Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The European Press Views the Middle East: Support for U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan Wanes as Campaign Continues, Injuries Mount

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

The European Press Views the Middle East: Support for U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan Wanes as Campaign Continues, Injuries Mount

Article excerpt

THE EUROPEAN PRESS VIEWS THE MIDDLE EAST: Support for U.S. Bombing of Afghanistan Wanes as Campaign Continues, Injuries Mount

Lucy Jones is a free-lance journalist based in London.

When U.S. and British air strikes against Taliban-held areas of Afghanistan commenced Oct. 7, most European newspapers backed the attacks. The bombing is a "legitimate" act of defense, said Spain's El Pais the following day. "After weeks of uncertainty, the first strikes...signal a shift from an almost unrealistic phase of animated suspense to concrete action," noted Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine on the same day. The United States and its allies should not be motivated by revenge, said France's Liberation of Oct. 8, but admitted it was "completely unrealistic to exclude the use of force against a `tentacular' organization dedicated to violence."

By the end of October, however, as photographs of bleeding Afghan children began appearing on front pages, newspapers struck a different tone. "Majority want bombing pause," said a front-page headline in London's Guardian on Oct. 30, above a picture of a maimed Afghan boy. The previous day, Paris's Le Monde had urged the U.S. government to halt the use of cluster bombs in Afghanistan, describing their use in a country still littered with millions of antipersonnel mines as "morally odious and extremely counterproductive." Each cluster bomb, the paper said, contains up to 200 smaller bomblets which, if they fail to hit their target, can remain in the ground and kill or injure any civilians who so much as touch them.

"Over a period of a few days, the U.S. and British were guilty of badly targeted bombings and massacring civilians without enabling their local allies on the ground to make any significant advances," complained Geneva's Le Temps on Oct. 29.

Meanwhile, some pundits questioned whether the bombing ever would achieve the results the West is seeking, including the fall of the Taliban and capture of Osama bin Laden. "The Afghans are now falling in behind the Taliban," wrote Jason Burke in London's Observer on Oct. 21. "That is not only tragic but also dangerous. The strikes are swiftly radicalizing what was essentially a moderate country," Burke claimed. "Two years ago, few Afghan fighters I spoke to could point to their own country on a globe, let alone discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now they can all talk about the `Ameriki' and its `tyranny' against Muslims."

France's Le Monde of Oct. 25 issued a warning: "If you look at comments made anywhere from Jakarta to Cairo, Casablanca to Jeddah there is unanimous condemnation of the military operation against Afghanistan--even if there is no support for Osama bin Laden...It would be dangerous to ignore this. And the civilian casualties are making the rift deeper."

BIN LADEN SHOULD APPEAR ON TV, SAY EUROPEAN PAPERS

The question of whether the unexpurgated versions of Osama bin Laden's TV appearances should be allowed into American homes received a resounding "yes" from European editorial writers. An Oct. 11 editorial in the French Liberation thought it unwise of Washington to impose domestic restrictions on the relaying of the footage taken by the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV station. The present conflict, the paper noted, "was born on live television," referring to the horrific TV footage of Sept. 11. "It is not so much a confrontation of two powers but of two world views, and its true battlefield is first and foremost that of public opinion," the newspaper continued. "Instead of berating Al-Jazeera," it stressed, "we should ponder why mutations like the Taliban are precisely the fruit of state censorship of the media in the Arab world."

Spain's Avui of the same day was confident that such freedoms are safe in American hands. "There have been attempts during grave situations in the short history of the United States to curtail rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution," the paper said. …

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