Student observes Iraqi war from a different country and finds mix of opinions

(U-WIRE) ALICANTE, Spain — I’ve never been proud to be an American. But this is the first time I’ve ever consciously tried to hide my nationality.

In the past few weeks, when I’ve spoken in broken Spanish to professors at my Spanish university in Alicante, to librarians when I checked out books, to train station employees when I bought tickets for weekend trips, I spoke quickly and quietly, trying to conceal my American accent. But the question inevitably came: “De Donde eres?”

“Los Estados Unidos.”

I was almost apologetic when I said it. I was afraid I would be seen as a George Bush disciple, anxiously awaiting the annihilation of Saddam Hussein and the glorious day when a U.S.-friendly regime is established in Iraq.

But I’ve found that concealing my nationality isn’t necessary.

It’s not that Spaniards don’t care about the war. They just don’t take anything out on random American students. Many Spanish people don’t stand behind their president, Jose Marie Aznar, in his support of this war, so they’re smart enough to realize that just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m George W.’s best friend.

They hold demonstrations, marches, protests, strikes. This week a group of people came through the library as I was checking my e-mail, holding signs, clapping and shouting into megaphones.

They chant “No a la guerra imperialista” or simply “Asesinos.” This morning, in front of the library (on which hangs a sign that says “University of Alicante for peace”) a university official spoke to a group of about 200 students and faculty members, calling for peace. Emilio, a member of an anti-war student group, announced more demonstrations.

Watching the news is impossible. It moves so fast, and in Spanish, I’m lucky when I catch a few key names: George Bush, Iraq, Aznar. If the American journalists seem inclined to bend over backward to please President Bush,

Spanish television reporters have a reverse bias: There are whole segments of the news called “No a la Guerra.”

Like a selfish little kid, I’m plugging my ears and closing my eyes tight and pretending that if I can’t see it, it’s not happening. And, surprisingly, that’s really easy here.

So I’m starting to realize I don’t have to hide my nationality. I’m even comfortable making the generalization:

They don’t hate Americans over here.

It’s the war they don’t like.