There is a lot of anti-Americanism at the moment and at times it is easy to forget that much of the American government’s recent actions were triggered by the thousand of deaths that day in New York. It is also easy to caricature our support for America as poodle like subservience.
Whenever I catch myself drifting with the media flow towards these positions I remind myself of a training session that I attended in 2003. Only 18 months or so after the attacks an American Army Reserves General was talking through the support that the US army gave to civil powers in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. The room had a couple of hundred TA officers discussing our role in supporting the emergency services in the event of an attack on London.
The US General stood up and said “I am honoured to be addressing officers of the British Army, our greatest and closest friends in the world”. British soldiers are a cynical bunch and an opening like that would usually be greeted with laughter but the sincerity of this man was disarming. He was there as corpses were pulled from the rubble. He was there as desperate people jumped from windows a hundred floors up. He was there when America suddenly felt under siege.
There was a time in the early 1940s when the tables were turned and a British General could easily have said the same of the USA, we should not forget that. I do not believe that a true friend is uncritical but it is essential that we do not allow disagreements over elements of foreign policy to drive a wedge between two countries which have such a long and strong friendship.