Petronella Wyatt

No gratitude

The ongoing escapades of London's answer to Ally McBeal

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I am not in the least bit surprised that the Americans are furious and bewildered by the churlish actions of France and Germany which are now threatening to destroy Nato. As has been pointed out, not only did hundreds of thousands of US servicemen, many of them little more than boys, die liberating Western Europe in the second world war, but American support for Nato during the Cold War and up till the present day has bestowed upon its beneficiaries a great deal more than a mere defence system.

Consider the vast amount of money America has poured into Europe. This has saved European governments from having to spend more themselves, thus freeing them up to give their peoples a better quality of life. In some respects, one could argue, that without America, Britain would not possess the massive tentacled National Health Service it has today. Perhaps in some ways this might not be such a bad thing, but for those members of the liberal intelligentsia who now so viciously attack Mr Bush, the NHS is a sacred cow whose existence without reform they savagely protect.

Having recently spent some time in America, I can also understand why its President and people feel betrayed and misunderstood. There is a general view in Europe that the President's attitude towards the war is one of gung-ho irresponsibility, as if he were playing in a John Wayne movie with the Iraqis as the baddies, or trying to prove to dad what a hero he is.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, Mr Bush has behaved with extreme caution - perhaps he has even delayed too long, giving the Muslims more time to train-up gullible young fanatics and suicide bombers. Although roughly 77 per cent or more of Americans favour war, they regard it as a moral necessity, not as an opportunity to show off to the world their butchness.

Every single American I have met has been sober and grave about the war. One woman was unable to contain her tears. It would be difficult to find anyone who relished the thought of the deaths that were to come. Not only this but, given how squeamish the Americans are when the body bags start coming home, common sense would dictate that the ordinary men and women of the United States are far from warlike and would prefer to live in peace.

Nor is their attitude one of Carthage must be destroyed. The aim is not to wipe out the people of Iraq and bury it as a country but to help Iraq to start afresh. Hence a number of US journalists have been suggesting that after the war it is essential that America invests heavily in Iraq for the good of her people, in order to prevent a return to tyranny. A small pocket of America, namely in New York, holds rabid anti-war views, as the New York Times, the equivalent of our Guardian, articulates. But then I guess the liberal intelligentsia are the same all over the world, aren't they?

What most touched me about the views of the average American, however, is their almost pathetic gratitude towards the British. Mr Blair is one of the most popular men in the States. Strangers in shops would walk up to me and say, 'We love your Prime Minister. We love you.'

Mr Blair's stand has been the bravest of his political life and I am quite happy, for a change, to concur with these people and say I love him too. But this thankfulness evinced in me not only pride but some shame. These people don't know of the anti-American articles that appear in some of our national newspapers with great regularity, and I hadn't the heart to tell them. They don't know how smug soi-disant intellectuals will sit around rich dinner tables and lambast Bush, America and Israel. I hadn't the heart to tell them that either. It would have been like slapping an innocent child.