A few weeks ago I appeared on a Newsnight debate with William Shawcross, ex Ho Chi Min cheer leader and now right wing man of tweed and Tom Reid, the European correspondent for the Washington Post. They argued that anti Americanism is the product of our jealousy of the US. Jealous of what exactly? Jealous of a political leader who at times can barely string a sentence together? (Of course not, we have John Prescott for a start). Do we secretly harbour a desire to have a deputy leader who is being investigated by Securities and Exchange Commission and sued for his time as Chief Executive and Chairman of the Halliburton Corporation? Do we long for a political system were hoards of MPs are financed by a corporation that goes belly up after being lied about by its auditors and sucked dry by its directors?
If we are jealous of American way of life then the anti-American majority in Britain actually craves the highest obesity rate in the world. They want to own handguns, run major sporting events called the World Series and not invite one other country to take part. Our deepest desire must be to see people in Britain paying for private health insurance.
All of this, according to Shawcross, is really the play thing of the liberal media elite, as if North London is full of Prada wearing hacks screeching," Darling, anyone who is anyone simply loathes the Yanks. America is sooo last millennium." If they too are secretly jealous of the US, then Hampstead can't wait for the re-introduction of the death penalty or to see channel after channel of screaming TV evangelists calling homosexuals "Satan's semen drenched acolytes".
Tom Reid argues that anti Americanism is the product of European countries no longer having an empire and hating America's superpower status. Surely the anti war movement doesn't want an empire - nor does it want to kill as many civilians as America. Frankly Reid might muster a better argument if he said "You don't like America because there are two A's in the word." Maybe, Tom and William, we are not jealous of America's continuing economic blockade of Cuba, spitefully held because Cuba had the audacity to defy American plans for the region. What of the American led sanctions on Iraq? They have left an American armed dictator in power whilst the Iraqi people suffer. Do I wish that Britain had played a bigger role in the sanctions that UNICEF estimates to have been responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children under five?
What of US military aid to Israel, surely I should secretly wish that there were more British components in the F16's that pound the illegally occupied territories. As the Apache attack helicopters carry out their extra judicial killings and assassinations I should be sitting in front of the TV news saying, "If only those were British helicopters killing the Palestinians." In the politics of the playground, Bush would demand Palestinians democratically elect someone that the US wants and not Arafat, and the whole of Britain would whine,"Oh we hated him first and more than what you do."
The US gives about $2.5billion in military aid to the country with the worst human rights record in South America, Colombia. According to Tom and William's theory we should be trying to outdo America by organising whip rounds for para military death squads in the local pubs. Shaking tins shouting, "Just £15 can pay for enough bullets to wipe out a whole family of trade unionists. Come on we can match the Yanks."
Colombias' President elect, Uribe Velez's own father is allegedly linked to nacrotraficking, his political secretary and close friend Pedro Juan Moreno was found by the US Drugs Enforcement Agency to be importing the chemicals used as a precursor to transform coca paste to cocaine without a license. Tom and William would have me wish Blair finance as many, if not more,"private security operations" for this man as Bush does? Surely all of the above plus the ICC,the UN mission in Bosnia, 6,000 Afghan civilians killed, Kyoto etc, might just be a clue to the fact that envy plays no part in anti Americanism, it is anger and revulsion at the worlds biggest rogue state.
This article is also published in the New Statesman