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September 11 and Europe's Contempt Toward the U.S
Lest we forget the heroic resolve of our many European "allies," the French surged forward into the fray last week. Well, perhaps "surging" isn't quite the word, and the "fray" has become a meager affair as of late. Their token gesture to join the U.S. and Great Britain in orchestrating a Northern Alliance victory amounts to little more than tactical cowardice, a dashing display of minced words and foot-dragging that only the French seem capable of. However symbolic the gesture, the French and their European counterparts tend to deliver such offerings of goodwill sealed with the usual stamp of anti-Americanism.
The irritating Euro-superiority complex recently surfaced over the issue of extraditing captured terrorists to the United States. In September, Spanish authorities infiltrated the Soldiers of Allah, a radical Islamic group based in Madrid with links to al Qaeda. The operation led to 14 arrests of key al Qaeda operatives and shed new light on the financing of bin Laden's operations preceding the September 11 attacks. Hundreds of millions of pesetas (i.e. millions of dollars) flowed through this unit of al Qaeda's financial network. Despite this damning evidence, Spain still sniffs at the thought of extraditing the detainees to the U.S.
And what is the source of Spain's moral indigestion? The "backward" American justice system, of course. After all, the U.S. still employs such barbaric anachronisms as the death penalty (and even worse, a solid majority of Americans seem to support it). As evidenced by the continual stalling of Spanish diplomats, the moral burden of any extradition to a country as primitive as the United States is simply too much for the collective Spanish conscience to bear. The fate of al Qaeda operatives must not be abandoned to the crude methods of American jurisprudence. Instead of rejecting such anti-Americanism, the 15 members of the European Union echoed Spain's sentiments in their sanctimonious reports to the press.
The Bush administration's establishment of military tribunals further inflamed the E.U.'s righteous indignation. Several countries kindly reminded the U.S. that sending the al Qaeda henchmen across the pond would violate the EU's extradition ban against countries that use the death penalty. This was consistent with what seems to be the E.U.'s role of the meddling whiner, seizing some disputable moral high ground to voice complaints instead of solutions. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of most European indignation is its paternalistic tone, as if the Americans were still reckless colonies in need of a scolding.
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Europe's contempt toward the U.S. runs the gamut of issues, from the Kyoto protocol to missile defense to banana exports. Europe's growing enmity of Israel, however, is especially confusing. A recent article by Bret Stephens in the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal outlined the causes of Europe's Arab appeasement policy. While post-World War II Europe favored Israel out of guilt, Europeans now urge Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Of course, Israel's blunt rejection of such suggestions from former supporters further inflames Europe's thinly veiled animosity.
The recent proceedings in Brussels hardly remedy the mutual distaste. A Belgian court has commenced hearings against Ariel Sharon for crimes against humanity for the 1982 Sabra and Chatilla massacres. As Israel struggles with the day-to-day carnage wreaked by Hamas, Belgium readjusts its blinders and proceeds with litigation. The case somehow finds Sharon culpable for the crimes of a Lebanese mercenary who participated in Hafez Assad's mass murders. Though the proceedings appear secondary to a state facing daily suicide bombers, the trial's symbolism merits concern. Specifically, European disapproval of Israeli operations bodes ill for the U.S. In a world that confuses the Middle East's conflicts with U.S. policy, half-hearted European support for Palestine strengthens the anti-American rhetoric on other issues.
Europe's numerous faults must not overshadow all of its redeeming qualities, of course. Joschka Fischer, head of Germany's Green party, has been downright hawkish since the terrorist attacks. Though the irony of the situation may leave an unpleasant aftertaste-Fischer's colorful résumé includes, as the New Republic recently discovered, an assault against a policeman in his radical youth-his unfailing support of the American bombings contrasts sharply with the reaction of the rest of Germany's foreign ministry. Great Britain also never hesitated to join the war on terrorism, moving beyond voiced sympathy to decisive troop deployment in support of U.S. forces. In the House of Commons, Tony Blair has built British support for the war on terrorism and established himself as a steadfast friend of America.
Much to the disappointment of Americans at home, such examples remain far too rare. More often the U.S. must endure the pompous moral preening of the European countries, whether their daily grievance concerns missile defense or CO2 emissions. Perhaps the war on terrorism will provide our allies with a bit of perspective; then again, the U.S. campaign might incur more disdain than praise. As the struggle against terrorism extends beyond Afghanistan's borders, some countries will undoubtedly harp about unilateralist decisions. Europe, however, should reconsider its reflexive contempt for U.S. policies. In the wake of September 11, America deserves respect, not reproach-why should Europe begrudge us this decency?