Here an excerpt from a highly perceptive piece entitled "Allies" by Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal:
"It is a statistical certainty that American and British soldiers will pay a price in blood this spring because their French, Spanish, Italian, German and -- if Mr. Dion has his way -- Canadian counterparts mean to keep their moral slates clean. A century ago that would have been a mark of martial and national dishonor, of "letting the side down." Today, it is a concession to the political reality that most NATO governments cannot muster political support for anything except a "peace mission" in Afghanistan. "If you are non-U.S., implicitly there is a political calculus," says a senior U.S. Army officer about his NATO colleagues. "You are looking over your shoulder to Ottawa. You're asking: 'Will getting five killed-in-action mean a phone call about the wisdom of this particular operation?'"
Afghanistan, of course, was supposed to have been the "good war" -- the war that, unlike Iraq, everyone was willing to fight. Now the best that can be said for France, Germany, Italy and company is that they will not actively stand in the way of its being fought, so long as they're not fighting.
But even that is an improvement over the way some European governments are conducting themselves in the war on terror closer to home. Earlier this month, an Italian court named and indicted 25 CIA officers and five Italian officials for the rendition to Egypt of a cleric named Osama Mustafa Hassan Nasr, aka Abu Omar. Germany, too, has issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA officers involved in the abduction (in Macedonia) of a German man of Lebanese descent named Khaled al-Masri. Mr. Masri has since become a cause célèbre back home -- a living indictment of the Bush administration's perfidious approach to fighting terrorism.
In Sheikh Omar's case, even the Italians don't dispute the Egyptian was a dangerous actor: He is believed to have recruited terrorists and plotted an attack on the U.S. embassy in Rome. Mr. Masri, by contrast, is usually depicted as an innocent caught up in a web of CIA intrigue. But as John Rosenthal of the invaluable Transatlantic Intelligencer blog notes, it was German, not American, intelligence that first became intensely concerned about Mr. Masri's activities.
Not two weeks after 9/11, Mr. Masri was already being investigated by authorities in Baden-Württemberg as a "follower of Bin Laden." A classified report from Germany's Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations notes that Mr. Masri maintained "numerous contacts to dangerous persons and accused suspects in the domain of Islamist terrorism." He had a friendship with a militant Islamist named Reda Seyam, suspected of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings. He frequented an Islamic Cultural Center known for distributing audiocassettes with such charming messages as "Whoever fights against the Christians, the Jews and their allies is a martyr." It was shut down by Bavarian officials in December 2005 and the organization that ran it was banned.
For all this, Mr. Masri may be guilty of nothing more than fellow-traveling. The same might be said of the German government, which at a minimum involved itself in the abduction it now means to prosecute by agreeing to keep the whole matter secret. "The German government, witness to the entire incident, pretended not to know anything," the German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported in 2005. "In a court of law, such behavior amounts to the suppression of evidence."
The German government also involved itself in another apparent CIA kidnapping in December 2001 of a German citizen and terrorist suspect named Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who was later rendered to his native Syria. Rather than demand his instant repatriation, however, the government of Gerhard Schröder arranged for investigators to interview Mr. Zammer in Syria, in exchange for which it dropped charges against two Syrian agents in Germany. Mr. Zammar remains in a Syrian prison.
None of this need shame the German government: Mr. Zammar is reported to have recruited some of the 9/11 hijackers and his fate is richly deserved. What is shameful is that the same governments that actively colluded with the U.S. to bring the worst terrorist cases to some kind of justice are now bending to the demands of activist prosecutors and the prevailing anti-American mood, and again allowing the U.S. to take the flak for what were often joint operations. For the indicted CIA officers, that flak is less deadly than what the GIs in Afghanistan can look forward to this spring. But the principle is the same.
Asked what he worried about most in wartime, Napoleon is said to have replied, "Allies." Plus ça change."
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UPDATE: Another editorial along the same lines appeared today in the Washington Post blasting the hypocrisy of the Italian and German governments. And yet another interesting piece on France in the New York Times.
UPDATE #2: The Washington Times featured an op-ed by blogger Paul Belien on what he believes to be Germany's persecution of the parents of home-schooled children. A commenter of ours with insight on the American media's reporting on Germany blasted that piece as follows:
"Paul Belien is a psycho who is now spreading this ridiculous homeschool saga - which has until now been relegated to right-wing blogs - (not) to national news. The primary problem with this piece is it is factually incorrect, and misleading. It is full of transparent half-truths (connecting schulpflicht laws to adolf hitler), lack of context (the families are not accurately described, nor was the condition of the main subject in the article), and - quite simply - idiotic and unnecessary slander: "As Hitler knew, Germans tend to obey orders unquestioningly." Regardless of what you think about the German public, this is an extremely insulting and preposterious statement, as would be any similar statement about Americans.
I posted it as an example of anti-Europe commentary in the U.S. press, which, although it is far less prevalent than anti-US commentary in German/European press, is no less stupid.
Paul Belien has a reputation as an idiot, and for good reason. He was fired from the WSJ years ago after the facts caught up with one of his baseless rants, and how he continues to get published is beyond me, although the WT is a pretty sleazy paper."
It will be interesting to see if Brussels Journal responds.