Not winning hearts and minds
Despite the declaration of the best intentions, the Americans are capable of producing the worst results. Washington maintains it wants to win the hearts and minds of the people to defeat the militants. The actions of the US army in Afghanistan however continue to create hatred and add to the anti-US sentiment. As if the video of the four US soldiers urinating over the dead bodies of Afghan militants was not enough, now comes a report of the desecration of the Holy Quran in Bagram. Reportedly, the staff at the base had ordered the burning of “extremist literature” found in a library in the base’s detention block. That copies of the Holy Quran were also included in the category indicates the utter insensitivity of the Americans to crucial Muslim concerns despite being in Afghanistan for ten years. How could those who ordered the action forget the bloody protests in the country just two years back leading to several deaths in reaction to Pastor Terry Jones’ announcement to burn the holy book?
Despite being a world power, the US fails to care for the sensibilities of the people it interacts with. This has added a further dimension to the Ugly American syndrome. It has strengthened perceptions that it is not only as individuals travelling abroad but also as a nation dealing with other countries that the Americans are loud, arrogant and disrespectful. Actions conducted by the US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have further buttressed the notion. What the US soldiers did in Abu Ghraib was an unprecedented and demeaning war crime. The subsequent gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl by US troops at Mahmudiya and the killing of the victim and her family members roused indignation in Iraq and abroad.
What humiliations of the sort do is to further enflame the anti-US sentiment in the Muslim community. The governments that cooperate with the US lose respect in the common man’s eyes. The actions provide material to the extremists to play with the public sentiments. What is more, they create an environment which is favourable for the breeding of militancy. In nascent democracies like Pakistan, the actions weaken the hands of forces opposed to violence and supporting peace. How many more decades the US will take to shed the image remains uncertain.