Monday, May 15, 2006

They hate us.

Two books published recently outline the deep and diverse roots of current anti-Americanism in the world:
Friendly Fire by Julia E. Sweig
America Against the World by Andrew Kohurt and Bruce Stokes

When I had been in the military and Peace Corps during the sixties, I experienced anti-Americanism first hand. While stationed with the Army in Germany, if I sat on a park bench shared with an elderly German, the German would immediately get up and move. And I was always dressed in civvies. In the Peace Corps in India, I was physically attacked for no apparent reason by a coolie on a Goan train station platform. Some Indian soldiers (Jawans) came to my aid.

In reflecting on both my Peace Corps and Army experiences, I think I might have been in more personal danger in the Peace Corps. When in the military, you are always stationed with other troops. You are rarely deployed alone and you have all sorts of support: medical, commissaries, EM and officers’ clubs, for examples. Peace Corps volunteers are alone with host nationals much of the time, and literally, could disappear off the face of the Earth if someone wanted to take them out. About one third of the time I was there, the PC main office in New Delhi had no idea where I was when traveling. And I was all over the subcontinent, including Srinigar, Kashmir where two Indians sat down suddenly at my table in a restaurant, put a gun in the middle, and asked how we were. There was another PC Volunteer with me. We said we were fine, had a conversation, and they eventually got up and left, with their gun.

Why are America and Americans unpopular in today’s world? Well, we act like bullies, use more than our share of world resources such as oil, overthrow governments that don’t do our bidding, attack and occupy nations such as Iraq and push our weight around in international organizations as the only world superpower. It used to be that our government took all the heat. That heat has now been transferred to individual Americans, making it more dangerous for Americans traveling. And as we learned on September 11, 2001, making it more dangerous for Americans in America.—Walter Haan,


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