Over the past year, Britain has seen such a fantastic increase in anti-Americanism that I really feel there should be prizes, or at least badges, to hand out for this great effort. Not in the old Soviet style of badges of dead politicians' faces; I think it is time for badges of politicians we would like to see dead: like a tie pin with Dick Cheney clutching his chest. Or one of those commemorative plates engraved with Bush in an autoerotic asphyxiation/ pretzel incident, toppling, statesmanlike, from the desk in the Oval Office.
A few weeks ago, I appeared on a Newsnight debate with William Shawcross, ex-Ho Chi Min cheerleader and now right-wing man of tweed; and Tom Reid, the European correspondent for the Washington Post. They argued that anti-Americanism is the product of our jealousy of the US. Jealous of what, exactly? Jealous of a political leader who at times can barely string a sentence together? Of course not, we have John Prescott, for a start. But do we secretly harbour a desire to have a deputy leader who is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and sued for his time as chief executive and chairman of the Halliburton Company? Do we long for a political system where hoards of MPs are financed by a corporation that goes belly up after being lied about by its auditors and sucked dry by its directors?
If we are jealous of the American way of life, then the anti-American majority in Britain actually craves the highest obesity rate in the world. They want to own handguns and run major sporting events called the World Series without inviting any other country to take part. Our deepest desire must be to see people in Britain paying for private health insurance.
Anti-Americanism, according to Shawcross, really comes from the liberal media elite, as if north London is full of Prada-wearing hacks screeching, "Darling, anyone who is anyone simply loathes the Yanks. America is sooo last millennium." But if they, too, are secretly jealous of the US, then Hampstead can't wait for the reintroduction of the death penalty, or to see channel after channel of screaming TV evangelists calling homosexuals Satan's semen-drenched acolytes.
Tom Reid argues that anti-Americanism is the product of European countries no longer having an empire and hating America's superpower status. Surely the anti-war movement doesn't want an empire, nor does it want to kill as many civilians as America does. Frankly, Reid might muster a better argument if he said, "You don't like America because there are two As in the word."
But maybe, Tom and William, we are not jealous of America's continuing economic blockade of Cuba, spitefully held because Cuba had the audacity to defy American plans for the region. And what of the American-led sanctions on Iraq, which have left an American-armed dictator in power while the Iraqi people suffer? Do I wish that Britain had played a bigger role in the sanctions that Unicef estimates have been responsible for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children under five?
What of US military aid to Israel? Surely I should secretly wish that there were more British components in the F-16s that pound the illegally occupied territories. As the Apache attack helicopters carry out their extrajudicial killings and assassinations, I should be sitting in front of the TV news, saying, "If only those were British helicopters killing the Palestinians."
In the politics of the playground, Bush would demand that Palestinians democratically elect someone whom the US wants, and not Arafat, and the whole of Britain would whine, "Oh, we hated him first and more than what you do."
The US gives about $2.5bn in military aid to Colombia, the country with the worst human rights record in South America. According to Tom and William's theory, we should be trying to outdo America by organising whip-rounds for paramilitary death squads in the local pubs. We should be shaking tins, shouting, "Just £15 can pay for enough bullets to wipe out a family of trade unionists. Come on, we can match the Yanks."
The father of Colombia's president-elect Uribe Velez was allegedly linked to drug-trafficking. His political secretary and close friend, Pedro Juan Moreno, was found by the US Drug Enforcement Agency to be importing, without a licence, the chemicals used as a precursor to transform coca paste to cocaine. Tom and William would have me wish Blair financed as many, if not more, "private security operations" for this man as Bush does?
Surely all of the above, plus the International Criminal Court, the UN mission in Bosnia, 6,000 Afghan civilians killed, Kyoto and so on, might just be a clue that envy plays no part in anti-Americanism - and that the real reason is anger and revulsion at the world's biggest rogue state.
Richard Gott, Books, page 49