World Pundits Pounce on Bush

By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2004; 10:02 PM

The Republican Party is about to nominate him by acclamation.

Almost half of all American voters polled say they will vote for him in November.

But in the international online media, the vast majority of commentators are harshly critical of President George W. Bush. On every continent pundits are faulting Bush for his persona as well as his policies. Most dislike his conduct of the war in Iraq. Many say his attitude toward the rest of the world is contemptuous, misinformed and dangerous.

This chorus of criticism is part of the globalization of U.S. politics. In a world with only one superpower, many people feel a stake in the U.S. election, even if they don't have a vote.

It's not that Bush doesn't have defenders. Rupert Murdoch's newspapers in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia are generally supportive. But, on the eve of Bush's nomination, his critics in the foreign press are much more outspoken and numerous.

In Europe, suspicion of Bush's veracity is both wide and deep.

The Guardian of London said in a news story Monday that the Republicans launched "an ambitious exercise in political agility today, putting a centrist face on its New York convention while adopting a manifesto even more rightwing than George Bush's administration."

The lead editorial of Le Monde in Paris likens Bush's evangelical Protestantism to the Islamic fundamentalism in its rejection of Western modernity.

Bush, in their view, has a "biblical vision of the world where the forces of Good confront the forces of Evil and where the Americans, new people chosen by God, take on a universal mission of conversion and reform."

One of the few pro-Bush papers in Europe, Madrid's ABC (in Spanish), says Bush's emphasis on security and defense will appeal to American voters who have been "living in a state of shock" since Sept. 11.

In the Middle East, even those whom Bush professes to help are vocal in spurning his policies.

In Iraq, which now has a free press thanks to Bush's invasion, one independent daily in Baghdad, Sabah al-Jadeed, declared last week that Bush's policy adjustments have been "late, poor or wrong."

The administration, the editors said, has relied too much on U.S. generals and politicians who judge Iraq "unfairly" and "inaccurately" and on self-interested Iraqis who are "obedient and isolated."

The Daily Star in Lebanon is one of the leading voices of reform in the Arab world, a cause that the Bush administration has sought to advance.

But Patrick Seale, a veteran Middle East analyst, wrote in the Star on Monday that "America's war in Iraq and its tolerance of Israel's destruction of Palestinian society have aroused unprecedented anger . . ..At the heart of America's failure lies the administration's refusal to recognize that the contemporary roots of Islamic terror are to be found in American policies."

Only in Israel does Bush win open admiration. Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Michael Wissot says, "President Bush has done more for Israel than any other president in the last 50 years."

Across Asia, Bush's recent acknowledgment that his administration had miscalculated in Iraq was greeted with derision.

"His realisation is rather inadequate," said the editor of the Nation, a leading English language daily in Pakistan.

"Iraqi cities have been subjected to bombardment, the social and economic infrastructure destroyed and innocent civilians including women and children killed in thousands. The historical graveyard and Imam Ali's shrine in Najaf have been desecrated by foreign troops. . . . The resistance meanwhile continues to mount."

In the Manila Bulletin, columnist Fr. Rolando V Dela Rosa noted that one-time U.S. allies in Iraq -- Spain, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Philippines -- have all withdrawn their troops from Iraq in recent months.

"Americans must wake up to the fact that the Coalition of the Willing is actually just the result of the Consensus of One Man," he wrote.

"The weakness in Mr Bush's new global vision lies in its oversimplification," said the Sydney Morning Herald.

In Africa, the tone of the criticism is perhaps harsher.

The Monitor, a leading daily in Uganda, noted that the United States, aided Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons program in the 1980s and now seeks to try him for war crimes.

"If these are the ‘values' which President George Bush claims are the reasons why people elsewhere hate America, then the source of their hatred becomes apparent even to a child of six," the paper said.

South Africa's leading newspaper, the Mail and Guardian, welcomed the prospect of Bush's "growing domestic unpopularity and defeat in the US presidential election later this year — opinion polls encouragingly signal that he may be on the skids."

"The world of the 21st century desperately needs the democratic values enshrined in the Constitution of the US, as well as its wealth, organizational skills and scientific and technical brilliance," the Johannesburg daily concluded. "But until it learns to partner its fellow-nations, and sheds the habits of coercion and military adventure, it remains a deadly threat to us all."

In Latin America, columnist Eduardo Torres writes in the conservative El Salvador daily El Diario de Hoy (in Spanish) that "Iraq and the possibility of an attack on the United States . . . mean that for the time being, the themes of the debate favor the president." But the Mexican newsweekly Proceso (in Spanish) has the harsher, more common view. Bush, by presenting himself to Americans as "savior of the world and public enemy number one of the bad guys," is actually practicing "the politics of fear."

© 2004 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive