May 8, 2003
PARIS - Bush Administration officials have been touring the Continent this past week, blasting and threatening nations like France, Germany and Turkey that opposed the Iraq war, or dishing out great wads of cash to countries at Europe's unfashionable eastern end that supported the Anglo-American invasion.
The threadbare rent-a-nations of East Europe, notably Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, were quick to jump on Bush's invade Iraq bandwagon, offering Washington their services in exchange for hundreds of millions in aid, loans, cheap arms, and political support. They were also showing deep gratitude for America's lifting of Russia's yoke over East Europe. Poland contributed 200 soldiers to the invasion force, for which they got a cool US $90 million and their very own occupation zone in Iraq's north, thus aiding Washington's pretense that conquered Iraq was somehow akin to four-power occupied Germany at the end of World War II. All that lacked was a remake of the wonderful film, `The Third Man,' with Harry Lime running watered-down drugs from Baghdad instead of Vienna.
Bulgaria, formerly Moscow's most faithful European satellite, whose intelligence goons used to handle `wet affairs' (assassinations) for KGB, quickly offered its mobile loyalties to Washington. So, too, bankrupt Romania and wretched little Albania. No one in the Bush Administration seemed in the least abashed that its new best friends in Europe were nations that are run by old communists politicians and secret policemen, direct heirs of history's most murderous political movement. These apparatchiks in Hugo Boss suits who used to worship Lenin are now, as the old Trinidad calypso song goes, `working for the Yankee dollar.'
Speaking of rewards, remember the White House's vow `Iraq's oil belongs to the people of Iraq?' Well, it now turns out that buried in the fine print of an `emergency,' untendered US government contract authorizing Vice President Dick Cheney's old firm, oil giant Halliburton, to fight potential Iraqi well fires, was `operation of facilities and distribution of products.' IE pumping and selling Iraq's oil, a deal estimated to be worth at least $7 billion over the next two years. The spirit of Enron lives. No wonder `liberating' Iraq's oil fields was the priority of US invasion forces. To America's shame, it deployed troops aplenty to secure oil wells, but not even a squad of GI's to prevent the looting of some of mankind's most precious historical artifacts from Baghdad's museums.
Meanwhile, intriguing events are afoot in `Old Europe.' In response to the Bush Administration's crude threats of retaliation against anti-war nations, Germany's Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, called for Europe's `emancipation' in its relationship with the United States, a choice of term pointedly aimed at recalling the 19th century freeing of America's slaves. France, which is now regarded as the Babylon of evil by the Bush White House and its southernfried evangelical supporters, heartily seconded Schroeder's statement. This was clearly a call to arms to Europeans to accelerate the process of gaining independence from a half century of American geopolitical domination.
The most important step in cutting Washington's apron strings is the much-discussed creation of a unified European military force. A strong majority of Western Europeans do not wish their nation's armed forces to serve in NATO as auxiliaries to American troops in upcoming neo-colonial wars, or to garrison Third World nations, like Afghanistan or Iraq, conquered by the US, as Washington has been urging. Europeans want no part of the Bush Administration's crusade against Muslim nations, which they regard as non-threatening and good export markets. France, Germany and Belgium, while friendly to Israel, share the view that extremist friends of Greater Israel have taken control of the Bush Administration's foreign policy and are wielding it for the benefit of Israel, and to the detriment of the United States and Europe.
This week, Bush national security advisor Condoleeza Rice accused France of trying to take NATO `hostage' by refusing, before Gulf War II, to send troops to Turkey. This takes some nerve, considering the US has long treated NATO as a junior partner, much as the Soviets regarded the old Warsaw Pact. Europe's interests in the Mideast, Africa and West Asia are often different from America's and will diverge ever more as time goes by and Europe almost inevitably emerges as a political, economic - and perhaps one day military - rival to the US.
Thank George W. Bush for accelerating this trend by enraging 90% of Europeans (excluding Brits) by his conquest of Iraq, insulting their governments, the faux `war on terrorism,' trying to split Europe and impede its unification, his unilateralism, and treating Europe with disdain and blistering arrogance. Anti-American fever across the western part of the Continent is running rampant. It may subside, but there's a good chance the seeds of Euro-American geopolitical rivalry have been planted, or at least watered, by the Bush Administration's clumsy, churlish behavior towards its oldest allies. To many Europeans, the way the White House and parts of the US media have whipped many Americans into a frenzy of fear, hysteria, and war fever conjures evil memories from their own recent history they prefer to forget.