Monday, April 14, 2003

IT STARTS: A NYT piece on how the United States is viewed in Europe includes the following:
"What cannot now be disguised, as U.S. marines swagger around the Iraqi capital swathing toppled statues of Saddam Hussein with the stars and stripes and declaring `We own Baghdad,' is the crudely colonial nature of this enterprise," wrote Seumas Milne, a columnist in The Guardian, the leftist British daily.

Note the reference to "swathing toppled statues . . . with the stars and stripes," referring of course to the short-lived but widely broadcast act of a single U.S. Marine, an act that was quickly rescinded with the American flag being replaced by an Iraqi one before the entire statue was toppled. Somehow I am not surprised that this is the image that will remain in the memories of many.

The jury is still out concerning the nature of the American regime in post-Saddam Iraq; it may well end up resembling the very type of empire decried by critics. However I think it is fair to say that at this point for British, French, Russians or other Europeans to compare contemporary U.S. actions in the world (Haiti, Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) with their own empires of the past displays a strange sort of historical myopia.

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