GENEVA To hear some European and especially French commentators talk, it is the United States and not Iraq that has become a “rogue state.” Yet calmer voices are warning the rhetorical broadsides have gone too far.
“You can’t say America threatens peace in the world without a certain hatred that makes you blind to reality,” wrote Bernard-Henri Levy, a well-known French philosopher, in a widely distributed article.
“This kind of anti-Americanism is a grave danger. It is a warning signal of something deeper a hatred of the very idea of America.”
Greece this week proposed an emergency European Union summit to deal with the crisis, appealing to both the United States and Europe “to end their war of words.”
“It is known that there is a crisis in trans-Atlantic relations. However, we believe that in this difficult period there must be calm from both sides,” Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panos Beglitis told reporters.
In France, the fear of U.S. hegemony extends well beyond targets in Europe and the Middle East. Charges have been made that the United States seeks to unseat France from its traditional role in French-speaking African countries.
The French worry about Washington’s intentions toward Ivory Coast, Gabon and other countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, as well as Djibouti on the African Horn, where the United States has established a military base alongside the French garrison.
Clashes of interest between France and Washington are also in progress in other areas of East Africa as well as the Middle East, Vietnam and North Korea, according to official and semiofficial French statements.
Giving vent to some unspecified fury with the United States, Regis Faucon, former director of Channel 1 of French television, wrote in the conservative daily Le Figaro that “with Bush and the ideologues of his entourage, the extreme right is in power.”
And, he concluded, “They are pure products of the religious, ultraconservative crusade, intolerant, repressive, racist and sexist. They have confiscated the power, and the respected Colin Powell had to bow [to the president].”
French fears of U.S. intentions outside Europe are mainly economic, based on suspicions that the United States seeks control of oil and established or prospective mineral deposits.
Commentators, editorialists and officials have begun to question the need for trans-Atlantic ties or, on the other hand, to worry that they are being eroded.
In a statement at a conference in Munich last weekend, French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie told Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that “an alliance implies consultation and not domination.”
According to French political scientist Alain Mine: “The great coalition formed after September 11 around the United States is in the process of dissolving itself, sinking in the sands of the Iraq desert.”
Although West European public opinion overwhelmingly opposes military action to unseat Saddam Hussein, some critics blame Europe for the deadlock. Charles Pasqua, a former French interior minister and now a member of the European Parliament, said, “Even before its official beginning, the second Gulf conflict has claimed its first collateral victim: the European Union’s foreign and security policy.”