Wednesday, November 17, 2004

America's Reputation Destroyed by Iraq Invasion

America's Reputation Destroyed by Iraq Invasion
Nov 17, 2004, 08:17

Secretary of State Colin Powell is heading off to Europe soon to try to heal divisions generated by the Iraq war. No less pernicious, according to some analysts, are that war's effects on the U.S. reputation in Latin America.

The Iraq war, says former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda, has "contributed to a wide, deep and probably lasting collapse of sympathy for the United States" in the region.

Castaneda, a candidate for the Mexican presidency in the 2006 elections, is hardly a knee-jerk leftist. He served as foreign minister in the pre-Sept. 11 period, when U.S.-Mexican relations were at a high point.

Beyond the war itself, Castaneda says Latin American faith in the United States was sullied by the disclosures that overthrown Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had not been collaborating with al-Qaida, and the unconventional weapons thought to have been in Saddam's possession never materialized.

Michael Shifter, an analyst at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, says the Iraq war was a grim reminder for Latin Americans of U.S. intervention in the hemisphere. Because of Iraq, he says, "It's going to take a long time to restore the trust. A lot of goodwill has been depleted."

With so much of Washington's attention and resources directed toward Iraq, there has been neglect of hemispheric issues, Shifter says, describing U.S. policy as one of "indifference and disengagement." Democracy for Cuba may be a priority for the United States but not for Latin America, he said.