Antiwar Sentiment Gains Ground in France and Germany
PARIS AND BONN
AT the Marigny Caf'e in a middle-class Paris neighborhood, the hours'-old shooting war against Iraq was the only topic of conversation yesterday morning, but already the talk was divided between two main themes: astonishment at the degree of success of the initial air attack and worries about what is already being called the ``postwar'' period. ``I watched whatever I could find on television on the attacks, and I am impressed at how well the raids were carried out,'' says Jean-Claude, a state worker in discussion with friends in the caf'e.
``My worry now is whether this is going to mean a conflagration throughout the Middle East. We could have terrorist attacks in France, which would turn part of the population against the Arab immigrants here,'' he added. ``There are still a lot of risks.''
Across Europe, the swiftness of this war seemed to catch many by surprise, even though it had been announced as nearly inevitable for about a week.
In France, Germany, Spain, and Italy, antiwar demonstrations appeared to build in force as the United Nations ultimatum for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait expired.
In Germany, the reaction to the attack in the Gulf was one of sadness mixed with disbelief.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he felt ``deep consternation'' over the attack. ``Together with our partners, we'll do everything in our power to end the war as quickly as possible,'' he said.
During the night of the opening attack, spontaneous demonstrations formed in Berlin and also in Bonn, where several hundred people marched to the chancellery, says Rolf Hoffmann, a university student who took part in the Bonn march.
In Germany over the last several days, hundreds of thousands of people have been taking part in antiwar demonstrations, vigils, moments of silence, and church services. They are the largest demonstrations since the mass protests against the deployment of NATO nuclear intermediate-range missiles in Germany in the early 1980s. According to public opinion polls, 70 to 80 percent of Germans oppose military action in the Gulf and want to continue negotiations.
With the burden of two world wars on their shoulders, the Germans have a strong aversion to any show of military strength. More Germans choose alternative service over military service than in any other European country.
Germany has promised 3.3 billion marks ($2.1 billion) as a financial contribution to the Gulf effort but has sent no troops to the Gulf, citing constitutional restrictions. According to a poll by the Infas polling organization published on Jan. 10, 57 percent of Germans feel their country has shown adequate solidarity with the United States - only 15 percent feel Bonn should do more.
With the war begun, anti-American sentiment could grow across Europe. About a thousand people, mostly students, took part in an anti-US demonstration at the main American garrison in Berlin Monday.
In France, there was little official reaction in the hours following the first wave of aerial attack against Iraq. Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Chev`enement told the press that French planes took part in the second wave of the air attack, but he emphasized that the French bombed only military targets, and only in Kuwait.
Foreign ministers of the European Community and ministers of the Western European Union were to hold an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon.
Mr. Chev`enement, openly hostile to a war against Iraq up to the attack, was in the uncomfortable position as defense minister of seeing his Socialist supporters in the National Assembly vote Wednesday against President Fran,cois Mitterrand's request for authorization to use force. At least one Paris newspaper yesterday called for the minister's resignation.
In the final days before the expiration of the deadline for Iraq's withdrawal, the part of the French public opposed to any military intervention - polls show more than half against a war - became increasingly vocal.
``The French position for negotiations and for a conference to resolve all the [Middle East's] problems remains valid,'' says Jean-Claude Gayssot, a National Assembly member and a leading French Communist. ``We will continue to press for France to play a positive role,'' which he added means staying out of ``America's war.''
Protesters outside the National Assembly yesterday said they felt an anti-American current growing in France, especially after the US rejected France's last-ditch peace plan Tuesday.
Others such as Alain Minc, a well-known writer and French observer, say they see the same ``worrisome'' pacifist tendencies rising in France that were present before the country's defeat at the outset of World War II.
Even most Europeans who support military action will continue pushing for broader efforts, such as an international conference, to answer the Middle East's fundamental problems.
``I'm proud of how closely France has coordinated with the US,'' says Jean-Claude at the caf'e. ``But the Americans have got to listen to Europe on the Arab-Israeli problem and the Palestinians.''