View from Guatelamala

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As the war in Iraq progresses, I feel the need to share with you, my friends and family, a little bit about what it feels like to live outside of the US during this frightening time.
Here in Guatemala, there has been a significant ongoing presence outside of the US Embassy vehemently opposed to the war. I went one day last week during lunch and someone threw red paint on me.
Car after car passing the rally honked their horns and showed their fists to the embassy, and a group of protesters burnt the US flag while the crowd cheered. In the US, such a turn out for a rally makes me hopeful and energized. Standing in front of my embassy here in Guatemala, however, watching my flag get burnt and thinking about all of you back home, all I felt was fear. It is true. They really hate us. More and more every day. It is amazing to me, the amount of public outcry that is going on right now throughout the world. People in Asia, in Africa, in Central and South America and throughout Europe have been marching in the streets and speaking out against the largest common enemy, and potential threat, the world has ever known.
Even in the conservative Guatemalan press, articles about the US empire needing to be stopped, the civilian casualties in Iraq and the arrogance of US foreign policy inundate the coverage of the war. Many Guatemalan journalists are very afraid not only of what this attack means to international security and respect for international law but of what it will do to the poorest nations in the world, whose economies catch pneumonia when the US economy sneezes.
CNN, which some friends of mine have here, seems to have become the official station of the US Department of Defense. I hear terms like “Operation Freedom for Iraq” and laugh. “Who is buying any of this?” I ask. And then I realize, 80% of my fellow Americans (I’m told). I want to think that it isn’t their fault and that they are being lied to, but I wonder how much they want to believe what they hear. I know that if they used the tools available to them – their educated minds, the internet, compassion – it wouldn’t be this way.
I read last week that Bush has signed an executive order that makes it easier for government agencies, including the White House, to keep documents classified and out of public view. From the NY Times: “The order delays by three years the release of declassified government documents dating from 1978 or earlier and treats all material sent to American officials from foreign governments — no matter how routine –as subject to classification. It expands the ability of the Central Intelligence Agency to shield documents from declassification. And for the first time, it gives the vice president the power to classify information.” The Center for Public Integrity ( apparently obtained a draft version of the second Patriot Act, which makes all information gathering, including research, a possible “weapon of mass destruction” and considers any criminal a “terrorist,” eligible for deportation, even if you are a natural born citizen. I read reports circulating in activist circles of artists and organizers being visited by plain-clothed government officials and being asked questions and warned that they should stop their subversive activities. A man in Washington was arrested in a mall two weeks ago for wearing a t-shirt that read, “Give Peace a Chance.” I feel that these acts are the acts of a frightened emperor, who can see the imminent crumbling of his empire.
I worry for my country and I worry for the American people. I hope that none of you forget that there is nothing more American than dissidence and that if you do not exercise your rights, you will, indeed, have them taken away from you.

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