elastic 'anti-American' label stretches along a wide gamut. "
"'[A]nti-American' has spanned from al-Qaida terrorists, to angry Iraqis
tiring of occupation, to recalcitrant German and French leaders, to Labor
Party backbenchers in Britain’s House of Commons."
months and years ahead, many commentators will keep equating opposition to
military actions with 'anti-Americanism.'"
fog of such rhetoric cannot hide destructive agendas."
Strong critics of U.S. foreign policy often encounter charges of
“anti-Americanism.” Even though vast numbers of people in the
United States disagree with Washington’s
assumptions and military actions, some pundits
can’t resist grabbing onto a timeworn handle of pseudo-patriotic
In a typical outburst before the war on Iraq last spring, Rush
Limbaugh told his radio audience: “I want to say something about
these anti-war demonstrators. No, let’s not
mince words, let’s call them what they are --
Weeks later, former Congressman Joe Scarborough, a Republican now
rising through the ranks of talking heads, said on MSNBC: “These
leftist stooges for anti-American causes are
always given a free pass. Isn’t it time to make
them stand up and be counted for their views, which could
hurt American troop morale?”
Today, in an era when the sun never sets on deployed American
troops, the hoary epithet is not only a rhetorical weapon against
domestic dissenters or foreign foes. It’s also useful for
brandishing against allies. Oddly, in recent
months, across the narrow spectrum of U.S.
mainstream punditry, even European unity has been portrayed as
An extensive article by Andrew Sullivan at the outset of the summer,
in the mildly liberal New Republic, warned that “with the unveiling
of a new federalist constitution for a ‘United
States of Europe’ in June, the anti-American
trend will be subtly but profoundly institutionalized.”
Sullivan added: “It’s past time that Americans wake up and see this
new threat for what it is.”
Similar noises have come from right-wing outlets such as The Weekly
Standard. Under the stern headline “America needs a serious Europe
policy,” a contributing editor declared that “the anti-American
drift of the EU is cause for concern. At a
minimum, it should lead Washington to rethink
its traditional enthusiasm for greater European integration. Much
as British entry into the euro zone might make life easier for
American businesses (and tourists), it is sure
to make life more difficult for American
diplomats.” And, the article could have added, for American war
The elastic “anti-American” label stretches along a wide gamut. The
routine aim is to disparage and stigmatize activities or sentiments
that displease policymakers in Washington. Thus,
“anti-American” has spanned from al-Qaida
terrorists, to angry Iraqis tiring of occupation, to
recalcitrant German and French leaders, to Labor Party backbenchers
in Britain’s House of Commons.
Any Americans gauged to be insufficiently supportive of U.S.
government policies may also qualify for similar aspersions.
(During a debate on CNN International this year,
a fervent war supporter proclaimed me to be a
The officials now running Washington are intoxicated with priorities
that involve spending more than $1 billion a day on the U.S.
military. Meanwhile, the media support for de
facto empire-building is tinged with
sometimes-harsh criticism -- without urging forthright resistance to a
succession of wars largely driven by the USA. In many cases, the
fear of being called “anti-American” seems to
match tacit enthusiasm for visions of pax
A few weeks before he became the New York Times executive editor,
Bill Keller wrote in a June 14 essay about the Iraq intelligence
debacle: “The truth is that the
information-gathering machine designed to guide our
leaders in matters of war and peace shows signs of being corrupted.
To my mind, this is a worrisome problem, but not
because it invalidates the war we won. It is a
problem because it weakens us for the wars we still face.”
“The wars we still face” are chronically touted as imperatives. In
the months and years ahead, many commentators will keep equating
opposition to military actions with “anti-Americanism.”
But the fog of such rhetoric cannot hide destructive agendas. A
lengthy mid-summer report in the Los Angeles Times concluded that
top Pentagon officials “are studying the lessons
of Iraq closely -- to ensure that the next U.S.
takeover of a foreign country goes more smoothly.”
A special assistant to Donald Rumsfeld was upbeat. “We’re going to
get better over time,” said Lawrence Di Rita. “We’ve always thought
of post-hostilities as a phase” apart from
combat, but “the future of war is that these
things are going to be much more of a continuum. ... We’ll get
better as we do it more often.”
While political commanders plan to “do it more often,” those of us
who oppose them can expect to hear that we’re “anti-American.”