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October 10, 2004

A View From Belgium

Since I asked last week, I've gotten email from quite a few people from outside the US. However, there are some new countries that have shown up in the site statistics that I'm particularly curious about -- Qatar, Venezuela, and Israel. If you're from there and have a second, please write me at tinyrevolution [at] yahoo [dot] com. I'd love to hear your take on the war in Iraq, the world generally, and if you remember, how you came across this site. And of course I'd be delighted to hear from people elsewhere too. (Let me know if I can post what you write here.)

Below is the perspective of FDK from Brussels. I found it very compelling.


Iraq seen from Belgium (and I guess it’s the same all over Europe) is very simple: this is a dirty war, completely useless and with no solution at all in the short term, on the contrary. The reaction of President Bush on this issue reinforces the European prejudice of the naive and rather dumb American who thinks that a war follows a Hollywood script: the good and the bad fight a terrible fight and the good guy wins. Everybody here is very aware that this scheme is utter nonsense. Why ?

Let’s start with a touch of “couleur locale”: a few weeks ago, on September 4th the end of WWII was commemorated in the very small and calm town where I was born. That day in ’44 German soldiers tried to flee to Germany through smaller country roads. It was Sunday and a family stood on the front door to see the Germans passing by. Those scary Germans gunned the whole family down and drove further. Two hours later a huge British tank appeared in the street of my parents and everybody was urged to stay inside. The next column of Germans was attacked by the British flame-thrower and all their ammunition exploded. After a few moment my father couldn’t hold it, opened the door and saw the British soldiers standing there while Germans were rolling over the street completely in flames, crying and dying; about ten houses were burning down. Our house was the last untouched. That was a very small event in this war. You have to multiply this ‘small’ event by a million as you talk about the deaths and destroyed buildings of the whole war, and then you know what WWII means in Europe. Here soldiers are not heroes; soldiers are killers; war is not a solution, war is complete destruction with only losers; the cause of a war is always stupid because it needs generations to come again to normal. That’s the opinion of the overwhelming majority in Belgium and I am sure in whole Europe.

Madeleine Albright repeats here on TV, where she is interviewed about her new book, that Europeans don’t understand what 9/11 changed in the psyche of the Americans. I think she is right, and in fact we don’t even try to decipher this subtleties. We really understand the horror of men and women, jumping down from the WTC, believe me. But while commemorating, 50 years after, the killing of millions of people and the devastation of thousandths of cities, small towns or neighborhoods, we do not understand that a normal homo sapiens starts a war machine of 60 to 100 billion dollars for two buildings and less than 3000 victims – certainly when we know that more people were killed in the US during the same year by guns and cars. This Iraq war is in our psyche a case of pure overacting. And every picture of American soldiers in front of burning buildings with dead corpses on the ground and crying people all around, every report on the non-existing of WMD, every killed American soldier, every car bombing, every killing of people who want to make their living as policeman or a truck driver, every kidnapping only for the money (the 2 Italian Simona’s, the French journalists and the poor Nepalese workers) enhances our perplexity in front of what we consider as an abysm of stupidity. And on top frolics an US president, pretending on every TV screen that we live in a safer world. We stay speechless. But on the question who was right and who was wrong: Blix or Cheney, there is no doubt about the answer here: Blix was right Cheney was wrong.

But there is a another “but” --

We have no answer to the real war against small groups all over the planet, with mafia methods and a political agenda - which by the way is a “war” without “major military operations”. The US stays the only partner able to attack this problem politically and technically as well. Here in Belgium the only politically acceptable military actions are humanitarian ones - planes dropping food over the desert. Remember that the Belgian army was “brought to justice” by the widows of the soldiers killed in the Belgian intervention during the genocide in Rwanda. The military budget is decreasing every year. It represents at the moment less than 2,5 billion euro a year, what’s equal to the US army budget for one and a half day. Our public opinion doesn’t want to see the problem and speaking about guns is very immoral while gay marriage isn't. But in the mean time we are not working on what is what’s really needed: an intelligent military intervention force without a regular army.

Brussels, Belgium

Posted at October 10, 2004 12:43 PM | TrackBack

I'm from the exotic nation of Hermosa Beach California so I probably don't qualify for any kind of demographic tracking but I thought I'd share something kind of interesting that happened to my husband in Germany last week. He tells me three different people (all strangers) communicated roughly the same thing to him... "Please don't misunderstand -we love the American people - but we have a message for Americans: did you know that in Hebrew the word "Bush" means "shame"?

I don't completely get the significance of the remark and I'm curious to know if it is anti-Semitic as well as anti-Bush. My husband didn't pursue the matter with any of them, other than to tell him that the situation was very serious and that he did not support Bush.

Posted by: Maezeppa at October 11, 2004 03:41 PM

Well, here in Melbourne, Australia we had the biggest public protest in our city's history to protest the impending war - 200,000 people, nearly 10% of the city's population. As always, there is a constant social arm-wrestling match between the empassioned and the apathetic, but a majority of Australians think the war was wrong. Now, if only they had voted with their consciences rather than their wallets and kicked out our Bush-grovelling Prime Minister last weekend... *grumble*

Posted by: James J. Dominguez at October 12, 2004 05:52 PM

Here are my impressions from France, as an American who has lived here for 20+ years. These impressions are just 'a vibe from the street', nothing scientific about it.

1) People here are incredulous that Kerry is not leading 80-20, or 70-30. Instead, it's even steven. Incredible. Let's just take 2 more or less accepted facts that most people point to:


Bush led the country to war under false pretenses (WMD). Thus, 1,000+ young people have died for an error in judgement.

As retribution for 9/11, Bush attacked a country with no ties to Al-Queda.


Just this, without *even* taking into account all the other stuff like war for oil, neocon agenda, Abu Girab, etc etc, should be enough to sanction Bush out of the White House, according to most French people I've talked to.

Has Bush admitted he was wrong? No. Have any heads in the Bush administration rolled because of these blunders? No. (Tenet resigned, certainly not in disgrace.) This too is mind boggling to French people I've talked to.

2) Bush has no credibility as a leader. He's seen as a buffoon (albeit a buffoon with contol of the world's most powerful army), controlled by his handlers and the neocons. He's a spoiled fratrat, a cruel joke. Here too, there is a lot of incredulity that Americans don't see this and reject Bush out of hand.

I'd also say that there is a real fear that Bush will win the election. It's a palpable worry. This is different than before. In previous presidential elections, French people could give a shit who won, it wouldn't affect them. Not now.

Impressions from Paris...


Posted by: deanco at October 13, 2004 11:16 AM

Well I'm not quite sure if I'm representative of anywhere in particular - born in Malta, brought up mostly in England. partly in Singapore. I'm fairly well travelled. I now live in Australia with an American. I don't have any sense of national affiliation. I see myself as a tumbleweed.

I don't know anyone, here or elsewhere, who likes Bush. Howard only succeeded in getting re-elected by bribing the electorate into dissociating the relationship between Howard and Bush. Unfortunately they didn't consider a vote for Howard as a vote for Bush.

I really empathise with the views expressed by your Belgian correspondent. War is hell. Only a fool would enter into it as anything other than a last resort. My family knows a little bit about persecution too, my grandmother was German in England during WWII. They lived in Portsmouth which had the crap bombed out of it. The locals wouldn't let my mum and my grandmother into the air-raid shelters. They hid under the table during bombing raids. My mum got beaten up at school everyday. My grandfather was Irish - at a time when the Irish were subject to a lot of English racism so that didn't help. War is an ugly business. It brings out the worst in people.

I am coming round to the belief that the so-called war on terror has no basis other than that which the Bushies have managed to foment since 9/11. Saddam had declared his intention to switch his oil-reserve currency away from the dollar.

There is a pattern here. All the countries that have recently been the subject of Bushite hostility are countries that had been talking about changing their reserve currency to the Euro or an Islamic currency BEFORE the neocons decided they were dangerous. This includes Venezuela - Bush couldn't accuse them of Islamic terrorism so they tried and failed to interfere the old fashioned way. The US economy is floated by the fact that the dollar is the oil-trading currency. If this situation were to end it would devastate the US economy. The EU knows this and had talks with Putin in October 2003. Putin has prevented privatised Russian oil companies from making deals with US companies and has returned them to state control. I think this lends even more weight to Seymour Hersch's prediction.

What evidence of terrorism was there? Iraq didn't launch any attacks against the US. The 9/11 'Terrorists' all came from a country that the Bushites are inextricably involved with and the Bushites tried to resist demands for an official inquiry into the tragedy. Osama was the Bushites Emmanuel Goldstein. Now Zakarwi has inherited the mantle. If the Bushites really want to fight terrorism why exempt firearm ownership from Homeland Security Scrutiny? Why re-legalise assault weapons? Why seek to re-allow guns in Washington DC? Why ignore specific advice from allied intelligence agencies and their own PDBs? Why demand that arab language translators slow down? The Patriot act is designed to oppress Americans not to fight terrorism.

That is my take on the situation, although I can really only speak for the Independent state of Gail!

Posted by: Gail at October 14, 2004 08:16 AM