bite from President Bush on Monday strikes me as emblematic of the country's
current crisis. He said, "It is a ridiculous notion to assert that, because
the United States is on the offensive, more people want to hurt us," he
said. "We're on the offensive because people do want to hurt us."
Let me try to help Mr. Bush with this problem. The number of persons in the
Muslim world who wanted to inflict direct damage on the U.S. homeland in 2000
was tiny. Even within al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri's theory of "hitting
the distant enemy before the near" (i.e., striking the U.S. rather than
Egypt or Saudi Arabia) was controversial.
The Muslim world was largely sympathetic to the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks.
Iranians held candlelight vigils, and governments and newspapers condemned terrorism.
Bush's unprovoked attack on Iraq, however, turned people against the U.S. The
brutal, selfish, exploitative occupation, the vicious siege of Fallujah, the
tank battles in front of the shrine of Ali, a vicar of the Prophet, Abu Ghraib,
and other public relations disasters have done their work.
The U.S. was not always universally despised in the Middle East. In some countries,
large majorities thought well of the U.S.! Lawrence
"The latest survey results out of the Middle East show that America's
favorability rating is now, essentially, zero. That's down from as high as 75
percent in some Muslim countries just four years ago."
"In the first poll, which surveyed six Arab nations and was commissioned
by the Washington-based Arab American Institute (AAI), the overall approval
ratings of the U.S. ranged between an unprecedented low of two per cent in Egypt
and a high of 20 per cent in Lebanon. Those holding a favorable view of the
U.S. in Saudi Arabia were four per cent, 11 per cent in Morocco, 14 per cent
in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 15 per cent in Jordan. That marked a relatively
sharp decline compared to a similar poll held by AAI two years ago, and indicated
that the main reason behind the fall was the policies of the present U.S. administration
led by George W. Bush."
The respondents in the poll did not dislike the U.S. because of values like
freedom and democracy. Middle Easterners have even more faith in democracy than
do Americans. They dislike the U.S. because of its policies. According to the
recent Zogby poll [pdf],
they had three main concerns: The U.S.-supported persecution of the Palestinians,
the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and U.S. plans to dominate and humiliate Arabs
in general. It is policies that they hate, and want changed, not U.S. values.
So, Mr. Bush, that is how America "being on the offense" can in fact
inspire hatred of the U.S. Your premise is simply incorrect. In some Middle
Eastern countries, the U.S. favorability rating was as high as 75% in the last
year of the Clinton administration. They didn't start off necessarily disliking
the U.S. Even after the Afghanistan war, a third of Jordanians thought well
of the U.S. Now almost no one anywhere does. These changes in attitude (which
greatly benefit al-Qaeda) are mostly the result of your war on, and occupation
All this is not to factor in the vast fall in prestige and esteem for the U.S.
among European publics, our most steadfast allies for half a century. That you
do not understand that being unnecessarily and arrogantly "on the offensive"
is offensive to the rest of the world and actually hurts U.S. security is extremely