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
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
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
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
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
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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