How the War Looked in Buenos Aires

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, October 2004 | Go to article overview

How the War Looked in Buenos Aires


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


It's odd sometimes, being an American. But we seldom have to think about it as we go about our business in the relative security of the United States. It takes a moment of listening to Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel in the middle of Buenos Aires to see firsthand that our performance as a nation on the world stage is being booed.

IFLA conferences (see p. 24) are generally occasions for highly diplomatic committee meetings, the renewal of professional friendships, and the congenial decorum that characterizes every greeting and exchange of business cards. Delegates don't walk up to you and denounce the actions your country has taken; it simply isn't done. But given an opportunity, such as the one afforded by Esquivel in his speech about globalization, the audience made no effort to conceal its contempt for U.S. actions in Iraq.

No sympathy left

The sympathy of the world was with us after September 11, 2001, we were told in several IFLA forums, but it has turned against us now. That's something all 350 American delegates had to deal with. Like it or not, we represent our country wherever we go. I cringed when Esquivel, who is Argentine, blamed American "economic terrorism" for illiteracy and violence around the world.

When Paul Sturgis of the University of Loughborough in the U.K., chair of IFLA's Committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression, read from a letter written by Esquivel to President Bush protesting the war in Iraq, the room erupted in applause. I looked for support from IFLA delegates representing the 40+ countries that stood behind the U.S.-led invasion and found none.

The nations represented in IFLA now number 143; that's a few short of the roughly 238 countries in the world. Still, it's an achievement. …

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