Western European News Digest
Anti-Islam 'Cartoons' Provoke Explosive Crisis
Although it remains unclear why the crisis erupted four months after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published, in September 2005, a series of provocative cartoons depicting Muslims, including the Prophet Mohammed, in a very derogatory way, the crisis has now grown to explosive proportions. Recall that a year before the cartoons appeared, in November 2004, Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by one Mohammed Bouyeri, after van Gogh had made a film harshly critical of Muslims.
Just before Christmas 2005, a group of 20 former Danish diplomats to the Middle East called on the Danish government to intervene to prevent the situation from escalating. They were denounced for interfering in politics. Now, after enormous pressure from sections of Danish industry and the political establishment, the government is finally acting.
Since Jan. 30, an economic boycott by many Islamic nations has been paralyzing Danish exports to Southwest Asia, leading to production stoppages and layoffs. Ambassadors have been called home, and small groups of militants in Gaza and elsewhere have burned Danish flags and threatened Danish personnel. Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton denounced the cartoons. In Denmark, there is a right-wing backlash. The crisis was also discussed on the EU level.
On Jan. 31, things escalated, with a bomb threat against Jyllands-Posten, which was force to evacuate their offices. In addition, the Danish defense forces in Iraq received intelligence that a Fatwa (its nature currently unknown) had been issued by an Iraqi religious leader against the Danish military presence in the Basra area. Danish TV and the newspapers' front pages showed photos of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's picture being burned during a demonstration by Islamic Jihad in Palestine.
On Feb. 1, the French daily France-Soir reprinted the cartoons, with a disclaimer that it did not approve of them, but wanted its readers to see what had started the crisis, which may provoke a reaction in France. Germany's Die Welt and an Icelandic newspaper have also reprinted the most offensive cartoon, showing the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban in the form of a bomb. "Mainstream" media, such as Le Monde, and BBC, are expected to print the pictures, as well as outlets in Italy and Spain. The editor of France Soir has since been fired by the paper's owner, who is French-Egyptian.
There has been an escalation of threats of terrorism against especially Denmark, and also other countries where the cartoons have been printed, both by Hezbollah and by Al-Bakri's radical Islamic group in London. The spokesman for the latter is quoted as saying that the punishment for blasphemy against the Prophet is death, and he points to van Gogh as an example. Threats also came from an Egyptian terrorist group, reportedly related to al-Qaeda.
The reaction of imams during Friday prayers Feb. 3 in the Middle East and Europe can also either escalate or dampen the situation. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem has called for Nordic citizens living in the Middle East not to be threatened.
The Danish government is belatedly accelerating its diplomatic and media effort. On Feb. 1, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen was to meet with all the ambassadors stationed in Denmark, and was interviewed by the Arabic satellite TV station Al Arabia. (See this week's Southwest Asia Digest for an update on this crisis, which has included the burning of Danish and other European embassies in Damascus and Beirut.)
German Paper Warns Against Alito Confirmation
Starting on Jan. 30, for two days running, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung began to inform its readers of the explosiveness of the Alito issue in the U.S. (see this week's InDepth: "After Alito Fight, the War Continues"). The articles were the first to date in Germany which have gone into detail on this issue, and came in the context of the paper's regular review of American publications.
Quoting at length from an article by Thomas Woods in the American Conservative, the FAZ emphasized that the danger is so real, that even supposedly like-minded conservatives in Washington are worried about "The President who would be King." They reference coverage by the Washington Post and the New York Times that has described "how the Vice President admitted to having worked from the start of the Bush term towards the goal of giving the Presidency new power. And they [conservatives] share the view of the left-wing liberal journal [New York Review of Books], that Bush's lawyers are committed to replace constitutional rights with 'something like the divine right of the kings.' "
Then, in an article on Jan. 31, the day of the Alito vote in the U.S., the FAZ recalled what Justice Department lawyer Jon Yoo wrote, only two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, on the alleged necessity of centralizing power at the White House. They note that he played a key role, not as the original inventor of the "unitary executive theory," but as the architect of the legal construction for the legitimation of Bush's anti-terror policy.
The paper referenced "the conservative expert in state law," Steven Calabresi of Northwestern University, who recently told the Wall Street Journal that without the "unitary executive" there would be no way of justifying measures like the NSA phone-tapping operations. "The voice of Calabresi has weight," the FAZ wrote. "He is, after all, as co-founder and co-chairman of the influential conservative jurists' association the Federalist Society, one of the minds behind the unitary executive theory. Calabresi once worked under President [Ronald] Reagan, at the breeding-ground of the controversial theory, the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice."
The FAZ quoted Judge Alito himself, from a speech at the Federalist Society, saying, "The President not only has some powers, but the executive powerall of it." The paper added, "Alito also worked at the Justice Department of the Reagan Administration, when the fine-tuning work on the unitary executive theory was done there. Then, as today," FAZ said, "he is convinced that the theory of the unitary executive is the best interpretation of what the Constitution wants." Because of that, "the political left fears that at the Supreme Court, Alito would insist on giving the President as much of a free hand as possible."
"Prominent American experts in constitutional law, like Laurence Tribe of Harvard University, have criticized this variant of the unitary executive theory as a barely veiled attempt to undermine the principles of power-sharing," the FAZ wrote, adding that even Calabresi has certain doubts.
Strasbourg Conference Features Ideas of Nazi Carl Schmitt
A conference on "Carl Schmitt: A Nazi Way of Thinking" was held in Strasbourg, France from Jan. 27-29. The Académie Européenne in Strasbourg organized the three-day event, with leading figures including Thomas Hobbes expert Yves Charles Zarka, who works for France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and has authored two books on Schmitt.
The Strasbourg conference obviously had the official support of the city's authorities. To quote the conference invitation, "Recent publications opened up a vigorous debate concerning the relation between Schmitt's thinking and his involvement on behalf of the Nazi regime. Texts, certain of which had not been republished since the '30s, attest to the radical quality of the positions defended by Schmitt...." The top specialists have been invited to evaluate the different interpretations of his thinking, they say, in order to "attempt to define the critical relation one must have today with respect to this seductive but dangerous thinking."
All of this has special significance inasmuch as Lyndon LaRouche and the LaRouche movement in the United States and worldwide have been stressing Schmitt's role, not just as a "crown jurist" for Adolf Hitler, but as the author of the concept of executive power that underlies the worldview of the Federalist Society and jurists like Samuel Alito.
French Ties to U.S. Neo-Cons
Washington Post intelligence insider David Ignatius wrote in his op-ed column Feb. 1 that a top advisor to French President Jacques Chirac, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, flies to Washington every five or six weeks, and talks by phone weekly with President Bush's National Security Advisor Steven Hadley.
Ignatius noted that the French have become a U.S. intermediary, and are now key players in Syria/Iran policy. Gourdault-Montagne's trips to Washington began in August 2004 to coordinate French-American efforts on UN Resolution 1559 for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Gourdault-Montagne visited Syrian President Bashar Assad in November 2003, and made a secret visit to Tehran in February 2005 to advise Hezbollah to play it cool around moves for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.