US official tastes Pakistanis’ anger at America


New York : President Barack Obama’s efforts to convince Pakistanis that the US is their friend are not running smooth though America doles out billions of dollars for the country’s infrastructure development, trade, energy, schools and jobs.

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Judith A. McHale, the Obama administration’s new under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, learnt how difficult the job is after she tasted the Pakistani anger during her meeting with Ansar Abbasi, a Pakistani journalist known for his harsh criticism of American foreign policy.

“She got that, and a little bit more,” a New York Times report said Thursday.

After McHale gave her initial polite presentation Monday about building bridges between America and the Muslim world, Abbasi thanked her politely for meeting him. But then he told her what he felt for her country.

” ‘You should know that we hate all Americans’,” McHale said Abbasi told her. ” ‘From the bottom of our souls, we hate you’,” she recalled Abbasi’s statement.

Beyond the continuation of the battle against militants along the Pakistani-Afghan border, a big part of Obama’s strategy for the region involves trying to broaden America’s involvement in the country, to invest in non-military areas like infrastructure development, trade, energy, schools and jobs.

This all is aimed at convincing the Pakistani people that the US is their friend. But as McHale and other American officials discovered this week during a visit by Richard C. Holbrooke, the special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, making that case was not going to be easy, said the Times report.

“We have made a major turn with our relationship with Pakistan under President Obama,” Holbrooke told reporters in Karachi Wednesday. Time and again, he tried to delineate the differences between the Obama administration and the Bush era.

He said his very presence in Karachi demonstrated that drone attacks and the hunt for Al Qaeda were not the only American foreign policy activities in the country.

But Abbasi’s reaction, which apparently reflects the feelings of about 25 percent of the population according to a recent poll, demonstrated just how tough the job is.

For all the administration’s efforts to call attention to the non-military ties that would bind the two countries, America is still being judged by many Pakistanis as an uncaring behemoth whose sole concern is finding Osama bin Laden, no matter the cost in civilian Pakistani lives.

McHale Wednesday recounted the conversation with Abbasi: “He told me that we were no longer human beings because our goal was to eliminate other humans. He spoke English very well, and he said that thousands of innocent people have been killed because we are trying to find Osama bin Laden.”

McHale said she argued her points with Abbasi, points that would appear logical to many Americans, but that often fail to impress over in Pakistan: Al Qaeda and bin Laden attacked the US Sep 11, 2001; the war in Afghanistan, unlike the war in Iraq, is blessed by the United Nations, and is a multinational effort; and America will always do whatever it takes to defend itself.