- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

VIENNA, Austria — President Bush’s meeting with European Union leaders today is scheduled to focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions and economic concerns, but the United States’ conduct of the war on terrorism will be an unspoken theme.

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley has said he doubts Mr. Bush will have much to say about the U.S. prison for terror suspects at U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, charges of prisoner abuse in Iraq and suspected killings of Iraqi civilians by Marines in Haditha.

For millions of Europeans, however, these are the issues that matter — and their concerns are shared by politicians.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, plans to urge Mr. Bush to close Guantanamo. Peter Pilz, a senior member of Austria’s Green party, says Mr. Schuessel should tell Mr. Bush “that the criminal actions of his government will not be tolerated in Europe.”

Mr. Pilz is one of Austria’s more outspoken public figures. Still, his sentiments — that the U.S. is breaking the law in Iraq and in its larger fight against terror — are shared by many Europeans angry over the Iraq invasion, recent suicides at Guantanamo and the reported existence of secret CIA prisons worldwide.

Newspaper editorials reflect Europe’s dismay with a partnership that most here see as has having gone wrong.

“Those who came as liberators, those who wanted to bring the rule of justice … lost their moral credibility in Iraq,” wrote the German weekly Die Zeit. “Not just a few soldiers have ‘lost their control’ as they like to say. America’s entire Iraq policy is out of control.”

In France, the newspaper Le Monde wrote of the Guantanamo suicides: “We continue to ask by what heavenly decree America holds itself above the rule of law.”

Young people, like Andrej Mantei of Berlin, are even more scathing. “I don’t think it’s possible that anybody could make worse foreign policy than Bush,” he says.

And even many older people are critical, unlike a few decades ago, when they equated America with the war against Nazi Germany, postwar reconstruction and the shield against the Soviet Union.

“I think Bush was wrong, and he should have remorse,” said Rosa Sarrocco, 80, of Rome. “The recent events … have had a further negative impact on my opinion of America.”

America’s image problems in Europe are reflected by a survey done by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and released last week. Favorable opinions of the United States ranged from a high of 56 percent in Britain to a low of 23 percent in Spain.

Pro-U.S. sentiment is stronger in much of formerly communist Eastern Europe, where Washington’s contribution to toppling Soviet dominance lingers in many minds. It peaks in Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanian majority gratefully remembers the U.S.-led bombing in 1999 that forced Serb troops from the province.

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