On July 10, 1985, the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior threatened to sail into the South Pacific to thwart a French nuclear test. While the ship was in New Zealand waters, France responded. Government agents blew up the ship, killing one person on board.
For this act of murder, the appropriate French officials have been reprimanded and those without high rank or political protection prosecuted. For a more cynical use of state power you would have to look pretty hard. But the Champs Elys,ees did not swell with roaring chants of indignation, and nowhere else in Europe did people take to the streets. No, Europe saves that for the United States.
Now Europe is in a snit about the U.S. bombing of Libya. President Reagan is once again being caricatured as a shoot-from-the-hip cowboy who, in true Western fashion, reached for his six-shooter when the time came to parley. You would think that Reagan had chosen his target by throwing a dart at a map: Bingo! Hit Libya.
The Europeans have their concerns. One of them is economic. Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, does a fair amount of business with it. All the major European countries have citizens who work in Libya, and some of them have substantial construction projects under way. Reagan made sure to warn Americans to get out of Libya; the European countries have issued no such warning to their own citizens.
But the major European concern is terrorism itself. Many Europeans are afraid that retaliating against Muammar Qaddafi is like poking a snake with a stick. This is hardly an irrational fear. In the last year alone, there have been two terrorist incidents in Spain, six in France, three in Greece, four in Germany, three in Italy and one in Austria. Whatever the eventual result of the U.S. bombing might be, in the short term ere will be an upsurge of terrorism. Many Americans, quick to condemn European timidity, have themselves canceled plans to travel abroad this summer. For Europeans, things are not so simple. They are already abroad.
Still, those Europeans who are so quick to demonstrate against the United States ought to ask themselves why they did not do the same when the Rome and Vienna airports were littered with the bodies of 16 persons killed by terrorists. Where were they when three members of one American family were blown out of a plane over Greece? Why no widespread European indignation when 18 Spaniards were killed in the Madrid bombing of a restaurant frequented by U.S. servicemen?
Where was the march for the bombing last month that killed two persons in Paris, the one Feb. 5 in a Parisian shopping mall, the bomb that exploded in a crowded Latin Quarter bookstore the day before or the one that exploded Feb. 3 on the Champs Elys,ees, wounding eight persons? Who marched for the Achille Lauro and Leon Klinghoffer, for the TWA hijacking and Navy diver Robert Stethem or for the 57 who died when commandos botched an attempt to free the passengers on an Egyptair plane forced to land on Malta? No one, that's who.
It's true that not all these terrorist incidents can be traced to Libya -- not even most of them -- and it's true also that in both France and Italy there were public protests against terrorism directed against Jewish targets. But by and large, those Europeans who are inclined to exhibit their political opinions by marching did not hit the road until U.S. bombs hit Tripoli. Then, as if the event took place in a vacuum, a roar came up from the pavement.
You can argue over the wisdom of the bombing. You can argue over the manner of its execution. You can fear for American standing in the Middle East, for whether the lessons of Libya will be misapplied to Nicaragua. But you cannot treat the bombing as if it were an unprovoked, irrational act -- as if it had not been preceded by many bombings, years of carnage and a constant plea from the United States to the European nations to punish Libya economically. The response was a cynical shrug of the shoulders by those same European nations.
There are a thousand concerns to be voiced. But you cannot voice an outrage that does not take into account all that went before -- terrorist acts all over the world and, finally, the one that took the life of an American soldier April 5 in West Berlin. European anti-Americanism is plain to the ear. The sound of silence has been replaced by the roar of hypocrisy.