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Europe Falls Silent to Honor Victims (AP) ...Randy, a brain specialist, teaches and researches at Harvard.......She wants the West to go after terrorists the way doctors excise a tumor: carefully, deliberately, completely. George, a radio advertising executive,... - Sep 15 5:11 PM ET

Al Musella's Comments: (This is his personal views and are not necessarily the views of the Musella Foundation!)


Posted on: 09/15/2001

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Saturday September 15 5:12 PM ET "Europe Falls Silent to Honor Victims"

Europe Falls Silent to Honor Victims

By MORT ROSENBLUM, AP Special Correspondent

PARIS (AP) - Europe fell silent for a moment on Friday. In part, people mourned victims of terror across the Atlantic. Even more, an Old World that had seen it all, from Hannibal to Hitler, sensed something awful in the wind.

"War" is no casual metaphor on a continent where mighty neighbors have fought one another for a century at a time, where anyone over 60 has a living memory of war.

But always before, people knew whom they were fighting. Now a loose world alliance must determine how to fight shadowy forces marbled into its midst.

Western strategists know that striking blindly and quickly to "deliver a message" may bring momentary comfort at home but would likely further the cause of their foes. Terrorism aims to provoke exactly that.

The strategists also realize that unless they make swift progress in breaking down cells in which terrorists hide, they will look impotent to billions of people in a world of constantly shifting loyalties.

America will rally a coalition, as in the Gulf War (news - web sites). Then it was different. Americans knew their enemy was a faraway dictator, yet they were divided over the reasons why. Now they can't identify the enemy, but the "why" is deadly clear.

As stunned Europeans sort out their own emotions, most look to America for guidance. Hundreds of thousands of people from Iceland to England to Italy gathered in silence Friday to express sympathy for a grieving America.

In today's small world, many have friends or relatives across the ocean with whom they compare thoughts.

Consider, for instance, Randy and George Gollub, a couple who live near Boston with their 4-year-old son. The debate that divides their household, relayed by phone to a friend in Europe, reflects today's reality across the Western world.

Randy, a brain specialist, teaches and researches at Harvard. She wants the West to go after terrorists the way doctors excise a tumor: carefully, deliberately, completely.

George, a radio advertising executive, wants action. America should bomb, fast and hard. For him, any country shielding terrorists is fair game.

In the Old World, mixed moods are also tempered by 2,000 years of learning things the hard way, and a past century of world wars that shattered cities and killed millions. A majority prefers the surgical approach and even that, many feel, might fall short.

Beyond calls for outright war, some in Europe and America are already venting their rage on any likely victims close at hand. Such obvious injustice only worsens the conflict, increasing tension at a perilous time.

Real life in the third millennium is just too complex for any sort of simple answer.

France's population of 59 million, for example, includes four million Muslims. A few, especially in seething slums near the big cities, may fit the terrorist profile. The vast majority, however, are simply workaday Frenchmen.

Any discrimination singling out "Muslims" or "Arabs" would not only target innocent people from a score of nations but also Frenchmen whose fathers and grandfathers died in earlier wars defending France.

Europeans, who live close to the Middle East and in general spend more time than Americans thinking about a larger world, worry that any kind of mass military action is bound to get important things wrong.

And those for whom names like Afghanistan (news - web sites) or Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) have intimate meaning are even more worried.

Michael Barry, a French expert on Islam who ran a clandestine clinic for Doctors of the World in Afghanistan when Taliban pioneers first fought their way to power, warns the West of falling into a trap.

"I believe bin Laden and his friends deliberately seek new strikes on Afghan soil, a landing of American troops to engulf and bleed the main Western power, as was done to the Red Army," Barry wrote in the daily Liberation.

And there is the larger picture. To an Islamic world traumatized by the last two centuries of Western intervention in its affairs, any assault on a Muslim nation by non-Muslims would be seen as an unjust invasion, Barry wrote.

He said it was no coincidence that Tuesday's attack came as Palestinians felt growing despair in the West Bank. This, he said, creates "an absurd link" in many Muslim minds between Taliban precepts and the Palestinians' fight against Israel.

That is one informed analysis, and there are others. Some question the Americans' resolve to stay in for the long haul, especially when body bags start coming home. Others fear that misguided actions might turn friends into foes.

What all have in common is that nothing is simple. Any military action, no matter how well planned or seemingly justified, could backfire calamitously.

These realities are fresh in European minds. They know war is not just hell, but that it is also extremely complicated.

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Europe Falls Silent, Honors America (September 15)

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