In many forms, places, hatred of America lives

Target: Millions worldwide see the U.S. as the enemy

some resent its political and economic powers, others oppose its troops on their soil.

Terrorism Strikes America

The World

September 28, 2001|By Will Englund | Will Englund,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

Dislike, resentment, anger and hatred toward America arise in many forms and in many places.

An anti-American could be a student in South Korea, a rightist in Japan, a soccer fan in Greece, a priest in Russia, an imam in Ghana, a protester in Pakistan - or a hijacker in the United States.

President Bush says that the men who flew the planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon did so because they hated freedom. There is probably a kernel of truth in that, but people who have studied the impulses of anti-Americanism around the world agree that the real answer is more complicated and more specific than the president's explanation would suggest.

Millions of people around the world hate America, and for most of them that hatred stems not so much from ideology as from history - their own history.

Anti-Americanism isn't always very logical, or consistent. It is, fortunately, only rarely violent. In some cases it has more to do with local politics than with actual American actions. But it is a potent force in a world dominated by a single economic and political superpower.

"Somebody has to be an enemy," says Mark Juergensmeyer, head of international studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, "even if it isn't a real one."

And most of the time that somebody is the United States.

It is in the Middle East that anti-Americanism has found its most virulent voice. The United States is ritually denounced for its support of Israel and for the continuing economic blockade and occasional bombings of Iraq. These are issues that stir passions throughout much of the Muslim world. But among those who have been drawn to Osama bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of being the man behind the Sept. 11 hijackings, neither Israel nor Iraq is the motivating issue.

Rather, it is U.S. support for the governments of Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Both regimes are seen to be repressive, corrupt and wholly dependent on American backing. Egypt has a flourishing Islamic fundamentalist movement, one that finds eager recruits in the slums of Cairo and in impoverished villages. Saudi Arabia, in the minds of bin Laden and others, has sullied Islam by allowing U.S. troops to be stationed there. Bin Laden was a Saudi citizen until the kingdom stripped him of his citizenship in 1994, and he has said that the presence of U.S. troops anywhere in the country effectively defiles the mosques of Mecca and Medina.

"This is as much a conflict within Islam, and between Muslims, as it is a conflict with the West," says Matthew Cenzer, a lecturer in history and religion at Northwestern University. "In some ways it's a mistake to focus on how much these groups hate America, because they have a political agenda for the Middle East."

Their attitude could be expressed this way, Cenzer says: "If you get rid of the puppet master, you get rid of the puppet."

And that's the real goal.

But getting rid of the American puppet master - at a time when U.S. power and cultural influence are so pervasive - clearly wasn't going to be easy.

Throughout most of the world, America is inescapable. It is a beacon for millions. But for millions of others, it's more like a lightning rod for pent up resentment and frustration.

High on the list of visible American institutions abroad is the military. In Japan, for instance, there's an ever-present level of unhappiness over the U.S. occupation of Okinawa. In China, the collision of an American spy plane with a Chinese fighter jet caused fierce anger. Even in South Korea, which was saved from conquest by the U.S. Army, activists blame the American military for countenancing a massacre of university students in Kwangju in 1980.

Greeks blame the United States for supporting a military dictatorship there between 1967 and 1974. Russians, smarting from the loss of empire and power and worrying about the integrity of their own country, were aghast at the 1999 air war in Kosovo, which they saw as an inexcusable American intervention in the affairs of Serbia.

There was a moment during that war that seemed to sum up so much of the world's feelings toward America.

Outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, protesters marched and threw bottles of ink against the facade of the building. One carried a sign that read, "U.S.A.: Where were you in 1389?"

The reference was to the year in which the Serbs lost the battle of Kosovo Field to the Ottoman Turks, a seminal moment in Balkan history. But to ask that question of a country that, in the eyes of the protester, so infuriatingly refuses to believe in history of any kind was either poignant or ludicrous. And - even as this protest was playing itself out - an equally large crowd of Russians was gathered behind the embassy. They were waiting in line for U.S. visas.

That, in a nutshell, illustrated one of the more important divides in the world today - between those who are willing to embrace Americanization, and those who will not or cannot.

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