A firsthand account of world anger at America
April 8, 2003
I am a graduate of Aspen High School and a student at the University of Colorado. I am currently spending my junior year in Seville, Spain, to learn another language and immerse myself in another culture.
However, in doing so I have had both wonderful and difficult eye-opening experiences, and I have learned more about our own culture and international role than I ever thought possible.
The last few weeks have been exceptionally difficult, for I have been bombarded by the horrific images and increasing anti-Americanism that the war in Iraq has produced here in Europe.
When I compare the news stories and images in Spain to those in the American press, the disparity is astonishing. On April 1, the front page of the most important newspaper in Spain, El Pais, displayed a picture of 12-year-old Iraqi Ali Smain lying on a dirty hospital bed in Baghdad. Smain was dressed in old bandages dripping in blood and staring at the brigade of photojournalists like a deer caught in headlights.
The night before, he had lost both of his arms and his entire family in an Anglo-American aerial attack on the Iraqi capital.
I then turned the page to read about Iraqi exiles who fled the persecution of Saddam Hussein and who are now trying to return to Iraq to fight against British and American forces. Their message is clear that although they do not like Hussein, they like Western intervention and the imposition of Western ideals even less, and they are willing to die for their cause.
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Are we conceited enough to believe that despite all of the obvious signs of opposition we can successfully impose our version of a democratic form of government on Iraq?
This raises some very important philosophical questions: Where do you draw the line between cultural relativism and universal human rights?
We know that Hussein is a horrible dictator killing and terrorizing his people, but does that give the United States the right to intervene thus killing and terrorizing thousands of innocent civilians?
Is the United States morally obligated to fight against the tyrants of the world, or is this just another example of a superpower that wants to spread its political doctrine and cultural values thus facilitating more trade, more consumers, and of course, cheaper oil?
International organizations like the United Nations and the International Criminal Court were established to collectively fight the violation of human rights, but the United States has demonstrated its incapacity and indifference towards these organizations, for it would involve relinquishing control.
Instead we have the current National Defense Strategy of pre-emptive war in the name of maintaining international peace and democracy. This strategy combined with the complete lack of concern for foreign policy is isolating the United States from the rest of the world.
The international sympathy that followed September 11, 2001, has turned into hatred for the ignorance, arrogance, and readiness to use force exhibited by the Bush administration. Unfortunately, many Americans believe that this war is fighting international terrorism when in fact we are creating more hatred and propaganda for terrorist groups. Until we begin to work with the rest of the world peacefully and collectively these problems and the opposition will only grow larger.
John F. Kennedy once said, “We need to accept that the United States is not omnipotent nor omniscient; we make up solely 6 percent of the world’s population, and we cannot impose our will upon 94 percent of all humanity; we cannot correct every wrong nor straighten every adversity, and, most importantly, there cannot be an American solution for all the problems of the world.”