COLUMN: British growing uneasy as Bush guides war into second phase

Posted 10:21 p.m. Feb. 4

By Alex Kingsburg

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – To say that President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address was the most important in his brief presidential career is an understatement — the speech marked the transition to phase two of the “war on terrorism.”

While the president’s words continue to be digested and scrutinized by Europe’s newspapers and tabloids, unease is brewing this side of the Atlantic about how far Europe will follow in the United States’ war on terror.

In the wake of Sept. 11 it was New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani who captured Europe’s hearts with his much-publicized brave face. While the war on terror has support at home and abroad, there is general unease that the war will set off a powder keg of the Middle East.

Even traditionally pro-Bush newspapers in England, including the London Times, have been critical of the president’s threats to Iran and North Korea. The inclusion of Baghdad in what Bush called the “axis of evil” during his State of the Union Address has not caused much of a stir, as many think it an unavoidable target with Bush in the White House. But the British are wary about the naming and shaming of Tehran, as much of the British diplomatic efforts in the past months have been directed at getting Iran to join the anti-terror alliance.

Also riling the Europeans has been coverage of the captured prisoners in Camp X-Ray, Cuba. The president’s proposed military tribunals and the possibility of execution has angered many across Europe, which is heavily anti-death penalty. Public animosity towards Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay has been building, and the press is flooded with pictures of the bound and gagged prisoners.

Additionally, the classification of captured Taliban and al Qaeda members as “unlawful combatants,” a term with no legal precedence in world courts, has been seen as a snubbing of the Geneva Convention and international law.

While the State of the Union Address has been seen as well-delivered by a president known for his malapropisms, many noted how Bush did not acknowledge British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Times called it the sign of a “marked cooling off in transatlantic relations.”

The swift victory of the Afghanistan campaign has led many in Europe to think that the war on terrorism was at a close and political attention has refocused on domestic issues. Bush’s address served as a pointed reminder of the president’s larger goals.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.