Hypocrisy, thy name is Europe. Criticizing the United States is perfectly acceptable in fact, Americans have raised political self-criticism to the level of an institutional art form. For goodness sake, the dictator of Venezuela which won its independence from a European colonial power went before the United Nations to commend a book by an American academic condemning Yankee imperialist domination.
If you're going to condemn the United States for all its failings, then, please, offer some meaningful alternative, some heightened vision, afforded by your long acquaintance with war, bigotry and its victims, along with your censure.
The arrogance of the Old World is, of course, nothing new. It required no particular bravery during the Cold War for European progressive types to march in opposition to various U.S. policies, exercising their civil liberties beneath the umbrella of American nuclear deterrence, while conspicuously avoiding any remonstrance of the Soviet Union and the military might that kept half the continent in communist bondage.
The war on terror, however, has revealed a reflexive loathing of America that is more pretentious than anything that has come before.
Take, for example, the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, the focal point of much transatlantic acrimony. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett was among a chorus of international critics featuring the prominent American voices of former President Jimmy Carter, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and the editors of the New York Times demanding that Camp Delta be closed.
Fair enough. But those 435 detainees have to go somewhere. And given the opportunity to take custody of the former British residents residing at Guantanamo Bay, the British government said, "Thank you, no."
According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, the position of senior U.K. officials is that the men have no legal right to return. Moreover, it would cost too much to monitor the terror suspects all 10 of them.
But really. If, as Lord Falconer secretary of state for constitutional affairs and lord chancellor says, Guantanamo Bay is truly a "shocking affront" to the principles of democracy, then what price is too high to rescue your legal residents?
The British detainees aren't the only blokes to be abandoned by their high-minded European friends and countrymen. There's also Murat Kunaz, born in Germany to Turkish guest workers, whom Pakistani authorities arrested in 2001 and transferred to U.S. custody. Since 2002, according to the Washington Post, the United States has been trying to find somewhere to unload Kunaz.
Turkey said Kunaz was Germany's problem. The German government said he had been out of the country for more than six months, which caused his indefinite residence visa to lapse. So Kunaz languished at Gitmo for more than four years until a deal was finally struck to send him back to Germany.
Then there is the case of 22 Uighurs, a Muslim minority from Western China, who were swept into U.S. custody in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The United States sought to release the men, but not to China, where they face torture or even execution as suspected members of an outlawed Islamic group.
But after knocking on all the humanitarian doors in Europe looking for a country to accept the Uighurs, only Albania often ridiculed as an inconsequential member of the coalition in Iraq came forward to accept five of the men.
The United States is an imperfect nation. Mistakes sometimes terrible mistakes are often made in war. In a new kind of global conflict against an enemy who deliberately blurs the distinction between civilians and combatants, errors have been and will be made.
The detention of suspected enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, like other aspects of the war on terror, is controversial not only internationally but also domestically. Our friends across the pond might burnish their charitable credentials by actually acting on their criticisms of U.S. policy rather than merely giving voice to them.