Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Ordinary Americans are feeling the heat

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Four years ago, Lance Corporal Matthew 'Matty' Hull was killed by American soldiers in Iraq - another case of what is described as "friendly fire" by the US. Meaning what exactly? That the bullets were warm and tender as they penetrated the bodies of their closest allies? That death was made more bearable by the fact that it was delivered by "friends" rather than sinister Arabs? The inquest was deeply upsetting for the soldier's family because the Pentagon refused to provide information or name the serviceman who shot Hull, his mother's only son.

Our own government colluded with those who withheld facts and evidence, another demonstration that the UK is now an ultra-subservient, client state of the US of A. Eventually vital recorded footage was released to the coroner's court. We now know his own buddies tried to save Hull's life and warn off the pilots blasting away from A-10 aircrafts.

There have been many such killings, mainly of soldiers but also of the reputable ITN reporter Terry Lloyd. In each case the US holds on to key information and its suspected personnel. None has ever attended any inquest. Not one British soldier has killed a US soldier in error. If this happened and we refused point blank to co-operate, we can anticipate the consequences.

The hyper-power behaving with such brash conceit at this time is only going to increase anti-American attitudes in the British population. Over the past four years an increasing number of Britons are losing patience with the big bully who once helped defend their country and stopped the Nazis. That generation of the grateful is dying off and with them the memory of the alliance. Cooing, reassuring pillow talk Blair whispers to Bush is keeping up the illusion of a relationship on the wane.

Public opinion at best wants greater political distance between Britain and the US. The disastrous war in Iraq is blamed on the US, even though our government is as guilty of perpetrating lies and sexing up the case for war. Guantanamo Bay is another red rag provoking righteous rage as is the high-handed, illegal way the US has been conducting itself since 9/11.

I share many of these feelings. I cannot bring myself to attend Anglo-American fests and haven't felt able to visit the US in recent years to see my best friend in all the world who is an American in Pittsburgh. Americans coming into this country are now beginning to sense this antipathy and they are bewildered by it. The winds of change haven't reached their shores and they come over unprepared.

For some years I have lectured to bright, elite undergraduates from New York University who are over in London for a semester. Each year, the young Americans share a greater unease, talk to me privately or e-mail me about how uncomfortable and unwelcome they are made to feel in pubs, clubs, cafes, university bars, spaces where the youthful jape and caper. Yankee baiting is rising; Bill Bryson's benign Britain is no more. The war on terror has had repercussions beyond all calculation. And the more badly the US authorities behave, the more it is ordinary Americans who are made to feel the heat of resentment.

For the first time ever African-Americans are facing wrath, too, hauled over the coals for the duplicity of Colin Powell and the obnoxious Condoleezza Rice. A part of me feels such encounters - a Sentimental Education for this century - will do the Americans no harm. They need to come down and learn to engage with the antipathy, argue their case. Hearts, they will find, are much harder to win than lands and peoples.

But there is a danger - two dangers in truth. We in Britain may yet again be exporting our own guilt to the US when we are equally responsible for the mess in the Middle East. And if outward-looking Americans become irreversibly discouraged they may retreat and give up on internationalism (very different from globalisation), which would make the world an even darker place.

A slap in the face after OBE

Antonio Carluccio, the chef honoured for services to hospitality, and I once had a teeny spat. After a trip to Tuscany, I wrote that Italian food could be boring. Tomatoes and cheese, cheese and tomato. By day four I craved a jeera chicken. He rose to defend his national cuisine - an impressive riposte charged with patriotism.

After 37 years he clings to his Italian citizenship. After receiving the Order of the British Empire he announced: "I am completely Italian."

Now imagine if the recipient had been of Pakistani background, had declined British citizenship and said after his presentation: "I am completely Pakistani." What shrill debates there would be about disloyalty.

Will the redoubtable Carluccio have to take lessons in Britishness? Just asking.

* Big names floated for the BBC Chairman's job, vacated by the flighty Michael Grade, have ruled themselves out - Lord Puttnam first; then apparently David Dimbleby; Lord Burns; Dame Liz Forgan, all of the club of the always chosen.

Well, I'm not too proud to apply. God nor Reith never said it always had to be someone white, and toff class. My brief manifesto: I would ensure Jonathan Ross gets on his diamond studded bike; arrange to buy back Rageh Omar from al-Jazeera; censor extra-marital affairs on The Archers; sack children's presenters who shout and dress for the nightclub; halt the move to Manchester (think of carbon footprints as planeloads of interviewees are flown over); ban gross reality shows; and commission 10 further series from David Attenborough, partly to annoy Jeremy Paxman.

Go on, Tessa, giss the job. Diversify the BBC where it hurts. This dominatrix is willing.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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