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Letters to the Editor

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Ugly American

In the early part of the 19th century, there existed a young lieutenant in the French army who would hear not the slightest criticism of Napoleon. One critical word and voila! It was “grass for breakfast.” His praise of his glorious leader was so voluble that his name entered our lexicon and Lt. Chauvin bequeathed us the word “chauvinism.” (Yes, Virginia, the word does allude to more than sexual politics.)

Lt. Chauvin would have been quite comfortable in Vail this past week. If you doubt that, then merely read Richard Carnes’ column of March 23. Was there ever such a solipsistic and arrogant analysis of a world event written by a grown-up? Seldom have I seen so many non-sequiturs combined with such abysmal reasoning. And, how do we spell “xenophobia?”

Mr. Carnes seems to appreciate democracy in a very selective manner. He ignores the fact that every poll in Spain for the last year has consistently shown a marked antipathy toward the Iraq war. They, along with Italy (an ally), England (an ally), France, Germany, etc., ad nauseum, all possess a citizenry who by a wide margin disapprove of Mr. Bush’s war. Perhaps some of the governments involved have supported the war for whatever political or economic reason (U.S. dollars), but the citizenry has been pretty constant in its opposition across all of Europe. (Be glad that “majority” doesn’t rule!)

And why not? They didn’t buy U.S. arguments about weapons of mass destruction. They were right! They didn’t buy U.S. claims of al Qaeda tied to Saddam. And they were right! They saw no clear and present danger. And they were proved right!

Europeans are a lot more reluctant to sacrifice their sons and daughters allegedly to topple a dictator and free an oppressed people than we are, for one very simple reason. After a thousand years, they know there is always another one around the corner.

What Mr. Carnes fails to realize is that the peoples of Europe did not trust George Bush from the get-go. He earned a reputation as a cowboy early on and quickly lost whatever credibility he started with among almost all Europeans. Europeans, by and large, do not trust George Bush, period! If you doubt that, go and read some back copies of The Economist, or the Trib. It’s hard to ignore, even for the blindest Bush loyalist.

You might also try and step outside your own bias and remember, from the Spanish point of view, all this recent upsurge in violence is largely due to the war in Iraq. So, in a strange way, many Spaniards half think we instigated this particular piece of terror. And they aren’t the only ones. “All the better to fight terrorism over there” doesn’t sell well “over there.” Surprise, surprise!

There was a poll published recently on our own national news (ABC, I think). Eighty-two percent of Germans actively distrust the USA. Not only Bush, mind you, the entire USA! An ally for 50 years. France was little better at 76 percent. An ally for 200 years. There’s no reason to think Spain and Italy are any different. As a matter of fact, we’ve gone from the immense foreign popularity of the Clinton administration (and the U.S. in general) to an almost universal distrust and dislike unparalleled in our history (except maybe in the Vietnam years), all in three whole years. Only a really ugly American could dismiss that as unimportant.

I don’t know what kind of people Mr. Carnes thinks are in this world, but would you risk your sons or daughters for an ally that you don’t trust, that has been proven wrong time and again, for a war you think is wrong? And frankly, for someone you don’t even like? (Hell, somewhere around half of our own people think it was wrong!) Do you seriously expect people who disagree with you and don’t believe you and don’t like you to stand and die for you? How do we spell “unreasonable”?

And oh those “ungrateful” Europeans! Ungrateful for what? Not the WW II thing again? And as for Spain losing their country 800 years ago to the Muslims? When the Muslims conquered Spain, there was no Spain! Spain only came into existence in the 15th century. And The Inquisition only came into existence “after” Ferdinand and Isabella created modern Spain. It had nothing to do with expelling the Moors.

And Richard, you needn’t worry about “next time” in Spain. They’ve been actively and courageously fighting terrorism for 30 years. I wonder, have you also tried to teach your grandmother to suck eggs?

You gotta love the typical “Ugly American,” of which Carnes is a living, breathing example of. Opining on issues concerning cultures he obviously doesn’t understand; imposing typical American mores, values, and self-interests on every problem; totally misunderstanding history; and blithely offering advice in the immediate aftermath of demonstrating his ignorance. Oh! And don’t forget the name calling. That was truly classy!

Jim Dorsey


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