In Europe, Some Say the Attacks Stemmed From American Failings
New York Times
September 22, 2001
By STEVEN ERLANGER
BERLIN, Sept. 21 - The killing of thousands in the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington last week has prompted great unity of purpose in the United States, cemented by shared outrage. President Bush has called on the world to unite against barbarism.
While Europeans have expressed enormous sympathy and solidarity, often in emotional ways, they have also been divided in their responses. A debate has begun over whether the inconsistencies of American foreign policy, and the sheer weight of American dominance in the world, mean that resentment of the United States - even, in extreme cases, hatred - are inevitable.
There was no rejoicing or support in Europe for the killing of so many Americans. Many Europeans wept and the continent fell silent for a moment last week in remembrance of the dead.
But it has also become clear that some Europeans feel that ordinary Americans have largely floated on a tide of prosperity, triumphalism and indifference to the world since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their view is that the United States has now been confronted with a sobering reality, and that it must try to understand. For those critics, Americans are now facing unsurprising retaliation from an important part of the Islamic world that considers America to have declared war on its faith.
The arguments are sometimes simple - America should expect war in return for bombing Iraq regularly. Some Europeans also contend that many Americans have a blinding confidence in their own goodness and so do not see that the acts of the United States are regarded in many quarters as driven by the domineering pursuit of national self-interest.
European writers and intellectuals have pointed to a catalog of actions that include the bombing - in reprisal for the terrorist bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa in 1998 - of one of Sudan's two pharmaceutical factories on the challenged grounds that it was linked to Osama bin Laden, aid to Israel to buy weapons used against Palestinians, or even the American refusal to intervene to stop the mass killings in Rwanda.
Matthew Parris, a former Conservative Party member of the British Parliament, wrote in The Times of London, "The bigger they come, the harder they fall."
Disgusted by calls for quick revenge, Mr. Parris wrote: "Do they think a terrorist is like a pin in a bowling alley: one down, nine to go? Do they want to give Osama bin Laden his own Bloody Sunday? Do they not know that when you kill one bin Laden you sow 20 more? Playing the world's policeman is not the answer to that catastrophe in New York. Playing the world's policeman is what led to it."
Dario Fo, the Italian playwright and satirist who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1997, said bluntly in a widely circulated e-mail: "The great speculators wallow in an economy that every year kills tens of millions of people with poverty - so what is 20,000 dead in New York? Regardless of who carried out the massacre, this violence is the legitimate daughter of the culture of violence, hunger and inhumane exploitation."
There have been other voices that pointed to Mr. bin Laden's various enemies: not just the United States but also the autocratic Islamic governments that Washington supports, like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait.
The Observer newspaper wrote: "America needs to recognize that, all too often, it poses as a champion of democracy while supporting regimes, such as that in Saudi Arabia, which have no proper respect for democracy."
Tariq Ali, a leftist British commentator, wrote that America was now about to wage war on Afghanistan, a country ruled by a religious movement, the Taliban, only as a result of Washington's proxy war against the Soviets.
Mr. bin Laden himself joined in that proxy battle, and became a hero partly because of that war.
"The underlying maxim is, `we will punish the crimes of our enemies and reward the crimes of our friends,' " Mr. Ali said.
In an editorial, Le Monde wrote that America is also unreliable in the sense of appearing inconstant in its choice of allies. The United States, it noted, refused to help Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of anti-Taliban forces who died last weekend from injuries suffered in an assassination attempt. Yet it considers Saudi Arabia an ally, although that "is where the financial support of the Islamic radicals comes from."
Even in Germany, one of Europe's most pro-American countries, there was concern that NATO allies had somehow handed Washington a blank check. Die Zeit commented that, "The defender against terror must not act like a furious giant," adding: "The fear of U.S. hegemony is as deep-seated as the anti-American sentiment that bubbled up predictably after Bush came to power."
Anti-Americanism is almost a reflex reaction among some left-of-center French intellectuals, and there has been a predictable outpouring.
To the cry that "we are all Americans now," Marie-José Mondzain, director of the prestigious French National Center for Scientific Research, writing in Le Monde, retorted: "I don't feel at all American, but to the contrary feel redoubled in me all the reasons to condemn a world that sings along with a catastrophic president, who defends the death penalty and who has only disdain for the Middle East."
Such anti-Americanism is rare in Germany. But the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, 73, called the attack on the World Trade Center "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos," impressive for the imagination of the act and the precision of its execution.
His commentary was regarded with horror by a nation that has
reached out to Americans with sympathy and support, and Mr. Stockhausen apologized,
saying that his allegorical