The Euro-Right Responds

Amid the furor over CIA secret flights and prisons, the outnumbered online commentators of the European Right offer an alternative to widespread indignation -- the shouldering of collective Western "responsibility" in doing what it takes to fight terrorism.

The Times of London published Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's entire statement on the furor under the headline, "Rendition Saves Lives." Le Figaro, the leading conservative newspaper of France, headlined its report on Rice's rebuttal of European criticism this way: "Rice Makes Europe a Top U.S. Responsibility."

Rice's message gets respectful treatment in another story on Figaro's English language site in which Washington correspondent Philippe Gélie explains what Rice is telling her European hosts this week -- that "whatever has not been proved" about the CIA prisons and the flights "needs no justification," and whatever is confirmed is a matter of shared responsibility."

But Gélie suggests that Rice's expectation that European governments can justify U.S. practices in Europe to their citizens shows "the extent of the transatlantic incomprehension." At risk, he says, are Western anti-terrorism efforts in areas where the U.S. and Europe largely agree.

"The CIA's secret prisons, phantom prisoners and stealth aircraft could again widen the transatlantic gulf, which has tended to shrink during Bush's second term," Gélie concludes. "It happens at the risk of weakening European-US cooperation on Iran, Afghanistan and Syria," he writes.

In London, the Daily Telegraph says the furor shows that "Europe Needs Regime Change."

The problem, say the editors, is that "the United States is pro-democracy, the EU pro-stability."
The conservative daily blames President Bush for indulging European elites "even as they take more power from their peoples" and warns Rice "to be careful" in appealing to the European Union this week.

"Forty years of solid Washington support for the EU have not led to any reciprocal pro-Americanism in Brussels," they write. "As she has found before, and will find again, Europeans often exhibit a psychotic desire to bite the hand that freed them."

But it is a sign of the challenge facing Rice that even David Aaronovitch, a very conservative pro-American commentator at The Times, is balking at her message.

"Let's get back to defeating terrorism, shall we?" Aaronovitch asks in his column today. "If only. Here are some of the reasons for thinking that we can't just let this one go, no matter how much we may admire or want to believe Dr Rice. The first is that we know of instances where suspects -- men such as the senior al-Qaeda operative Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi -- were taken to countries such as Egypt for interrogation.

"And the second is that we cannot be sure that what we in Britain might mean by torture is what a CIA interrogator handling a terrorist suspect means by torture."

Aaronovitch quotes Sen. John McCain as saying that the West is in a "'struggle to advance freedom in the face of terror in places where oppressive rule has bred the malevolence that creates terrorists.' And we fight it -- always, always, always -- by being as little like those oppressors as we can possibly be. Even if torture works."

By Jefferson Morley |  December 6, 2005; 4:25 PM ET  | Category:  Europe
Previous: The Politics of the German Media | Next: Killing the Messenger?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Le Figaro is wrong to say that the transatlantic gulf has narrowed in Bush's second term.

European governments are still susceptible to bribery and bullying here and there. They can be wheedled back from time to time by these empty charm offensives. But the people themselves are drifting further and further away.

Or to put it more accurately, the Americans are drifting further from us. We're not the ones who have changed.

Posted by: Laurence Bourassa | December 6, 2005 04:39 PM

I can't speak for the French papers, but the Times and Telegraph are about as European as the New York Post.

The Times is owned by the Australian Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox News. The Telegraph was just sold by the Canadian Conrad Black, another US-based media moghul.

Both men's empires have reliably pumped out the Bush pap in every country they can penetrate - though that didn't save Black from recent US fraud charges.

The case of the once-proud Times is really a bit sad. If newspapers could get Alzheimer's, that's what they'd look like.

Posted by: OD | December 6, 2005 04:51 PM

My parents get the Daily Torygraph (as Private Eye calls it) and it is relentlessly anti-EU. They are steadfastly against any growth in the power of the EU and seem to regard Britain as not part of Europe at all, so I'm not surprised they took this opportunity to knock it.

If the positions of the EU and the US was reversed, the Telegraph would still be attacking the former and supporting the latter.

Posted by: David Patrick, UK | December 6, 2005 05:51 PM

All Western press and media in general is rotten to the core. Most of it is hype, spin or outright lies. Reading it is dangerous to one's perception of the world.

Posted by: oleg | December 6, 2005 06:11 PM

The furor is not over the prisons per se, it is over the fact that the countries where the prisons are allegedly located (e.g. Poland) are EU members. Governing representative bodies of EU knew nothing of the prisons until the reports were leaked to the media.

If Wyoming was doing something on the sly that was completely incompatible with the US Constitution? Would that be a problem with the Feds? You bet. What if the sly deeds were helping the EU to fend off security threats? Same thing. That's why the furor-type of response from Europe.

You're misinforming your readers on the underlying reasons for the issue and the nature of the European response. Perhaps educating Americans on the issues of soverenity (other than their own) and universal charter of human rights would help you to produce balanced and objective reporting. Of late the differences between the Post and Fox news are blurring.

Posted by: olga | December 6, 2005 06:41 PM

Thanks for putting together a summary of opinions in the European media about this topic. I've been curious about how this will play out - Europe's experience of the events that led to the Geneva Convention was quite intimate, and my impression is that European politicians take the protocols within a bit more seriously than the current Bush Administration.

So far, it looks like Condi's actually pulling it off, though - whatever back-room deals are being made, it seems that her slickly parsed non-defense of current US policy on torture and rendition isn't being overtly challenged.

Posted by: Kris | December 6, 2005 07:07 PM

I agree this is very interesting commentary. However, I'm sure it is out of sync with the European public at large.

Frankly, some of these tactics are not all that new. Rendition has been going on for a while, well before 9/11. However, the frequency has clearly gone up and now the "dirty laundry" is in public.

There will always be a trade off between civil liberties and security, however much some would pretend otherwise. We are facing one of those trade offs.

Posted by: RC | December 6, 2005 07:59 PM

The European medai suffers from the same lack of perspective (narcissism) as does their American counterparts. In this instance, they fail to see that it is Europe's historic failure of colonialism that has caused the instability in the Middle East since 1945. When the former colonist nations agree to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, we in the U.S. will listen earnestly to their concerns. Until then, we act unilaterally. What's wrong with that?

Posted by: James Neumerski, U.S. | December 6, 2005 08:20 PM

These news outlets you've quoted are completely out of step with mainstream European public opinion and are generally viewed as far-right mouthpieces lacking credibility.
Bush, Cheney, Rice et al are loathed by the European public, as is the torture and abduction and other crimes your nation practises - so far (but not for long), with impunity.

Posted by: Joao da Silva | December 6, 2005 09:18 PM

Today's White House Press briefing brought up some interesting questions on this topic. Which weren't answered. My impression is that these black sites to allow freedom from legal oversight, allowing the Bush Administration to maintain their increasingly tenuous claim that they adhere to US and international law.

The relevant question here is, were these countries aware of what the US was doing? If the US is going to take actions that violate the Geneva Convention, I'd much prefer that they had the balls to do it on their own territory.

Posted by: Kris | December 6, 2005 09:41 PM

Olga: Your suggestion that Americans need to be more educated about/sensitive to issues of European sovereignty may be legitimate. But, it is complicated by this fact: European sovereignty is an amorphous concept, at best. In addition to the tricky issue of EU versus national government authority, there is this glaring fact: The US has militarily occupied Europe for over 60 years (and counting), and spent between 1945 and 1990 $6 trillion (in 1990 dollars) militarily guaranteeing European peace. In what sense, then, does Europe have absolute sovereignty rights vis-a-vis the US? It may sound like an impolite question, but it is a legitimate issue. And, you can be assured it is an issue that hangs silently in the air when US and European diplomats meet to discuss matters like US rendition through Europe.

Posted by: LWP | December 6, 2005 10:31 PM

Laurence Bourassa: Or to put it more accurately, the Americans are drifting further from us.

Please, I implore you to be more precise: The Bush Americans are drifting further ...

As an American, I do not wish to be lumped in with those right Christian zealots or the Neocons who enslave/trick Christian zealots into doing their dirty work.

Posted by: | December 6, 2005 10:33 PM

oleg: All Western press and media in general is rotten to the core.

Almost all.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, there are alternatives in the USA:

Monday, December 5th, 2005
Extraordinary Rendition Scandal Reaches New Heights: Rice on the Offensive in Europe Over Bush Administration's Use of "Torture Flights"

Posted by: Sword of Truth | December 6, 2005 10:40 PM

For a more detached and occasionally clearer view of these questions, rather than the US and European press, I recommend the Canadian and Brazilian newspapers. Many of the latters' sites have English and French sections.

Posted by: Affonso Arinos de Mello Gomes | December 7, 2005 09:43 AM

Are we paying the European papers to print positive messages as news reports too?

Posted by: | December 7, 2005 11:30 AM

How can we trust any paper who panders to the Neo-con Americans, knowing that they feel free to distort press reporting as it suits their needs? I read a report that is positive about the Bush cabal, and I automatically suspect it. Who can do otherwise?

Posted by: solitairedog | December 7, 2005 11:34 AM

James Neumerski, I think it is more than a lack of perspective that the U.S. media suffers from.Control by multinational corporations who decide what the truth is, which the media feeds to Americans like pablum. The truth would never make it to the top of the list in mainstream American media. The truth and propaganda in the U.S. are one and the same. Don't be naive.
"The job of the president is to set the agenda and the job of the press is to follow the agenda that the leadership sets." Lawrence Grossman-longtime head of PBS and NBC News
"The corporations don't have to lobby the government anymore. They are the government." Jim Hightower
The U.S. has a formula for a dictatorship, not a democracy. I watch U.S. news and it has nothing to do with the truth. I have to watch C.B.C. or B.B.C. for that, even then you have to question. Questioning is eveyone's job in a democracy, yet in the U.S. it appears only the questioners are questioned, and demonized. The truth is out there. Be a part of the truth, not part of the coverup.

Posted by: Gael | December 7, 2005 11:46 AM

Here I have access to several sources of TV News.

The Swedish State owned Channels - factual drawing little or no conclusions. The policy of strict neutrality.

The BBC - Reports the facts and draws a few conclusions but is wary of the wrath of Blair who they are dependent upon for their funding.

Sky News - Under instruction from Murdoch to present the 'facts' and draw a pro Bush conclusion.

CBS - Never mentions anything that might be controversial

CNN - More substance on the Disney Channel.

Often you find the truth by what is omitted than what is said!

Posted by: Rick in Sweden | December 7, 2005 12:06 PM

If the State Department has concluded that most Americans don't care about what the world thinks of their country, it got something right. Most Americans voted for George Bush, right?

Posted by: pgp | December 7, 2005 07:39 PM

Rick from Sweden-it is interesting to see the media you have access to. I think CBC in Canada is an excellent source as it has always been by the people for the people. Though you can never assume it will always continue that way. Democracy is a job in progress, not a state of being as Americans seem to think, that is why there is barely a thread of democracy left in America.

Posted by: Gael | December 8, 2005 08:58 AM

It's really grotesque to quote English right wing papers as the voice of the "Euro-right", they are anything but. A one liner from Le Figaro does not make up for this. Let's not even talk about ownership and editorial control of the Times and the Telegraph, it should be blatantly obvious for anyone not grasping for straws that the British right (who is currently considering withdrawing from the coalition of European right wing parties
in the Euro parliament) is not speaking for anyone but itself in Europe.

Posted by: tom in germany | December 10, 2005 08:54 AM

Great article, that was interesting

Posted by: make money online at home | May 8, 2006 10:06 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company