THE ATTACK on Afghanistan has provoked a wave of anger against the US and Britain across the Middle East. As the first bombs fell, protests erupted in Palestine, Syria, Egypt and many other countries.
Many took a religious form-of support for Islam against the West. But the fury is rooted in the same feeling against Western imperialism that has erupted whenever the US and its allies have sought to impose their will across the world.
A similar feeling swept Latin America after the US helped overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973. The same happened in the 1980s when the US unleashed terror across Central America after the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution. The US sees the Middle East as vital to its global power. That is why it has backed Israel and its murderous policies for the last 50 years.
That's why the US has supported a string of dictatorships in the Middle East and waged wars such as the 1991 Gulf War. Millions of people in the Middle East live in poverty while pro-Western rulers enjoy fabulous luxury and multinationals drain wealth from the region. Fury at US imperialism and at local rulers is why Osama Bin Laden can get support from people who were appalled at the attack on the World Trade Centre and oppose his particular form of Islam.
Local rulers fear the anger could be turned against them too. So most have been reluctant to fully commit themselves behind the US war. Almost every Arab newspaper has been forced to distance itself from the US bombing of Afghanistan.
People are right to vent their anger at US and British imperialism, and at the local despots who bow to it. However much those feelings may, for now, be wrapped in a confused religious form, those on the streets have understood something the former left wingers now cheering on Bush and Blair's war have not.