US and 'old' Europe: Who's forsaking whom?

Regarding your Feb. 4 editorial "'Old' Europe not obsolete": It is encouraging to have a respected newspaper such as the Monitor present thoughtful comments on the importance of having longtime democratic allies such as France and Germany - comments much in contrast to the cowboy manner of US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

It behooves the leadership in a truly democratic country to listen to the overwhelming sentiment of its citizens. France and Germany have lived through enough wars on their soil to understand that waging them is not always the answer. Neither France nor Germany is blind to the threat of terrorism. They have both vigorously pursued terrorist cells and arrested potential members. However, whether Iraq promotes or harbors terrorists has not been established solidly, nor has Iraq attacked any other country since the end of the Gulf War.

The authority of the United Nations was conceived after the horrors of the Second World War. As combatants, France and Germany learned bitterly the effects of war on civilians; therefore, they support the authority of the UN rather than the will of a single country, even if that country is presently a superpower.

Yet Germany is indirectly involved with the United States' war plans. German soldiers will be guarding American military installations and bases from terrorist attacks in Germany that will likely be triggered by a war in Iraq. Moreover, several thousands of German soldiers are serving in Afghanistan. This is support Germany did not hesitate to give toward the international war on terror.

As your editorial mentions, Germany is contributing vigorously toward reconstruction, securing peace, and developing democratic institutions in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Germany has also staunchly promoted extending the European Union to the members of the former Warsaw Pact. Thus, it is particularly hurtful that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary fall readily in line with Washington's war plans. Adding insult to injury, President Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld single out Poland as the truest ally of the United States. Could there possibly exist a subtext of hoping to weaken the cohesion of continental Europe?
Hannelore Wilfert
Troy, N.Y.

In the Jan. 31 opinion piece "US risks friends to war with Iraq": Daniel Schorr states that the US is risking its friendship with Germany, France, and others if it goes forward with war against Iraq. But just what kind of friends are these countries? Forget US help in World Wars I and II. That was then and this is now.

In the past decade or so, the US has been under constant attack by terrorist groups. The first World Trade Center bombing, the US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, and finally the World Trade Center/Pentagon attacks were directed against the US, not Europe.

We have been patient. We have not rushed off to war. But tolerance can only go so far. And the majority of Americans have run out of tolerance. If Iraq does not want war, Iraq can prevent war. It is very simple and it's entirely up to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Give up the weapons of mass destruction.

Whether France, Germany, and other traditional allies of the US join in this struggle will not change the outcome. The US will not, should not, and cannot allow someone like Saddam Hussein to develop these types of weapons and then give them to enemies of the US. It is the US that is being attacked, and the risk is too great. As an American, I will remember who our "friends" are, who came to our aid when we asked for support, and who stood by us in battle.
Bob Chaney

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