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Thread: Americans laments tarnished US image abroad

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Question American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Americans don't realize how tarnished their image is abroad, says David Ignatius

    Nov. 27, 2005. 01:00 AM

    When I lived abroad, Thanksgiving was always my favourite holiday. It was a chance to scrounge up a turkey, gather foreign and American friends, and celebrate what America represented to the world. I liked to give a sentimental toast when the turkey arrived at the table, and more than once I had my foreign guests in tears. They loved the American dream as much as I did.

    I don't think Americans realize how much we have tarnished those ideals in the eyes of the rest of the world these past few years. The public opinion polls tell us that America isn't just disliked or feared overseas it is reviled. We are seen as hypocrites who boast of our democratic values but who behave lawlessly and with contempt for others. I hate this America-bashing, but when I try to defend the United States and its values in my travels abroad, I find foreigners increasingly are dismissive. How do you deny the reality of Abu Ghraib, they ask, when the vice-president of the United States is actively lobbying against rules that would ban torture?


    Of all the reversals the U.S. has suffered in recent years, this may be the worst. We are slowly shredding the fabric that defines what it means to be an American.


    Not so long ago our country really was seen as different. Foreigners queued up outside any institution that called itself an "American university," hoping for a chance at their piece of the dream. My own ancestors were educated at such a college, and their children's and grandchildren's success in the new land was part of a global chain of American affirmation and renewal.


    We are eating up this seed corn. That's what I have seen in recent years. We inherited incredible riches of goodwill a world that admired our values and wanted a seat at our table and we have been squandering them. The Bush administration didn't begin this wasting of American ideals, but it has been making the problem worse. Certainly George W. Bush has been spending our international political capital at an astounding clip.

    When I began travelling as a foreign correspondent 25 years ago, I thought I understood what the face of evil looked like. There were governments that used torture against their enemies; they might call it "enhanced interrogation" or some other euphemism, but it was torture, and you just hoped, as an American, that you were never unlucky enough to be their prisoner. There were governments that "disappeared" people snatched them off the street and put them without charges in secret prisons where nobody could find them. There were countries that threatened journalists with physical harm.


    As an American in those days, I felt that I travelled with a kind of white flag. We were different. The world knew it. We might have allies in the Middle East or Latin America who used such horrifying methods. But these were techniques that Americans would never, ever use or even joke about. That was our seed corn the fact that we were different.


    The U.S. must begin to replenish this stock of support for America in the world. I would love to see the Bush administration take the lead, but its officials seem not to understand the problem. Even if they turned course, much of the world wouldn't believe them. Sadly, when Bush eloquently evokes our values, the world seems to tune out. So this task falls instead to the American public.

    It's a job that involves travelling, sharing, living our values, encouraging our children to learn foreign languages and work and study abroad. In short, it means giving something back to the world. We must stop behaving as if we are in a permanent state of war, in which any practice is justified by the exigencies of the moment.

    That's my biggest problem with Cheney's anything-goes jeremiads against terrorism. They suggest we will always be at war, and so it doesn't matter what the world thinks of our behaviour. That's a dangerously mistaken view. We are in a long war but not an endless one, and we need to begin rebuilding the bridges to normal life.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Friend of Gossip Rocks! buttmunch's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Great article, Grimm. I know alot of people who won't go overseas which can only lead to more isolationism and less understanding of the larger world. I maintain that the America of today is a long way away from the America I grew up in, where money wasn't paramount, people actually tried to do something interesting and good with thier lives and being an ignorant asshole was not revered but scorned. It breaks my heart.
    'Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.' Ben Franklin

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Oh please, this image that other people have had about the US being some special nation was bullshit from the start. I agree that this administration is pretty damn bad(and openly bad), but the US has always been just another country..generally no better or no worse..this crap the guy was talking about of everyone idealizing the US and it's values is just that -idealism-(alot of it brought about by propganda admittedly)-and it deserves to end, because it is a falsehood...this country has never been a white knight and people should know this..there is nothing wrong with admitting it either. But just as we have not been the great saint, neither have we(or are we) the greatest sinner. It is almost like the Madonna/Whore thing: either be a saint or the devil-nothing in between. In the end we are just another country like the rest.

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    The thing is, Americans see themselves and their country as that stupid light on the hill and are taken aback when the illusion turns out to be a crock.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    The thing is, Americans see themselves and their country as that stupid light on the hill and are taken aback when the illusion turns out to be a crock.
    That should be SOME Americans Grimmlok. And yes we are not the light on the hill but neither are we the light of the fires of hell. Shame on us for putting forth this stupid myth(and for some of us still believing it), and shame on others for falling for it(and then in their disillusionment demonizing us).

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Americans used to have the reputation of "good guys," at least among their allies, but that started to fade after the Vietnam war. I think it's safe to say that nobody (apart from Bush Republicans) believes in absolute good or evil any more.

    That said, I do think the irresponsibility displayed during the Iraq war has cost the U.S. dearly. And it's not just the war -- the bullying tactics and nasty "diplomacy" practiced by the Bush administration has alienated a lot of countries. Foreign relations are at an all-time low -- even in Canada. You can't practice big stick tactics in foreign policy without reaping the consequences.

    The U.S. has isolated itself on some huge issues, and seems to be going backward while the rest of the developed nations are moving forward. Just because 9/11 happened does not give the U.S. the right to behave anyway it sees fit -- the U.S. is not a tinpot dictatorship and shouldn't be acting like one. As well, much is made of 9/11 and rightly so. But Canada suffered international terrorism BEFORE 9/11 when Sikh miliants blew an Air India jet out of the sky killing more than 300 Canadian citizens.

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Quote Originally Posted by pacific breeze View Post
    Americans used to have the reputation of "good guys," at least among their allies, but that started to fade after the Vietnam war. I think it's safe to say that nobody (apart from Bush Republicans) believes in absolute good or evil any more.

    That said, I do think the irresponsibility displayed during the Iraq war has cost the U.S. dearly. And it's not just the war -- the bullying tactics and nasty "diplomacy" practiced by the Bush administration has alienated a lot of countries. Foreign relations are at an all-time low -- even in Canada. You can't practice big stick tactics in foreign policy without reaping the consequences.

    The U.S. has isolated itself on some huge issues, and seems to be going backward while the rest of the developed nations are moving forward. Just because 9/11 happened does not give the U.S. the right to behave anyway it sees fit -- the U.S. is not a tinpot dictatorship and shouldn't be acting like one. As well, much is made of 9/11 and rightly so. But Canada suffered international terrorism BEFORE 9/11 when Sikh miliants blew an Air India jet out of the sky killing more than 300 Canadian citizens.
    I think the US is really not that different than other nations in what is happening..all countries go through bad periods or oscillations and we are going through one right now..it is just that because of our influence that our bad periods have a greater world impact, unfortunately. Other nations are also using "big stick" tactics but on a lesser or regional scale-and only because they can't on a larger scale. We are certainly not the worst nation out there by any means, and that is how it seems to us to be portrayed sometimes. And realistically, how many nations are not reacting "as they see fit" because they think it would be wrong rather than because they simply do not have the ability to do so? I agree this current administration sucks and has made some huge mistakes but I don't think if we got rid of it it would take that much to correct alot of these mistakes-get out of Iraq, sign the Kyoto Protocol, etc.
    Hopefully this period right now for the US is part of a "one step back" and there will soon be a 'two steps forward". I also don't think it is the US people and the US in general that is so off the mark. It is more the current administration. Bush cheated and lied his way to his second term and pushed every panic button he could to scare the hell out of the American population in order to squeak by to his second term. I really don't think this administration is really reflective of the American people and I hope people in other nations can see this. Many Americans do not want to even be involved that much in foreign affairs-most are too caught up in their own lives and national problems and issues, just like in other nations. Only about 120 million people even voted in the last election..and what, of that 61 million or so voted for him and 59 million or so against? This is out of a nation of nearly 300 million people. He got his sorry ass reelected, but has never had anything like a mandate in this country. Thank God at least for a two-term presidency limit! *I will now go and hide as I am sure the long knives will come out now that I have said this*...*scurries for cover*

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    ^^No need to run for cover! I agree with a lot of what you said. But this administration has done a LOT of damage -- even conservativs in this country who usually lick any US butt they can find, have been outraged by things that have gone on recently. Such as Condi Rice coming here and snidely telling Cdns that the "U.S. is good" for the billions they owe us on softwood lumber duties that they have illegally imposed. You can't sign onto NAFTA and then ignore the rules you don't like, which is exactly what has happened.

    I could go on, but why bother? That's just one example of hundreds. But my point is, if they are pissing off their biggest trading partner by behaving this way (and this was going on long before Canada refused to support an illegal war in Iraq), what are they doing to other nations? The mind reels.
    NOTE: I talking about this admin, not the majority of American people. I think if most of them knew some of the stuff that was going on in their name, they would be horrified.

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    ^^Totally agree on the Canadian thing. Again why piss off the country that you rely on to keep terrorists from crossing a 4,000 mile long border(remember that guy who planned to blow up LAX) and which is blessed with abundant natural resources(Alberta tar sands-or whatever it is..you know..that stuff that can supply us with a hundred years of oil)? One of the worst things the Bush administration has done along with Iraq. I agree also that the US does take Canada for granted and that we should just turn "Condimelda" Rice(and Ann Coulter) over to you so you can just do with them as you wish. The Bush administration really does suck big time in the way it treats our allies.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Don't be embarrassed, Soljiita, it's not your fault. Canada has such a "nice guy" image and so many wimps have been running the country of late, that I'm sure Bush et al figure they can get away with it. But the mood here is increasingly hostile toward the U.S., especially in the West, and that's where the oil is. Paul Martin, our current PM, has been quite vocal in his efforts over the softwood lumber issue and my sense is that with an election looming, he is going to play a little hardball.

    The Cdns walked away from the softwood lumber table for the first time a couple of weeks ago and the Americans were outraged. Erm...isn't that what you've been doing for years? Turnabout is fair play and it's also a bitch.

    I"d love to take Ann on. I think I could whup her!

    The whole thing is absolutely unnecessary and it's scary to think that the U.S. would gamble so much on an issue they've already LOST repeatedly in the international courts. It really has people steamed. So far, their refusal to pay has cost the province I live in more than $3.5 billion in lost royalties. That isn't exactly chump change.

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    Elite Member Sojiita's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    I am not embarrassed about it..more like saddened and disgusted by the current administration. Don't they know that what goes around comes around and these things are going to come right back and bite the US in the ass? They(Bush) are being incredibly short-sighted in these regards...why can't they see the long-term big picture? Probably too full of themselves and greedy..or just maybe too damn wrapped up in their idealogy to see anything the way it really is.

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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Oh Please, no country is perfect. The US has made some mistakes but does a lot of good things. Lets not forget how much money we give to 3rd world/developing countries.

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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    the USA has been looking for a 51st state - maybe the District of Canada would work...

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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Quote Originally Posted by bobbysue View Post
    Oh Please, no country is perfect. The US has made some mistakes but does a lot of good things. Lets not forget how much money we give to 3rd world/developing countries.
    Percentage wise shockingly little in comparison with other - less economically blessed - countries.
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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    Default Re: American laments tarnished US image abroad

    Quote Originally Posted by bobbysue View Post
    Oh Please, no country is perfect. The US has made some mistakes but does a lot of good things. Lets not forget how much money we give to 3rd world/developing countries.
    What does that have to do with the fact that the US image is pretty much in the toilet across the globe?

    Reality vs. Posturing... reality wins.
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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