Friday, July 14, 2006

How the Americans covered the saga of the Nat West/Enron three

So how did the Americans cover the story of the Nat West Three that has been engulfing everything here? Here's the revealing thing: it seems to have by-passed them. The New York Times ignored it entirely. The Washington Post carried a piece from Reuters, which reported it in neutral terms. The opposition to the extradition was described as follows:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended the extradition treaty and sought to calm angry members of parliament by telling them U.S. prosecutors would not oppose bail for the three.

Critics of the treaty have say it is unfair because the United States does not have to provide evidence to support extradition requests from Britain, but Britain must face a more stringent standard to seek extraditions from the United States.

BusinessWeek was equally bland:

The case has caused outrage in some quarters

BusinessWeek at least mentioned that the treaty had not been ratified in the US senate - but revealingly did not mention why.

So are the Americans indifferent to anti-Americanism in Europe? Not quite. Newsweek devoted a major article entitled Will Gitmo Reversal Help Bush in Europe? where they point out that:

What’s interesting about Tuesday’s announcement [that the Geneva Conventions now apply to Guantanamo] was the timing. It wasn’t just the Supreme Court decision or pending hearings in Congress on the issue of military detainees. On Wednesday morning, Bush left the White House for a five-day visit to Germany and Russia, where he will attend the G8 summit. The trip is partly aimed at shoring up the United States’ relationship with its international allies, many of whom have expressed reservations about America’s treatment of terror suspects.

One of the president’s newest allies is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is scheduled to meet with Bush in Germany on Thursday. Narrowly elected last fall, Merkel has visited the White House twice this year, in part because she and the president “really hit it off” in the words of one Bush adviser. While Merkel has worked to strengthen what has been a strained relationship between Germany and the United States in the wake of the Iraq war, she has also made no secret of her desire to see Guantánamo Bay closed and has pressed Bush repeatedly on the issue.

Clearly getting on-side the Conservative leader of Germany is important to them and occupying all their thoughts. And they are anxious about Germany, because they know that anti-Americanism there comes from both the right as well as the left, leaving the Chancellor contrained and having to tread very carefully indeed, despite her personal views.

But they are taking Britain for granted rather. The saga of the Nat-West three has caused a surge of anti-Americanism in the traditionally right-wing City and amongst the middle-class Telegraph/Mail reading Tory public. Add that to the existing anti-Americanism from the left over Iraq (Labour abstainers and Lib-Dem supporters), and you have a dangerous convergence of opinion.

Perhaps the Americans think that it's unlikely that the Tories will come to power so their opinion doesn't count - but the neutral centre represented by Labour isn't large enough to counter the mass of anti-Americanism from the right as well as the left. The Americans need to pay attention and ratify the treaty or even a friendly Labour PM won't risk going anywhere near them in future - in other words we will become the new Germany.

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