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An Outsider's Perspective of the US

This is from an overseas friend -- part of a recent e-mail exchange we had that covered geopolitical issues, especially the Bush Administration and how it is perceived by foreigners.

I think my perception of the US (at a national rather than individual level) has changed over the last four years -- and that ironically the US is by far the greatest threat to world peace that there is now. Think of it this way -- if someone presented to you a country that:
  • Has the world's largest supply of weapons of mass destruction
  • Doesn't recognise that citizens of other countries have civil rights -- see below
  • Doesn't have an excellent civil rights record in own country -- see below
  • Is known to engage in torture of prisoners of war
  • Is the world's largest economic power -- of which substantial amounts are invested in 'defence'
  • And most frighteningly -- appears to be increasingly paranoid about other countries' intentions
If you knew of a country with these attributes -- would you not be a little worried?

My reference to the civil rights issues for citizens of other countries relates firstly to Guantanamo Bay (it's appalling that Bush calls it a 'war' on terror, and then refuses to grant the inmates there the rights of prisoners of war. Even if it's not a war -- why are they any less worthy of these rights than others?). And do you remember the uproar when the Iraqis showed pictures of American prisoners of war early on in the war? At least they were relatively healthy and safe. The hypocrisy of the uproar about those pictures against what subsequently happened is astounding.

And re the reference to civil rights in your own country -- I have to say that as the wealthiest country in the world, I find it a little odd that you can't find enough money to have a comprehensive welfare system and a comprehensive public health system. I was amazed at the large number of homeless people in Washington when I visited there last year. And is it true that your people are not guaranteed to get hospital care? For the country with the most sophisticated health system in the world -- again, truly amazing.

What am I supposed to say to this? I can't refute a word of it.

I can't blame anyone for being frightened of the US right now. They should be. The only reason we're not more of a threat is that our military is currently so over-extended in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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