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America - Hatred Among the Arabs

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May 9, 2009 | by Jeff Jacoby

If Americans are hated in the Arab world, much of the blame can be laid to the influence of thugocracies like Mubarak's.

Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, had some unhappy tidings to
deliver the other day. The US occupation in Iraq, he said, has
turned the Arab world against the American people.

"In the beginning, some people thought the Americans were helping
them," Mubarak told the French newspaper Le Monde. "There was no
hatred toward Americans." But "after what has happened in Iraq,
there is an unprecedented hatred."

Well, if anyone should be up on the latest Arab scuttlebutt, it
would be Mubarak, ruler of the world's largest Arab nation. But
one can't help wondering -- why didn't he break this bad news a
little earlier?

After all, a week before his interview with Le Monde, he was being
hosted by President Bush in Crawford, Tex. Shouldn't he have told
him then, face-to-face, just how things stand in the Arab world?
When Bush opened their joint press conference on April 12 by
hailing "the bonds of friendship" between America and Egypt --
when he called Mubarak "my good friend, Hosni" -- shouldn't the
Egyptian ruler have set him straight?

Then again, Mubarak might have had good reason to hold his tongue.
Bush probably wouldn't have taken kindly to being told a
bald-faced lie like "There was no hatred toward Americans" before
the Iraq war. Egypt's strongman may not have wanted to give the
president an excuse to point out that four of the Sept. 11
hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta, were Egyptian -- as
is Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top deputy.

Maybe Mubarak confined himself to diplomatic pleasantries in
Crawford so as not to provoke any rethinking of the nearly $2
billion a year that Washington pours into his coffers. Since
1975, Egypt has received more than $50 billion in US foreign aid
-- more than any other country except Israel.

"Why should America keep showing such generosity to the world's
leading Arab state," Bush might have asked if Mubarak had started
talking about Arab hatred, "if it is going to be repaid with
resentment and violence?" The president might have pointed out
that while Israel routinely supports the US position in
international forums like the United Nations, Egypt almost always
votes against it. If Bush were to demand an explanation for such
rank ingratitude, what could Mubarak say?

"There was no hatred toward Americans." What a preposterous
falsehood. Arab regimes have been inciting hatred toward
Americans for years, and few have done so more consistently than
the crude autocracy of Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt under an
"emergency" decree for the last 23 years.

For example, it was Al-Ahram, a newspaper controlled by the
Egyptian government, that claimed in October that US pilots flying
over Afghanistan were dropping "genetically treated" food into
areas booby-trapped with land mines -- hoping not only to make
Afghans sick but to cripple or kill those who attempted to gather
the food. It was Al-Akhbar, another regime-sponsored daily, that
declared in August: "The Statue of Liberty . . . must be destroyed
because of the idiotic American policy that goes from disgrace to
disgrace in the swamp of bias and blind fanaticism. . . . The age
of the American collapse has begun."

Examples of the anger engendered by the Iraq war? Hardly.
Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar published those statements in October and
August of 2001.

Earlier that year, Al-Akhbar had sneered that Secretary of State
Colin Powell "has the brain of a bird" and acts "like a stupid
teenager." Ground Zero was still smoldering less than a week
after 9/11 when a writer in Al-Arabi, a Nasserist weekly, cheered
the attacks: "In all honesty, and without beating around the
bush," Ahmad Murad wrote, "I am happy about the great number of
American dead. . . . I have a right to be filled with happiness;
the Americans are finally tasting the bitterness of death."
(Quotes are courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute,
whose invaluable web site --www.memri.org -- contains a vast
array of material translated from the Arab and Iranian media.)

It isn't only Egypt's media that whip up anti-American animus.
Cairo's influential Al Azhar seminary, a government-backed
institution, urged Muslims more than a year ago to wage "jihad"
against the United States. A popular Egyptian singer has recorded
a song accusing the United States of perpetrating the 9/11
attacks. ("Hey, people, it was only a tower," the lyrics run,
"and I swear by God that they are the ones who pulled it down.") A
former Egyptian minister of war compares Bush's policies to
Nazism. And Mubarak himself, as the Washington Post recently
observed, aggressively opposes the Bush administration's campaign
for democracy in the Middle East, denouncing it as an outside
imposition.

If Americans are hated in the Arab world, much of the blame can be
laid to the influence of thugocracies like Mubarak's. Which is one
good reason to stop supporting those thugocracies. The man Bush
calls "my good friend, Hosni" is responsible for a good deal of
cruelty and repression within Egypt's borders. If we truly want
to neutralize the anti-American venom that has poisoned so many
Arabs, we could begin by breaking off our embrace of the autocrats
who oppress them.



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