Rancor over Iraq Over?
President Bush asserted Saturday that the bitterness over Iraq among European allies was “over” and that NATO has a responsibility to do more to help the fledgling government that will assume limited authority in Baghdad on Wednesday. “I think the bitter differences of the war are over,” Bush said at a news conference after a three-hour summit between the United States and the 25-member European Union. “Some people didn’t agree with the decision that I made, and others made as well. But we all agree that a democratic Iraq, a peaceful Iraq . . . is in all our benefit.”
The EU was represented by Romano Prodi — president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm — and Bertie Ahern, prime minister of Ireland, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Antiwar protesters forced a 30-minute delay in Bush’s news conference with Ahern and Prodi — a symbolic victory over a president who prizes punctuality. Bush had to wait while the White House press corps was driven in circles on double-decker buses because thousands of opponents of the Iraq war had blocked miles of nearby roads.
At the news conference at the Renaissance-era Dromoland Castle in County Clare, Ahern said discussions included ways the countries could “best work together to support the people of Iraq as they start the process of building a sovereign, secure and democratic country.” The EU issued a statement promising “full and sustained support” for Iraq’s incoming interim government. The bloc did not announce any specific pledge of assistance or relief from the debts of the previous regime.
Presumably, the benefits of active cooperation with the world’s dominant political and economic power outweigh those of remaining in a snit. Still, I contend that the rancor over Iraq was a symptom of a wider cultural gap rather than a specific problem.