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US Senators Express Concern Over Rising Anti-American Sentiment - 2003-02-25

Two key U.S. Senate Democrats are expressing concern about a rise in anti-American sentiment around the world as the United States prepares for possible war against Iraq.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says U.S. public diplomacy, in his words, 'has been a failure" in addressing anti-American sentiment around the world.

Speaking to reporters, Senator Levin expressed concern that rising anti-American opinion could have serious implications for any U.S.-led military action against Iraq. "Anti-American feelings are extremely high, and we must find a way to improve upon that effort," he said. "Anti-American feelings are not just polling numbers. They can affect the degree of resistance to an attack, and they can also promote the unleashing of terrorist responses against us, around the world, after an attack."

News reports in recent weeks have described a souring of international perceptions towards the United States, and towards President Bush in particular, spurred in part by a U.S. willingness to act unilaterally in foreign policy. The reports suggest that concerns about the role of U.S. power in the world and a perceived U.S. arrogance in foreign policy are fueling much of the anti-American sentiment.

Senator Levin says the Bush administration must do more to work with the U.N. Security Council, especially when it comes to Iraq. Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, agrees. "Anytime there is a sense of bravado about America, a sense that we will go in and do this by ourselves, it does not make any difference, we are going in this really alienates people all over the world, particularly in the Islamic community, and also with our allies," said Mr. Rockefeller. "We need our allies, for the war hopefully, if it comes, but certainly for the post-war work which will have to be done [to rebuild Iraq]."

Senators Rockefeller and Levin were part of a Senate delegation that just returned from a week-long visit to Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Italy and Britain to meet with U.S. military officials and regional leaders. Also traveling with them were the Republican chairmen of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, Senator John Warner of Virginia and Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, respectively.

Senator Warner commented about recent anti-war rallies in Europe and the United States, saying such protests should not derail preparations for possible military action against Iraq. "On the streets of the world, and indeed at home, there is important expressions through the freedoms we exercise here and abroad of the concern people have about this conflict. But that should not deter us," he said. "We should not ignore those demonstrations. Indeed, I think we should respect them. But we have got to exercise firm leadership."

All four Senators praised the cooperation between U.S. intelligence and U.S. military officials in every country they visited.