Revolutionary Worker #1127, November 18, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
In Egypt, a popular singer recently released a cassette of a song titled "America, Oh America." The lyrics to the Arabic song say, "Enough, America, enough. People want to live in peace. Enough war, enough destruction." The Egyptian government--a close U.S. ally in the Middle East and recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid each year--immediately banned the song and pulled the cassettes from the streets. But the tape continues to be popular in the underground market.
Reporting on the story, National Public Radio commented that the Egyptian government's move to ban the song "could be a sign of shaky nerves and the government's fear that the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan could provoke an increasingly intense backlash."
Musical criticism of the U.S. war in Afghanistan can also be heard on the other side of the world from Egypt, in Mexico. The Washington Post reports that corridos --a form of song popular in northern Mexico--recently playing on radio include songs such as "The Mistake of the CIA." The lyrics for this song go in part: "They are looking for you, bin Laden, the terrorist that the CIA trained. That was the biggest mistake of the American government."
As the U.S. pounds Afghanistan with thousands of bombs and missiles, and as the number of Afghanis killed and wounded rises, people around the world are increasingly outraged at the savage attacks of the imperialist bully against a small impoverished country. Even among people who had some sympathy for the U.S. immediately following September 11, there are deep questions about what justice or logic there could be in killing people in Afghanistan in reply to the bombing of people in New York City. The anger and questioning can be seen among people of different social classes--from the basic people to intellectuals to even government officials.
What the Polls Show
"Portraits of the United States as a lonely, self-absorbed bully taking out its rage on defenseless Afghanistan are on the rise. More and more, the war is being seen abroad as 'America against Osama,' not, as the Bush administration would prefer, 'All of us against terrorism.' The intense Sept. 12 rush of 'We are all Americans' seems to have faded in the breasts of all but Tony Blair, the prime minister of Britain, who continues to jet around the globe more actively than American leaders themselves."
New York Times, Nov. 4
Opinion polls in various countries are one barometer of what people think about the war. A recent poll in France showed that support for the U.S.-led bombing dropped from 61 percent shortly after the it began to 51 percent by the end of October. In Germany, polls show more than 65 percent of people want the bombings to end now; in Spain 69 percent in a recent poll expressed a similar view.
Tony Blair has been acting as the head international cheerleader for the war on Afghanistan. But in Britain, his home base, polls show support for the war dropped 12 percent in the few weeks after the bombing began. And an incident on November 8 in Latvia showed how anger at Britain (along with the U.S.) is rising in other countries. During a tour of the city of Riga, Prince Charles stopped to talk to a group of school kids. A teenage girl suddenly stepped forward, slapped Charles's face with a red carnation, and declared, "I'm against the Afghan war." As she was led away by the police, she said, "Britain is the enemy of the world."
Over 30 percent in Greece say they believe that the attacks of September 11 were "retribution for a superpower's misguided policies over decades." In Russia, 46 percent in a recent poll were convinced that the U.S. would fail in its war.
All over Europe, there have been demonstrations of tens of thousands of people. More than 200,000 marched in one recent protest in Italy.
A former editor of the Geneva Journal told the New York Times that "people are beginning to be angry" even in Switzerland, one of the world's richest countries: "Normally, the Swiss are pro-American, but in Afghanistan, we see a small and powerless country being trashed out by the U.S."
Anti-U.S. Sentiments in the Middle East
Even before the war in Afghanistan, anti-U.S. sentiments throughout the Middle East had been rising sharply because of the U.S. support for Israel which has been carrying out a bloody offensive against Palestinians for over a year. Now, as al-Jazeera--the Arabic-language satellite TV network based in Qatar--broadcasts images of villages and neighborhoods in Afghanistan destroyed by the air war, the outrage against the U.S. is growing even more intense and widespread. And this is shaking governments allied with the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt.
The Cairo weekly Al Ahram reported that "the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowment sent envoys to mosques, preachers, and imams in Mecca to tell them not to repeat what they see or hear on satellite channels." According to Al Ahram, "Anti-American sentiment inside the country is...pronounced among younger generations of Saudis. These young people are not necessarily influenced by bin Laden. In their eyes, much of the decline in their country's wealth has been caused by the American presence since the Gulf War of the early 1990s."
A Saudi government adviser told the New York Times, "We watch what happens in Afghanistan and we feel bad, and the following item in any newscast is that the Israelis killed X number of Palestinians or destroyed so many houses. It sends the message to us Arabs."
In Kuwait, there are signs of serious disagreements within the ruling circles. Al Ahram reports: "The Kuwaiti government is in a difficult situation after officially declaring its support for the American war against Afghanistan. Following the declaration, half the members of Kuwait's 50-strong elected parliament urged the United States to end its military campaign against Afghanistan."
In Egypt, the Cairo Times reported that after the start of the bombing, many people on the streets expressed fears for the people of Afghanistan. A 46-year-old printshop worker said, "It makes me sad. Aren't these Muslims being bombed? America created bin Laden anyway." His co-worker said, "They've already taken the Middle East after the Gulf War and controlled the oil there. Now they're trying to take Afghanistan. That's one of the only regions in the world that doesn't have American forces."
In the Egyptian paper Al Gomhuria, a commentator who is said to be close to Egyptian President Mubarak wrote, "Innocent civilians in Afghanistan who complain that they have not tasted beef for three years are suffering most of the casualties."
Over 10,000 students at several Egyptian campuses protested on October 8, the day after the U.S. started bombing Afghanistan. Cairo Times noted, "Few expect more widespread displays of public anger, but many analysts say all bets are off if any Arab countries, such as Iraq, are targeted."
Other Voices Around the World
• Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, author of international bestseller The God of Small Things, has written scathing essays against the U.S. bombing. In one essay, she wrote: "When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, 'We're a peaceful nation.' America's favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: 'We're a peaceful people.' So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace." Outlook magazine, which has been publishing Roy's essays, says that they have received hundreds of letters from readers supporting Roy's views--more than the magazine has ever received in response to an article.
• Australian boxer Anthony Mundine, a 26-year-old Aborigine, was instantly transformed from a "role model" to a target of political and personal attacks after he publicly opposed Australian participation in the U.S. war. Mundine is the International Boxing Federation's super-middle weight champion for the Pan-Pacific region and in training for a world title fight. Appearing on a TV talk show in October, Mundine said he was against the sending of Australian troops to Afghanistan and said, "America has brought it upon themselves [for] what they've done." The interview was suddenly cut short, and Mundine came under intense criticism from the media and politicians. An IBF official reportedly told Mundine that his comments had "killed his career" and he should "stay out of America."
• Noted Latin American author Eduardo Galeano wrote in an essay for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada: "John Negroponte, the U.S. representative to the UN, threatens to take the war 'to other countries,' and he knows what he's talking about. A few years ago he took the war to Central America. Negroponte was the patron of the terrorism of the Contras in Nicaragua and of the paramilitaries in Honduras. Reagan, the president at the time, said the same thing today that is said by Bush and his enemy bin Laden: it is all worth it."
• Some views in South Africa, as reported by Washington Post: A graphic designer in Johannesburg said, "I do not understand the arrogance of Americans.... Why do Americans seem to think that their lives are more valuable than lives outside their borders? This is what makes people so angry at the U.S." The director of the Institute for Global Dialogue, said, "No one in his right mind can defend the gruesome murder of innocent children and the elderly in pursuit of one man whose guilt cannot be proved beyond doubt." A political analyst told reporters: "America has no regard for innocent lives lost in other parts of the world. For them the concept of innocent lives lost applies to situations where white and people of Western origin are involved. When it is black people's lives or those people of Indian origin, the concept does not apply."
• In Beijing, China, a 22-year-old student told the Washington Post: "I think the United States has been too harsh and unreasonable. It's big and powerful, and it doesn't care how others feel. You can't behave like that. Isn't that why America was attacked?"
This Unjust War Can't Be Whitewashed
On the world stage, the United States is clearly losing the battle of public opinion. In an effort to win back ground on this front, the U.S. Defense Department has hired--for a reported fee of $100,000 a month--a major public relations firm, the The Rendon Group (TRG), to help "sell" the war in the Arab world. The head of TRG has long experience in Democratic presidential campaigns, and the company has had other Pentagon and CIA contracts, including support work for the U.S. covert war against Iraq.
But no amount of slick PR work can cover up the ugly reality: what the U.S. is carrying out in Afghanistan is a cold, unjust war. In the face of world opinion as well as military difficulties on the ground, the U.S. imperialists plan to escalate the killings in Afghanistan and are demanding that everyone in the world--including their allies and people in the U.S.--line up behind them. The ruthless crimes of the U.S. imperialists will continue to give rise to resistance and opposition from people around the world.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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