: "it is based not on who Americans are perceived to be but on
what they are perceived to do."376
Khouri argues "the rising anti-Americanism is driven almost exclusively by
cumulative frustration and anger with the substance and style of American foreign
policy in the area, and not by any imagined opposition to basic American values of
freedom, democracy, equality and tolerance."377 Samer Shehata argues that antiAmericanism is "not primarily about American culture or values (what the United
States is), but about the way the United States conducts itself in the region and the
world (what the United States does)." He added, "Arab perceptions of America have
become more negative as a result of the U.S. war on Iraq, Washington's almost total
support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, [and enactment of] new policies
directed at Arab and Muslim immigrants and visitors to the United States."378
Anti-American sentiment in the Arab world has become an important issue in
U.S.-Arab relations and a major concern for both sides. There are however, different
views and explanations regarding the roots and causes of this phenomenon. A key
aspect is the continuing frustration that plagues the majority of the Arab peoples as a
result of the continuation of the status quo; and this same frustration is undoubtedly a
factor in terrorism.
Many Arabs see U.S. economic, political and military aid to Israel and its biased
policies towards the Arab-Israeli conflict as the main cause of anti-American
sentiment in the Arab world. Still, this article argues that there are other causes as
well, such as aggressive American policies towards the Arab world, including air
strikes and sanctions against several Arab countries and its occupation of Iraq, as well
as its military bases in a number of Arab countries. Lastly, American economic and
military aid to several Arab countries is seen as an American effort to enable some
undemocratic regimes to continue their rule and suppress their people, rather than the
U.S. intending to help development, democracy, or improve the social and economic
well being of those countries' citizens.
This paper has argued that Arab sentiments are neither fixed nor static, nor are they
irrational. Rather, Arab attitudes of anti-Americanism are primarily a result of U.S.
support to Israel and American hostile policies toward the Arab world, and if those
policies change so will Arab perceptions and attitudes. It suggests that solving the
Arab-Israeli conflict, ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, closing its military bases in
the Arab world, ending its military support to some Arab authoritarian regimes and
pressing for democratization in the Arab world would end anti-Americanism among
the Arabs.
By Robert J. Lieber
Foreign reactions to the United States are remarkably contradictory. In large
parts of Europe, where there was a spontaneous outpouring of solidarity with the
American people immediately after the 9/11 attacks and the elite French newspaper,
Le Monde, normally the exemplar of condescension toward the United States,
proclaimed, “We Are All Americans Now,” the media, and the intellectual elites
appear to have adopted fiercely critical attitudes. Opinion polls there also show
alarming increases in negative views of American policies and of the U.S. itself.
Elsewhere, especially in Arab and Muslim countries and portions of the developing
world, where the lure of an American education or the employment opportunity
provided by a green card exerts an immense attraction, pervasive hostility is widely
evident as is support for violent adversaries of America. Yet, such contradictions
abound, as many of the same people who denounce the U.S. and demonstrate against
the Great Satan also watch American movies, eat at American-style restaurants, and
seek an American-style future for their children. This ambivalence is summed up in
the words, “Yankee go home, but take me with you.”
A striking example of these contradictions can be found in the case of one of
the most influential clerics of Sunni Islam. As tellingly described by Fouad Ajami, the
Qatar based Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi has denounced the U.S. for “acting like a god
on earth” and compared its conquest of Baghdad to the actions of Mongols who in the
year1258 sacked the city and slaughtered its inhabitants. Yet the Sheik, whose views
are spread widely via television and a web site, has sent his daughter for a graduate
degree in biology at the University of Texas, his son for a doctorate from the
University of Central Florida, and another son for an MBA degree at the American
University of Cairo.379
These contradictions are not confined to the Middle East, nor are they entirely
new. Even among those who expressed strong initial sympathy after 9/11, there has
been a rising chorus of criticism, at least among journalists, authors and opinion
leaders, and reactions such as these have left many Americans bewildered and even
angered. What accounts for this spectacle of attraction and backlash? Why, despite
good intentions and efforts to promote democracy and the market economy, to open
borders to trade and human interchange, to achieve a remarkably open society which
attracts people from every region, race and religion, and periodic military
interventions to halt the oppression or slaughter of innocent people in Somalia,
Kuwait, Northern Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq – all of these,
incidentally, to save Muslim populations – have reactions to America been so
polarized and – on September 11th – so deadly? In short, why do they hate us and
why do they love us?
To provide an answer to this question, I first weigh a number of commonly
cited but often flawed explanations for anti-Americanism and then elaborate on the
impact that globalization, American primacy, and problems of identity in foreign
societies have in shaping these attitudes. I next examine the practical operation of
anti-Americanism in two of its common and ugly manifestations: the conspiracy myth
and the connection with explicit anti-Semitism. I analyze the way in which this
hostility unfolds within different societies and then examine what if any responsibility
the U.S. itself has for this phenomenon. I conclude by asking whether we are at last
witnessing the emergence of a concerted balancing among key foreign countries in an
anti-American coalition to oppose U.S. power and to what extent this represents a real
threat to the United States.
In seeking to understand the phenomenon of foreign hostility, critics of the
United States at home and abroad have frequently pointed to poverty as the root
cause, or to U.S. antipathy toward Islam, or support for Israel, or unilateralism, or
indifference to world problems. Yet while seemingly plausible, none of these
commonly cited explanations withstands careful scrutiny:
Poverty: Virulent opposition to the U.S., including terrorism, does not
correlate with poverty. The most thorough study of this subject, by Alan B. Krueger
and Jitka Maleckova, concludes that “there is little direct connection between poverty,
education and participation in or direct support for terrorism.”380 The authors find
that terrorism can be more accurately understood instead as a response to political
conditions and long-standing feelings of indignity and frustration. Elsewhere, it has
been widely noted that the September 11th hijackers came from middle class or
professional families in Egypt or Saudi Arabia and had gone for advanced education
to Europe, where they became progressively more alienated and radicalized.381 As for
the top leadership of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden was the son of a billionaire Saudi
businessman and his second-in-command, Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who heads the
Egyptian "Islamic Jihad" and is Al Qaeda’s ideological leader, was born into the
Egyptian upper class and trained as a surgeon. A 1988 study survey of the literature
on terrorism concluded that social background and educational level did not seem to
be associated with terrorism, and a subsequent Library of Congress report prepared
for the CIA in September 1999 found that terrorists have more than average
education.382 Similar conclusions have been reached across various forms of
extremism including ethnic violence in post-Cold War Germany and suicide terrorism
in Israel, as well as in earlier studies of Japanese, German, Irish, Italian and Turkish
Alleged U.S. antipathy toward Islam: Though this has been repeatedly
alleged, especially in Arab and Islamic criticisms of America, the reality is quite
different. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations were at pains to differentiate
between the mainstream of Islam (which President Bush repeatedly cited as a
“religion of peace”) and the threat presented by radical Islamists. Remarkably, the
largest number of American military interventions abroad since the end of the Cold
War have been to save Muslim populations from starvation, ethnic cleansing, civil
war, invasion and oppression – as large numbers of Kuwaitis, Somalis, Kurds,
Bosnians, Kosovars, Iraqi Shi’ites, and the people of Afghanistan, especially women,
can attest. Moreover, the absorptive character of the United States has made it far
better than any of the countries of Europe in accommodating and integrating Muslim
American support of Israel: Prior to September 11th, the most deadly terrorist
attacks or attempted attacks on American targets took place not during periods of
acute Arab-Israeli violence, but when the peace process was in full flower. For
example, in the mid-1990s, at a time when Israel had turned over control of Gaza and
most of the West Bank, including almost all of its population to the Palestinian
Authority and when optimism about resolution of the conflict was at its peak, Al
Qaeda planned to blow up as many as ten American wide-bodied aircraft over the
Pacific in a plot that was interrupted by a chance event in the Philippines. Other
attacks, including those against the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, also
took place while expectations still ran high for a settlement of the conflict. In
addition, for half a century, the U.S. has been the indispensable catalyst and
intermediary for almost every one of the negotiations and agreements reached
between Israel and its Arab adversaries.
Unilateralism and indifference to world problems: The complaint that the U.S.
does not give enough emphasis to multilateral cooperation and that it is too inclined to
act unilaterally is widely expressed in Europe and by other moderate critics of the
United States. Yet it contains a contradiction stemming from the weakness of many
international bodies and their frequent inability to act decisively in the face of urgent
and deadly problems. This is evident especially in cases of civil war and ethnic
cleansing, where American administrations receive blame both for acting and for
failing to act. In the case of the Clinton presidency, vacillation over Bosnia (until
mid-1995) and deliberate indifference to genocide in Rwanda brought criticism for
lack of leadership, while orchestrating with NATO the use of force in Kosovo brought
criticism of acting without agreement by the UN Security Council. The proliferation
of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) creates similar dilemmas, though in the post9/11 world, the Bush Doctrine has committed the U.S. to a risk acceptant strategy of
acting to avert threats and doing so with or without the collaboration of other
countries. For groups such as Al Qaeda, however, no foreseeable change in US
policies on these issues would be likely to have an impact on their lethal hostility to
the United States.
In contrast to the commonly cited explanations above, which place the blame
largely on America for sins of omission or commission, the underlying causes of
antipathy to the U.S. are primarily to be found in three major features of the post-Cold
War world: globalization, American primacy, and issues of current and historical
Globalization: This feature opens a window to the outside world for those
living in traditional or closed societies, and people quickly begin to yearn for the
material attractions of modern consumer society. Yet, especially in large parts of the
developing world, those whose lives have been disrupted by the changes wrought by
globalization, or who develop an intense loathing of what the modern world
represents, have frequently focused their rancor upon the United States as the
embodiment of everything they dislike.
American primacy: This evokes not only admiration and respect, but also
envy and resentment. And these reactions become all the more intense because of the
unique world role the United States plays. No other country possesses a comparable
preponderance across so many dimensions of contemporary life. The very
prominence and power of the United States invariably give rise to both admiration
and alienation. Though foreign criticism of the United States has been especially
evident in reactions to the Bush Doctrine, the controversies over the use of force in
Iraq and the war on terror, it should not be forgotten that reactions to American power
were evident earlier during the (more multilateral) years of the Clinton administration.
Criticisms of American “hyperpower” by the then Foreign Minister of France, Hubert
Vedrine, were widely publicized and much discussed in the late 1990s.
Current and historical identity: In large areas of the developing world and
especially among Arab and some Muslim countries, tensions over both individual and
national identity have become aggravated by the failure of many societies to cope
with modernization, and by frustration at corrupt and authoritarian rulers. Blocked
from access to power, and unable effectively to oppose these regimes, some educated
professional and middle class dissidents turn to Islamic radicalism and transfer their
rage to the United States as the foremost symbol of materialism and western values.
These sources of attraction and repulsion are deep seated, and hostility directed
against the U.S. is shaped less by what the U.S. actually does than by what it is
represents. This helps to explain why America has received so little credit for its
military interventions during the past decade to protect or save Muslims. The element
of perceived humiliation works to intensify this sentiment as well in societies where
the culture of shame predominates. Celebration and relief at the downfall of the lethal
Ba’athist regime in Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein were tempered by an
awareness that the Iraqis themselves, let alone the Arab world, were incapable of such
actions. In the words of the leading Palestinian newspaper, Al-Quds, "The saddest
and most disgraceful thing in all things concerning Saddam Hussein and his regime is
that toppling the regime and arresting its head was carried out by the occupation
forces. Had this operation been carried out by the Iraqis, it would not have caused
such a flurry of emotions. Thus, every [incident] of resistance in Iraq will constitute a
natural response to the desecration of Iraqi sovereignty..."385
More broadly, the world view of Al Qaeda and of the underlying current of
extremist thinking embodied in the Salafi brand of radical Islam sees the West itself
as the font of evil, and the United States as the most powerful Western country thus
becomes the greatest target.386 Al Qaeda leaders have expressed deep resentments not
only in regard to the demise of the Islamic Caliphate in 1923 (in which the collapse of
the Ottoman Empire ended a temporal and spiritual authority that had existed in some
form since the 7th Century), but also stretching back to the loss of Al-Andalus – i.e.,
the Andalusia region of Spain that had been controlled by the Moors from the year
711 until 1492. And as for more contemporary sources of confrontation, Osama bin
Laden’s “Declaration of War Against the Americans,” issued in 1996, describes the
stationing of U.S. troops on the Arabian peninsula as the greatest aggression against
Muslims since the death of the Prophet in 632.387
Manifestations of Anti-Americanism388
One of the remarkable features of contemporary anti-Americanism is the
extent to which it has become bound up with delusional and conspiratorial notions
about the world. The spread of HIV-AIDS in Africa, financial crises, and even the
September 11th attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Center have been variously
attributed to the actions of the CIA and American leaders, and not infrequently to
Israel and its Mossad. Such views are notoriously widespread in the Arab world, and
a Gallup Poll carried out in nine Islamic countries found that 61 percent of those
surveyed believed Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.389
Beliefs such as these are not confined to the Middle East and can readily be found
elsewhere. For example, in Germany, some 20 percent of the population embraces
conspiracy theories about 9/11.390 And, in France, a best-selling book, 9/11: The Big
Lie,391 by Thierry Meyssan makes allegations as lunatic as anything circulating in the
Middle East, asserting that the Bush administration actually orchestrated the attack on
its own Pentagon with a truck bomb and that it was not struck by an airplane. The
author claims the explosion was contrived as a rationale for attacks on Afghanistan
and Iraq.
In the Middle East itself, there has been a torrent of the most virulent and
demonic expressions of anti-American hatred. These can be found in the language of
radical Islamist clerics, media commentators, intellectuals, and in everyday discourse.
Opinion polls show large sectors of the population subscribing to wildly irrational
beliefs, with intermingled elements of conspiracy theory, superhuman powers,
devilish attributes and even sexual paranoia. In the words, for example, of a 30-year
old Iraqi mechanic, Omar Habib, living in the Sunni town of Fallujah where fighting
between Saddam Hussein loyalists and American troops had occurred, “I hate the
Americans. I know they are wearing glasses that allow them to see through women’s
clothes. Even if they are only looking for weapons, they see the women naked."392
America’s extraordinary preponderance has caused some foreign observers to
credit it with virtual omnipotence and omniscience. As a result, there is a tendency to
assume that major world events only occur because they have been willed by the
superpower in Washington. In the Middle East and especially among intellectuals
and the media, this attribution of all-encompassing power feeds a pervasive evasion of
responsibility for the shortcomings of domestic societies and provides a means by
which local resentments can be redirected against the Great Satan.
Outside the region, the exaggerated responsibility placed upon the United
States frequently fails to take into account the preferences and actions of local and
regional forces. For example, among European critics of American Middle East
policy, there was a widely voiced claim that the U.S. had armed Saddam Hussein and
was responsible for keeping him in power. In fact, Saddam had risen to power
through the ranks of the Ba’ath Party as a ruthless thug and enforcer with close ties to
key Party leaders. Iraq’s forces were equipped mainly with Soviet heavy weapons and
with more advanced aircraft and missiles from France, while the American
contribution consisted largely of battlefield intelligence supplied during the mid1980s at a time when the Reagan administration feared Iraq might lose its war with
Iran, thus allowing Khomeini’s brand of Islamic radicalism and violent antipathy to
the United States to sweep the Persian Gulf region.
By contrast, a more nuanced conspiracy theory has been widely disseminated
within the United States. It purports to explain how the foreign policy of the world’s
most powerful country has been captured by a sinister and hitherto little-known cabal.
According to this view, a small band of neoconservative (read, Jewish) defense
intellectuals, led by “mastermind” and Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul
Wolfowitz393, has taken advantage of the 9/11 terrorist attack to put their ideas over
on an ignorant, inexperienced and “easily manipulated” President,394 his “elderly
figurehead” Defense Secretary395 and the “dutiful servant of power” who is our
Secretary of State.396 Thus empowered, this neoconservative conspiracy, “a product
of the influential Jewish American faction of the Trotskyist movement of the 30s and
40s”397 and its own “fanatic” and “totalitarian morality”398 has fomented war with
Iraq--not in the interest of the United States, but in the service of Israel’s Likud
This sinister mythology is worthy of the Iraqi Information Minister,
Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who became notorious for telling Western journalists not
to believe their own eyes as American tanks rolled into view just across the Tigris
River. And indeed versions of it do circulate in the Arab world. For example, a
prominent Saudi professor from King Faysal University, Dr. Umaya Jalahma,
speaking at a prestigious think tank of the Arab League, claimed that the U.S. attack
on Iraq was actually timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Purim.400
But the neocon conspiracy notion is especially conspicuous in writing by leftist
authors in the pages of American and British journals such as The Nation, the
Washington Monthly, the London Review of Books, the New Statesman, and the
International Herald Tribune, as well as in the arguments of paleo-conservatives such
as Pat Buchanan and his magazine, The American Conservative.
Many of those who disseminate this new theory had strenuously opposed war
with Iraq and predicted dire consequences in the event American forces were to
invade. The critics had warned of such things as massive resistance by the Iraqi
military and people, fierce urban warfare with Baghdad becoming Stalingrad on the
Tigris, Saddam’s use of weapons of mass destruction (though some of the same
voices loudly questioned whether Iraq had these weapons at all), Scud missile attacks
that would draw Israel into the fray, destruction of Iraq’s oil fields creating an
ecological catastrophe, massive refugee flows, and an inflamed and radicalized
Middle East in which existing governments would be overthrown by an enraged Arab
street. The late Edward Said, writing in the London Review of Books, offered a
scathing denunciation not only of Wolfowitz, but of such apostates as Fouad Ajami,
Iraqi exile author Kanan Makiya, and exile opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi for their
“rubbish” and “falsifying of reality” in selling the administration a bill of goods about
quick wars.401
Explanations about the invasion of Iraq assert, for example, that “the war has
put Jews in the showcase as never before. Its primary intellectual architects–Paul
Wolfowitz, Richard Perle [former aide to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Assistant
Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, now a member of the Defense
Policy Board, an unpaid body advising Secretary Rumsfeld] and Douglas Feith [the
number three official at Defense]–are all Jewish neoconservatives. So, too, are many
of its prominent media cheerleaders, including William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer
and Marty Peretz. Joe Lieberman, the nation’s most conspicuous Jewish politician
has been an avid booster . . . ” The same author adds, “Then there’s the ‘Jews control
the media’ problem.” And, “What’s more, many of these same Jews joined Rumsfeld
and Cheney in underselling the difficulty of the war, in what may have been a
deliberate ruse designed to embroil America in a broad military conflagration that
would help smite Israel’s enemies.”402
Other language is more overtly conspiratorial. In an essay appearing in the
New Statesman (London) and in,403 Michel Lind, after dismissing Robert
Kagan as a “neoconservative propagandist,” confided the “alarming” truth that “the
foreign policy of the world’s only global power is being made by a small clique . . . ”
They are “neoconservative defense intellectuals,” among whom he cites Wolfowitz,
Feith, Cheney’s chief of Staff Lewis Libby, John Bolton at the State Department, and
Elliott Abrams on the National Security Council (NSC). Most of these, we are told,
have their roots on the left and are “products of the largely Jewish-American
Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s which morphed into anti-communist
liberalism and now into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in
American culture or political history.” Lind complained that in their “odd bursts” of
ideological enthusiasm for democracy, “they call their revolutionary ideology
‘Wilsonianism,’ . . . but it is really Trotsky’s theory of the permanent revolution
mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism.” Along with the Kristol-led
Weekly Standard and allies such as Vice-President Cheney, these “neo-cons took
advantage of Bush’s ignorance and inexperience.404” Lind’s speculation that the
President may not even be aware of what this cabal has foisted upon him embodies
the hallmarks of conspiratorial reasoning. In his words, “It is not clear that George
W. fully understands the grand strategy that Wolfowitz and other aides are unfolding.
He seems genuinely to believe that there was an imminent threat to the U.S. from
Saddam Hussein’s ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ something the leading neo-cons
say in public but are far too intelligent to believe themselves.”
These themes are echoed at the opposite end of the political spectrum, in The
American Conservative, where the embattled remnants of an old isolationist and
reactionary conservatism can be found. The magazine’s editor, Pat Buchanan, targets
the neoconservatives, alleging that they have hijacked the conservative movement and
that they seek “to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel.”405
European and Middle Eastern versions of the neocon conspiracy theory are
typically more virulent. But even in its less fevered forms, the neocon conspiracy
theory simply does not provide a coherent analysis of American foreign policy. More
to the point, especially among the more extreme versions, there are conspicuous
manifestations of classic anti-Semitism: claims that a small, all-powerful but little
known group or “cabal” of Jewish masterminds is secretly manipulating policy, that
they have dual-loyalty to a foreign power, that this cabal combines ideological
opposites (right-wingers with a Trotskyist legacy--thus echoing classic anti-Semitic
tropes linking Jews to both international capitalism and international communism),
that our official leaders are too ignorant, weak or naive to grasp what is happening,
that the foreign policy upon which our country is embarked runs counter to or is even
subversive of American national interest, and that if readers only paid close attention
to what the author is saying, they would share the same sense of alarm.
A dispassionate dissection of the neocon conspiracy arguments is not difficult
to undertake. For one thing, the administration of President George W. Bush actually
includes very few Jews in senior policy positions and none among the very top
foreign policy decision makers: the President, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Secretary
of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security
Advisor Condoleezza Rice – all of whom, incidentally, are Protestants. (British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, the most influential non-American, is also Protestant.) But even
identifying policymakers in this way carries the insidious implication that religious
affiliation by itself is all-controlling. In reality, Americans of all persuasions have
exhibited deep differences about foreign policy and war with Iraq. Prior to the war,
public opinion polls consistently showed Jews about as divided as the public at large
or even slightly less in favor of the war, and Jewish intellectual and political figures
can be found in both pro- and anti-war camps. For example, Nobel laureate Elie
Wiesel, professor and author Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins University, and
Senator Joseph Lieberman supported the President, while opposition came in various
forms from the radically anti-American Noam Chomsky, the moderate-left
philosopher Michael Walzer, Senator Carl Levin, and a bevy of leftist Berkeley and
New York intellectuals (Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun magazine,
Norman Mailer, Eric Foner, a professor of history at Columbia University, and many
More to the point, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell and Rice were experienced and
strong willed foreign policymakers, and the conspiracy theory fails utterly to take into
account their own assessments of American grand strategy in the aftermath of the
September 11th terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The theory
also wrongly presumes that Bush himself was an empty vessel, a latter day equivalent
of Czarina Alexandra, somehow fallen under the influence of Wolfowitz/Rasputin.
Condescension toward Bush was a hallmark of liberal and leftist discourse after the
bitterly disputed November 2000 presidential election, and there can be few readers of
this book who have not heard conversations about the President that did not begin
with offhand dismissals of him as “stupid,” a “cowboy,” or worse.406 An extreme
version of this thinking and the demonization of Bush can be found in the musings of
Edward Said, as quoted in Al-Ahram Weekly: “In fact, I and others are convinced that
Bush will try to negate the 2004 elections: we’re dealing with a putschist,
conspiratorial, paranoid deviation that’s very anti-democratic.”407 This kind of
disparagement left critics ill-prepared to think analytically about the foreign policy
imperatives facing the United States after 9/11.
Regardless of one’s overall view of Bush policies, the former Texas governor
did – in the months and years after 9/11 – prove himself an effective wartime leader.
The Bush Doctrine, as expressed in the President’s January 2002 State of the Union
address (“The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous
regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons,”) and the National
Security Strategy Document of September 20, 2002, set out an ambitious grand
strategy in response to the combined perils of terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction. Reactions to the doctrine were mixed. Some foreign policy analysts
were critical, especially about the idea of preemption and the declared policy of
preventing the rise of any hostile great power competitor,408 while others provided a
more positive assessment.409 But the doctrine was certainly not concealed from the
public, and the President and his foreign policy team spoke repeatedly about its
elements and implications. And while Bush’s major foreign policy speeches, for
example in February 2003 to the American Enterprise Institute and in November 2003
to the National Endowment for Democracy in which he articulated a vision for a free
and democratic Middle East, have been criticized as excessively Wilsonian, their key
themes echo those found in the widely circulated Arab Development Report, written
by a group of Arab economists for the U.N. Development Program, which decried
Arab world deficits in regard to freedom, knowledge and the role of women.
Partisanship aside, the President had shown himself to be decisive and able to
weigh competing advice from his top officials before deciding how to act. In August
2002, for example, he sided with Secretary of State Powell over the advice of
Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney, in opting to seek a UN Security Council resolution
on Iraq. Powell’s own February 5, 2003 speech to the Security Council was a
compelling presentation of the administration’s case against Iraq, and well before the
outbreak of the war, Powell made clear his view that the use of force had become
unavoidable. Conspiracy theorists were also naive here in expressing anxieties that
the Defense Department was frequently at odds with the State Department or National
Security Council (NSC) about policy. Political scientists and historians have long
described policymaking as an “invitation to struggle,” and Richard Neustadt’s classic
work, Presidential Power, characterized the ultimate resource of the presidency as the
power to persuade. Franklin Roosevelt deliberately played off his advisors against
one another, the Nixon Presidency saw Henry Kissinger successfully undercut
Secretary of State Rogers, and the Carter and Reagan presidencies were conspicuous
for the struggles between their national security advisers and secretaries of state. In
short, competing views among presidential foreign policy advisors are typical of most
Nor was Bush’s support for Israel somehow a sign of manipulation. From the
time of Harry Truman’s decision to recognize the Jewish state in May 1948, through
Kennedy’s arms sales, the Nixon administration’s support during the October 1973
War, and the close U.S.-Israeli relationships during the Reagan and Clinton
presidencies, American policy has generally been much more supportive of Israel than
of its Arab adversaries. In addition, American public opinion has consistency favored
Israel over the Palestinians by wide margins, and on the eve of the Iraq war, a Gallup
poll put this margin at more than four to one (58 percent versus 13 percent.) Indeed,
the strongest source of support for Israel now comes from within Bush’s own
Republican base, especially among Christian conservatives, and in addition to his own
inclinations, as a politically adroit president he has repeatedly shown the
determination not to alienate his political base.
Ultimately, the neocon conspiracy theory, whether in its sophisticated versions
or in its more venomous articulations, misinterprets as a policy coup a reasoned shift
in grand strategy that the Bush administration has adopted in responding to an entirely
new and ominous form of external threat. Whether that strategy and its component
parts proves to be as robust and effective as containment or, instead, ill-advised and
counterproductive remains to be seen. But to characterize it in conspiratorial terms is
not only a failure to weigh policy choices on their merits, but represents a detour into
the fever swamps of political delusion.
Anti-Americanism: Polls, Precedents and Politics
Anti-Americanism is both a contentious and elusive subject. It is important to
understand its causes, context and effects. Its scope and content need to be
understood, not only in themselves, but in relationship to fluctuating attitudes in
previous periods. There are pitfalls in seeking to draw easy conclusions from current
data, not least because public opinion can vary sharply in reaction to major events and
because expressions of views about America can have very different underlying
causes. The views of intellectual elites often differ from broader popular sentiment.
Attitudes toward American policies can appear to be less favorable than toward
America itself. The way in which questions are posed can also readily shade the
results. And treatment of the subject is often intensely partisan. Moreover,
generalizations can distort reality. For example, the widely expressed notion that
“Europe” opposed the American-led war in Iraq in effect seizes upon the strong
opposition of French and German leaders and publics, but overlooks the fact that the
governments of four of the six largest European countries (Britain, Spain, Italy and
Poland) plus Japan supported the war and that fifteen of the nineteen NATO countries
did so as well – even while public opinion was mostly more critical. On the other
hand, opinion in Asia and especially the Islamic world became increasingly hostile.
Attitudes toward America and Americans are very much subject to change and
– as noted elsewhere here – are often contradictory. Based on widely publicized polls
and media reports, the United States would seem to be facing a new wave of hostile
foreign opinion. The largest and one of the most widely cited studies, the Pew Global
Attitudes Project,410 depicted global support for American ideals but mounting
European criticism of U.S. foreign policy as well as intensifying hostility in the
Muslim world. The Pew studies and other reports have attributed these attitudes to
the policies of the Bush administration and its unilateralist foreign policy.411 To be
sure, compared with the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in which there was an
outpouring of sympathy for the U.S., foreign opinion did become steadily more
critical during the year preceding the Iraq War. The problem with focusing on such
studies, however, lies in assumptions about the novelty of the attitudes they identify
while failing to take into account past waves of anti-American sentiment, as expressed
both in public opinion and among intellectual elites. This does not mean that negative
attitudes and their potential effects should be ignored, but it does require that the
phenomenon be put in context. For example, during the 1950s, opinion polls in
Europe indicated that between one-third and one-half of the population of Italy,
France and Britain wanted to remain neutral in the Cold War.412 Numerous other
examples abound: Vice-President Richard Nixon was met with mobs of rockthrowing demonstrators in Latin America in the late 1950s; large crowds
demonstrated against the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October
1962; the Vietnam War was the subject of growing and sometimes violent protests
during the late 1960s and early 1970s; the deployment of intermediate range missiles
in Western Europe in the early 1980s was met with massive demonstrations, and the
1991 U.S. led military campaign (supported by a UN Security Council vote) to expel
Iraqi forces from Kuwait was nonetheless the focus of large antiwar rallies.
National leaders and the media can shape opinion quite dramatically. For
example, in the months prior to the March 2003 outbreak of war in Iraq, President
Jacques Chirac of France took the lead in condemning the American-led effort and
most of the French media took a similar stance. By contrast, British Prime Minister
Tony Blair’s own convictions led him to a powerful moral condemnation of Saddam
Hussein’s regime and the strategic threat that it posed. By the time the war began,
British opinion, once heavily anti-war, had shifted so that a plurality of the public
supported the American-led coalition effort. Elsewhere, in much of the Muslim
Middle East and including American allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan,
public opinion is shaped by a torrent of anti-American invective dispensed by
newspapers, radio and television, and by many of the most influential clerics. Only a
small minority of commentators speak publicly against such views, and they do so at
their own peril.
Criticism of the United States among foreign intellectuals has a long and
tangled history. In the 1950s, the distinguished French historical sociologist,
Raymond Aron, while himself sometimes critical of American policies, lamented the
views of his fellow intellectuals who were all too often “merciless toward the failings
of the democracies but ready to tolerate the worst crimes as long as they are
committed in the name of the proper doctrines.”413 Indeed, the origins of this hostility
can be found as far back as late 18th and early 19th Century France, in the
condemnations by Jacobin and Napoleonic regimes of British and American society
as materialistic, treacherous and plutocratic.414 In 1840, a similar strand of
condemnation was evident in the complaints of reactionary critics, such as the French
poet Arthur de Gobineau in his complaint about bourgeois society, “Money has killed
In 20th Century Europe such views were elaborated and intensified by
reactionary and fascist thinkers, especially after World War One, when Britain and
the U.S. – both now linked to the Jews who were vilified as both capitalists and/or
Bolsheviks – were accused of creating an Anglo-Saxon empire.416 This connection to
the Jews and virulent anti-Semitism was expressed by the French proto-fascist author
and propagandist Charles Maurras, writing in the 1930s, who depicted American
society and the Jews as driven by the requirements of the market at the cost of higher
human concerns, in a realm of rootless immigrants and amoral capitalism.417
In the world of the 21st Century, anti-Americanism derives from a combination
of sources. Especially among European intellectuals, critics and commentators, but
also in other parts of the world, the collapse of communism deprived the political left
of a coherent doctrine. In its place, resentments against American power, primacy
and cultural dominance combined with a greatly diminished ability to influence world
events, provide a strong impetus and one that is driven by far more than reactions to
specific American policies. Though the overall phenomenon can be found elsewhere,
it takes its purist form in France, where as Fouad Ajami notes, “Envy of U.S. power
and of the United States’ universalism is the ruling passion of French intellectual life.
It is not ‘mostly Bush’ that turned France against the U.S.”418
These impulses are not unique to France, however, and they are common
elsewhere among the “chattering classes.” In Britain, for example, the sentiments
often evident among left-of-center journalists and intellectuals find frequent
expression in the broadcasts of the BBC. Use of words such as “terrorism” was
frowned upon and after the December 2003 capture of Saddam Hussein, BBC
reporters were instructed not to describe him as the former dictator of Iraq, but as that
country’s former President. Thus a post-mortem of BBC reporting on the Iraq war
[P]eople who work in its news and current-affairs departments mostly
share a soft-left world-view: instinctive statism, cordial anti-capitalism,
and bien-pensant liberal internationalism. Its reporters' prejudices,
allied to the modern preference in broadcast news for context and
commentary (that is, opinion) over facts, yielded a generally
pessimistic account of British and American actions before, during and
after the war.419
Similarly, an analysis of previous reporting on Iraq by five of the major
French newspapers found that they had systematically underplayed the murderous
brutality of the Ba’athist regime.420 The pattern was far more evident among Arab
newspapers and TV, but it also affected other Western journalists reporting from Iraq.
Elsewhere, an additional set of causes is at work. As noted above, the social
disruptions of traditional societies produced by globalization and the transition to a
market economy can stimulate intense and sometimes violent reactions including
terrorism. These are typically directed against the United States because it embodies
modernity, economic forces and cultural change. The author of a thoughtful study
elaborates on this, while also identifying features that suggest insights about the links
between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism, in observing, “...[J]ust as the Jews
symbolized emerging market norms in Europe a century ago, today, with modern
technology, America and Western culture symbolizes the dreaded market norms
linked with globalization.”421
Ultimately, the frenzy of these resentments virtually defies caricature.
Consider some of the more widely noted expressions by prominent figures in Europe
and the Middle East:
– "Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W. Bush is
now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of ‘endless
war’ and ‘full spectrum dominance’ are a matter of record.... Bush's State of the
Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when
Hitler called his generals together and told them: ‘I must have war.’ He then had it." John Pilger, the Daily Mirror (London)422
– “My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has
possessed me,
like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux, that fashionable American
sickness. I now loathe the United States and what it has done to Iraq and the rest of
the helpless world.” – Margaret Drabble in The Daily Telegraph (London)423
– “Dear President Bush, I’m sure you’ll be having a nice little tea party
with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches
down with a glass of blood, with my compliments.” – Harold Pinter, Playwright
– “...the leaders of...[the United States] are, quite simply,
psychopaths.” – Francois de Bernard in Liberation (Paris)425
– “I hate Americans and everything American.” – Mikis Theodorakis,
Greek composer426
U.S. Responsibility?
Anti-Americanism stems from deep and complex sources and,
notwithstanding partisan invective, cannot be chiefly understood in terms of the
defects or virtues of U.S. foreign policy at any given moment. On the other hand,
policies and the way they are conducted do have some effect. Expressions of antiAmericanism have a history of more than 200 years, but the sentiment does wax and
wane, and there is some evidence that it has increased in reaction to America policies
in the war on terror and in reaction to the real or imagined approaches and actions of
the Bush administration.
Here it is useful to differentiate between broad policies and the
implementation of those policies. In response to the profound threat represented by
the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the potentially catastrophic danger of terrorism
coupled with weapons of mass destruction, a grand strategy that responds to such
threats, and that does so in a world where international institutions do not provide a
sufficiently effective and timely means, makes sense. A strategy that protects
American national interests but lacks the endorsement of the UN Security Council
will inevitably draw criticism, as will the use of force even when it is essential. Yet, at
the margins, policies have not always been carried out in a manner that optimizes
foreign support. Some of this problem has to do with diplomatic skill, some with
rhetoric, some with more subtle judgments about where to draw the line between
seeking broader international support without compromising security and
effectiveness. Foreign policy decision making, especially on the most urgent
questions, inevitably involves decisions based on partial information and thus amid
uncertainty. Nonetheless, while disparaging descriptions of “old” versus “new
Europe,” or casual reference to Germany in the same sentence with Libya and Cuba
may be understandable reactions to the position taken by governments in Paris and
Berlin, they are costly luxuries.
The Bush Doctrine, as noted in Chapter One, embodies not just primacy and
preemption, but also multilateralism and the promotion of democracy. To some
extent, the Doctrine itself is more multilateral than the actual policies of the Bush
administration. Indeed, the entire document including its most benign features, is
bound to incur criticism, although such critiques may themselves be internally
contradictory. For example, U.S. policies are bemoaned for both the self-interested
exercise of raw power and for the idealistic aim of spreading democracy in the Middle
East. Moreover, genuine policy tradeoffs are inevitable. Even a hypothetical
administration of President Al Gore and Vice-President Joseph Lieberman would
have been likely to make overtures to the authoritarian regime in Uzbekistan in order
to secure the uses of airbases essential for the conduct of the war in Afghanistan. And
in view of the importance of good relations with Russia, China and India, no
government in Washington would have been likely to set as a priority the aim of selfdetermination for Chechens, Uiguhrs or Kashmiris.
On occasion, more skillful or even hypocritical diplomacy can be useful. For
example, rather than flatly repudiating the Kyoto Treaty on global warming (an
unworkable agreement which even its most ardent European backers are mostly
unable to implement, as evident in the inability of thirteen of the fifteen EU countries
to meet annual emissions targets427), the Bush administration might have proclaimed
that the aims of reducing CO2 emissions are laudable as an ideal even if the
agreement as written poses intractable problem, but that the U.S. looks with favor on
working with other countries to seek ways of protecting the common heritage of
mankind on land, sea and air. The achievement of these aims may then be put off to
an uncertain date, in a way that could appear hypocritical, but there are precedents to
which not only the U.S., but France, Britain, Russia and China subscribe. For
example, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) contains language holding the
signatories, including the five formal nuclear weapons states, to the ultimate objective
of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether. None of the five seriously pursue this
goal, yet all gave lip service to it and in some form even emphasize the NPT as part of
the effort to combat nuclear proliferation.
Additional tools of foreign policy would also be of use in gaining wider
support abroad while serving American interests and values. Some of these include
programs that brought real advantages during the Cold War, but were later deemphasized altogether. American public diplomacy has suffered badly in recent
years, in that the case for the United States and its policies and values has not been
effectively presented abroad. The decision to dissolve the United States Information
Agency (USIA) and fold its remaining functions into the State Department was taken
as an economy measure and because the USIA was seen as a Cold War relic. Yet this
bipartisan Clinton era decision, based in part on the notion that the USIA’s programs,
cultural exchanges, American Centers and Libraries were obsolete in the era of the
information revolution with its satellite TV broadcasts, cable TV, the internet, and the
idea of a world global village, has proved a serious mistake.
Time and again during the past half-century, the formative experience of
visiting or studying in the United States and encountering American culture there or
abroad has left its mark on foreign politicians, journalists, teachers and business
people. To be sure, these consequences were not uniformly positive – as evident in
the case of French President Jacques Chirac or that of Sayyid Qutb, the founding
father of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s most extreme wing and whose ideas
later influenced Al Qaeda. Nonetheless, the long-term cumulative effects of public
diplomacy programs were enormous, and their weakening or demise has left an
information vacuum. As a result, the perceptions of foreigners, especially those of a
younger generation seeking information about the U.S., are increasingly shaped by the
hostile or disparaging views provided by local actors or the diatribes of domestic
American critics such as Michael Moore, whose books have become bestsellers in
German and whose views go largely unrebutted. Similarly, foreign broadcasting both
in English and in local languages, through the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe,
Radio Liberty, and newer bodies directed at Iran and Iraq have been stagnant or – in
the case of the older units aimed at Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union –
starved of resources.
Danger or Distraction?
Does anti-Americanism signal a hostile world? Does it suggest that lesser
powers are beginning to ally with one another in order to counterbalance American
power? Those most alarmed by the evidence of anti-Americanism as well as
domestic critics of American foreign policy, often argue that this is the case. Though
their reasons vary, they, along with a number of prominent international relations
scholars in the realist tradition, warn of a growing mood of foreign hostility, the
dangers it may pose to the United States, and the likelihood that American primacy
will be short-lived. As evidence they cite adverse foreign public opinion, opposition
in the United Nations Security Council where France led a bloc of countries in
opposition to U.S. Iraq policy, and the expansion and deepening of the European
Union as a counterweight to the U.S.428
Yet, in contrast to these arguments, there is considerable evidence that
balancing is not really taking place.429 In a perceptive analysis of this issue, Gerard
Alexander has shown that despite claims to the contrary, there is little sign of true
balancing behavior.430 He demonstrates that notwithstanding foreign and domestic
rhetoric, the two key indicators of balancing, serious increases in foreign defense
spending and the creation of new alliances, are not evident.431 Moreover, it is not at
all clear that acrimonious criticism of the U.S., especially by allies, is of an order of
magnitude greater than during the periodic disputes that erupted during the past half
As additional evidence that real counterbalancing has not been taking place,
consider the following:
– The countries of the European Union have not sought to counterbalance
against the U.S., both because of overwhelming American preponderance and their
own long-term weakness as well as the persistence of national sovereignty in
obstructing the development of a true European common defense. Though France
and Germany opposed the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, and European public
opinion was generally hostile to the use of force, the majority of European
governments expressed support.432
– Far from disintegrating, as Kenneth Waltz, the foremost realist critic had
predicted,433 the American-led NATO alliance has continued to flourish and expand
because it provides a hedge against potential long term security dangers in a world of
nation-states. Its existence offers a security umbrella for the countries of Europe,434
and its assumption of responsibility for peacekeeping in Afghanistan provides clear
evidence of its on-going importance.435
– Among major powers elsewhere, China, India and Russia have not sought to
join with each other and with France and Germany in balancing against the United
States. Instead, each has taken steps to maintain good and even close working
relationships with Washington.
– Allied countries in other regions, including Japan, South Korea, and
Australia have maintained or enhanced cooperation with the United States, as have
the Philippines, Thailand and (more tenuously) Pakistan.
– The American-led coalition war in Iraq to oust the regime of Saddam
Hussein did not trigger an upheaval in the region nor lead to the collapse of friendly
governments. To the contrary, countries such as Libya, Iran and Syria have acted to
reduce confrontation.
In sum, despite a very real climate of critical opinion abroad, assessments of
actual counterbalancing appear quite overstated. As Steven Peter Rosen has noted,
“A surprising number of major states are not now engaging in the self-help that Waltz
says is at the heart of interstate relations, but are relying instead on the United States
for their security.”436 Note that one explanation may be that while Waltz’s wellknown description of the organizing principle of the international system as
anarchical is widely accepted by other realist authors and even a number of more
practical neoliberals, there are elements of the current international system that, due to
American primacy, are actually hierarchical. Authors such as Rosen and John Owen
have made this point, and Owen also has explained the absence of counterbalancing
against the United States by Europe and Japan by observing that the extent to which a
state counterbalances against American is a function of how liberal that state is,
because liberal states treat each other benignly. Insight into why this is the case can be
found in the remark of a leading member of the governing German Social Democratic
Party. In his words, “There are a lot of people who don’t like the American
policeman, but they are happy there is one.”437
While American policies do matter, it is nonetheless a mistake to assume that
these are chiefly responsible for triggering hostility. The U.S. needs to be actively
engaged abroad, both in its own national interest and because its role remains
indispensable for coping with common world problems. This role can be carried out
to a greater or lesser extent in cooperation with others, and with more or less
diplomatic skill. But even the best of circumstances and the most carefully crafted
policies will not prevent others from blaming us for problems whose causes lie
In a world where the demand for “global governance” greatly exceeds the
supply, and in which the U.S. role remains central to the management of security
threats as well as for resolving problems of cooperation, both attraction and backlash
are unavoidable. America can do more to win “hearts and minds,” but the beginning
of wisdom is to know that these contradictory impulses and an accompanying antiAmericanism are inevitable as long as the United States exists as a great power.438
By Barry Rubin
While preparing a conference on anti-Americanism, I received a note from a
very distinguished professor at an extremely distinguished European university. He
was outraged by the presumption of even discussing this as an issue. There was no
such thing as “anti-Americanism,” he objected. There were only the very proper and
justified complaints about America’s evils and sins.
Those intent on defending the United States from anti-Americanism
sometimes make a similar mistake. They eagerly deny the charges without examining
their origin, nature, or purpose too closely. By failing to examine anti-Americanism,
however, one cannot comprehend it. And by failing to comprehend it, the
overwhelmingly tendentious nature of the phenomenon cannot be fully grasped.
Consequently, in all the public debate and even research on antiAmericanism, there are some especially important points which are constantly
ignored but are absolutely essential in reaching any understanding of this
phenomenon. In addition, they tie together anti-Americanisms around the globe
despite the specific priorities, examples, or rhetoric which comes to the fore in various
places. .
Briefly, these five points are: the definition of anti-Americanism, its basic
underlying concepts, evolution through various stages, role as a political tool, and
finally the truth about the supposed alternative explanations of seeing antiAmericanism as a protest against either American policy or values.
1. Definitions
Clearly, criticism of any aspect of America by itself does not constitute antiAmericanism. There are many features of the United States—sometimes diametrically
opposite ones—which Americans themselves have criticized and often have
renounced and changed in the past. Criticism can be useful to learn from and may also
simply reveal differences or priorities among societies.
Anti-Americanism can be said to combine one or more of the following
characteristics which turn it into a broader and antagonistic doctrine:
A. The exaggerated view of America’s shortcomings so as to lead to
complete contempt or antagonism. This represents the size of the problem and the
number of America’s alleged sins. It also involves the minimization of balancing
factors or virtues.
B. The view that specific alleged shortcomings are endemic to the system as
a whole. This portrays America’s problems as civilizational, stemming from its very
foundation and basis.
C. Misperceptions or deliberate misrepresentations of specific policies or
actions so extreme as to lead to hatred and conflict. It is misleading to say that people
are anti-American because of U.S. policies because they must first determine what are
these policies and what do they involve. To portray the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan
as retaliation against those involved in the September 11 attacks, for example, is quite
different from saying that it was a brutal imperialist venture to destroy Islam.
2. Context
The underlying concept of anti-Americanism is based on two interlocked
ideas. The first of these is that America is a bad country in terms of its culture,
society, economy, world view and so on. This internal criticism is concerned more
with structures, governing ideas, patterns of behavior and so on rather than values as
such. For example, many people who viewed themselves as supporters of democracy
or freedom as values criticized the United States not because they rejected such
concepts but because they considered the American form of them to be repulsive.
This basic claim that America is a bad culture and society has a history as
long as the United States itself. What is remarkable here is that the list of
objectionable characteristics has changed little over time. America is said to be too
violent, it is too democratic, it is too capitalist, and it is too religious or not religious
enough. The way these ideas are expressed, though, has varied. In the early days of
the republic, for example, European anti-Americans made it clear that they did not
like electoral democracy because it let the people have too much power. The
equivalent contemporary criticism might say instead that the system was only sham
democracy ruled by special interests.
Arguing that America is not a good society is only of abstract interest until it
takes on tremendous importance and immediacy through the addition of another
ingredient. This factor is a fear that the American model or aspects of it may spread to
one’s own country or the rest of the world.
Here, America must be taken as representing a different form of civilization
distinctive from Europe. It is perceived as a mass society, the prototype of
modernization, the empire of machinery, the triumph of soulless urbanization, and the
enemy of traditional society. This view explains why there has been a long-standing
doctrine of anti-Americanism but no equivalent ideology of anti-British, anti-French,
anti-German, or anti-Russian dogma. America is different both because it is a
civilization in its own right but also because it seeks to conquer the world in order to
remake the globe in its own image.
These are old themes and remarkably consistent ones. To examples illustrate
this point. A French lawyer in the 1780s made one of the first anti-American
statements along the following lines: the United States will attract the scum of Europe
who will build a disgusting society but use the land’s resources to build up a mighty
war machine. One day they will recross the Atlantic and conquer Europe. This neatly
combines the idea of a bad America with its spread across the globe.
A century later, a French newspaper which used the phrase “antiAmericanism” for the first time, did so in a report on an industrial fair in Paris. By
importing American agricultural machinery, it warned, France would change into a
terrible society along the lines of the United States where painting was no longer
valued. This seems a curious juxtaposition. But the point was that industrialization
along American lines would turn the country into an imitation of that soulless, anticultural place.
This leads to the second basic concept of anti-Americanism: that the United
States has a bad role internationally because its foreign policies are evil. The United
States can spread its terrible model in various ways: through military force, political
influence, economic domination, or cultural hegemony.
Here, too, there is a long list of specific critiques of American policy. It is
presented as a long list of hypocrisy, aggression, war, and greed. Of course, there is a
basis for complaints, some more and some less justifiable. But the list is greatly
expanded, mitigating circumstances are left out, motives are twisted, myths are
created. What is a record with pluses and minuses becomes a narrative of evil
intentions and monstrous deeds.
It is possible to maintain, of course, that the United States is a perfectly
wonderful society with bad policies. This is a course often taken by American critics
themselves, who argue that a change of leadership or policy would bring a great
improvement. There are also foreign critics who take this approach, and if they do so
sincerely then this does not constitute anti-Americanism. In addition, this can explain
the rise and fall of anti-Americanism over time. The McCarthy era, the Vietnam war,
and the U.S. war against Iraq were all incidents which encouraged an increase in antiAmericanism.
But this is not the whole picture either. Often, the claim that one is
criticizing only aspects or personalities is quickly revealed as hypocritical. Many who
insisted that their only problem with the United States was President George W. Bush,
for example, were also hostile to America when Bill Clinton was president. Moreover,
if America is a good society with a bad policy how can this disparity be explained?
Perhaps the good American people are misled by evil cabals that weave conspiracies
or they are just unaware of what the rest of the world is like? Such arguments are not
so simple to make or maintain and usually degenerate into a broader civilizational
3. Stages
As one studies the history of Anti-Americanism it is striking how often the
critiques were basically the same with minor variations to adjust for the current issues
and rhetorical styles. The American Civil War, like the war with Iraq almost a century
and a half later, was portrayed in Europe as a war of imperialist conquest by
Washington, with the prize being cotton rather than oil. French authors of the early
twentieth century spoke of the American cultural threat in terms virtually identical
with their heirs in the early twenty-first century.
Closely examining the history of anti-Americanism shows a logical pattern.
It has gone through five phases, with each building on its predecessor in a coherent
The first phase began in the mid-18th century, as America with being
settled. The theme was that the land and its environment were innately inferior to
those of Europe. America was too wild, too wet, and to subject to extremes of hot and
cold to host a civilization. People, animals, and crops transferred there would
inevitably degenerate. Consequently, America would be a failure.
. The second phase began with the independence of the United States and
ended with the undeniable industrial power and continued unity of that country in the
1880s. In this phase, the idea that there could be no civilization in North America was
no longer tenable. Now, however, it was held that the society created there constituted
a failure and thus a bad role model for Europe. The United States was said to have a
ludicrous political system, an absence of culture and good manners, excessive
materialism, and an excessively high status for women and children.
With the third phase, from 1880 to 1945, however, the growing focus was
put on the threats of American success. The economic, cultural, and political power of
the United States was now being unleashed on the world. Anti-Americans warned that
this toxic social order might become the role model for others to their detriment. The
possibility that the United States and its ways would dominate the world was still set
in the future, but it was a future that was rapidly approaching.
The fourth phase, from the American victory in World War Two in 1945 to
the U.S. triumph in the Cold War in 1990, moved the time of American hegemony to
the present. In the great battle between two camps, many accepted the Soviet critique
of America, with Moscow becoming the greatest state sponsor of anti-Americanism in
history. American power was carried for the first time throughout the world, and the
waging of that life-and-death struggle produced American actions that could be
criticized or distorted.
As long as the USSR remained as a negative model, however, it was easy for
many people to prefer the United States. And if America was only one of two
superpowers, one could well believe that its power would be restrained with this
balance. American products and life-styles, however, were now increasingly
omnipresent. And once the Cold War ended, the notion that the United States had
become the world’s dominant force was more credible.
Thus began the current phase of anti-Americanism: the belief that the United
States had taken over the world or could easily do so since there was no one to block
its ambitions. Given the immediacy and extent of the danger it is understandable that
contemporary anti-Americanism be more passionate and shrill.
The starkness of the choice seems clear to the anti-Americans: it is a
struggle that is simultaneously global in nature and one waged by each country or
culture. Either France will stave off the American challenge or have to submit to a
U.S.-dominated globalization. Either the Arab world will defeat the offensive or turn
into a string of American puppet regimes whose society will be remade into an
imitation of the United States.
Such events as the September 11, 2001, attacks are interpreted by antiAmericans as just retribution for America’s evil deeds and signs of a resistance
movement of the world’s people in self-defense. By the same token, American
actions, like the retaliatory attack on Afghanistan or the war with Iraq, are interpreted
as further proof of America’s brutal behavior and boundless ambitions.
A fairly new feature of the latest phase of anti-Americanism is a relatively
America-centric view of the world and its problems. Previously, of course, the role of
the United States was a minor or secondary feature of the international scene. It was a
weak force at first, and later it was balanced by other countries and concerns. After
1990, though, the United States could certainly be called the world’s most important
state possessing the most powerful culture, and the most influential ideas. In short, it
had become and was recognized as such as the dominant civilization against which all
others must be measured.
According to the new more militant version of anti-Americanism, then, not
only was America a threat to the world but the cause of everyone else’s problems .Its
achievements were based not on the virtues of its system, ideas, and institutions but
rather on the massive oppression and exploitation of the world. America’s higher
level of development was at everyone else’s expense and, by the same token, the
relative failure of others to duplicate it was due to America’s sins. Rather than, what it
was in practice--a reluctant activist in the world--America was portrayed as a vampire
whose life depended on sucking other’s blood.
4. Political Utility
At the turn of the twenty-first century, the United States was simultaneously
extraordinarily important, alien to most of the world, and represented a certain set of
ideas and specific system. As a result of these and other factors, anti-Americanism
had an enormous political utility for a wide variety of groups, ideologies, regimes, and
social sectors. Mobilizing opposition to the United States was a splendid way of
gaining support for oneself. Indeed, the strength of contemporary anti-Americanism is
a measure of its tremendous utility for those deploying it as an awesome political
Aside from dictatorial regimes and revolutionary movements, the main
social strata to which anti-Americanism appealed as a political and ideological tool
was intellectuals and cultural figures. Most obviously, of course, as a mass, leastcommon-denominator society, the United States had never been a favorite of such
groups, even within its own borders. High standards, elitism, the dream of a “perfect”
society, and resentment that power was held by others were among their traditional
complaints which were intensified in the new era.
In addition, though, the rise of America to center-stage also coincided with
major ideological developments. There was a crisis of the left after the downfall of
Marxism for which anti-Americanism filled the vacuum. The struggle of the
proletariat against capitalism was obviously obsolete and so was the post-1960s’
variations of Third World revolutions to create socialist states. China, for example,
was moving toward capitalism, and prospects for such revolutions elsewhere in the
world were dim.
The new leftist ideology, which has no name and even denies its own
existence, has anti-Americanism as its central tenet. It is not capitalism or imperialism
as such that dominates the world (after all, their own countries are also capitalist), but
America, American capitalism and American imperialism (economic, military and
Karl Marx had said that religion was the opiate of the masses and another
nineteenth-century thinker had defined antisemitism as the socialism of fools. Now
anti-Americanism would become a similar type of substitute. It offered comfort to the
masses as a way to explain their current problems while offering a structured hate in
place of constructive solutions.
Within the West, the anti-Americans saw the task as uniting their own nation
(allowing the left to play the nationalist card and rightists to join in) against the
external American threat. Europe as a whole, too, would be merged into a new great
power to contest the American colossus and, indeed, the new European identity would
be defined in opposition to the United States.
Europe would also have a new role which would allow it to power in the
world: as leader of an alliance with the Third World to fight American hegemony.
Ironically, those who condemned America for supporting dictatorships during the
Cold War were now ready, on the basis of far less urgency or necessity, to back the
most brutal regimes and totalitarian ideologies as part of their “free world” coalition.
While anti-Americanism had relatively little appeal in Africa or Asia in
general or even in its old stronghold of Latin America, the new center for this doctrine
in the Third World was the Middle East and Islamic communities. This was due to a
number of factors far more important than any specific regional issues.
More than any other part of the Third World, the Arab states and Iran selfconsciously resisted Westernizing and modernizing influences in the name of their
own doctrines, Arabism and Islam. They had also done very badly for themselves in
political terms. They were controlled by the world’s highest concentration of
dictatorships, regimes which did not fulfill their promises but which the people could
not displace. Economically and socially they lagged behind the rest of the world as
well. Rather than resolve these deadlocks through intensive debate and massive
change, it was easier to put the blame on foreigners.
For the failed Arab nationalists and failed revolutionary Islamists, antiAmericanism explained their inability to seize power or transform society without
necessitating any change in their ideas or threat to their material privileges. It was
safer to berate America than to challenge regimes that were quite ready to punish or
kill them for such activity. Condemning the non-Muslim foreigner was also more
popular with the masses than assassinating Muslim officials of the state or shooting
up villages and cities. And the attacks of September 11 seemed to show that this new
doctrine was the way to a victory that had so long eluded them.
. The role of the states themselves was also important. The first country
actually to use anti-Americanism as a political tool had been Prussia in the late 18th
century. King Frederick the Great’s regime hired people to write anti-American tracts.
Since Prussia had no colonies in the New World, it wanted to portray that area as
worthless any way. In addition, it sought to stem a growing migration there which
turned Prussian peasants into British subjects. But this was a pretty small-scale
Large-scale sponsorship of anti-Americanism really comes with the Soviet
Union and Nazi Germany. Anti-Americanism was systematically manufactured in
those countries and their satellite states as well among the movements and
intellectuals supporting them. Many of the basic arguments today, the rhetoric used,
and the cases cited are descendants of that state-sponsored anti-Americanism,
especially the Communist-created versions.
It was only natural, though, that people, movements, and countries which
had alternative systems for organizing the world would view the American model as a
principal rival that had to be discredited and defeated. The attractiveness of the United
States for others was a spur to anti-Americanism long before American power
appeared as a direct rival for others proposing a formula for humanity’s future
conduct. More broadly speaking, the creation of an external enemy has long been an
effective way of organizing people behind oneself. The creation of an American
bogey-man is today the apex of this xenophobia strategy.
This was an especially urgent task for the failed dictatorial regimes in the
Arab world and Iran. They have failed to deliver a better life to their people. They
have failed to deliver a growing economy. They have offer human rights and civil
liberties. But if they are in a permanent state of war for survival, these shortcomings
can be forgiven. They are necessary in the service of a larger cause and the
responsibility for them lies not with the rulers but with the Americans. Anyone who
does not support the regime, everyone who demands reforms, suspiciously similar to
what is done in America no doubt, can be portrayed as a traitor to the country and an
American agent.
The dictatorship explains, “Why is it that we cannot have fair elections, free
speech, equal rights for women, or a free enterprise economy? Because these are all
American imports designed to destroy our identity and undermine our religion so the
United States will dominate us. It is as if a corpulent ruler is lying on a hammock,
supported by a tree on one end and a poor peasant on the other. The dictator explains,
“Those terrible Americans want to take a way our tree!”
But using nationalist and religious appeals, along with ample disinformation
and censorship, this argument can be sold to the masses. All social institutions can be
mobilized for the anti-American struggle. This includes teaching in schools, religious
sermons, and the mass media, the speeches of government officials and the
communiqués of revolutionary movements. Messages favorable to the United States,
or even representing its society or policies fairly, are censored out. The result of this
conditioning is an anti-American public.
Anti-Americanism is strengthened by the fact that the very opposition
movements that want to overthrow these regimes concur in their anti-Americanism.
To discredit their enemies, the revolutionary Islamists or super-radical nationalists
also blame the United States for all the world’s problems. The regimes also benefit
from this strategy since the more responsibility is put on the United States, the more
the focus of revolutionary violence and criticisms is directed away from the rulers.
Of course, even in democratic countries an institutionalized antiAmericanism can be in the interests of political sectors and social groups. Some
Europeans see it as a key ingredient in the construction of a peaceful and united
Europe, gaining its identity in opposition to everything American. On the crudest and
short-term level, anti-Americanism was used by Germany’s faltering Social
Democratic government to win an election in 2002.
France provides many good example of this situation. For example, the
producers of food, films, and fashions there face tough competition from American
products which may have more appeal to the public. Demeaning American cultural or
gustatory products and those who produce them is a good way of undercutting rivals.
This is especially true since much of the basis of French society is a state system
subsidizing an over-sized peasantry and a heavily protected intellectual class.
American farm products threaten the former, while the American model of society
based on mass, market culture is a life-and-death threat to the latter.
In short, to use contemporary jargon so often deployed by the producers of
anti-Americanism themselves, anti-Americanism is an ideological construct,
artificially produced to benefit the material interests of those that create it. It is a
systematic promotion along the lines of chauvinism, racialism, and hatred of the
other. Concealing these true origins is designed to give legitimacy to a doctrine which
is not well-rooted in evidence.
5. The Distortion of American Society and Policy
One of the fictions of anti-Americanism is that it opposes only U.S. policy
and not American values or society. These claims are often contradicted by the
writings of the anti-Americans themselves. But this is not the only issue, for there is
the question of how the policies are understood. This is a matter of perceptions and
presentations. Anti-Americans often make U.S. policies seem evil by misrepresenting
them. They can then respond that they are only speaking up with righteous
indignation as victims of America. Atrocities are made up, conspiracies are
constructed, honest motives or positive actions are ignored.
What is particular striking about many anti-American statements and
arguments was the outpouring of passionate hatred accompanying them. Intellectuals,
cultural figures, journalists, academics or others who supposedly have an interest in
reason, rationality and truth suddenly seem to lose control in their unbridled eagerness
to define and denounce America as evil.
Such ideas are no longer coming from the realm of honest inquiry or serious
thought but from that of witch-hunt and vicious prejudice. They partake of a sort of
wild joy at taking a holiday from responsibility, as if the teachers had begun spraypainting the school’s walls with obscene graffiti.
One of the things that most angers anti-Americans is when fellow countrymen
say that America might have something useful to offer their own society. This is rank
betrayal, a sign that the enemy is indeed about to complete its conquest. As one
British writer complains that politicians constantly claim things are::
“Done far better in the United States before announcing policies to further the
Americanization of Britain. We must have their damned highway [system]….What
next? U.S.-style justice which leaves the poor and disenfranchised without half-decent
lawyers, merciless boot camps and barbaric death chambers? Or a health service
which can give you wondrous help if you are middle class but which fails millions of
others who cannot afford to have the right kind of insurance? And schools and
neighborhoods grossly divided along race and class lines?”439
America, once disdained in Britain as too egalitarian, was now savaged for
allegedly being the opposite. Often, as in this case, anti-Americanism is put in the
context of a losing battle accompanied by bitterness that the obviousness of that
country’s evil nature is not obvious to everyone. In the words of another left-wing
British writer:
“All around you, you can hear people choosing to ignore the fact that America
is greatly responsible for turning the earth into an open sewer--culturally, morally and
physically--and harping on instead about American `energy’ and `can-do.’ Of course,
nine times out of ten, that energy is the energy of the vandal, psychotic or manic
depressive, fuelling acts of barbarism and destruction from My Lai [a massacre by
U.S. troops in Vietnam] to Eminem [a rap musician]; and it's a shame that that
legendary can-do usually translates as can-do crime, can-do imperialism and can-do
poisoning the seas.”440
In the aftermath of September 11, the publisher of Le Monde, Jean-Marie
Colombiani, was explaining that the United States violates all the world’s laws,
glories in the death penalty, and treats its own minorities in a racist fashion.
Moreover, it is a fundamentalist Christian state which thus has no right to criticize
fundamentalist Muslim ones.441
Once the United States and its policies are distorted it is a simple manner to
see September 11 as justified, as Jean Baudrillard wrote in the same newspaper by
saying that “all the world without exception” also dreamed of destroying “a power
that has become hegemonic....It is they who acted, but we who wanted the deed."442
The problem with such distortions is that soon America is considered capable
(and thus guilty) of every crime. Thierry Meyssan, a member of the French lunatic
fringe proved that, when it came to America, the lunatics were becoming mainstream
and vice-versa. He wrote a book entitled L'Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying
Fraud) claiming that September 11 was in fact a propaganda stunt by American
intelligence agencies and the military-industrial complex to justify military
intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq.
This book became a gigantic commercial success in France and other
European countries, with Meyssan also being lionized in the Arab world. But even
while few in the West—the Arab world was a different story—believed that the
United States faked the attacks—Meyssan’s idea that September 11 was a mere
excuse for advancing the American goal of world domination was widely accepted by
In April 2002, only 48 percent of Germans considered the United States a
guarantor of world peace compared with 62 percent who did so in 1993. Meanwhile,
47 percent considered the U.S. war on terrorism as aggressive, with only 34 percent
seeing it as justified.443 What could be more shocking than the fact that
German polls showed that twenty percent of the population—rising to
thirty-three percent among those below the age of thirty--believed
the U.S. government might have sponsored the attack on itself. 444
The following year, The CIA and September 11, published by a reputable
German company and written by former minister of research and technology Andreas
von Bulow, suggested that U.S. and Israeli intelligence blew up the World Trade
Center from the inside, with the planes being a mere distraction. This was said to be
the start of an American conservative plot to take over the world. The book was soon
on the best-seller list, as were left-wing American writings that made similar
accusations. In June 2003 a German government-run television station broadcast a
documentary claiming that no airplane ever crashed in Pennsylvania. In cover stories
with titles like “blood for oil” and “warriors of god,” the German newsweekly Der
Spiegel described U.S. policy as a conspiracy to control the world fomented and led
by the oil industry or Christian right-wingers.445 Not to be outdone, a Stern magazine
cover showed an American missile piercing the heart of a dove of peace.446
Mary Kaldor, a professor at London School of Economics, came close to
Meyssan’s position: “It could be argued that if September 11 had not happened, the
American military-industrial complex might have had to invent it. Indeed, what
happened on September 11 could have come out of what seemed to be the wild
fantasies of 'asymmetric threats' that were developed by American strategic analysts
as they sought a new military role for the United States after the end of the Cold
Mainstream politicians were also driven to crackpot extremes. Member of the
British parliament and former environmental minister Michael Meacher claimed that
the September 11 attacks were definitely known about in advance by the U.S.
government and possibly even planned by America. The U.S. goal was to use this as
an excuse to seek to dominate space and cyberspace, overthrow China and Iran, and
permanently occupy the Persian Gulf region to secure the globe’s oil fields. It was
nothing short of “a blueprint for U.S. world domination” using the “bogus cover” of a
“so-called ‘war on terrorism.’”448
The flavor of such thought can also be gleaned by an extended quotation from
Guardian columnist Charlotte Raven, explaining:
“The United States might benefit from an insight into what it feels like to be
knocked to your knees by a faceless power deaf to everything but the logic of its own
crazed agenda. There's nothing shameful about this position. It is perfectly possible to
condemn the terrorist action and dislike the US just as much as you did before….
“If anti-Americanism has been seized, temporarily, by forces that have done
dreadful things in its name, there is no reason for its adherents to retreat from its basic
precepts. America is the same country it was before September 11. If you didn't like it
then, there's no reason why you should have to pretend to now. All those who see its
suffering as a kind of absolution should remember how little we've seen that would
support this reading. A bully with a bloody nose is still a bully and, weeping apart,
everything the U.S. body politic has done in the week since the attacks has confirmed
its essential character.”
In other words, anti-Americanism was too important to leave in the hands of
the terrorists. It should return to control by those responsible people who recognized
that the United States was evil but were not themselves seeking to seize the globe on
behalf of radical Islamism.
The difference between the Middle East and Europe was not so much the
tenor of the arguments or the wildness of the claims but the fact that a higher
proportion of people voiced and believed them. Unlike Europe, the anti-Americans
were allowed to dominate the debate and there was no check on their veracity or
accuracy. This was in large part because so many regimes sponsored antiAmericanism while groups and classes sought to use it for their own political benefit.
Consider here a few examples of extreme—but far from unique--distortion
and misrepresentation. The Egyptian media, or at least television, radio, and the
mainstream newspapers, are controlled by the Egyptian government. Nothing will
appear there which the regime of President Husni Mubarak does not like. At the same
time, Egypt is generally considered America’s most important ally in the Arab world.
It annually received $2 billion in aid, is eligible to buy advanced military equipment,
and gains U.S. support on a number of issues of importance to the Egyptian
At the same time, though, this same government permits, and no doubt
encourages, its media to engage in the most extreme anti-American agitation. This
incitement justifies and no doubt helps inspire opposition to U.S. positions and
interests, hatred for Americans, and even violent attacks on citizens and property.
It can be claimed that such activities represent spontaneous rejection of U.S.
policies but this is untrue on two points. First, such things are encouraged (and not
discouraged) officially. Second, they involve such distortions as to constitute
propaganda. If after being affected by such materials over decades, the average
Egyptian dislikes the United States and considers its policies to be evil, this is hardly
surprising. In short, anti-Americanism is a constructed phenomenon, created for
deliberate purposes.
Fatma Abdallah Mahmoud writes for al-Akhbar, Egypt’s second most
important newspaper. In August 2003, after the U.S. overthrow of Iraqi dictator
Saddam Hussein and the killing of his sons—themselves responsible for much torture
and murder—in a gun battle, she wrote an article which defined the United States as
being on a level with cannibals, that is “primitive, barbaric, blood-letting creatures
[who] lived by killing their human enemies, tearing their bodies apart” and so on.449
This explanation is made “scientific” by quoting the definition of cannibal from a
Western source, i.e., the French Larousse dictionary.
: The article goes on to explain that America “destroys, annihilates, and
plunders treasure and oil” from various countries while perpetrating “abhorrent
crimes” in Iraq, Liberia, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Palestine. Everywhere evil deeds
are carried out by the “children and grandchildren of the gangs of pirates and bloodletters who run [U.S.] policy.” But this is not the mere product of anything done by
the Bush administration alone since Americans are “the grandsons and sons of the
original criminals, who plundered North America and murdered its original
inhabitants, the Indians, to the last man.” There is no basic difference between their
“repulsive and loathsome present and their black past, [blood]stained with crime and
Not content with mere analysis, the author calls on the world’s people to
fight America and kill Americans, cheering on “the peoples waging Jihad” against
them. In this context, of course, the attacks of September 11, 2001, are fully justified
and appropriate operations.
Here are contained many elements of anti-Americanism. It includes a
condemnation of America as a civilization without redeeming qualities, whose history
has poisoned its present. There is also a dehumanization of America into a virtually
satanic force alongside the false creation of. An alleged unrestrained American drive
for world conquest grounded in theft alongside the creation or extreme exaggeration
of atrocities.
No mention is made of the motives for American action, the overthrow of an
Afghan government which helped bring about the September 11 attacks; a single
bombing raid on Libya after that regime carried out terrorist attacks on Americans.
There is no hint of the savagery of the Saddam Hussein regime which murdered so
many Arabs and Muslims. And of course no positive mention of any American deed
is permitted.
This is, then, the most primitive type of war and hate propaganda. It is a type
of material which has appeared in thousands of examples—of various levels of
sophistication and hysteria--across the Arab world and Iran for decades. And it is
unbalanced by other articles or broadcasts which portray a different view of America.
In comparison with such generalized anti-Americanism, there are also many
examples of focused anti-Americanism, often involved with conspiracy theories. The
general proposition that the United States is responsible for everything that goes
wrong in the Middle East (or the world), for all problems and suffering, is reinforced
with examples.
On August 31, 2003, Egypt’s leading newspaper, al-Ahram, ran such an
editorial. The editor of al-Ahram--who himself wrote that the United States dropped
poisoned food on Afghanistan to murder civilians—was a personal friend of Mubarak
and head of the Egyptian journalist organization. Thus, he is the regime’s official
paragon of journalism, its direct pipeline into the press.
In this editorial, the Egyptian government, through its mouthpiece, accuses
the United States of responsibility for a bombing at the holiest site in Najaf, Iraq,
itself a holy city of the Shia Muslims, which took the lives of many victims and the
wounding of even more. The successful intent was the murder of Ayatollah
Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim. The article then goes on to accuse the United States of
responsibility for this and other terrorist atrocities in Iraq, including bombings of UN
headquarters and the Jordanian embassy.450
The trumped-up charge is based on no evidence except the fact that the
targets were supposedly against the U.S. presence in Iraq. This was even factually
untrue since the Jordanians had agreed to help (by training the new Iraqi army) while
the UN had begun to participate in this effort. Even the targeted ayatollah had been
friendly toward the U.S. presence. In short, not only was a false charge of conspiracy
laid against the United States but the evidence was systematically distorted to support
this libel.
The editorial also distorts events to suggest that demonstrations after the
event: “were all in agreement that the occupation forces were responsible for this
incident, as part of their effort to provoke conflict among the Shia and between the
Shia and the Sunnis.” In fact, the demonstrations did criticize the U.S. forces, but only
for not being more effective in killing those responsible who were identified by them
as Sunnis. The documented claim that those responsible for the incidents were
Islamist terrorists was dismissed as sheer American “propaganda aimed at causing
world-wide damage to Muslims.” The editorial then calls on the Iraqi people to unite
and fight the true enemy, the United States.
Again, there are the hallmarks of contemporary (though to a large extent
also historic) anti-Americanism. The United States is all-powerful and all-evil. It is
responsible for terrorism and conducts propaganda to blame it on others, paralleling
the interpretation of September 11 as an American plot which was so prevalent in the
Egyptian media. There are no real differences among Arabs or Muslims (or other
groups in the world) except those invented or fomented by the United States.
Finally, it should be noted that these are not mere words but incitements to
further violence. To tell Muslims that the United States had deliberately murdered a
high-ranking cleric and scores of others Muslims and that it was slandering and
dividing Muslims so they would kill each other was to encourage future acts of
terrorism and murder against Americans.
Indeed, these and many other articles are merely replicas of the ideology of
Usama bin Ladin.
To say in the wake of such materials that the United States is unpopular
because of its policies is to ignore the point that these policies have already been
defined as the most vile, criminal, murderous, and imperialistic acts possible by every
media outlet in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries plus the satellite
Arabic networks and newspapers based in London and elsewhere as well.
The contrary case is not permitted to be heard and the actual actions and
motives of the United States are systematically distorted. The result, then, is not antiAmericanism based on spontaneous mass sentiment or even honest misunderstanding
but on carefully coordinated propaganda based on material self-interest. In contrast to
honest criticism of American society or sincere questioning of American policies,
this is an accurate definition of the anti-Americanism phenomenon.
Abdel Mahdi Abdallah, “Anti-Americanism in the Arab World, a Socio-Political
Dr. Abdel Mahdi Abdallah is an expert in Arab politics. He holds a Ph.D. in
Political Sociology from Keele University and has worked at several research
centers across the Middle East. His recent works have dealt with Islam,
Democracy, the Arab state and the West; political reform in the Arab World;
and obstacles towards democracy in the Arab World.
Cameron Brown, “Middle East Anti-Americanism: September 11 and Beyond”
Assistant Director of GLORIA Center, is also assistant editor
of MERIA Journal. He is completing his Masters degree in the
contemporary Middle East at the Hebrew University and holds a BA from the
University of Illinois in political science. He has written for the MERIA Journal on
Azerbaijan, Israeli elections, and Middle East reactions to September 11th.
Patrick Clawson, “Big Satan No More: Iranians’ View of America”
Dr. Clawson is deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy. He recently co-edited The Last Arab-Israeli Battlefield? Implications of an
Israeli Withdrawal from Lebanon, (The Washington Institute, 2000). He is the author
of more than thirty scholarly articles on the Middle East, which appeared in Foreign
Affairs, International Economy, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics and
Middle East Journal, among other journals. Dr. Clawson has written op-ed articles in
the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, among other newpapers.
He has testified before Congressional committees more than a dozen times. He was
co-convenor of the Presidential Study Group organized by The Washington Institute,
which issued Navigating Through Turbulence: America and the Middle East in a New
Century (The Washington Institute, 2001). Dr. Clawson is senior editor of Middle
East Quarterly. He graduated with a Ph.D. from the New School for Social Research
and a B.A. from Oberlin College. He speaks Persian (Farsi), French, Spanish,
German, and Hebrew.
Adel Darwish, “Arab Media: Purveying Anti-Americanism”
has been a journalist covering international affairs for thirty-five years. He has written
for the Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, and The Middle East, and
contributes to several American papers. He has written several books on Iraq,
political terrorism, Islamist movement, water, the spread of missile technology in the
Middle East, and modern Iran.
Mark Falcoff, “Latin America: The Rise and Fall of Yankee Go Home"
Mark Falcoff is a resident scholar at AEI the American Enterprise Institute
for Public Policy Research. He researches Latin America, and is the author of AEI's
Latin American Outlook which is published monthly. He is a former professional staff
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a senior consultant to the
National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, chaired by Henry Kissinger.
He was a Member of the United States Delegation to the U.N. Human Rights
Commission, 2003; and a Visiting fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, 1987-1988.
He holds a Ph.D. in political science, Princeton University. Most recent books are:
Cuba the Morning After and The Cuban Revolution and the United States
Hillel Frisch, “The Palestinian Media and Anti-Americanism: A Case Study”
Hillel Frisch is a senior lecturer in the Departments of Political Studies and Middle
East History in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Countdown to
Statehood: Palestinian State Formation in the West Bank and Gaza (State University
of New York Press, 1998) and many articles on Palestinian and Arab politics in
leading political science and area journals such as Journal of Peace Research, Journal
of Strategic Studies, IJMES and others. An essay on nationalism in the Middle East
appeared in The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (Academic Press, 2001) and an article
in Middle Eastern Studies on Israel’s Arab citizens and the Arab world is soon to be
Yossi Klein Halevi, “Twin Hatreds: Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitisim"
is a contributing editor and Israel correspondent of the
New Republic, and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.
He is author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for
God with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land," published in 2001 by
Morrow. The Los Angeles Times wrote: "Seldom has a religiously themed book
been as prescient and deserving of attention." The novelist Cynthia Ozick
called it “a permanent masterwork.” He is currently writing a book about the Israeli
paratroopers who reunited Jerusalem in 1967 and what happened to them over the
next 35 years.
Stefani Hoffman “No Love From Russia”
Dr. Stefani Hoffman received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1975 and made
aliya to Israel with her family in that year. She has worked in various research institutes
at Hebrew University and is currently director of the Mayrock Center for Russian,
Eurasian, and East European Research. Recent publications include “Russia’s Diasporas:
The Case of the Russian-speaking Community in Israel,” in Collection of Papers from
the Conference “The Future of the Russian State,” March 2002, Liechtenstein to appear
at Columbia's CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online; “Russia and Israel:
Reality and Potential” (Hebrew). Jews of the Former Soviet Union in Israel and the
Diaspora, no. 20-21, Jerusalem, 2002;“Russian Foreign Policy: An Overview,” in
“Russia Enters the New Millennium,” The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review, guest editor
Stefani Hoffman (no. 1, 2000). She is also one of the editors of From Pacesetters to
Dropouts: Post-Soviet Youth in Comparative Perspective (Lanham, Md: Univesrity
Press of America, 2003).
Robert Lieber, “Why Do They Hate Us and Why Do They Love Us?”
ROBERT J. LIEBER is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at
Georgetown University, where he also has served as Chair of the
Government Department and Interim Chair of Psychology. He is author or
editor of thirteen books on international relations and U.S. foreign
policy. His latest book, of which he is editor and contributing
author, is Eagle Rules? Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the 21st
Century (NY: Prentice-Hall and the Woodrow Wilson International Center
for Scholars, 2002.)
Fiamma Nirenstein, “Anti-Americanism Italian Style”
is a journalist and a columnist specialized in Middle East,she is the author of several
books about the palestinian israeli conflict, jewish subjects, human rights. She teaches
history of the Middle Eats in Luiss University, in Rome, but lives most of the time in
Reuven Paz, “The Islamist Perspective”
Founder and Director of The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM),
GLORIA Center, The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, Israel, and lecturer in the Lauder
School of Government, The Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, on “Islamic movements.”
He has published over 27 Academic articles in the fields of Palestinian society and
politics, the Israeli Arabs and Palestinian and Arab Islamic movements, Islamic
movements and anti-Semitism, and Islamist international networks. He has also
published over 48 articles on various issues in the field of terrorist groups and Islamist
terrorism. His PhD is from Haifa University, history of the Middle East. Ph.D.
Dissertation on "The development of the Palestinian Islamic movements in the Occupied
Territories - 1967-1988".
Josh Pollack, “Total Opposites: Saudia Arabia and America”
Josh Pollack is a Washington, DC-based defense policy consultant. His recent
work on Saudi-American relations includes articles in MERIA Journal and
Limes: Rivista Italiana di Geopolitica.
Barry Rubin, “The Usefulness of Anti-Americanism”
Professor Barry Rubin has been researching foreign policy toward the Middle
East as well as Arab politics for 30 years. He is currently director of
the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the
Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. He is also the editor
of both Turkish Studies and Middle Eastern Review of International Affairs
(MERIA). Professor has written 16 monographs, and contributed over 50 book
chapters. Among his most recent books are Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography
(Oxford University Press, 2003), (coauthored with Judith Colp Rubin),
The Tragedy of the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2002),
(co-edited with Judith Colp Rubin) Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle
East (Oxford University Press, 2002), (co-edited). He also writes The Jerusalem
Post’s Middle East column. His articles have appeared in The New York Times,
Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Middle East
Quarterly, and many other publications. He has received fellowships or grants from
the Fulbright Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Institute of
Peace, the Harry Guggenheim Foundation, Johns Hopkins University Foreign Policy
Institute, and Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Judith Colp Rubin, “Degenerates, Bores and Materialists”
Judith Colp Rubin is a journalist and author of Yasir Arafat: A Political Biography
(Oxford University Press, 2003), (coauthored with Barry Rubin) and (co-edited with
Barry Rubin) Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle East (Oxford University
Press, 2002).
Bret Stephens, “United and Divided Against America”
Editor in Chief of The Jerusalem Post. A former editorial writer with The Wall Street
Journal, Mr. Stephens is a native of Mexico City and holds degrees from the
University of Chicago and The London School of Economics.
Ferdinand Kurnberger, Der Amerikamude cited in JW. Schulte Nordholt, “AntiAmericanism in Europe: Its Early Manifestations,” in Karl Kaiser and Hans-Peter
Schwartz, eds., America and Western Europe: Problems and Prospects (Lexington:
Lexington Books, 1977), p. 16.
Dan Diner, America in the Eyes of the Germans: An Essay on Anti-Americanism
(Princeton: Markus Wiener, 1986), p. 36.
Antonello Gerbi, Dispute of the New World (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh,
1973), pp. 375-6.
Diner, America in the Eyes of the Germans: An Essay on Anti-Americanism, p. 36.
John Keats, “To-What Can I do to Drive Away,” 1819, downloaded from
For a comprehensive biography of Buffon see Jacques Roger, Buffon: A Life in
Natural History (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1997).
Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, p. 4.
Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, p. 4; Gilbert Chinard, “18th Century Theories on
America as Human Habitat,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, No.
1 (1947), p. 30.
Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina, 1955), p. 47; Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, p. 3.
Chinard, “18th Century Theories on America as Human Habitat,” p. 30; Gerbi,
Dispute of the New World, p. 5.
Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, pp. 58-9; Chinard, “18th Century Theories
on America as Human Habitat,” p. 31.
Chinard, “18th Century Theories on America as Human Habitat,” p. 32; Gerbi,
Dispute of the New World, pp. 7-8.
Durand Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of
American Society to 1815, (New York: Octagon, 1966), p. 7.
Adolph Benson, (ed.), The America of 1750: Peter Kalm's Travels in North
America The English Version of 1770, Vol. 1. (New York: Dover, 1966), p. 56.
Henry Steele Commager and Elmo Giordanetti, Was America a Mistake? An
Eighteenth Century Controversy (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 85.
Ibid., pp. 93-102.
Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American
Society to 1815, p. 14; Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, p. 64; Gerbi, Dispute
of the New World, pp. 47-48.
Chinard, “18th Century Theories on America as Human Habitat,” p. 36.
Commager and Giordanetti, Was America a Mistake?, pp. 12-14.
Paul Leicester Ford, (ed.), Works of Thomas Jefferson, (New York: G.P Putnam,
1904), Vol. III, p. 458.
Gerbi, Dispute of The New World, pp. 154-6; Chinard, “18th Century Theories on
America as Human Habitat,” pp. 37-8.
Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society
to 1815, p. 128.
Ibid., p. 128.
Louis Marie Turreau de Linieres, Apercu sur la situation politique des Etats-Unis
d’ame’rique (Paris, 1815), pp. 137-138 as quoted in Echeverria, Mirage in the West:
A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815, p. 247.
Echeverria, Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American
Society to 1815, p. 248.
Philippe Roger, Rêves et Cauchemars Américains: Les Etats-Unis au Miroir de
L'opinion Publique Française, 1945-1953 (Paris: Seuil, 1998), p. 25.
Gerald Emanuel Stearn, (ed.), Broken Image: Foreign Critiques of America
(London: George Allen & Unwin, 1975), pp. 14-15.
Henry Reeve, et al (eds.), Democracy in America, Vol. 1 (New York: A. Knopf), p.
Ibid., pp. 260-263.
Ibid., pp. 265-267.
Ibid., pp. 438-439.
Ibid., p. 479.
Ibid., p. 204.
Frederick Marryat, A Diary in America with Remarks on its Institutions, second
series, II, p. 247, as quoted in Max Berger, The British Traveler in America, 1836-60
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1943), p. 106.
Frederick Marryat, A Diary in America, with Remarks on its Institutions, Second
Series, II, pp. 247-8 as quoted in Berger, The British Traveler in America, 1836-60, p.
Marryat, A Diary in America, ( London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green &
Longmans, 1839) Vol. 2, p. 31.
Diner, America in the Eyes of the Germans, p. 38.
Gerbi, Dispute of the New World, p. 478 n133.
Simon Schama, “The Unloved American,” New Yorker, March 10, 2003.
Peter Conrad, Imagining America (New York: Oxford, 1982), p. 32. Although
Trollope gave lip service to there being many positive things—nine hundred and
ninety-nine out of a thousand, she said at one point--she did not seem to find many.
Michael Sadlier, “Introduction,” Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans, pp.
Trollope, Domestic Manners of the Americans, p. 39.
Ibid., p. 363.
James. C. Simmons, Star-Spangled Eden (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2000), pp.
127-8. At the time there was a popular myth that when frightened the ostrich put its
head into the ground and thought no one could see it.
Charles Dickens, American Notes, (New York: St. Martins, 1985), pp. 193-5.
G.T. Hollyday, Anti-Americanism in the German Novel, 1841-1861 (Berne: P.
Lang, 1977), p. 27.
Nordholt, “Anti-Americanism in European Culture: Its Early Manifestations,” p.
In the novel, Lucien Leuwen cited in Philippe Roger, L’Ennemi Américain (Paris:
Seuil, 2002), pp. 84-85.
Nordholt, “Anti-Americanism in European Culture: Its Early Manifestations,” p.
M.L.E. Moreau de Saint-Me’ry, Moreau de St. Méry's American journey 1793-1798
(New York: Doubleday, 1947), pp. 281-287.
Hollyday, Anti-Americanism in the German Novel, p. 33.
Berger, The British Traveler in America, 1836-60, p. 84
RFE/RL Newsline, Part I, March 13, 17 and 27, 2003.
International Herald Tribune, April 4, 2003, p. 3. According to the same poll
conducted by Russia’s Public Opinion Foundation, the proportion of those who disliked
George W. Bush rose from 45 percent last year to 76 percent. In contrast, only 22 percent
said that they did not like Saddam Hussein; 48 percent were indifferent. “Poll Shows Saddam
More Popular Than Bush Among Russians,” CDI Russia Weekly April 4 2003, no. 2.
(Henceforth referred to simply as CDI, this source is a weekly e-mail newsletter compilation
of material on contemporary Russia. It is a project of the non-profit Center for Defense
Information in Washington D.C.) In an informal poll of television viewers in April 2003,
even when the question was phrased, “Do you agree with the President of Russia that our
country is not interested in the defeat of the U.S?” the majority of viewers did not agree with
their president. Izvestiia, April 11, 2003. Even an informal poll of its listeners by the liberal
minded Radio Ekho Moskvy showed a predominance of anti-American sentiments.
Aleksandr Dugin, “Byt’ russkim—znachit byt’ anti-amerikanskim, ili pochemu my
ne liubim Shtaty” (Being Russian means being anti-American, or why we don’t love the
States), Komsomol’skaia pravda, March 25, 2003.
A book that analyzes this complex process as exemplified by 19th and 20th century
Russian thinkers is Vladimir Kantor, Russkii Evropeets kak iavlenie kul’tury (Moscow:
Rosspen, 2001).
The distinguished historian of ancient Russia, Dmitri Likhachev, pointed out,
however, that, in fact, even before Peter, Russia was not entirely cut off from the West. He
emphasizes the cultural and spiritual ties linking early Russia with Europe. See Razdum’ia o
Rossii (St. Petersburg: Logos, 1999).
Kantor, op. cit, pp. 323-368.
Leonid Gozman and Alexander Etkind, The Psychology of Post-Totalitarianism in
Russia (London: The Centre for Research into Communist Economies, 1992).
Vladimir Shlapentokh, “The Changeable Soviet Image of America,” The Annals of
the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Vol. 497, May 1988, p. 169.
Valery Ponomarev, “Human Rights Group Measures Xenophobia in the Russian
Media,” CDI August 21, 2003, no. 5 (from Inostranets August 12, 2003); “‘The West’” in
Russian Mentality,” Guerman Diligensky, Sergei Chugrov, Institute of World Economy and
International Relations, Moscow.
Fedor Burlatskii, “SshA i SSSR,” (The U.S. and the USSR), Washington ProFile,
downloaded from <>
Robert D. English, Russia and the Idea of the West (New York: Columbia University
Press, 2000), p. 64 and ft. 68, p. 261.
Eric Shiraev and Vladislav Zubok, Anti-Americanism in Russia: From Stalin to
Putin (New York: Palgrave, 2000), p. 20.
For a discussion of the evolution in the 1960s and 1970s of a “westernizing
intellectual current” among a reformist-minded intelligentsia that was concerned about
foreign affairs see English, op. cit. chapters 3-5.
Vladimir Shlapentokh, “The Changeable Soviet Image of America,” p. 167.
For a study of the ideological climate of that period see Yitzhak Brudny, Reinventing
Russia: Russian Nationalism and the Soviet State, 1953-1991 (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1999). See also John Dunlop, The New Russian Revolutionaries (Belmont,
Mass, Nordland Press, 1976; Alexander Yanov, The Russian New Right: Right-Wing
Ideologies in the Contemporary USSR (Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, 1978).
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, "Obrazovanshchina," (The Smatterers) Is pod glyb (Paris:
YMCA-Press, 1974), p. 245.
For the nationalist revival starting in the 1980s see Judith Devlin, Slavophiles and
Commissars: Enemies of Democracy in Modern Russia (New York: St. Martin’s Press,
Shiraev, p. 27.
Shiraev, pp. 27-28, 42-43.
Yuri Levada, “After the Thaw (Russia’s Relations with the United States), The
Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2001, vol. 25.
See Vera Tolz, “A Search for a National Identity in Yeltsin’s and Putin’s Russia,
Restructuring Russia: The Post-communist Years (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
Gozman, p. 67-71.
Levada, loc. cit.; Shiraev, pp. 109-110, 115-122.
Vladimir Shlapentokh, “Aftermath of the Balkan war, the rise of anti-Americanism,
and the end of democracy in Russia,” World and I, (October 1999) v. 14 i10; Diligensky, p.
Andrei Kortunov, “Russian National Interests: The State of Discussion,” in Russia's
Place in Europe: A Security Debate, Kurt R. Spillmann, Andreas Wenger (eds.) (Bonn: Peter
Lang, 1999).; also Shiraev, op. cit. p. 89
CDI, February 1, 2003, no. 1.
Shiraev, p. 121.
See Vladimir Shlapentokh, “‘Old,’ ‘New’ and ‘Post’ Liberal Attitudes Toward the
West: From Love to Hate,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies, vol. 31, no. 3, pp. 199216; Jeff Trimble, “A new chill in the Russian air: post-Soviet infatuation with America is
fading,” U.S. News & World Report, September 13, 2003, p. 37.
Several articles deal in some way with Russian anti-Westernism / anti-Americanism
in the context of political and social developments in the post-Soviet period. Among those
that can be accessed on the internet are Andrei Kortunov, “Russian National Interests: The
State of Discussion”; Guerman Diligensky, Dr. Sergei Chugrov, “The West in Russian
Mentality,” Office for Information and Press, Brussels, and the Institute of World Economy
and International Relations, Moscow; John O’Loughlin, “Geopolitical Fantasies, National
Strategies and Ordinary Russians in the Post-Communist Era,” Institute of Behavioral
Science, University of Colorado; paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association
of American Geographers, Pittsburgh, PA, 6 April 2000; Nina L. Khrushcheva, “Cultural
Contradictions of Post-Communism: Why Liberal Reforms Did Not Succeed in Russia,”
Council on Foreign Relations, 2000.
For a discussion of the problem of terminology see Peter Rutland, “Russia's Broken
'Wheel Of Ideologies,'” Central Asia Revealed , vol. 4, no.1, June 1997; Wayne Allensworth,
The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernization, and Post-Communist Russia (Lanham,
Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 25-27. Cf. also, the comment that “The elections of
1996 showed that foreign policy questions occupied a very small place in the political
struggle.” Irina Kobrinskaia, “Vnutrennye faktory vneshnei politiki,” (Domestic factors of
foreign policy), Rossiia Politicheskaia (Moscow: Moscow Carnegie Center, 1998), p. 305.
Among the books that discuss a range of nationalists views in post-Soviet Russia are
Allensworth, op. cit. and Devlin, op. cit; on the fascists see Walter Laqueur, Fascism: Past,
Present, Future (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), pp. 178-197; Stephen D.
Shenfield, Russian Fascism: Traditions, Tendencies, Movements (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe,
A work that deals with this revival is Russian Thought After Communism: The
Recovery of a Philosophical Heritage, James P. Scanlan, ed. (New York, M.E. Sharpe, 1994).
For an enumeration of the characteristics of a modern society see Vladimir
Rukavishnikov, Tatiana Rukavishnikov, Anatolii Dmitriev, and Larisa Romanenko, “Civil
Society in Russia,” Russian Society in Transition, ed. Christopher Williams, Vladimir
Chuprov, Vladimir Staroverov (Aldershot: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1996), pp. 241-252.
Gennadi Ziuganov, Za Gorizontom (Over the horizon) (Moscow: Informpechat’,
1995), p. 3.
For a more detailed discussion of the views of such groups see Judith Devlin,.op.cit.
Sergei Sergeevich Khorzhuii, cited in James P. Scanlan, “Slavophilism in Recent
Russian Thought,” in Russian Thought After Communism, p. 43.
OMRI March 15, 1995.
Irina Lobacheva, “Kovarnyi Soros ne kovaren?” Kuranty, February 7, 1995.
A brief description of Eurasianism in English can be found in Gordon M. Hahn, “The
rebirth of Eurasianism,” CDI, July 18, 2002, no. 14 (from The Russian Journal).
For an example of this viewpoint see Alexei Kiva, “Slavic Character, Eurasian
Smile: Russia enters the new millennium as a superpower—without illusions,” CDI, July 20,
2001, no. 9 (from Parlamentskaia gazeta, July 19, 2001). These types tend to emphasize the
importance of Russia’s maintaining ties and influence in the near abroad and not neglecting
relations with large Eastern states such as India or China. See John O’Loughlin ,
“Geopolitical Fantasies, National Strategies and Ordinary Russians in the Post-Communist
Era,” loc. cit.
See Heikki Patomäki and Christer Pursianinen, “Western Models and the ‘Russian
Idea’: Beyond ‘Inside/Outside’ in Discourse on Civil Society,” Millennium: Journal of
International Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, pp. 53-77.
Aleksandr Panarin, “‘Vtoraia Evropa’ ili ‘Tretii Rim’” (A “Second Europe” or the
“Third Rome”), Voprosy Filosofii, October 1996, p. 21.
Ibid., p. 26; Panarin, “O Vozmozhnostiakh otechestvennoi kul’tury” (The
Possibilities of Native Culture), Novyi Mir, 1996, no. 9.
Panarin, “O Vozmozhnostiakh otechestvennoi kul’tury,” loc. cit.
For a brief exposition of Dugin’s views see Dmitry Shlapentokh “Russian
Nationalism Today: The Views of Alexander Dugin,” Contemporary Review, vol. 279, no.
1626 (July 2001), pp. 29-38; Allensworth, op. cit. pp. 248-262. For a more thorough
discussion in Russian of Dugin and the views of more esoteric neopagans see E. L. Moroz,
“Soblazniaiushchie vlast’: evraziiskii fantom,” (Enticing the Regime: the Eurasian phantom),
Bar’er, No. 7, 2002, pp. 21-48; also Shenfield, op. cit. pp. 191-199. Dugin himself
summarized his views in “Evraziistvo: ot filosofii k politike” (Eurasianism: From Philosophy
to Politics), Nezavisimaia gazeta, May 31, 2001.
Devlin, op. cit. p. 53.
Dugin, “Being Russian means being anti-American,” loc. cit.
As noted by Moroz, Dugin’s conceptions are based on the ideas of Karl Haushofer
and an inversion of the theories of Halford Mackinder, op. cit p. 36.
Dugin discusses the duality of the “Jewish type” in an article “Evrei i Evraziia”
(Jews and Eurasia), Zavtra, No. 47, November 1997, p. 4.
Moroz, op. cit., p. 42.; Tolz, op. cit.
For an interesting discussion of how Russian perceptions of Huntington’s and
Fukuyama’s visions contribute to anti-American attitudes among some Russian political
groups see Andrei P. Tsygankov, “The Irony of Western Ideas in a Multicultural World:
Russians’ Intellectual Engagement with the ‘End of History’ and ‘Clash of Civilizations,’”
International Studies Review (2003) 5, 53-76. On Huntington see also Patomäki and
Pursianinen, loc. cit., p. 71.
Panarin, “‘Vtoraia Evropa’ ili ‘Tretii Rim, ’” loc. cit., p. 28.
See Boris Kagarlitsky, “Roots of Anti-Americanism,” Moscow Times, April 9, 2002;
Aleksandr Panarin, “Miunkhen-38, Niurnberg-45, Praga-68…” reprinted from Trud in “Sem’
Dnei,” Novosti Nedeli, May 29, 2003; Dmitry Shlapentokh, “The New Anti-Americanism:
America as an Orwellian Society,” Partisan Review, vol. 49, no. 2 (April 2002).
On Putin’s post 9/11 foreign policy options see: Robert Levgold, “All the Way:
Crafting a U.S.-Russian Alliance,” The National Interest (Winter 20032/03), pp. 21-31;
Vladimir Shlapentokh, “Is the ‘Greatness Syndrome’ Ending?” The Washington Quarterly
Vol. 25, No.1 (2002), pp. 131-146; Angela Stent, “Russia: Farewell to Empire?” World
Policy Journal, No. 3 (Fall 2002), pp. 83-89.
Vladimir Kolossov, “‘High’ and ‘Low’ Geopolitics: Images of Foreign Countries in
the Eyes of Russian Citizens,” Geopolitics vol. 8, no. 1 (Spring 200; “Russian press says U.S.
lost many allies after post-Sept 11 goodwill,” CDI September 13, 2003 (from AFP September
11, 2003).
See Anatol Lieven, “The Secret Policemen’s Ball: the United States, Russia, and the
International Order after 11 September, International Affairs (April 2002); Lidiia
Andrusenko, Ol’ga Tropkina, “Misalliance with America,” Nezavisimaia gazeta, September
11, 2002; Leonid Radzikovskii, “Discovering America,” in CDI,April 11, 2003, no. 8 (from
Rossiiskaia gazeta, April 8, 2003).
Masha Lipman, “Russia’s Politics of Anti-Americanism,” Washington Post, April 6,
For example, Fyodor Lukyanov, “Lesson from Iraq: Foreign Policy Must Be
Unpopular,” CDI July 24, 2003 No. 14.
See, for example, Peter Lavelle, “Pardon My French, But Russian AntiAmericanism?” (from Asia Times, April 10, 2003), CDI April 11, 2003, no. 10; Lavelle,
“Whither Russia’s Anti-Americanism?" RFE/RFL Newsline, vol. 7, no. 71, Part I, April 14,
2003; Masha Lipman, “Russia’s Politics of Anti-Americanism,” Washington Post April 6,
See V. Shlapentokh, “‘Old’, ‘New’ and ‘Post’ Liberal Attitudes toward the West,”
loc. cit., pp. 208-210.
See Shiraev, p. 90; Levada, loc. cit. Diligensky, loc. cit., p. 25;. John O’Loughlin,
Johnson’s Russia List No. 4610, October 31, 2000.
CDI, September 26, 2003, No. 12.
“Russians mostly indifferent,” loc. cit.
Levada, loc., cit.
118. on April 28, 2003.
According to a poll by the ROMIR Institute (Russian Public Opinion and Market
Study) in late August and September 2003, 79 percent of Russians believed that their country
should develop in its own way and only 11 percent favored a Western democratic model.
CDI, October 3, 2003, No. 2.
Peter Lavelle, “Whither Russia’s Anti-Americanism?” RFE/RFL Newsline, No. 71,
Part I, April 14, 2003.
See, for example, “Implications of the Yukos Scandal for Russian Domestic Politics,
discussion meeting with Lilia Shevtsova….” September 16, 2003,; Lilia Shevtsova, “Whither Putin after the Yukos Affair?”
The Moscow, August 27, 2003; Pavel Felgenhauer, “Bleak Outlook Two Years
On,” CDI, September 11, 2003 (from The Moscow Times, September 11, 2003).
As some commentators point out, this is not the same as being pro-American or proWestern democracy and does not rule out support for an authoritarian system in Russia. See
Viktor Kremeniuk, “Russian Foreign Policy on Two Chairs: Is Moscow Capable of
Defending its Own Interests?” CDI, August 15, 2003, no. 11 (from Nezavisimaia gazeta
August 13, 2003).
Among the analysts advocating a pro-U.S., pro-Western course are “Andrei Ryabov,
“Russia to Set Traditional Foreign Policy Priorities,” CDI January 31, 2002, no. 7 (from Vek,
no. 4, 2002); Alexander Gol’ts, “New Friends, Enemies as Stage Changes,” CDI March 30,
2001, no. 4 (The Russian Journal, March 24-30, 2001); Dmitry Trenin, " Press Conference
with Carnegie Moscow Center Deputy Director Dmitry Trenin," June 4, 2001
(; Sergei Markov, “Another Chance for a Strategic Alliance,” The
Moscow, September 26, 2003.
See Michael A. McFaul, Testimony before U.S. House of Representatives,
Committee on International Relations, Sub-Committee on Europe on September 30, 2003,; Pavel Felgenhauer, “Putin’s
Foreign Policy
Schizophrenia,” The Wall Street Journal Online, September 23, 2003; Dmitry Shlapentokh
“Russian Nationalism Today: The Views of Alexander Dugin,” loc. cit.
Lavelle, “Whither.Russia’s Anti-Americanism?” loc. cit. On the ways in which the
appeal to anti-Americanism could backfire see also Lukyanov, “Lesson from Iraq,” loc. cit.;
McFaul, “Testimony,” loc. cit; Felgenhauer, “Putin’s Foreign Policy Schizophrenia,” loc. cit.
Shiraev, p. 140. Putin’s economic plans entail developing economic relations with
the U.S., particularly in the energy sphere but these efforts, even if successful, will not yield
substantive results for several years. See Yuri Filippov, “Will Energy Ties between Russia
and the USA be Expanded?”, CDI October 3, 2003, No. 11 (from RIA Novosti, October 2).
V. Shlapentokh, “Is the ‘Greatness Syndrome’ Ending?” loc.cit.
La Repubblica, August 24, 2003
Il Manifesto, August 24, 2003.
Massimo Teodori, Maledetti Americani (Rome: Mondadori, 2002).
ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), August 31, 2003
Christopher Caldwell, “The New French Left,” The Weekly Standard, April 22,
Christopher Caldwell, “Liberte, Egalite, Judeophobie,” The Weekly Standard, May
6, 2002
Thomas v.der Osten-Sacken, “A Common Metaphysics,” Thomas Uwer, Nov.Dec. 2002, Eretz Acheret magazine
As is discussed below, the growth of the new Saudi anti-Americanism has been
accompanied by a new American anti-Saudism. The two phenomena are not precise
parallels, but they feed off each other. For an overview, see F. Gregory Gause III,
"The Approaching Turning Point: The Future of U.S. Relations with the Gulf States,"
Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World, Analysis Paper Number
Two, May 2003.
Before being nationalized by the Saudi government in 1988, Aramco was
responsible for electrifying the province, building roads, hospitals, and schools,
mechanizing agriculture, and providing free health care and interest-free home loans
to hundreds of thousands of employees and their dependents. Anthony Cave Brown,
Oil, God, and Gold: The Story of Aramco and the Saudi Kings (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin, 1999), pp. 156, 362-64; Arthur P. Clarke et al. (ed.), Saudi Aramco and Its
World (Houston: Aramco Services Company, 1995), pp. 202-68.
A Bechtel Corporation brochure lists the following projects, both completed and
ongoing: Ghazlan electric generating complex; Hawiya and Uthmaniya GOSPS (gasoil separator plants); Ibn Rushd PTA/aromatics and polyester plant; Jeddah
desalination plant; Jubail Industrial City; Kingdom Trade Centre, Riyadh; King
Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah; King Fahd International Airport, Eastern
Province; King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh; Ras Tanura refinery I, II and III;
Riyadh power plant; Shaybah field development producing facilities; Shoaiba power
project; TEP-6 telecommunications project; Trans-Arabian pipeline (Tapline);Yanbu
petrochemical plants.
Janet A. McDonnell, Supporting the Troops: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in
the Persian Gulf War (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1996, EP 8701-50), pp. 33-35.
Josh Pollack, "Saudi Arabia and the United States, 1931-2002," Middle East
Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, Vol.6, No.3, (September 2002),
Madawi al-Rashid, A History of Saudi Arabia (Cambridge, England: Cambridge
University Press, 2002), p. 91.
F. Gregory Gause III, Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the
Arab Gulf States (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1994), p. 125.
Eighty percent of the members of the present Saudi cabinet hold an advanced
degree from a university in the United States, according to the report of the Advisory
Group on Public Diplomacy for the Arab and Muslim World. Edward P. Djerejian et
al., "Changing Minds, Winning Peace: A New Strategic Direction for U.S. Public
Diplomacy in the Arab & Muslim World," Submitted to the Committee on
Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives, October 1, 2003, p. 35.
Anthony H. Cordesman, Saudi Arabia: Guarding the Desert Kingdom (Boulder,
Colorado: Westview Press, 1997), pp. 155-58, 178-80.
Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Saudis Reaffirm a Right to Vary Arms Dealings," New York
Times, July 28, 1988.
Fatima Mernissi, Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, trans. Mary Jo
Lakeland (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1992), p. 9.
The Islamic opposition is described in detail in Mamoun Fandy, Saudi Arabia and
the Politics of Dissent (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), and Joshua Teitelbaum,
Holier Than Thou: Saudi Arabia's Islamic Opposition (Washington, DC: Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, 2000).
Bin Ladin was shortly thereafter expelled from Sudan, finding sanctuary in
Afghanistan. His manifesto originally appeared in al-Quds al-Arabi. Translation in
Barry Rubin and Judith Colp Rubin (eds.), Anti-American Terrorism and the Middle
East: A Documentary Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 13739.
Translation in Rubin and Colp Rubin (eds.), Anti-American Terrorism and the
Middle East, pp. 149-50.
Al-Rashid, A History of Saudi Arabia, p. 176.
Maurice R. Greenberg, William F. Wechsler, Lee S. Wolosky, et al., "Terrorist
Financing," Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on
Foreign Relations, October 17, 2002, p. 8. Another study, commissioned by
Colombia's ambassador to the United Nations, concluded that al-Qa'ida had raised
"between $300 [million] and $500 million over the last 10 years from wealthy
businessmen and bankers, whose fortunes represent about 20% of the Saudi GNP,
through a web of charities and companies acting as fronts." Sebastian Rotella, "Saudis
Must Stem Cash for Terror, Report Says," Los Angeles Times, December 24, 2002.
"US Involvement" (editorial), Arab News, May 28, 2001.
Pollack, "Saudi Arabia and the United States, 1931-2002."
Susan Sachs, "Saudi Heir Urges Reform, and Turn From U.S.," New York Times,
December 4, 2000.
The previous October, the Arab League had pledged $800 million to preserve the
"Arab and Islamic identity of Jerusalem," plus another $200 million for families of
Palestinians killed in the fighting. How much of this money was ever disbursed is
unclear. Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat reportedly received $45 million during a July
2001 visit to Saudi Arabia, which may have counted against the $225 million pledged
in April. Alfred B. Prados, "Saudi Arabia: Current Issues and U.S. Relations,"
Congressional Research Service, July 8, 2002, p. 6.
"We are the country with high credibility with all parties in the Arab and Islamic
worlds. Maybe we are also the one qualified to persuade all concerned to come to the
peace table. But we cannot play this role… while Israel continually frustrates every
peace initiative." Roula Khalaf, "Regal Reformer: Crown Prince Abdallah, Regent to
Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, has Spearheaded Diplomatic and Economic Change,"
Financial Times, June 25, 2001.
Neil MacFarquhar, "No Jerry Lewis, but Saudi Telethon Reaches Goal," New York
Times, November 9, 2001.
James M. Dorsey, "Saudi Leader Warns US of 'Separate Interests,'" Wall Street
Journal, October 29, 2001. According to Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the
letter was Abdallah's impassioned and spontaneous response to an answer to a
question about the Palestinians given by the President during a press conference on
August 24, 2001. Robert G. Kaiser and David Ottaway, "Saudi Leader's Anger
Revealed Shaky Ties," Washington Post, February 10, 2002. Another account had
Abdallah's letter delivered in early September. Sulayman Nimr, al-Hayat, November
6, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Michael R. Gordon, "Bush Plans Talks With Saudi Prince on Mideast Plan," New
York Times, March 18, 2002.
"Back Palestinians with Deeds not Words, Says Naif," Arab News, April 6, 2002,
cited in F. Gregory Gause III, "Saudi Perceptions of the United States Since 9-11,"
prepared for the conference on "Western and Non-Western Perceptions of America in
the Aftermath of 9-11," CERI-Sciences Po, Paris, September 30-October 1, 2002.
Neil MacFarquhar, "As Arabs Seethe, Saudi Says Uprising Will Go On," New
York Times, March 30, 2002; Neil MacFarquhar, "Anger in the Streets Is Exerting
Pressure On Arab Moderates," New York Times, April 3, 2002; Serge Schmemann,
"Israel Persisting With Sweep Despite U.S. Calls," New York Times, April 8, 2002.
For U.S. intervention with Israel over Arafat's fate, see Tracy Wilkinson, "Israel Asks:
Is It Time For Arafat To Leave?" Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2002.
Patrick E. Tyler, "Saudi to Warn Bush of Rupture Over Israel Policy," New York
Times, April 25, 2002. See also Howard Schneider, "Saudi Crown Prince To Carry
Warning To Visit With Bush; U.S.-Israeli Alliance Frustrating Arab Leaders,"
Washington Post, April 24, 2002.
Elisabeth Bumiller, "Saudi Tells Bush U.S. Must Temper Backing of Israel," New
York Times, April 26, 2002; Patrick E. Tyler, "Saudi Proposes Mideast Action Led by
U.S.," New York Times, April 27, 2002.
Cameron S. Brown, "The Shot Seen Around the World: The Middle East Reacts to
September 11th," Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal,
"Summer Vacationers Shun the U.S.," Arab News, February 15, 2002; Robin
Allen, "Bank's Deposits hit by 'anti-US protests,'" Financial Times, May 24, 2002;
Scott Peterson, "Saudis Channel Anger into Charity," Christian Science Monitor, May
30, 2002; Roula Khalaf, "Saudi Investors Pull out Billions of Dollars from US: Move
Signals Deep Alienation Following September 11," Financial Times, August 21,
2002; Peter Baker, " 'I'll Never Go Back'; Saudis Who Once Embraced America Now
Feeling Embittered and Betrayed," Washington Post, November 26, 2002.
As cited in F. Gregory Gause III, "Saudi Perceptions of the United States since 911."
Zogby International began polling in Saudi Arabia in October 2000, but apparently
did not begin surveying attitudes towards America until 2002. See Zogby
One prominent writer proposed that "11 September was something resembling a
violent shock that caused the United States to lose its memory, or lose consciousness
at the very least. Today it lives in a state of violent vertigo and it is not clear when it
will be cured of it." Turki al-Hamad in al-Sharq al-Awsat, August 18, 2002, translated
by FBIS.
Elaine Sciolino, "Taking a Rare Peek Inside the Royal House of Saud," New York
Times, January 28, 2002. See also Marc Perelman, "Defensive Saudis Lash Out at
'Zionist' and U.S. Critics," Forward, December 28, 2001.
"Smear Campaign Unmasks Zionist Designs: Sudais," Arab News, February 2,
Roula Khalaf, "Riyadh Fears the Fallout from War," Financial Times, October 8,
CNN Live Today, September 16, 2002. See also Todd S. Purdum, "Saudis
Indicating U.S. Can Use Bases If U.N. Backs War," New York Times, September 17,
Ukaz, September 30, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Howard Schneider, "Bombing in Saudi City Kills American; Monarchy Braces for
Eruption of Popular Dissent Against U.S.," Washington Post, October 7, 2001; Robin
Allen and Roula Khalaf, "Saudi Car Bomb Kills British Banker: Explosion in Riyadh
Heightens Fears for Safety of Foreigners in Osama bin Laden's Home Country,"
Financial Times, June 21, 2002.
Abd-al-Rahman al-Shamrani, "Warning Against the Trap of Unconfirmed News,
Al-Ammar: Friday Sermons Not the Place for Politics," Ukaz, December 21, 2002,
translated by FBIS.
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1, February 10, 2003, translated by FBIS.
Agence France-Press, "Saudi Intellectuals Oppose War on Iraq," Jordan Times,
March 16, 2003.
"Smart Weapons in Evil War" (editorial), al-Jazirah, March 24, 2003, translated
by FBIS.
"Saudi Women Send Regrets," Washington Post, March 27, 2003.
Craig S. Smith, "Saudi Arabia Seems Calm, but, Many Say, Is Seething," New
York Times, March 24, 2003.
Zogby International news release of July 31, 2003, available at
<>. Significantly, the pollsters
found that 91% of Saudis watched satellite television, and 63% had internet access-more than those (47%) who read a daily newspaper.
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, "Sympathizers Are Terrorists Too: Abdallah," Arab News,
August 15, 2003.
For an analysis of Husayni’s writings see the author’s “Territorializing a Universal
Religion: The Evolution of Nationalist Symbols in Palestinian Fundamentalism,”
Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism, vol. 21, nos. 1-2 (1994), pp. 45-50.
See the chapter on Fatah in Ziyad Abu `Amer’s Usul al-Harakat al-Siyasiya Fi
Quta` Ghazza 1948-1967 [The Origins of the Political Movements in the Gaza Strip
1948-1967], (Acco: Dar al-Aswar, 1947). Abu Amer is a member of the Palestinian
Legislative Assembly.
Itamar Marcus, “Palestinian Authority Hatred of USA Continues,” Palestinian
Media Watch Bulletin, September 11, 2003.
Al-Ayyam October 27, 2003. Quoted in Itamar Marcus, “Palestinian Incitement to
Kill and Hate Americans,” Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, November 5, 2003.
Quoted in Itamar Marcus, “PA Uses Twin Tower Image to Mock USA,”
Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin, September 16, 2003.
PA official daily al-Hayat al-Jadida, September 11, 2002, reprinted from the
UAE’s al-Khalij. Also see Al-Hayat al-Jadida, September 11, 2002, reprinted from
Kuwait’s al-Watan. Both quoted in Itamar Marcus, “ PA Uses Twin Tower Image to
Mock USA.”
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, September 13, 2002. Another cartoon of this variation can be
found in Al-Quds, September 11, 2002 and al-Hayat al-Jadida, September 13, 2002.
All quoted in Itamar Marcus, “ PA Uses Twin Tower Image to Mock USA.”
Author’s analysis of Al-Hayat al-Jadida, February 1-7, 2003.
In distinguishing between the foreign and Arab press, I am merely following
common practice in states in the Middle East of distinguishing between “foreigner”
(ajnabi) and either Muslim or Arab. Such categorization is found even on the sports
pages to describe the origins of the player of the team.
For more examples of the various phenomenon described below, see Cameron S.
Brown, “The Shot Seen Around the World: The Middle East Reacts to September
11th,” MERIA Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4 (December 2001).
AP, September 11, 2001; BBC, September 11, 2001.
Reuters, September 11, 2001. While it is usually quite easy to find quotations to
support one's arguments, and empirical evidence does not prove anything, throughout
this piece I have attempted to find statements that were representative of the various
reactions that could be found throughout the region.
Reuters, September 11, 2001. It is, of course, critical to note that these sentiments
were not created in a vacuum. For years, leaders from nearly every sector of most
countries in the region had been fanning the flames of both anti-Americanism and
support for the use of terrorism in newspaper articles, speeches, protest marches
(where American flags and figures were routinely burned), and in sermons at
mosques--many of which are broadcast on state television. For a few examples, see
the sermon given by the Palestinian Authority’s Mufti of Jerusalem Shaykh Ikrima
Sabri, who said three weeks before September 11 that “the White House will turn
black, with God's help,” and that America, England and Israel should be destroyed.
Jerusalem Post, September 16, 2001. For an example of the popular support and
celebrations which followed previous terror attacks, see Fahmi Huwaydi, al-Ahram,
August 14, 2001, translated in Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI),
Special Dispatch 265, August 31, 2001.
Reuters, September 11, 2001.
"The Prince" segment on 60 minutes, CBS, October 28, 2001; "Saudi Arabia: The
Double-Act Wears Thin," The Economist, September 27, 2001.
Jerusalem Post and AP, September 17, 2001.
Jerusalem Post, September 16, 2001. See also al-Risala, September 13, 2001,
translated in MEMRI <>, Special Dispatch 268, September 17,
Akhbar al-Khalij, September 12, 2001, found in Murray Kahl, "Terror Strikes
U.S.: 'An Act of War,' How Will Americans Respond," September 12, 2001.
Keyhan International, September 13, 2001, transcribed by the Foreign Broadcast
Information Service (FBIS). See also BBC, September 12, 2001.
Al-Hayat, September 17, 2001, translated in MEMRI Special Dispatch 272,
September 20, 2001.
Reuters, September 11, 2001.
Al-Anwar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Akhbar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Akhbar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Mellat, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), September 14, 2001, translated by FBIS.
See similar sentiments in Resalat, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Quds, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS. Another example of sentiments
along these lines by a moderate Palestinian can be found in an interview with Dr.
Zakariya al-Agha in al-Quds, September 16, 2001.
Al-Quds al-Arabi, September 12, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Ra'y, September 12, 2001, translated by FBIS. The following day, the same
paper carried a similar article by Dr. Muhammad Naji Amayirah, entitled: "Let Us
Condemn Terrorism and Sympathize with the American People, and on September
12, the independent Jordan Times ran an editorial along nearly the same lines.
Al-Safir, September 15, 2001, translated by FBIS. See also Salman Faysal's article
entitled "Regrettable," also in al-Safir, September 12, 2001.
Akhbar al-Khalij, September 12, 2001, found in Murray Kahl, “Terror Strikes
Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Usbu' al-Adabi, September 15, 2001, translated in MEMRI, Special Dispatch
275, September 25, 2001.
Bir Zeit University, Development Studies Program, "Survey # 5: The Intifada, &
America's Relations
with the Arab World," October 11, 2001.
“Poll of Islamic World: Sept. 11 Morally Unjustifiable?” Gallup Poll, March 5,
Reuters, September 11, 2001. See also Al-Ra'y, September 13, 2001, translated by
IRNA, September 17, 2001, transcribed by FBIS. See also AFP, September 11,
2001 and Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio 1 in Persian, September 14,
2001, 10:30 GMT, translated by FBIS.
AP, September 11, 2001. For reactions by other leaders, see BBC, September 11,
2001. Nawa-i-Waqt (in Urdu), September 12, 2001, al-Quds, September 16-18, 2001,
all of which were translated by FBIS.
Jerusalem Post, September 13, 2001. A hint of this comprehension of the dangers
of these attacks and subsequent celebrations to the Palestinian cause, and the PA's
latter intention to spin the event can be found in an interview in the Palestinian daily
al-Quds, where Major General Amin al-Hindi, the chief of general intelligence for the
PA, said "There is now a consensus among the Palestinian organizations that there has
been a change in the world following the recent act of aggression on the United
States. The Palestinians are now acting based on a heightened sense of responsibility
given the gravity of the situation... in order to forestall Israel's attempt to make
political capital out of this thing" Hindi added that this point in particular came up in
the course of a meeting between President Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian factions.
Al-Quds, September 17, 2001, translated by FBIS. See also Al-Quds, September 17,
2001, translated by FBIS, and Open Letter by Professor Manuel Hassassian. The
author received this letter from a student of Bethlehem University.
Regarding the PA's attempts to block the broadcasting of celebrations, one foreign
correspondent told the Jerusalem Post that PA cabinet secretary Abd al-Ahmad
Rahman had threatened AP producers that if they broadcast their pictures, "they
would not be able to guarantee their safety." Rahman was not available for comment.
The PA used similar practices when dealing with reporters covering the pro-bin Ladin
demonstration that occurred in Gaza three days later. Jerusalem Post, September 12,
2001; Jerusalem Post Staff and AP, September 16, 2001; BBC, September 11, 2001.
Jerusalem Post, September 13, 2001; Al-Nahar, September 12, 2001, translated by
FBIS; Al-Ayyam, September 13, 2001, translated in MEMRI Special Dispatch 272,
September 20, 2001. Other denials along similar grounds came in open letter by
Professor Manuel Hassassian, op-cit., and Al-Ra'y, September 13, 2001, translated by
Al-Akhbar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
MENA, September 16, 2001, transcribed by FBIS. See also President Mubarak's
interview with Arnaud de Borchgrave, United Press International, MENA, September
17, 2001, transcribed by FBIS.
MENA, September 17, 2001, transcribed by FBIS. See similar statements by Amr
Musa in MENA, September 15, 16, 2001, transcribed by FBIS.
Republic of Iraq Television (Arabic), September 12, 2001, translated by FBIS.
AP, September 12, 2001.
AP, September 11, 2001; BBC, September 11, 2001.
AP, September 12, 2001.
AP, September 16, 2001.
Dainik Janakantha (in Bengali), September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS. For
other representative Third World reactions, see Bangkok Post, September 18, 2001,
transcribed by FBIS; Star (English), September 12, 2001, found in Murray Kahl,
"Terror Strikes U.S." Malaysian reaction in Xinhua (in English), September 12, 2001,
transcribed by FBIS; Nanyang Siang Pau (in Chinese), September 12, 2001, found in
Murray Kahl, "Terror Strikes U.S." For the Indonesian response, see The Jakarta Post
(English), September 14, 2001, transcribed by FBIS, and see Antara (in Indonesian),
September 12, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Hurriyet, September 12, 2001, translated by FBIS.
AFP (North European Service--English), September 12, 2001, transcribed by
For instances of blaming U.S. policy, see Jordan Times, September 13, 2001, AlRisala, September 13, 2001, translated in MEMRI, Special Dispatch 268, September
17, 2001; al-Dustur, September 13, 2001, al-Quds al-Arabi, September 13, 2001,
Babil, September 13, 2001, Noruz, September 13, 2001, Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13,
2001, Keyhan International, September 13, 2001, Tehran Times, September 16, 2001;
al-Quds, September 14, 2001, al-Safir, September 14, 2001, al-Akhbar, September
13, 2001, al-Ra'y, September 13, 2001, Mellat, September 13, 2001, all translated or
transcribed by FBIS.
One of the more original conspiracy theories, based on an early report that they
had claimed responsibility, was that the Japanese Red Army executed the attack. A
few instances can be found in al-Ayyam, September 13, 2001 and Tishrin, September
13, 2001, both found in MEMRI Special Dispatch 270, September 20, 2001; and
Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 14, 2001, translated in MEMRI Special Dispatch
270, September 20, 2001. See similarly Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, and
Mellat, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
R.Zain, “Sept.11 events, plot disclosed,” Syria Times, March 18, 2003.
Al-Ayyam, September 12, 2001, found in Murray Kahl, “Terror Strikes U.S.” See
similarly al-Safir, September 15, 2001, translated by FBIS; columnist Nur al-Din
Sat'e in al-Safir, September 12, 2001, and al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 13, 2001,
both translated in MEMRI Special Dispatch 270, September 20, 2001.
Nawa-i-Waqt, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS. Also see the article by Dr.
Jassim Taqui in Pakistan Observer, September 13, 2001, transcribed by FBIS.
Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Arab academics also circulated a huge numbers of such claims, for example, emails claiming that “4000 Israelis did not report to their offices at the WTC on the day
of the attack.”(note 95)
One good example of this is al-Hayat, September 17, 2001, translated in MEMRI
Special Dispatch 272, September 20, 2001.
Al-Dustur, September 13, 2001. See also columnist Mussa Hawamdeh's piece in
the same addition of al-Dustur; al-Ra'y, September 13, 2001, all found in MEMRI
Special Dispatch 270, September 20, 2001.
Al-Akhbar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Jomhuri-ye Eslami, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS. See also, Siyasat-e
Ruz, September 13, 2001, Mellat, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Susan Sachs, “Videotape Is Unlikely to Change the Minds of Arabs Hostile to
America,” New York Times, December 14, 2001.
“Blame for Sept. 11 Attacks Unclear for Many in Islamic World,” Gallup Poll,
March 1, 2002 <>.
Al-Akhbar, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Quds, September 18, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Nawa-i-Waqt, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS. An editorial in the same
issue made the exact same claim.
Siyasat-e Ruz, September 13, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Views of a Changing World” June 2003, p. 3. The
full report can be downloaded at
<>. The major exceptions
to this were Kuwait, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Al-Hayat, November 29, 2001. MEMRI Special Dispatch 307, December 4, 2001
Al-Anbaa and later Akhbar al-Yom, November 3, 2001, MEMRI Special Dispatch
302, November 20, 2001. Another noteworthy example is a letter to the editor sent by
Sudanese reader Hashem Hassan, a self identified pan-Arabist, entitled “We, not the
U.S., are the lawful parents of bin Laden,” al-Quds al-Arabi, October 7, 2001,
MEMRI Special Dispatch 285, October 12, 2001.
“Many in Islamic World Question Motives for U.S. Military Campaign,” Gallup
Poll, March 1, 2002
Turki Hamad, “Saudi Arabia Between the Foreigner’s Hammer and the Relative’s
Anvil,” al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 6, 2001, translated by FBIS.
For instance, Abd al-Bari Atwan, “Ramadan Provides an Opportunity for the
United States,” al-Quds al-Arabi, October 29, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Dr. Hassan Rajab, “A New Defeat Similar to the Bay of Pigs?” Al-Akhbar,
October 30, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Al-Ahram, October 19, 2001, translated by MEMRI, Special Dispatch 292,
October 26, 2001
Dr. Hassan Rajab, “A New Defeat Similar to the Bay of Pigs?” Al-Akhbar,
October 30, 2001, translated by FBIS.
Abd al-Bari Atwan, “Ramadan Provides an Opportunity for the United States,” alQuds al-Arabi, October 29, 2001, translated by FBIS. Translation edited for grammar.
Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Views of a Changing World” June 2003, p. 4.
“Trail of Terror,” Al-Ahram Weekly, April 3-9, 2003 (Issue No. 632).
Editorial, “Baghdad Will Rise Again,” al-Quds, April 10, 2003, translated by
FBIS. In reaction to the city’s fall, the editor of the Jordanian daily al-Arab al-Yaum,
Taher ‘Adwan, made an interesting comparison: “Had Baghdad fallen in resistance,
the women would have rejoiced as the Palestinian mother rejoices when her son falls
as a martyr from shooting by the Israeli occupation. But Baghdad fell without
resistance, and without warriors standing before the American tanks. Some of the
Baghdadis even celebrated…” Al-Arab al-Yaum, April 10, 2003, translated in
MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–
Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Views of a Changing World” June 2003, p. 24.
Al-Jazira Satellite Channel, April 13, 2003 (1740 GMT), translated by FBIS.
“Trail of Terror,” Al-Ahram Weekly, April 3-9, 2003 (Issue No. 632).
Al-Ayyam, April 10, 2003, translated in MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim Media
Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
FBIS Report of Friday Sermons in Arabic, April 11, 2003.
Ali Nasrallah, “The Iraqi people’s responsibilities,” al-Thawrah, April 11, 2003,
translated by FBIS.
emplate_id=277&parent_id=258>, accessed April 14, 2003.
Strong anti-Israel sentiments also appeared in many of the major Friday sermons
broadcast on television throughout the Arab world following the fall of Baghdad. See
FBIS Report of Friday Sermons in Arabic, April 11, 2003.
Al-Ahram, April 6, 2003, translated in “Window of Arab Press” American
University of Kuwait Media and Dialogue Center, April 13, 2003.
Al-Riyadh, April 7, 2003, translated in “Window of Arab Press” American
University of Kuwait Media and Dialogue Center, April 13, 2003.
<>, April 9, 2003, translated
in MEMRI Special Dispatch--Saudi Arabia/Arab Antisemitism, April 11, 2003, No.
Al-Ahram al-Masa’i, April 10, 2003, translated in the FBIS Report on Egypt, April
11, 2003.
Al-Akhbar, April 11, 2003, translated in the FBIS Report on Egypt, April 11, 2003.
Wajih Abu Zikri, “Has Israel Participated in the US Aggression Against Iraq?” alAkhbar, April 11, 2003, translated by FBIS.
New York Times, April 10, 2003.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, April 10, 2003, translated in MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim
Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
Pew Global Attitudes Project, “Views of a Changing World” June 2003, p. 25.
Al-Hayat al-Jadida, April 10, 2003, translated in MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim
Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
Fahd al-Fanik, “The acting out of the fall of Baghdad,” al-Ra’y, April 11, 2003,
translated by FBIS.
See Samir Ragab’s piece in al-Gumhuriyya, April 4, 2003, translated in MEMRI,
“Arab and Muslim Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–Iraq,”
April 11, 2003, No. 14 <>.
and al-Akhbar, April 10, 2003, translated in the FBIS Report on Egypt, April 11,
Al-Musawwar, April 11, 2003, translated in the FBIS Report on Egypt, April 11,
Al-Sharq al-Awsat, April 10, 2003, translated in MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim
Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
<>. See also the frontpage
commentary in al-Hayat by Ghassan Sharbal, “Saddam Hussein--From Tikrit to the
Courthouse of History,” and the editorial in Al-Youm, April 10, 2003, translated in
MEMRI, “Arab and Muslim Media Reactions to the Fall of Baghdad, Special Report–
Iraq,” April 11, 2003, No. 14
Some would later refer to this as the Sahhaf phenomenon, after the Iraqi
information minister during the 2003 war, whose statements near the end of hostilities
rivaled those of Egypt during 1967 in their overly optimistic assessment.
Salah Abd al-Fattah al-Khalidi, "Amrika min al-Dakhil bi-minzar Sayyid Qutb
[Inside America in the Eyes of Sayyid Qutb]" (Jeddah: Dar al-Manarah, 1985).
Sayyid Qutb, Ma'alim fi al-Tariq (Milestones). For an English translation on-line,
see: <>.
Abdallah 'Azzam, "Al-Qa'ida al-Sulbah (The Solid Base)", al-Jihad (Afghanistan),
No. 41 (April 1988), pp. 46-49.
Dr. Tareq Hilmi, "Amrika alati nabghad (America That We Hate)," Al-Sha'b,
October 17, 2003. See on-line at: <>.
Fatwa on events following September 11, October 2001,
For a typical example of such writings, see Khaled Abd al-Wahid, "Wa'd al'Aakhirah: Nihayat Israeil wal-Wilayat al-Mutahhidah al-Amrikiyyah (The Ultimate
Promise: the End of Israel and the United States)," 1st edition, July 20, 2001; 2nd
edition, October 15, 2001. On-line at: <>.
Shaykh Salman bin Fahd al-'Awdah, "Nihayat al-Ta'rikh (End of History),"
January 2003, at: <>.
Muhammad Salah al-Din Abu 'Arafah, "Al-Qur'an al-'Azim yunabbi' bidamar alWilayat al-Mutahhidah wagharq al-Jaysh al-Amriki," December 2001,
This episode is discussed in Nazgol Ashouri, “Polling in Iran: Surprising
Questions,” PolicyWatch No. 757 from The Washington Institute for Near East
Policy, May 14, 2003.
Afshin Molavi, “Iran: Reformist Blues, Economic Woes,” PolicyWatch No. 678
from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 19, 2002.
The best explanation of Iran’s peculiar system – in which each official institution is
shadowed by a more powerful revolutionary institution – is Wilfried Buchta, Who
Rules Iran? The Structure of Power in the Islamic Republic (Washington: The
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2000).
Cf. Patrick Clawson, “Khatami’s Dialogue with America, Not with Washington,”
PolicyWatch No. 293 from The Washington Institute, January 8, 1998.
This episode is described in Patrick Clawson, “Reading the Popular Mood in Iran,”
PolicyWatch No. 770 from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, July 7,
This episode is described in Patrick Clawson, “Iran: Demonstrations, Despair, and
Danger,” PolicyWatch No. 766 from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
June 11, 2003.
For an analysis of this reaction to Bush’s “axis of evil” speech, see Ray Takeyh,
“Iran: Scared Straight?”, PolicyWatch No. 622 from The Washington Institute for
Near East Policy, May 3, 2002.
James Bill, The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), p 5.
Mark Gasiorowski, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Shah: Building a Client State in
Iran (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991).
Barry Rubin, Paved With Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p 80.
Rubin, op. cit., p 88.
Rubin, op. cit., pp 285-291.
Quoted in Rubin, op. cit., p 306.
The fear expressed by the hostage-takers was that the United States would work
with the liberals to stage a coup, which they compared to the overthrow of
Mossadegh. Cf. Massoumeh Ebtekar, Takeover in Tehran: The Inside Story of the
1979 U.S. Embassy Capture (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2000), e.g., p 52.
For a discussion of some of these issues, see Barry Rubin, "Regime Change in
Iran: A Reassessment," MERIA Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2 (June 2003)
The phrase in Ervand Abrahamian’s, from Iran Between Two Revolutions
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), p 464. His analysis of Shariati
continues to p 473.
On his popularity and its central role in the 1979 revolution, see Abrahamian,
Between Two Revolutions, p 534. See also Ali Shariati, Marxism and other Western
fallacies (translated by Richard Campbell; Berkeley: Mizan Press, 1980). His works
are analyzed in depth in Nikpey, op. cit., pp 99-180.
Ervand Abhrahamian, The Iranian Mohahedin (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1989), p 22, which is also where the following quote comes from.
Quoted in Peter Chelkowski and Hamid Dabashi, Staging a Revolution: The Art of
Persuasin in the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York, New York University Press,
1999), p 39.
As described in great detail in Maziar Behrooz, Rebels with a Cause: The Failure
of the Left in Iran (London: I.B. Taurus, 1999).
The definitive account of the Mojahedin’s role in this period is Abrahamian,
Mojahedin, pp 186-245.
The best study of al-Ahmad’s relation to Third Worldist thought – specifically
Fannon – is Amir Nikpey, Pouvoir et religion en Iran contemporain (Paris:
L’Harmattan, 2001), pp 86-92.
Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Iranian Intellectuals and the West: The Tormented Triumph
of Nativism (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996), p 68.
Negin Nabavi, Intellectuals and the State in Iran: Politics, Discourse, and the
Dilemma of Authenticity (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2003), pp 2864.
Boroujerdi, op. cit., p 132, as part of a chapter on academic nativism, pp 131-155.
Nikpey, op. cit., pp 92-97.
His writings and his influence are analyzed in detail in Antoine Basbous, L’Arabie
Saoudite en Question, Paris: Perrin, 2002, especially pp. 125-140.
Vanessa Martin, Creating an Islamic State: Khomeini and the Making of a New
Iran (London: I.B. Taurus, 2003), p 115.
Homuz Kéy, Le cinéman iranien (Paris: Karthala, 1999), especially pp 83-96 and
239-266, and Mamad Haghighat, Histoire du cinéma iranien (Paris: Cinéma du
réel/Centre Georges Pompidou, 1999).
When Egyptians were forced to convert to Islam by a high poll tax on nonMuslims around 927, Copts who could afford it didn't convert and their bloodline
remained purely Egyptian.
Two of the above were censored for two weeks in an extraordinary step taken by
the Iraqi Governing Council on September 21, 2003 for "inciting violence and
sectarian hatred as well as inaccurate reporting."
Examples include at least half a dozen daily papers in Cairo and a handful in
Lebanon and Morocco that are platforms for Marxist, Arab Nationalist, Nasserite, and
Islamist political parties. In Egypt, some of them are al-Ahali, Ashaab, al-Usbou'h el
Arabi, and al- Mithaq
A tradesman is given the name of his profession followed by 'agie' and the plural is
'agiyah'. Therefore, a postman is postagie and postmen are postagiyah in Egyptian
slang. So people laugh off Arab Nationalists as 'Qawmagiyah' making nationalism a
trade. They use the same term for Islamists and for warmongers, who are called
'Harbagiyah', but they also add 'Awantagiyah' meaning con men.
Almost 75 percent of literature and philosophy translated in the 1000 books project
were from the French language and the rest were from other parts of the world.
Before the pre-1952 coup, more than half the university staff and over 35 percent
of secondary schoolteachers, as well as a large section of students and pupils on
subsidized travel, would spend summer vacation in the West renewing their cultural
contacts, and obtaining new cultural products like records and books that they shared
with their students in the new term. After the 1956 Suez war, the number dropped to
less than 15 percent and continued to decline over the years, while Nasser started
deporting hundreds of thousands of Egyptian born of Western or Jewish origins.
Pew Global Attitudes Project "Views of a Changing World," June 2003.
Jibril al-Rajub, interview on al-Arabiyah, October 15, 2003.
Abdel Wahab Elmissiri, interview on al-Jazira, September 25, 2003.
Stephen Zunes, "The Strategic Function of US Aid to Israel," Washington
Report on the MiddleEast, (December 2001).
See, for instance, William B. Quandt, Peace Process: American Diplomacy and
the Arab-Israeli Conflict Since 1967 (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute, 1993),
pp. 52-53.
Adnan Abu-Odeh, Jordanians, Palestinians and the Hashemite Kingdom in the
Middle East Peace Process, (U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1999).
Bary Attwan, interview on al-Jazira. October 12, 2003.
Saeb Erekat (Palestinian Chief Negotiator), interview on al-Jazira, September 9,
Nabil Sha'th, interview in al-Arabiyah, October 12, 2003.
Amer Musa (Secretary-General of the Arab League), interview on al-Jazira,
August 11, 2003.
Erekat, op. cit.; Nicolas Francis, Moises Naim, and Abdel Monem Said Aly,
"Anti-Americanism: What's New, What's Next?" World Economic Forum, annual
meeting, February 1, 2002,
Ahmed S. Salama, AFP, Cairo, October 2, 2003.
James Backer, The Policy of Diplomacy (in Arabic) (Cairo: Madpoli, 1999), p.
Rami Khouri, "Politics and Perceptions in the Middle East after September 11"
based on a presentation at the 2002 American Political Science Association Annual
Meeting, <>.
Bin Ladin, al-Quds al-Arabi, February 23, 1998.
The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon
and Schuster, 1997), pp. 209, 217.
Bashar al-Asad, Speech before the 10th Islamic conference Malaysia, October 15,
Mohamad Mahathir, Speech before the Islamic Summit, October 15, 2003,
Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Nicholas Kristof, "Bigotry in Islam--And Here" New York Times, July 9, 2002.
Democracy Now, August 8, 2002, <
Mark Tessler, and Jodi Nachtwey, "Islam and Attitudes Toward International
Conflict: Evidence from Survey Research in the Arab World," Journal of Conflict
Resolution, Vol. 42, No. 5 (October 1998), pp. 619-636; Mark Tessler, "Do Islamic
Orientations Influence Attitudes Toward Democracy in the Arab World: Evidence
from the World Values Survey in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Algeria," International
Journal of Comparative Sociology, (Spring 2003); Mark Tessler, "Islam and
Democracy in the Middle East: The Impact of Religious Orientations on Attitudes
Toward Democracy in Four Arab Countries," Comparative Politics, Vol. 34 (April
2002), pp. 337-354.
Tessler and Nachtwey, "Islam and Attitudes," op. cit.
Alsoudi Abdel "University Students Attitudes Towards Democracy and Islamic
Values," Dirastat Journal, Jordan University, (2001).
Moneer Shaffeq (Arab Thinker), Alattegah Almoakiss Program, October 15, 2003.
Colin Powell, International Herald Tribune, December 13, 2002.
Daoud Kuttab, "Why Anti-Americanism", AlterNet, September 14, 2001,
Khouri, "Politics and Perceptions," op. cit.
Hazhir Teimourian, "Arab Opinion on U.S.-led Attack," The World Today,
September 26, 2002.
Kenneth Pollack, "Anti-Americanism and the Roots of Middle Eastern Terrorism,"
Samer Shehata, "Why Bush's Middle East Propaganda Campaign Won't Work,"
July 12, 2002, <>.
Magdy Mehanna, "America … and Egypt," al Wafd, January 14, 2002.
Bary Attwan, interview on al-Jazira, October 12, 2003.
Ussama Makdisi, "Anti-Americanism in the Arab World: An Interpretation of a
Brief History," The Journal of American History, Vol. 89, No. 2 (2002).
Mark Tessler, "Do Islamic Orientations Influence Attitudes Toward Democracy in
the Arab World: Evidence from the World Values Survey in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco,
and Algeria," International Journal of Comparative Sociology (Spring 2003).
James J. Zogby, "What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns," Report of
Zogby International commissioned by the Arab Thought Foundation, September
Nicolas Francis, Moises Naim, and Abdel Monem Said Aly, "Anti-Americanism:
What's New, What's Next?" World Economic Forum, annual meeting, February 1,
Makdisi, "Anti-Americanism in the Arab World."
James J. Zogby, "What Arabs Think: Values, Beliefs and Concerns," Report of
Zogby International commissioned by the Arab Thought Foundation, September
Khouri, "Politics and Perceptions," op. cit.
Samer Shehata, "Why Bush's Middle East Propaganda Campaign Won't Work,"
July 12, 2002, <>.
Fouad Ajami, “The Falseness of Anti-Americanism,” Foreign Policy, No. 118 (September-October
2003): 52-61.
Alan B. Krueger and Jitka Maleckova, “Does Poverty Cause Terrorism?” The New Republic, June
24, 2002: 27-33 at p. 32.
E.g., Olivier Roy notes that Al-Qaeda militants in Europe were cultural outcasts
both in their own societies and in the host countries, but all were in some way
Westernized, trained in scientific or technical fields and spoke a Western language.
See “Euro Islam: The Jihad Within,” The National Interest (No. 71, Spring 2003): 70.
The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why? (Washington,
DC: Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, September 1999). This Report and Maxwell
Taylor’s 1988 book, The Terrorist, are discussed in Krueger and Maleckova, p. 32.
Charles A. Russell and Bowman H. Miller (reprinted in the 1983 book
Perspectives on Terrorism) evaluated eighteen revolutionary groups, including, the
German Baader-Meinhof Gang, Italy's Red Brigades and the Japanese Red Army.
They concluded that "the vast majority of those individuals involved in terrorist
activities as cadres or leaders is quite well-educated. In fact, approximately two-thirds
of those identified terrorists are persons with some university training, [and] well over
two-thirds of these individuals came from the middle or upper classes in their
respective nations or areas.” See Lawrence Z. Freedman and Yonah Alexander Eds.),
Perspectives on Terrorism (Wilmington, Del: Scholarly Resources, 1983). See also
Russell, and Miller. "Profile of a Terrorist," Terrorism: An International Journal, 1, No.
1, 1977, 17-34.
I have treated these features more comprehensively in Chapter Three above.
Al-Quds (newspaper of the Palestinian Authority), December 15, 2003, quoted in
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “Arab Media Reaction to
Saddam's Arrest: Part I,” Special Dispatch - Iraq, December 16, 2003, No. 628,
Michael Scott Doran,“Somebody Else’s Civil War,” Affairs, Vol. 81, No. 1
(January/February 2002): 22-42 at 27.
Doran, loc cit., pp. 27-28.
Portions of this section are adapted from my essay, “The NeoconservativeConspiracy Theory: Pure Myth,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 49, Issue 34,
May 2, 2003.
Gallup poll conducted in 2002, cited in Washington Post, December 23, 2003.
Anne Applebaum, “Germans as Victims,” Washington Post, October 15, 2003.
(Carnot USA Books, 2002). Published in France as, 11 Septembre 2001:
L’effroyable imposture (Paris: Editions Carnot, 2002.)
Scott Wilson, “U.S. Troops Kill 2 Iraqis After Ambush,” Washington Post, May
23, 2003.
Michael Lind, “The Weird Men Behind George W. Bush’s War,” New Statesman
(London), April 7, 0203, and “How neoconservatives conquered Washington–and
launched a war,”, April 9, 2003.
Eric Alterman, “Can We Talk,” The Nation, April 21, 2003.
Lind, op cit.
Edward Said, “The Academy of Lagado,” London Review of Books, Vol. 25, No.
8, April 17, 2003.
Lind, op cit.
William Pfaff, “The Neoconservative Agenda: Which Country is Next on the
List?” International Herald Tribune, April 10, 2003.
Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose War?” The American Conservative, March 24, 2003,
and Buchanan, “To Baghdad and Beyond,” April 21, 2003. Also Alterman, op cit.
“Author of Saudi Blood Libel: ‘U.S. War on Iraq Timed to Coincide with Purim,’”
Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch-Saudi Arabia/Arab AntiSemitism, April 11, 2003, No. 494. The speech was given at the
Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, where previous speakers have
included former Vice-President Al Gore, former Secretary of State James Baker, and
former President Jimmy Carter.
Edward Said, “The Academy of Lagado,” London Review of Books, Vol. 25, No.
8, April 17, 2003.
Eric Alterman, The Nation, April 21, 2003.
Michael Lind, “the Weird Men Behind George W. Bush’s War,” New Statesman
(London), April 7, 0203, and “How neoconservatives conquered Washington–and
launched a war,”, April 9, 2003.
Lind,, April 9, 2003.
Patrick J. Buchanan, “Whose War? A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our
country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest,” The American
Conservative, March 24, 2003.
By contrast, Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay, moderate Democrats who are critics
of Bush foreign policy, nonetheless take Bush seriously as someone who has a
coherent vision of grand strategy and should not be underestimated. See their book,
America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy (Washington, DC:
Brookings, 2003.)
“Resources of Hope,” report pf a roundtable organized by Al-Ahram Weekly
(Cairo), reported by Amina Elbendary, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 27 March-2 April,
2003 (Issue No. 631):
See, e.g., Robert Jervis, “Understanding the Bush Doctrine,”Political Science
Quarterly, Vol. 118, No. 3, 2003: 365-388.
E.g., John Lewis Gaddis, “A Grand Strategy of Transformation” Foreign Policy,
No. 133, November/December 2002: 50-57.
Views of a Changing World, June 2003 (Washington, DC: The Pew Research
Center for the (People and the Press, 2003). The study was based on surveys in
twenty-one countries conducted from April 28 to May 15, 2003, in Europe, the U.S.,
the Middle East and elsewhere, and it also incorporates data from a 2002 Pew study,
What the World Thinks in 2002 (December 2002), which included responses in 44
Fouad Ajami provides an incisive critique of the assumptions on which these
criticisms are base. See “The Falseness of Anti-Americanism,” Foreign Policy, No.
118 (September-October 2003): 52-61.
Data cited in The Economist, February 1, 2003, p. 46.
Quoted in Edward Rothstein, “An Open Mind Among Growing Ideologues,” New
York Times, January 4, 2002. For a comprehensive presentation of Aron’s views, see
his now classic book, The Opium of the Intellectuals (Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
See especially the analysis of French anti-Americanism and its origins in Philippe
Roger, L’ennemi americain: Geneologie de l’antiamericanism francais (Paris: Seuil
2002) and Jean-Francois Revel, L’obsession anti-americaine (Paris: Plon, 2002), and
the review of these works by Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 8, No. 2
(March/April 2003): 139-142.
Quoted in David Brooks, “Among the Bourgeoisophobes,” The Weekly Standard,
April 15, 2002, p. 21.
See, e.g., Philip Zelikow, “The Transformation of National Security,” The
National Interest No. 71 (Spring 2003): 17-28 at 18.
Philippe Roger makes this point. See Walter Russell Mead, op. cit.
Ajami, “The Failure of Anti-Americanism,”loc. cit.
The Economist (London), “Blair, the BBC and the War,” July 26, 2003.
This assessment appeared in the French newspaper, La Croix in December 2003.
Michael Mousseau, “Market Civilization and the Clash With Terror,” International
Security, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Winter 2002/03): 5-29 at 19.
January 29, 2003. On line at:
Margaret Drabble, “I Loathe America and What It Has Done to the Rest of the
World,” The Daily Telegraph (London), May 8, 2003.
The Guardian (London), November 18, 2003.
March 26, 2003. The author is a French philosopher and writer.
Quoted, Takis Michas, “America the Despised,” National Interest, Spring 2002,
pp. 101-02.
Reported by the EU Environmental Commissioner for the year 2003. Only
Sweden and Britain, but not France, were able to meet yearly Kyoto emissions targets.
See Washington Post, December 11, 2003
On the proposition that the EU will emerge within the decade to counterbalance
the U.S., see Charles Kupchan, The End of the American Era (NY: Vintage, 2002).
I elaborate on this in, “Are Realists Realistic about Foreign Policy?” Paper
delivered at the 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association,
Philadelphia, August 28- August 31, 2003. Copyright by the American Political
Science Association.
Gerard Alexander, “An Unbalanced Critique of Bush: What the International
Relations Experts Get Wrong,” The Weekly Standard, Vol. 9, Issue 8, November 3,
2003: 25-29.
See especially John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (NY:
Norton, 2001).
The leaders of eight Western European countries (Britain, Spain, Italy, Portugal,
Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic) signed a support letter written by the
British and Spanish Prime Ministers, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar, and the heads
of ten East European countries of the Vilnius group (Romania, Latvia, Lithuania,
Estonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Macedonia) signed a similar
Since the end of the Cold War, Kenneth Waltz has predicted the demise of NATO
(“NATO’s days are not numbered, but its years are”) and warned that with the end of
the Soviet threat, former friends and foes of the United States would seek to balance
against the international predominance of the United States.
During the last decade of the Cold War, Josef Joffe made a similar point in his
widely cited article, “Europe’s American Pacifier,” Foreign Policy, Spring 1984.
NATO assumed command of the ISAF (International Security and Assistance
Force) in August 2003. See, e.g., Le Figaro (Paris), internet edition, August 11, 2003,
“After playing a passive deterrent role for a half-century, the Atlantic alliance has
certainly never been as active since the disappearance of the Soviet Union.”
Stephen Peter Rosen, “An Empire If You Can Keep It,” The National Interest, No.
71, Spring 2003, p. 54. Also see John Owen, “Transnational Liberalism and U.S.
Primacy,” International Security, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Winter 2001-02) 117-152, p. 121.
Hans-Ulrich Klose, Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the
Bundestag, remarks to a roundtable of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Washington,
DC, September 30, 2003.
“Bin Laden's Sermon for the Feast of the Sacrifice,” quoted in MEMRI,
[email protected],
Special Dispatch - Jihad and Terrorism Studies, March 5, 2003, No. 476.
Yasmir Alibhai-Brown, “America Has Descended into Madness,” The
Independent, June 16, 2003
Julie Burchill, “Suffering Under Uncle Sam,” The Guardian, September 16, 2000.
Le monde après le 11 septembre 2001.
Astier, “La Maladie Francaise,” p. 3.
Hale, “Global Warmth for U.S. After 9/11 Turns to Frost,” downloaded from
Reuters, July 23, 2003.
Theil, “The Great 9/11 Conspiracy,” downloaded from
Rosenfeld, “Anti-Americanism and Anti-Semitism: A New Frontier
Mary Kaldor, “Beyond Militarism, Arms Races and Arms Control,” downloaded from <>.
Meacher, “This War on Terrorism is Bogus,” downloaded from,3604,1036571,00.html,
Al-Akhbar, August 6, 2003, translation by MEMRI, downloaded from
Al-Ahram, August 31, 2003, translation by MEMRI, downloaded from