Magazine article The Spectator

What a Let-Down

Magazine article The Spectator

What a Let-Down

Article excerpt

Almost every time I've met an American in this country since the start of Bush's 'war on terror' they have begun by apologising for being American. And, in that instant, my respect for them has plummeted. First, it means that they very probably belong to the pussy-liberal school that brought us PC, safety Nazism, the Clintons and Michael Moore, meaning that their politics arc at least as dangerous and fat-headed as those of the regime from which they're trying to dissociate themselves. Second, dissing your own country is a low, mean, typically bien-pensant trick, especially when that country has so many more good points than it does bad ones.

See, the thing I'd like to tell these breast-beating Americans, but don't because I know it will be wasted on them, is that I think their country's pretty fab. I like Californian cuisine, pastrami on rye, gumbo; I like Oregon pinot noir, mint julep and sinsemilla; I like San Francisco, New Orleans, New York, even Las Vegas; I like Death Valley and Joshua Tree; I like Married With Children; Curb Your Enthusiasm (BBC4, Tuesday) and almost anything on HBO; I like my American friends, I like Americans generally; and given the choice between becoming the 51st state or joining a federal Europe, well, for me, it's a total no brainer.

The reason I say this is because my thesis this week is: I'm so disappointed with Americans; they should all be dragged down to hell and buggered by minotaurs like almost happened in the new Tarantino movie; in fact, what they really deserve is for a volcano 1,000 times the size of Mt St Helen's to explode, shower them with pumice, darken their sky and engulf them in a pyroclastic surge of burning gases, so that their bodies and civilisation are preserved for future generations to come and gawp at, just like on Pompeii - The Last Day (BBC1, Monday) only even more dramatic. And, obviously, the argument's going to carry more weight if it comes from a strongly pro-American position.

So what has caused this volte-face? Well, mainly Sam Kiley's heartbreaking interview on Iraq: Journey Into Madness (Channel 4, Sunday) with a respectable, middle-class Iraqi whose promising student son had burned to death at the wheel of his car after he and his friends had been shot up by an American roadblock; and the interview, just before it, with an old woman whose son had decided it would be an idea to move his car out of the firing line only to be shot dead as well.

Now I appreciate that the allied forces in Iraq face a pretty desperate task; I know that if I were a 19-year-old grunt on patrol there I'd have a continually runny bottom and a very itchy trigger finger; and I'm aware that whether your son was a terrorist or not, as a grieving parent you're always going to claim he was a promising student/innocent bystander. …

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