Anti-Americanism or anti-US sentiment has been defined as dislike of or opposition to the United States governmental policies, particularly foreign policy, or American people in general. But, as they say, there is no smoke without fire. So how did the US come to plant hatred toward its policies around the world?
To begin with, we shall distinguish between anti-US sentiment that is directed at Washington’s policies and the dislike of the American people at large. While the first may affect the latter, it is not necessarily an inevitable side-effect. So, not every anti-American policy is a loather of the American people.
Pew Research Center published an article in the early 2000s titled “Anti-Americanism: Causes and Characteristics.” In it, the spread of anti-Americanism is blamed mainly on US foreign policies.
“Undoubtedly, Bush has become the lightning rod for anti-American feelings, but the problem is bigger than Bush. American policies and power fuel resentment for the U.S. throughout the world. The administration brought those resentments to the surface and intensified unhappiness with the U.S.,” the research states.
For example, the war on Iraq spurred such feelings around the world, particularly in the West Asia. Similarly, the invasion of Afghanistan had had a resounding effect. With these wars launched at the turn of the century, the vision of an imperialistic warmongering power was further solidified in the minds of the peoples Washington was imposing its policies and interests on, as well as those who relate to them.
Not only does Pew acknowledge that former president George W. Bush is also largely responsible for this view, but it also dates anti-US sentiment to before the war on Iraq.
In addition, US support for the occupying Israeli regime has sown anger in the Arab and Muslim worlds. For Muslims in general, Washington’s policies toward the Israeli occupation of Palestine are biased, siding with Tel Aviv on all issues and leaving Palestinians to grope for justice in the dark.
According to polls, 99% of Jordanians, 96% of Palestinians, and 94% of Moroccans believe that US stances on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle are unfair.
Even Europeans strongly think poorly of partial US support for the Israeli regime.
There are also other points of contention that render Americans unscrupulous in nature in the point of view of many Western Europeans.
“Conflicting attitudes toward security and military issues – especially in the wake of the war in Iraq – are also a major source of tension between the United States and Western Europe,” Pew Research Center argues.
In 2012, another piece was published by Pew addressing anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
It referred to Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech as a bid to change America’s dismal image in the Muslim world. Obama began that speech by saying that he came in peace.
“I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: assalaamu alaykum,” the US president commenced.
However, addressing Muslims with the Arabic greeting is not sufficient to tell them that he speaks their language, that he understands their distrust of his nation.
“We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world – tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate,” Obama declared.
However, a 2012 poll showed that the image of the US remained unfavourable across the Muslim world. In Egypt, only 19 percent had expressed a positive view while among Pakistanis and Jordanians it was a meager 12 percent.
Anti- Americanism in West Asia
The essence of anti-Americanism in West Asia (Middle East) correlates with the implementation of certain policies by the US government, at the root of which is Washington’s support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the Iraq war, and its interference in Iran’s domestic affairs.
The Great Satan
“Death to America” is a widely used slogan in Iran, a country that has many grievances against the United States.
It has also been referred to as the Great Satan since the late Leader of the Iranian Revolution Imam Ruhollah Khomeini—who blamed the United States for imperialism and sponsoring corruption worldwide— ascribed the term to Washington in 1979.
There are many reasons why Iranians strongly feel this way about Americans. Observers contend that the 1953 US-sponsored coup that overthrew Mohammad Mossadegh— Iran’s first democratically-elected prime minister— is one of those reasons. Mossadegh ventured to nationalize Iran’s oil industry. This did not suit the West, particularly Britain. So MI6 urged the CIA to take action which ended in Operation Ajax. This ruined the Iranians’ first democratic experience and fuelled public resentment.
The CIA made a public statement 60 years later confessing that “the military coup that overthrew Mossadegh … was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
Even worse, the US helped sustain the dead Iranian dictator, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, also known as Shah (king), in power as an absolute monarch who with his secret police, SAVAK—formed with the assistance of the CIA and Mossad—proved to be a dictator by torturing and killing dissents.
During the Iraq-Iran war, around 300,000 Iranians were killed. The Americans showed that they were on Saddam Hussein’s side even in his invasion of Iran in 1980.Eight years later, the Iraqi army used chemical weapons in an operation to retake the al-Faw peninsula. Attacks using banned sarin gas killed thousands and affected many more. The Americans helped this happen.
In 2013, Foreign Policy magazine stated: “US intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent… The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on US satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence.”
The effects of these attacks can be still seen today on Iranian victims.
The Iranian nation witnessed another tragedy that year. Iran Air 655 was shot down by a US navy ship named the Vincennes. 290 people were killed aboard the plane, including 66 children. The US claimed the Iranian civilian airliner was misidentified. Washington did not apologize for the disaster. George H.W. Bush, then Vice President of the United States, said during a presidential campaign on August 2, 1988 that “I will never apologize for the United States – I don’t care what the facts are… I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy”.
Two years after the tragic incident, US Navy Capt. Will C. Rogers III, the captain of the USS Vincennes who massacred hundereds of Iranian passengers was awarded the Legion of Merit, a high award, given “on the basis of unambiguous evidence and sterling performance, without a blotch of tarnish”.
The Islamic Republic has been slammed with sanctions since 1979. Despite the nuclear deal that was struck with the p5+1 group of nations, the economy has suffered setbacks and the human cost of these sanctions has been high. And it will take a long time to recuperate even if all sanctions are lifted. The humanitarian impact has affected thousands of patients due to lack of proper pharmaceuticals and medical equipment that are difficult to obtain as a result of sanctions.