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Gary Younge
Damn it for what it does

For once Tony Blair has got it right. "Anti-Americanism is madness." Those who hate America for what it is - a large powerful, country with its own distinct culture, traditions and mores - are both xenophobic and ridiculous. That is particularly true for those in Europe without the humility to recall their recent genocidal past and ignore their racist present as they labour uphill in search of the moral high ground. The US did not launch the Holocaust, almost entirely wipe out the aborigines or oppress the Algerians, Kenyans and Mozambicans. Nor is fascism a mainstream ideology in the US as it is in much of Europe.

But those who hate America for what it does - carry the baton of imperial domination killing hundreds of thousands with its trade policies and war - are entirely rational. Far from being anti-American to make that case is to side with the sizeable proportion of Americans who opposed George Bush and the growing majority who now feel the war in Iraq is a mistake.

The US, like much of Europe, was built on genocide of native people and the slavery of non-white people. It too colonised huge areas of the globe, from the Philippines to Cuba. And moreover, it continues to do so although not in the name of civilisation but instead in pursuit of democracy and freedom - equally nebulous terms that essentially mean whatever the powerful want it to mean so long as it involves stealing resources from the developing world.

For those who have suffered the nefarious effects of both European colonialism and US imperialism this dispute between two powerful countries is of little interest. No one in the Caribbean, Africa or Asia is opposing the WTO round on the basis that they would like to return to the days of segregation and oppression under the British, French or Portuguese.

In a speech to the Australian parliament in Canberra last night Blair said: "The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged."

That would be true if American engaged in world affairs in an honest, honourable, equitable and progressive manner. But if it lets down the drawbridge primarily in order to destabilize democracies, lead covert and overt wars and rig markets in a manner that leaves millions starving they would do the world a favour by staying at home.

Blair admitted that the US could be "a difficult friend to have". Maybe he should spend some time in Guantanamo Bay and see how difficult it is to be considered its enemy.

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