Sunday, March 26, 2006

US State Department issues travel warning due to anti-American protests

Due to "rallies where loud anti-US slogans are chanted or where the Star-Spangled banner is burned" and the head of the left-wing party describing George W. Bush as having "blood on his hands," the US State Department has issued a travel warning.

To Korea? No, to Italy.

The thing is, is that Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi has
stressed the legitimacy of the recent travel warning, which to his mind is motivated by the current turn in the electoral campaign. Speaking in Brussels where he was attending an EU Summit, Berlusconi said that, "If one stood in the US administration's shoes, it would be very hard for one to develop a positive and benign view of what is happening in Italy."

Echoes of 2002 in Korea? Most of the demonstrations here were peaceful, though angry, but there were a few violent acts involving Americans. The core of anti-American demonstrations are the chinbo "progressives," who know that as good fifth-column agitators they can't allow violence to occur against non-Koreans who might then decide to leave, lest they invite a legal/judicial crackdown by even a left-leaning government. It puts the pro-Pyongyang fellow travelers in an awkward position: they want the USFK to leave, but it is very difficult to actually make it dangerous for USFK. Their only hope is to cause a groundswell of popular support—which would include millions of people who don't generally support their aims—that forces Seoul to ask USFK to leave, or to anger or shame USFK enough to leave of their own accord (hitting the right buttons for an "it hurts our pride" justification for withdrawal).

I'm not sure if the leftists in Italy are that organized or that thoughtful about their aims. I'm not even sure if they have as a goal the removal of US forces in Italy. Maybe they just want Italian troops out of Iraq.

But when I was there for a month with my parents a month before the election, the anti-American sentiment was palpable: Italians and Britons alike would just start a rant toward me, my father, and/or my mother as soon as it came out of our mouths—when we were asked—that we were from the United States (though we usually answered California, just to throw off the simple-minded). Certainly, this was not every Italian and Briton (or other European) we met, but it was enough to give us serious pause, and it routinely sparked a heated discussion between my father, a reliable Republican supporter for as long as he could vote up until the Clinton impeachment, and my mother, a religious woman who felt that we shouldn't change horses in midstream.

The anti-Americanism in Italy was visible: "Fuck Bush" grafitto seemed to be on every other store-front shutter. When my father first saw this kind of thing, while passing by on a train, he was disappointed that we didn't have a camera ready. Little did we know that we would encounter this kind of thing several times a day while in the cities. [The picture above is from the doorway below, located right in front of the hotel where we were staying.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.