Arab governments and publics are incensed at the policies of the United States toward the Middle East. The anger cuts across age, economic, social and intellectual spectrums, and it has reached alarming levels. Recent visits to the region by Carnegie experts confirm that there is little appreciation for the Bush Administration's position among the people of the Middle East, who will bear the brunt of any war.

There is little sympathy for Saddam Hussein himself, but, in the eyes of the people living in that part of the world (including a majority of the non-Arab expatriate community) it's not Saddam and his weapons that threaten the peace, it is the United States, its ally, Israel, and Britain. An editorial in the Gulf News, a leading English-language daily in the United Arab Emirates, rails against the "maneuvers" of the United States and Britain, "the two proponents of upheaval in the Middle East," echoing a strong and extensively held belief.

It is ironic, of course: Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is evil (no different than when he was an ally of the United States, the people in the region will be quick to point out), and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, surely, should be cause for alarm for people close by. Yet, Saddam and the weapons are seen as merely a ruse for the United States to extend its imperial reach by dominating the oil-rich regions of the world and to establish Israel's supremacy in the region. This is voiced by people who have little in common with Bin Laden: except their anger and resentment towards the United States policy in the Middle East.

In response to France's initiative on Iraq, Mustapha Bakri, the editor of the Egyptian weekly, Al Usbu, said, "The United States is trying to impose its diktat on the world ... the position of France is based on a refusal of US hegemony." An op-ed published in the Jordan Times argues, "Oil is part of the strategic package - which also includes control over the core country of the eastern Arab world - but not the fundamental motivating factor. That factor is the Bush administration's determination to project US military and political power to every quarter of the globe. The administration, staffed by neoconservative imperialists, is cynically using the fear and humiliation instilled in a large number of US citizens by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as cover for what could be called an 'outreach enterprise'…old fashioned imperialism."

In a BBC interview on February 17, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal warned that any unilateral military action by the U.S. would appear as an "act of aggression." Those who envision scenes reminiscent of Nazi-liberated Europe at the end of the Second World War need to be cautious. If this war comes unilaterally, the Arab world will not welcome the United States as a liberator. America will be the new occupier in the region (in Iraq), adding insult to injury to a people who already see America as an accessory to occupation (in the West Bank). Extremism, rather than democracy, would likely flourish.