Thursday :: May 13, 2004

No Second Chance To Make A First Impression

by pessimist

Since 1945, The United States had a foreign image that was second to none. Our occupation of the defeated Axis countries was largely without incident, and the Marshall Plan to rebuild the shattered economies of Europe cemented American companies in foreign markets for years.

America was the envy of the world in many ways. People all over the world desired at least to visit our nation to see for themselves what our home was like.

But America has lost the respect of the world, and we have George Warmonger Bush and the PNAC Petroleum Predator Pirate Posse to thank for this.

World recoils at prison abuses, beheading

The abuse of Iraqi prisoners is causing staunch U.S. allies to re-examine their relationship with the Bush administration and is providing America's critics with dramatic and damaging evidence.

The scandal has even muted the worldwide response to the beheading of an American citizen in Iraq, with some people saying that the killing of businessman Nicholas Berg was an understandable retaliation for U.S. actions in Iraq.

Note that they say it's 'understandable' and not 'acceptible'.

German and French officials and citizens express vindication for their decision to stay out of the Iraq war, and they are beginning to question their overall security relationship with the United States, analysts said.

In Poland, the abuse scandal has deepened the unease about their military participation in the occupation.

Young Chinese nationalists have seized on the events to heap abuse on the United States. "This is the real America ruled by Bush," wrote a participant in one of China's largest Internet chat rooms. "This ugly behavior exposes the reality of so-called democracy and freedom."

The abuse scandal colored reaction Wednesday to the decapitation of Berg, whose slaying by masked militants was broadcast on the Internet.

The Mexico City newspaper Reforma ran a front-page photo of Berg and his executioners with the headline: "Between the law ... and the law of retaliation." The implication, that Berg's killing was eye for an eye, was in keeping with the dominant view in Mexico that the U.S. has brought its troubles upon itself.

Arab newspapers conspicuously played down the killing. "In normal circumstances, I could condemn the slaughtering of the American, but we are living in abnormal circumstances. I cannot condemn it now," said Egyptian columnist Nour al-Huda Zaki of Al-Arabi,/i>, who told The Associated Press that most Arab newspapers would avoid any coverage that implicitly condemned the beheading.

A notable exception was in Kuwait, where several newspapers covered the Berg slaying on the front page.

The three major Palestinian newspapers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip ran wire stories on the beheading on their front pages but added no comment and published no photos. "We know such actions won't help the Iraqis. It won't liberate them," said Hamed Abdulkareem, 36, of Gaza City. "The Iraqis will show themselves to be like Abu Sayyaf and no one will sympathize with them," he said, referring to the radical Muslim group of the Philippines.

But Sawsan Al-Masri, a 24-year-old Gaza mother of one, smiled when asked about the beheading. "He deserved it," she said of Berg. " . . . Do you think what the Americans did to the detainees was less ugly?"

Some Arabs deplored the Berg killing mainly because it diverted attention from the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, AP reported. "Such revenge is rejected," said Mustafa Bakri, editor of Al-Osboa weekly newspaper in Egypt. "The American administration will make use of such crimes just to cover their real crimes against Iraqis."

American hypocrisy seen

The charge of American hypocrisy has been leveled as well in Turkey, where the government has supported the U.S. but most Turks have opposed the war. "Ordinary Turks were appalled at the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners and later by the murder of the American businessman," said Omer Madra, founder of Open Radio, an Istanbul station. "But they are not surprised. The Turkish population is aware of a certain double standard . . . that while the U.S. preaches democracy and human rights, it does not always practice them."

The worldwide outrage over the abuse complicates the Bush administration's efforts to get other countries more involved.

U.S. diplomats express fear that member nations of Bush's "coalition of the willing" might find Iraq to be more trouble than it is worth.

Hopes of getting NATO involved this summer have all but expired. Members of Britain's Parliament are demanding that Prime Minister Tony Blair withdraw British troops. And fresh opinion polls indicate that only 28 percent of Britons think their troops should remain in Iraq.

Government officials or opposition politicians in Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands have raised doubts about their continued participation.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso, whose country's contribution to the occupation consists of 128 police officers, said: "You cannot, in the name of the struggle against terrorism and for the sake of freedom, contravene the very values and principles on which that struggle is based."

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who after Blair is Bush's strongest ally on Iraq, said the scandal did not change the grounds for Italian troops to be in Iraq. Other political leaders warned, however, that Italy itself was being morally contaminated.

Vatican: `A tragic episode'

And in Vatican City, Pope John Paul II's foreign minister called the prison abuses "a tragic episode in the relationship with Islam," and said the scandal would inspire hatred of Christianity and the West.

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president, who is 85 and trying to retire from public life, used a last speech before parliament Monday to criticize the abuse and again decry waging war without a UN mandate. "We look on with horror as reports surface of terrible abuses against the dignity of human beings held captive by invading forces in their own country," Mandela said to hearty applause.

The brutality has "confirmed everyone's worst fears, and confirmed feelings, in France and Germany especially, that they were right to stay out of this mess," said William Drozdiak, director of the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center in Brussels.

"More and more Europeans are openly expressing their fear of getting too involved with the U.S.," Drozdiak said. "They are questioning whether a security relationship with the U.S. is becoming a negative instead of a positive."

In China, the government has restrained its criticism, a decision that analysts said reflects Beijing's concern over its own record of mistreating prisoners, particularly political and religious dissidents.

Among the Chinese people, disappointment crept in alongside anger.
"I cannot believe what happened," said a contributor to the chat room. "I used to believe America was the best country in the world."

So shocking were some photos that even some staunch critics abroad, such as supporters of Fidel Castro in Cuba, had a hard time believing the images. "Are these photographs real?" asked one Havana resident. "Was it one group of soldiers or the whole army?"

It's my experience that when everyone is essentially saying the same things about you, then there is something to the talk. Everyone can't be wrong. If there was any doubt, there would be debate, not agreement. As demonstrated above, there's little debate. Only Blair and Berlesconi still stand with Bush, and Blair is teetering.

Everyone is saying that they can't believe that Americans could do such things. At least they are facing their cognitive dissonance by not trying to deny that Americans are even capable of doing such things. In many cases, these people are experienced with much worse abuse.

Americans have yet to do so, and the time of reckoning is upon us. All the world is watching to see what we do now, and the respect they once held for us is on hold until we demonstrate what we are going to do about the prison torture scandal. They aren't going to cut us any slack anymore. It better be the right thing done to the right people, or we will have sacrificed a hard-won advantage - international respect - for the potential of controlling Iraqi oil so that our SUVs can continue to pollute the world's air.

Factor that into the price of gas.

pessimist :: 6:44 PM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!