TCS Daily

'Damned Annoying'

By Craig Winneker - April 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Perhaps it's a fitting metaphor for Europe's inability to act decisively even when it comes to the humanitarian aftermath of the apparent US-UK-led victory in Iraq.

This week a European Commission spokesman revealed that the allocation of some €24 million in emergency EU funds for post-war Iraq had been held up briefly because the courier carrying the documents authorizing the money was mugged in Brussels.
"It's damned annoying," the spokesman said. Indeed. But just imagine how ticked off was the poor thief who got back to his lair only to find he'd scored some Eurocrat's paperwork.

Meanwhile, the war is essentially over, the humanitarian effort is under way and the peace is already being organized. Europe may want to be part of that effort, but its indecision in the face of a crisis - just as happened before NATO intervened in Kosovo in 1999 - has rendered it largely irrelevant.

Today Brussels is strangely silent, even as Iraqis are dancing in the streets of Baghdad, waving American flags, kissing Marines and throwing their shoes at posters of Saddam. For the last several weeks, here in Belgium and across Europe, it has been possible to witness unbelievable demonstrations of support for Saddam, as college students wore Iraqi colors and brandished anti-American slogans. Polls showed people wanted Iraq to win.

Watching the incredible footage from Baghdad on Wednesday afternoon, on just about every channel across the European dial, I could only think about those hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters who have over the last several weeks claimed to be speaking on behalf of the people of Iraq. Don't expect them to gather for a mass clarification.

News coverage on European televisions channels has, until today at least, focused on the admittedly tragic human cost of the attacks. There's no avoiding the pictures of injured children in hospitals, and there's no denying they show war's unfortunate cost. But many of these media outlets have neglected to mention the great lengths to which coalition forces were going to avoid civilian casualties. Never before in the history of warfare have such efforts been so evidently successful (aside from a few isolated incidents).

By late Wednesday, even the French channels were showing the pro-US celebrations in Baghdad. (To be fair, some of their reporters had been quite resourceful in getting stories from a civilian point of view that CNN International's embedded correspondents were not.)

The celebrations had hardly begun in Iraq and, no doubt, in the US, before the European second-guessing kicked in. Make that third-guessing. At the Commission's daily briefings this week the official spin has been this: the Americans may have won the war but will they win the peace? Or, America has waged the war, now Europe will have to pay for the peace.

These are legitimate concerns and maybe it's fair to ask those questions. The celebrations may even be premature. Much work remains to be done. But you can bet your last pair of sandals Washington and London won't be waiting around for Inspector Clouseau to find those stolen documents before they take the necessary action.

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