Other nations taking a bitter view of war


BERLIN - The cover picture this week in Der Spiegel, the German newsweekly, shows explosions in Baghdad under the caption: "Terror Bombing for Freedom."

In the magazine Tip, a popular weekly guide to events in Berlin, the cover illustration shows President Bush in cowboy gear sitting on a saddle that, in turn, is strapped onto a missile heading for Baghdad.

One week into the war in Iraq, the public mood in many countries around the world seemed to become angrier and more sarcastic, suggesting that if, as Bush administration spokesmen say, the war is going as planned on the battlefield, it is nonetheless provoking widespread global anger.

Yesterday, there were huge student demonstrations in Spain, smaller demonstrations in South Korea, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and one that involved angry clashes with the police in Sydney, Australia.

In Japan, a group organizing a "Peace Choice" campaign is urging boycotts of products of American companies such as Pampers, McDonald's and Ford. Another day of global protest is being advertised on Web sites and posters for Sunday, April 6.

If there was a common image summoned up by the protests and angry commentaries, it was of the United States as an imperial power intoxicated by its military supremacy but receiving a lesson in the price of arrogance by unexpected Iraqi resistance.

An editorial in People's Daily in China accuses the United States of seeking international domination.

"Armed force and coercion are the antonyms of democracy," the editorial said, "so isn't using tanks and cannons to spit out 'liberty' and 'democracy' a mite ironic?"

China has for years accused the United States of seeking what it calls hegemonism, so the commentary on the Iraq war is hardly surprising. What might be of greater note is how media commentary and public sentiment are running against the United States among some of its closest allies.

In Germany, where public sentiment has long been against the war, most newspapers and the main television news programs have played up civilian casualties on one side and U.S. military setbacks on the other.

One newspaper yesterday morning showed a large photograph of an Iraqi girl with a heavily bandaged face.

Others have run large headlines such as "Baghdad Burns" or "Bush Playing with Fire."

Radio stations have been broadcasting commentaries criticizing the refusal of American television stations to broadcast pictures of the American prisoners of war paraded on al-Jazeera television network, contending that the stations are following orders from the government to shield the American public from the realities of the war.

There are also voices expressing support for the United States and criticizing the demonstrators and negative commentators for failing to offer an alternative to the disarming of Saddam Hussein.

The conservative German daily Die Welt criticized the sensationalist headlines appearing elsewhere in the German press and argued, "Of course it is justified to be suspicious of the announcement of a 'surgically clean' war with 'intelligent' weapons, but it is our only hope that this war is being waged by the allied forces not as 'terror' and not as a game."

In Italy, the newspaper Il Foglio called for a "USA Day" demonstration, complete with American flags, to counter the peace protests.

"I'm fed up with these Saddam days that so-called pacifists keep presenting us," a commentator, Carlo Rossella, wrote in the newspaper La Stampa yesterday.

In France, the philosopher and writer Pascal Bruckner, one of a small group of what are called pro-war intellectuals, denounced the sentiment in France that the real danger to peace is not Hussein but Bush as a return of the "old Frenchy passion for third-world ideologies."

"France is a concentrate of all the European contradictions," Bruckner wrote. "On the one side, there is a will to appear as a great and influential world power, and on the other there is a will not to dirty one's hands. Europe cannot offer itself the luxury of living in the middle of storms, as if she was in a sanatorium, only because it is protected by America's nuclear umbrella."

But condemnation and withering criticism have been more prevalent.

In South Africa, Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and chairman of the nation's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, denounced American military action as "an immoral war" that sent an especially chilling message to majority-black countries.

"It is kind of a deja vu, where white people told us what was good for us," he said. "The United States is deciding what is good for the people of Iraq."

The Russian newspaper Vremya MN, in a sharp condemnation of American policy, echoed the theme of imperial power operating without constraint or legality.

"In a world which has moved beyond the postwar half-century of U.S.-Soviet confrontation, what is becoming more and more clearly entrenched is not the principle of international law, but the law of the overwhelming power of the world's only superpower," the newspaper said.

In Germany, Der Spiegel wondered on its Web site whether the difficulties American troops have encountered in Iraq might spell the end of the American empire.

"The world's only remaining superpower is beginning to suffer from the disease with which every imperial power throughout history has been afflicted: The overestimation and overtaxing of its own capabilities," the magazine said. "Could the Iraq war herald its decline?"

Demonstrations have been called for this weekend at the U.S. Rhein-Main air base near Frankfurt, Germany.

Le Monde, France's most prestigious newspaper, published a front-page cartoon by its caricaturist, Plantu, that showed an American soldier with an American flag marching over a heap of Iraqi corpses. The soldier says, "This sandstorm is terrible!"

In Japan, one popular magazine lumped Bush together with Hussein and Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, as the "axis of idiots."

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