Best wishes for 2005 to our US cousins: but we still fear your government policies!

By Andrew Leech (

This article was inspired by Peter Makrias' reply to a greetings Email I sent recently. "It was a pleasure to hear from you after such a long time, with a message full of love and not hatred for the United States." It made me think, and realise, that the prevalent European fear of the current leadership of the USA was being perceived by some US citizens as a blanket attack on them - which, of course, it is not - though we have some difficulty in understanding why you voted Bush in for a second term!

It is an article I did not enjoy writing, but it is one I felt necessary to write; not just to put the views expressed in it forward (after all, who am I to criticize what appears to be, legally, the wish of the majority of enfranchised US citizens - especially having Americans among my own family?), but to show that they are part of a general feeling. Why do thousands, if not millions, of Europeans feel this way towards the USA they previously so loved? As a friend of the US, I also feel pain when I see you ostracised by so many!

The prevalent anti-US feeling in Europe is, generally speaking, confined to those current US government policies which are perceived as anti-social (globally), serving only the interests of US 'big-business', and are to the detriment of other nations sharing this planet. It is certainly not directed against the American people - our cousins - whom we feel are equally threatened by those same policies we, ourselves, fear. This seems to be the general view expressed by European newspapers, magazines and those who think; though a few others may have reacted differently, blindly hitting out at everything with a US tag, in a sense of inarticulate frustration.

From birth, the last two European generations have been brought up to respect the US, to look on it as a bulwark for freedoms, to deeply appreciate the help - and American blood - given us in the past 64 years. Greeks, in particular, remember the Marshall Plan aid that saved many from starvation! We loved, respected, cared and cherished those US citizens who came over and risked their lives - often dying - to help us preserve those freedoms we were trying to re-establish. That is a debt we cannot - and will not - ever forget.

But now we see that same saviour, that same gentle giant, starting to behave in a somewhat similar manner to those who sought to repress us in the past. This surprises you, perhaps? Well, bear with me; I shall explain. First came the disregard for the legal standing of the United Nations in the case of both invasion of the Balkans (in the mid-nineties) and, more recently, Iraq. It is true that the media position taken in both those cases fuelled the outrage of US citizens (and many European) and persuaded them that direct, military intervention was the only resort left in the interest of human rights. It is also true that various US governments can claim they acted on the pressure being applied by those vocal citizens; and it is, furthermore, probably true that military intervention was thought the only way to save lives. But it is equally true that in both cases those decisions were taken in violation of United Nations decisions. This is very worrying as disregard for the law and binding treaties has always been the kick-off point for any form of future domination, or dictatorship. It is always perceived as highly threatening by smaller or weaker nations.

However, what has intensified these negative feelings towards the White House and Pentagon, is that in the years that passed after these actions (i.e. the decade from the mid 1990s to today) we see that they seem to have merely been springboards for US 'big business' aspirations and many Europeans feel that it was the business interests, rather than concern for the human element that was the main lever governing government intervention. In fact, many people are starting to feel that the US government, today, is nothing more than a front for those businesses whose only consideration is extending their power and spheres of influence with little regard for ethics. Look at your newspapers - I read the New York Times, daily, as well as European papers - for evidence of this statement.

Rightly or wrongly, many feel that the actions of the current president give those people overseas the impression of his being a front-man, or patsy, for these business groups and that the wishes of the majority of ordinary US citizen are rarely taken into account, perhaps even stifled, when they conflict with these stronger interests. And this, in spite of those who voted Bush in for a second term. I could use the constant refusals of the US to sign the Kyoto treaty as evidence here, where it refuses to join the other 127 countries who are trying to reduce global warming emissions and reverse some of the damage already done to this planet; much of which has actually been caused by the USA. It is remarkable to note that I have yet to meet a US citizen in Greece who has anything positive to say about his government. Do only world-orientated Americans travel abroad?

Regarding the slide of the dollar I could offer the viewpoint of William Pesek Jr, (Bloomberg News, 21 Dec 2004, in International Herald Tribune) where he considers the reasons to be couched in US foreign policy. Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist of Banc of America Capital Management in New York thinks the U.S. image as a "rogue nation" is a key force behind the dollar's decline. "The message from the foreign exchange markets" of late "seems to be simply this: The free ride for the rogue nation is over," The sinking dollar, Quinlan says, "could be a sign that the world is no longer willing to underwrite the designs of U.S. foreign policy. To a large extent, we believe a rebound in the U.S. dollar could hinge on a revamped foreign policy."

Some long-time Asia watchers like Marc Faber (Hong Kong-based head of the company that bears his name) have also been warning investors that U.S. foreign policy will hurt the dollar. Faber has focused on the possibility that the United States will attack Iran and that what he views as "continuous human rights abuses" by the Bush administration in Iraq and elsewhere have made China's human rights record "look like Cinderella." That perception, he says, increasingly worries investors who wonder about Bush's plans for the world during his second term.

The dollar's declines, Quinlan says, "mirror America's plunging approval rating with the rest of the world." The nation's image has been hurt not only by the Iraq war, he says, but also by its rejection of the Kyoto environmental treaty, its strained relations with international institutions like the United Nations and its mounting visa restrictions. "It seems as if America's popularity with the rest of the world has never been lower," Quinlan says. "Little wonder, then, that the U.S. dollar is as unloved as it is today."

It is interesting that the British legal profession, and the people, have rebelled against Tony Blair's total support of the US government. Now the highest legal authority in Britain, the Law Lords, has ruled that international law does not permit the indefinite detention of foreign terrorism suspects (done in Britain as well as in the US) and sternly declared that laws abridging liberties posed a greater threat to a democracy than terrorism itself.

However, there are some pointers that show encouragement for the future. First, many American people are waking up and beginning to realise that their government's policies are often not in their own interests. They are beginning to feel that their government is only interested in their opinion at voting time and that for the rest of the four year term they are being sidelined, like silent observers, to what is being done in their name, overseas. They are beginning to resent being 'tarred' for actions they feel they are not part of. I refer to articles in US newspapers for this observation.

They are also beginning to understand how much the US media sanitises and alters their view of the outside world to suit domestic requirements (e.g. CNN shows a different version of the news in Europe). They are realising to a greater degree that they are not alone in the world and that their personal comfort may result in another's hardship. They are starting to develop a real sense of ethics and responsibility that I see is often at odds with their government's stance. In short, they are starting to display the viewpoint of the true global citizen.

For this awakening, I am grateful and hopeful. At last Europe is beginning to see what may be the real inner American spirit and we are with you all the way. We want to see, again, the America we have always loved, the America we have always respected. We want to see an America governed and directed by that inner democratic and fair sense we have always known, seen and respected in the average American we met. We wish those far-seeing American people to once again legally hold the reins of that wonderful country they live in. That is Europe's - and possibly the world's - wish for 2005: that the American citizen can once again equal the moral strength it evidenced in 1775, and show the world that a government cannot control or stifle its citizens, that big business cannot dictate or bully its consumers or its government; and that "big business" must be made to understand that the dictum "the customer is always right" still applies in this day and age. After all, repudiation of US policies also means repudiation of US business - which is certainly not good for business! Go to it, cousins, we are with you all the way in showing the world where the true American spirit lies!!

(Posted February 2005. Previously published in Greek American Review [January 2005]).

Browse other articles by Andrew Leech or read a brief biographical sketch about him.

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