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."
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