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US expats uneasy, not afraid

Around the world, anti-US doesn't always mean anti-Americans.

By A Christian Science Monitor roundup / March 14, 2003

As president of the American Women's Club of Lebanon, Helen DelMissier Hachem says she has a responsibility to help bridge the cultural divide between East and West, drawing Lebanese and Americans together.

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But as the possibility of war with Iraq nears, the group is keeping a low profile. For now, it has suspended its fundraising for charity. It's a safety measure, but not one that's easily accepted.

"This represents an abandonment of principles that we feel have drawn us Americans into the Lebanese family circle," says Mrs. DelMissier Hachem, "doing for others less fortunate and demonstrating the old American principle of 'can do' and 'sharing."

From Beirut to Manila, the Monitor surveyed Americans living abroad and found that most are bracing themselves against a growing wave of anti-American sentiment. On Monday, for example, the US State Department warned Americans to leave Oman and the United Arab Emirates because of security concerns.

But that is only part of the picture. Even as European capitals witness record antiwar protests, babies in Kosovo are named for former President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. True, Americans are finding that their accents spark unwanted attention from strangers and cold silence from some of their coworkers. Still, many of those living far from home continue to remark on the strength of the relationships and exchanges that shape their daily lives.

Anti-American or anti-French?

LONDON - Americans living in and visiting London have few worries about getting caught up in an antiwar backlash. But they do acknowledge that it may be sensible to adopt a low profile if the US attacks Iraq. "I wouldn't avoid places, but I would avoid talking so much in public," says Mira Balakrishnan, who is here from Houston, Texas, for a five-day stay. "I would put a little bit more thought into what I'm doing."

If anyone suffers from hostility in London at present, it may be the French. Cynthia Coleman is half-French, half-American, and is in no doubt as to which to tone down.

"I'm getting much more flak because of [the French side]," she says. Nonetheless, there has been a palpable shift in attitudes towards Americans here in the 18 months since Sept. 11, 2001.

"When 9/11 happened, I got a lot of calls from random people sharing their sympathy, and that feeling has gone," says Ms. Coleman. "It is slightly more confrontational now."

Unsolicited criticism

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Bart Edes has lived and worked in Manila for almost three years. He says the most noticeable change for him has been the level of invective that people he does not know are willing to share with him about the US and Britain.

"I have not sensed animosity directed toward me, but I have noted criticism of the stance of countries advocating armed action against Iraq," he says. "I have been struck by the lack of inhibition of strangers and international civil servants to share views that are very critical of the US - and British - stance."

Mr. Edes notes that since safety has always been an issue for Americans in the Philippines, he is accustomed to being careful.

"Because I live in a country where terrorist attacks are common and street crime is a concern, I have always taken security precautions," he says. "But I am, however, concerned about the potential reaction of extremist groups to an attack on Iraq."

Views from a former soldier