Wednesday, June 18, 2003

SORRY I CAN'T LINK TO THIS OPINION PIECE but the web site reqires a subscription. So I'll extract the pithy points.
With his candid, on-target observations on Belgium and its attempts to book U.S. military men for "war crimes," Donald Rumsfeld has again reinforced his image as the grandfatherly face of Ugly Americanism. To anti-Bushies everywhere he is now the very emblem of the evils they impute to the administration: hubris, mixed with disregard for others and a dangerous naivete about the ways of the world.

But in fact, for someone said to be oblivious to other societies, the Pentagon chief was displaying a keen understanding of one small country half a world away from his own. His comments at a press conference here last week were merely statements of fact. They were, moreover, restrained.

The facts were irksome enough: a radical provocateur by the name of Jan Fermon has filed a completely baseless suit in a Belgian court against the Iraq war commander, General Tommy Franks, and a Marine Colonel, Bryan McCoy, alleging that they were responsible for war crimes in Iraq. Oh, and these suits came on the back of others against former President George H.W. Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the first Gulf War, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell...

Now, Belgium can fancy itself a "plucky little country" that allows leftist lawyers to file frivolous suits against world leaders. Or it can take its responsibilities as host of NATO headquarters seriously (along with the half-billion or so dollars that come with it in benefits, each year). But it can't do both. A military headquarters is after all where soldiers mill about. Mr. Rumsfeld raised hackles by merely observing that if Belgium continued to be inhospitable to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the alliance may have to find new digs...

..."Now, it's obviously not for outsiders, non-Belgians, to tell the Belgian government what laws it should pass, and what laws it should not pass," he said. "With respect to Belgium's sovereignty, we respect it -- even though Belgium appears not to respect the sovereignty of other countries. But Belgium needs to realize that there are consequences to its actions."

"This law calls into serious question whether NATO can continue to hold meetings in Belgium and whether senior U.S. officials, military and civilian, will be able to continue to visit international organizations in Belgium. I would submit that that could be the case for other NATO Allies, as well."

Given the insolence of this law, Mr. Rumsfeld's comments were even courteous. But right on cue, some Europeans were offended. German Defense Minister Peter Struck accused Mr. Rumsfeld of "theatrics." "NATO is doing fine in Brussels," he asserted. Nor were the Europeans alone. American critics of Mr. Rumsfeld and of the Bush administration in general were sent into a deep blue funk... (credit, Wall Street Journal Europe)


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