UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


War in Iraq Badly Damages US Image Internationally

By Michael Bowman
17 March 2008

The image of the United States has suffered as a result of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. Opinion surveys show international approval of the United States at all-time lows. VOA's Michael Bowman reports form Washington, America's continued involvement in Iraq remains a major irritant in global perceptions of the United States.

Since 2003, demonstrations against the United States have become commonplace, and not just in countries historically opposed to U.S. policies. Major protests against the U.S.-led war in Iraq have been mounted in dozens of countries allied with Washington, including Canada, Britain, Germany, and Japan.

America's image has perhaps suffered the most in the Arab world, according to Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa.

"The situation is going from bad to worse when it comes to the image of the U.S. The feelings, the friendly feelings that prevailed for so many years in the Arab world vis-à-vis America and vice-versa -- but the recent developments in fact have derailed those relations and those feelings," Moussa said.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths, the documented abuse of Iraqi prisoners, and the emergence of a Shi'ite-dominated government alongside Shi'ite-led Iran have made Arab allies uneasy about U.S. policies in the region. By all accounts, America's image as a champion of the rule of law and human rights has suffered as a result.

But the damage extends well beyond the Middle East. Mamadi Kaba is a human rights activist in Guinea.

"The reputation of the United States of America has been affected by the war in Iraq, [and especially] because of Abu Ghraib [prison abuses]," Kaba said.

Even in countries that sent troops to Iraq, the war is unpopular. A London resident had this to say:

"Each time America marches in somewhere [militarily], it highlights the fact that it tends to act as global policemen," he said.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center monitors global perceptions of the United States through surveys conducted in dozens of countries. Pew President Andrew Kohut summed up the Iraq war's impact.

"It has been one of the, if not the principle reasons behind the worldwide rise in anti-Americanism since 2001," Kohut said.

President Bush is often the target of anti-American demonstrations. But the United States as a whole has not been spared from global public opinion. Mark Glancy is an expert on Anglo-American relations at Queen Mary, University of London.

"I think it is entirely culturally acceptable now in Britain to be anti-American. And that is a legacy of the war [in Iraq]," Glancy said.

Some, like Cairo taxi driver Saad Awad says all is not lost, that the United States can rehabilitate its image.

He says, to do so, the United States must end the occupation of Iraq and let Iraqis depend on themselves. He says everything taking place in Iraq is because of the U.S. occupation. .

President Bush has stated he will bring American forces home as quickly as the situation in Iraq allows. Andrew Kohut says, if Iraq is stabilized, lasting democracy takes root, and most U.S. combat forces withdraw, he expects global anger over the U.S. involvement in Iraq to subside.

"Certainly if Iraq becomes a success story, that might change a number of minds. But the larger issue of the way we play the game, and our power, will remain," Kohut said.

Presidential candidates of both major U.S. political parties have said that repairing America's image abroad will be a top priority upon taking office.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list