Monday, December 05, 2005

In much of Europe's public debate, the true meaning of human rights has degenerated into a tool that gives anti-Americanism an aura of legitimacy

The outrage on the Continent is deafening
writes the Wall Street Journal (thanks to Michael Dundon and Max) in an editorial that echoes Ralph Peters.
Franco Frattini, the normally level-headed European Commissioner for Justice, threatened "serious consequences," including the unprecedented "suspension of voting rights" in the European Union for the Poles and Romanians if the allegations prove true. After all, "European values" would have been violated.

It is difficult to comment on the substance of the allegations because there isn't much substance at the moment. Both the Romanian and Polish governments have denied the reports, while Washington promised to look into the case. So for the time being, there are only allegations and a lot of moral outrage. That moral posturing, though, deserves a closer look.

We'd be the first to applaud Europeans for finally concerning themselves with moral principles instead of commercial interests. Many of the Middle East's problems, including terrorism, would be easier solved if Europe were seriously concerned about morality. Europe would no longer be Iran's No. 1 trading partner, and its companies wouldn't be able to attend trade fairs in Sudan anymore.

Unlike American companies--recently defamed in Germany as "(blood) suckers" and "locusts" by the former government--European firms are quite busy in Sudan. The chamber of commerce and industry in Stuttgart has enthused over what great opportunities Sudan's oil resources offer to German companies.

Lest people think they are doing something morally reprehensible, the salesmen from Stuttgart prefer to describe the massacres of black Africans in Darfur as "political disturbances." The German economics ministry, which sponsored the German pavilion at last February's trade fair in Sudan, will also support next February's event, the chamber of commerce assures its members.

Where is the outrage? How does that jibe with supposed European values?…

In much of Europe's public debate, the true meaning of human rights has degenerated into a tool that gives anti-Americanism an aura of legitimacy. The real, horrendous human-rights violations in the Middle East, North Korea, China, Cuba, etc., are largely ignored or relegated to news blurs on the back pages. For front-page coverage, you need an American angle.

It is often said that this has nothing to do with anti-Americanism but with the fact that democracies, such as the U.S., must be held to higher standards. Really? Let's look at some recent European violations of human rights.

In October, the European Council's Commissioner for Human Rights inspected what the French call a detention center for foreigners. Alvaro Gil-Robles believes it is more properly called a dungeon. "With the exception of maybe Moldavia, I have not seen a worse center," he said about the facilities underneath the Palais de Justice in Paris, located not more than a few hundred yards from Notre Dame.

And what was Europe's reaction to these astonishing accusations? A yawn, a few wire reports and press pickups; that's it. After all, those prisoners, locked up under horrendous sanitary conditions, without natural sunlight and ventilation, some of whom, according to one prison guard, have in desperation mutilated themselves and smeared their blood on the walls, were only simple illegal immigrants. No need to suspend French voting privileges on their account, that's for sure.

Let's imagine for a moment the media coverage, the moral outcries and the calls for inquiries if those unfortunates had not been harmless migrants held in the City of Lights but jihadi terrorists held by Yankee soldiers?

Or take the double standard about allegations that CIA planes have used European airports to bring terror suspects to third countries where they might be tortured. The fact that Europe routinely sends back thousands of asylum seekers to countries where they could be tortured does not make the front pages, though. …

If he could have proved that some of those poor souls trying to reach Europe to start a better life were in fact terrorists, and if he could have also somehow implicated the U.S. in their expulsion, he might have been able to get an audience for his complaints.

Anti-Americanism is so prevalent in Europe that it has permeated almost all areas of public discourse--from arts to politics to economies. "American conditions" is a popular German slur against alleged social coldness in the U.S.--one that former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has "successfully" used to reject necessary economic reforms. And just as it has poisoned the economic debate in Europe, anti-Americanism also poisons the debate about how to deal with terrorism. Any measure that involves the U.S. is almost immediately tainted as being beyond the pale.

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