Anti-American sentiment in the Arab world
By Wolf Blitzer
DOHA, Qatar (CNN) -- Over the past two decades, almost every time U.S. military forces have been called into action to risk their lives and limbs, it's been on behalf of Muslims, whether to assist the Afghan mujahadeen or freedom fighters during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s; to liberate Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion in 1990; to help Somali Muslims suffering at the hands of a warlord in Mogadishu; to help Muslims first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo who faced a Serb onslaught; or more recently, to liberate Afghanistan from its Taliban and al Qaeda rulers.
So why is the U.S. military despised by so many Muslims? We asked Dr. Abdulla Al-Khulaifi, president, University of Qatar. "I think the Palestinian issue is the biggest," he said. "This is a 52-year-old question -- 5 to 6 million people are concerned on a daily basis and 200 to 300 million or a billion Muslims are concerned about it."
That is the short answer -- heard over and over, especially in the Arab world. They blame the United States for Israel's policies toward the Palestinians.
In the process, the United States gets virtually no credit for helping Muslims, and even when President Bush goes out of his way to express support for Muslims -- as he did the other day during a visit to a Washington mosque -- his actions are dismissed as window dressing.
This strange relationship between the United States and the Muslim world has a direct impact on U.S. military strategy as far as a possible war with Iraq is concerned. And that certainly is being felt here in Qatar.
U.S. Central Command Gen. Tommy Franks -- who's putting the finishing touches on an Iraqi war plan during current war games in Qatar -- is constantly being forced to remind Arabs that the United States is their friend -- not their foe. But that is clearly an uphill struggle.
"We're a symbol of America," says retired U.S. Air Force Major Gen. Donald Shepperd. "And we're there. We are armed. And we're in their country. That makes us easy to hate."