More than our image needs makeover

Lana Kitchel is an activist for several peace and environmental organizations in the 2nd Congressional District, as well as an organic farmer living with her husband and two children in Los Molinos.

If you have any doubt about how the United States is perceived during this time of global unrest, you should look at two pivotal studies printed in recent weeks.

The first one was published in the U.K. Guardian Unlimited with the headline “U.S. Seen as a Bigger Threat to Peace Than Iran, Worldwide Poll Suggests.” The Pew Center, based in Washington, D.C., surveyed 17,000 people in 15 countries from March to May. The findings revealed that more people were “concerned about the U.S. presence in Iraq than about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.” The Guardian concluded, “George Bush’s six years in office have so damaged the image of the U.S. that people worldwide see Washington as a bigger threat to world peace than Tehran.”

There has been a steady decline in support for America from other countries since 1999. Respondents from twelve countries cite the U.S. presence in Iraq as the greater danger. This is quite different from the image of our country portrayed on our TV screens.

The Agence France Presse published another important article, “Washington is Losing ‘War on Terror': Experts.” The author, Michel Moutot, disseminates findings from a joint study conducted by the U.S. magazine Foreign Policy and a Washington-based think tank. They questioned 116 leading U.S. experts—"a balanced mix of Republicans and Democrats,” including two former CIA directors, a former secretary of state and many of America’s chief security analysts—on “the progress of the U.S. campaign against terrorism.”

Here are the results: “Eighty-four percent believe the United States is losing the ‘war on terror,’ 86 percent that the world has become a more dangerous place in the past five years; and 80 percent that a major new attack on their country was likely within the next decade.”

Why the “sinking ship” conclusion? According to one respondent, international law expert Anne-Marie Slaughter, “we are treating the symptoms and not the cause” of terrorism. The article infers that our government is systematically breeding more and more terrorists through attacking Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, Guantanamo and other atrocities. “We’re clearly losing,” said Michael Scheuer, who from 1996 to 1999 headed the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit.

When I read the above articles, I cringed. How can we just sit and watch our once-noble country fall so low? What legacy are we leaving for our children?

Recalling the great words of Albert Einstein, “You cannot simultaneously prepare for and prevent war,” I must add: You cannot simultaneously support both your country and this president. Period.