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European public opinion: closer to pope than to Bush

European public opinion on a possible war with Iraq tilts closer to the views of John Paul II than to George W.

Analysts believe most European governments will eventually get on board if the U.S. strikes Iraq. The lone exception might be Germany, where Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder staked his reelection on staying out of the war.

Across Europe there is skepticism about the wisdom of the course the United States is steering, and of the motives for pursuing it. An early January poll in France, for example, found that only 15 percent of the French would favor going to war in Iraq, even if the United Nations were to approve the action.

A sample of comment from European newspapers:

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“Are U.N. resolutions meant to apply to weak nations and be ignored at will by the powerful? ... To date the Iraqis have complied with the U.N. resolution to the letter. ... One might have expected that such cooperation from Iraq would have lessened the tension in the region. Strangely, this is not the case.”

Le Figaro, Paris, December 2002

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“There is something almost comical about the prospect of George W. Bush waging war on another nation because that nation has defied international law. Since Bush came to office, the U.S. government has torn up more international treaties and disregarded more United Nations’ conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years. It has scuppered the biological weapons convention while experimenting, illegally, with biological weapons of its own. It has refused to grant chemical-weapons inspectors full access to its laboratories. It has ripped up the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and appears to be ready to violate the nuclear test-ban treaty.”

The Guardian, London, August 2002

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“Europe wants to build its and the world’s security on international agreements, common institutions and common trade. The United States mistrusts the international legal system and feels that violence or the threat of violence often solves problems. … Europe has had bad experiences with war and extremely good experiences with common security, joint decision-making and free trade. Thirty years ago, Spain and Portugal were dictatorships; today they are free democracies. Ten years ago, the Balkans was a disaster area. Today, agreements are being signed with the [European Union] and NATO. Moscow wants to become a normal European capital and is drawing up plans for a high-speed rail line to Berlin. … The European belief in cooperation and selling Danish cheese to Iran is in the long run the only path to peace and security. A strong international community is not the response of weak nations to the world’s problems -- rather, a smart answer that will also gain strength in the United States.”

Expressen, Stockholm, August 2002

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“The U.S. government insists Saddam Hussein possesses such weapons [of mass destruction] and in support is likely to offer evidence from its intelligence services. But that must be verified through the U.N. arms inspectors, not by … belligerent assertions from those who are intent on forcing a regime change to replace the Iraqi ruler.”

The Irish Times, Dublin, December 2002

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“The further away we get from Sept. 11, the more America’s response [to terrorism] became that of this administration, of George Bush Jr., of his ministers and counselors, of his family and his petro-industrial instincts.

“Especially with the response of a so-called ‘preventive war,’ of which Iraq would simply be the first installment, the more it comes within reach, the more one struggles to think up a motivation that might appear plausible to the public.”

La Repubblica, Rome, January 2003

-- John L. Allen Jr.

National Catholic Reporter, January 24, 2003