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AFTER THE ATTACK | FOREIGN REACTION

Europe Embraces U.S. in Dark Hour

Allies: 'We must all be Americans' now, German envoy says. Disputes are set aside, but terrorism veterans warn against blind vengeance.

September 17, 2001|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Germany's ambassador to UNESCO, Ute Ohoven, seemed to capture her countrymen's sentiments when she made reference to President Kennedy's memorable 1963 declaration to Berliners that he was one of them. The ambassador wrote: "After the horrors of Tuesday, we must all be Americans."

Today, North America is the top vacation destination for Germans. One tangible aspect of the urban renaissance of New York in the 1990s was the presence of throngs of European tourists in Manhattan.

Expressing Italy's century-old affection for New York, a bastion of all things Italian American, Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni planted a cypress tree near the Circus Maximus in honor of the victims. He offered to withdraw Rome's bid to host the 2012 Olympics if New York wanted the Games.

The 40 members of the Rome fire department's search and rescue unit all volunteered to travel to New York to aid in scouring the rubble of lower Manhattan. Like many other foreign teams, they were ultimately told their help was not needed.

"All I know is that many of my brothers across the ocean have been buried beneath the ruins," said Franco Schinelli, a burly firefighter with outsize hands and 30 years on the job. "You will never see a fireman cry in public, but we are crying inside in silence. You have to do this work to understand how impotent we feel just sitting here."

In harsh contrast to those sentiments, on Bush's European swing this summer he encountered demonstrators in Italy, Spain and Sweden who saw him as a poster child of supposed American arrogance and ignorance about the world. Aside from the rage at the Group of 8 economic summit in Genoa, however, the protests were far more subdued than those that greeted President Nixon in the early 1970s.

"Italians love the United States," said Sen. Tana De Zulueta. "The political hostility has become a lot more focused than it was in the 1960s and '70s. It's more about policies: Bush's missile shield, the Kyoto treaty [on global warming], debt relief for Africa. It's not the same broad expression against U.S. 'imperialism' that we saw during the Cold War."

The aftermath of the tragedy appears to have caused reflection and regret about the gratuitous nature of some anti-Americanism.

"After the catastrophe of last Tuesday, we [Europeans] are going to feel like orphans," predicted columnist Jean Daniel in France's Le Nouvel Observateur magazine. "The debates about anti-Americanism are going to become frivolous."

During a memorial ceremony outside the U.S. Embassy in Paris on Friday, members of France's Jewish community said they hope the grim new global reality will quiet the shrill voices that had excoriated the United States, an ally, while seeming to excuse Middle Eastern terrorists who are a threat to Europe.

"I don't understand some of the intellectuals, the journalists in France," said photographer Charles Tordjman, growing indignant as he talked. "I don't understand their semantics when they are talking about enemies of civilization. They always talk about militants rather than terrorists. Now they've changed their tone. Did it take 5,000 dead for them to call a dog a dog?"

*

Times staff writers Richard Boudreaux in Rome, Marjorie Miller in London and Carol Williams in Berlin contributed to this report.

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