By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor
Totonto Sun - January 26, 2003
NEW YORK -- Time's European edition asked its readers
what nation posed the greatest threat to world peace. Of
the 268,000 respondents (as of this writing), 7.8% replied
North Korea, 8.9% named Iraq and a shocking 83.3% said
the United States. Good work, President Bush.
The Time poll mirrors feeling around the globe, with the
exceptions of Israel and Britain. American neo-conservatives, however, will
dismiss this poll as just another example of European wimpiness,
irrelevance and anti-American prejudice. So will George Bush and his
hawkish entourage, who have made it plain they don't care what the rest
of the world thinks so long as America and Israel get their way.
Last week, France's able foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, warned
his nation would delay, or might even veto, efforts by the Bush
administration to strong-arm the UN Security Council into a rushed war
vote against Iraq. Germany, China and Russia backed France.
American right wingers harbour particular venom for France. Americans
expect their allies to be obedient. While Washington constantly hectors
Europe to take more international responsibility, Europeans are not
expected to disagree with American policy. To Americans, France often
appears downright insubordinate. Ever since Gen. Charles de Gaulle,
Paris has refused to take orders or accept being a junior ally of the U.S.
Europeans see the Mideast very differently from North Americans, thanks
to their long experience in the region, and their media, which provides far
more accurate, balanced and diverse reporting on the region than do
Americans accuse the French of arrogance, rudeness and illusions of
grandeur, which is often true. The French rightly accuse American
politicians - epitomized for Europeans by President Bush - of being
arrogant and ignorant, as well as loud, uncultured, impatient and
dreadfully lacking in those two fundamentals of civilized education:
geography and history. French intellectuals warn American TV and movies
are spreading "cretinization" to Europe's youth, a charge easily confirmed
by an evening's viewing of North American television.
American neo-conservatives know Europeans sneer at them as
dangerous ideological crackpots, the 2003 version of 1930s militant
Marxists. The neo-con's riposte (oops, a French word) "We saved you in
two world wars. Now we have to do it again. You're no better than those
wimpy, socialist Canadians."
These chest-thumpers are unaware that without France's military
intervention in the War of Independence, there would be no United States.
Or that Germany was effectively defeated in 1917 by Britain and France
when the U.S. foolishly intervened, thus preventing a fair, negotiated
peace that would have prevented the evil Treaty of Versailles, the
Bolshevik Revolution, Adolf Hitler and World War II.
Most Americans believe their nation alone defeated Germany in World
War II. Not so. Stalin's Soviet Union defeated the Third Reich, destroying
100 German divisions in titanic battles on the Eastern front that made
D-Day seem a minor battle. By the time U.S. forces landed in Europe,
Germany was almost defeated, without a navy, air force or oil.
Smirking Gallophobes love to revile the French for being faint-hearted
fighters in World War II. But France lost 210,000 dead fighting the mighty
Germans. The Maginot Line worked as planned, contrary to popular
belief. America's great fortress, Corregidor, failed miserably.
America lost 292,000 dead in the war, including both the European and
Pacific Theatres, where the U.S. totally and brilliantly defeated Japan.
Poland lost more soldiers than America, 320,000; even unwarlike Romania
lost 300,000 men.
Europe, including the USSR, lost at least 13 million soldiers and 25 million
civilians killed in World War II. When Russia opens its secret files, the
numbers may soar. "Wimpish" Europeans know something more than
Americans about the cost of war. Take the damage of 9/11 and multiply it
1,500 times and you get a taste of the devastation caused by World War
Europeans still have fresh memories of their brutal, futile colonial wars.
America, about to embark in Iraq on its first large-scale colonial adventure
since it annexed Cuba and the Philippines in 1899, has forgotten, and
seems fated to relearn, the cost of empire.
By and large, Europeans like and admire Americans, as do most people
around the globe. There are some chronic America-haters in Britain and
France, to be sure, on both right and left, but in general Europeans are
opposed to the unilateralist, aggressive policies of the Bush White House,
not to America. But it's also plain, Bush's thirst for war and oil are
cultivating strong new strains of anti-Americanism.
Unfortunately, the Bush Administration, obsessed to the point of psychosis
with Iraq, refuses to heed the cautions of its old European friends,
listening only to exhortations of Israel's far right wing, whose American
supporters now dominate the Pentagon and National Security Council.
The White House won't listen either to the sensible advice of Israel's
far-sighted Labour party leader, Amram Mitzna, or to its Arab allies.
President Bush claims he is about to wage war for America's security. But
the rest of the world scoffs at this claim, knowing his true objective is oil.
By generating ever increasing antipathy towards the U.S., the Goliath-like
Bush administration is actually undermining the security of the U.S. and of