| A worker adjusts an anti-US placard in a Seoul store. (AFP)
Jakarta, Feb. 19: These are uneasy, tense times for Americans living abroad. As the possibility of war against Iraq rises, especially a war that the US may fight virtually alone, so does anti-Americanism in the streets, newspapers and cafes of foreign cities.
Interviewed around the world, Americans expressed confidence that people nearly everywhere tried to distinguish between them and their government. But they acknowledged that anger over American policies — and resentment of American power — had translated into varying degrees of wariness, discomfort and even risk for Americans living in different parts of the world.
In some places, like Pakistan and Egypt, old pique at the US is now fortified by fury at what many people see as the Bush administration’s hostility to Islam.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, the outpouring of opposition to a war against Iraq is likely to be substantial. The American embassy in Jakarta is taking no chances.
A potential war brings “a situation so fraught with uncertainty,” the embassy said, that families of American diplomats evacuated last autumn after the Bali terrorist attack will not be allowed to return.
In West Asia, too, some American embassies have started to send home the families of diplomats and nonessential staff members. The question whether American executives and their families should follow this example is an issue for many corporations.
In both West Asia and Indonesia, schools attended by American children have been turned into virtual fortresses. Some international schools have asked students to keep several days of clothing in their lockers in case they are unable to leave the campus.
Even in Africa, where people are so beset by their own daily tribulations, anti-Americanism simmers in some corners.
Beyond concerns for their physical safety, Americans abroad, no matter what their location or political persuasion, are faced anew with troubling questions:
Why have feelings of sympathy for America after September 11, 2001, been transformed in Europe to sullen resentment'
Why is what the writer Fouad Ajami calls the “unfathomable anti-Americanism” in Egypt so prevalent, even among wealthy and educated people with the deepest ties to the West'
Why, in so many places, has the allure of the US as a promoter of democracy and champion of the little guy been replaced with rage at its power'
Iran’s defence minister said today its forces would “confront” any US aircraft that used its airspace during possible strikes on Iraq. “We will defend our airspace and will not let America violate our airspace while attacking Iraq,” defence minister Ali Shamkhani told reporters.