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U.S. tests European relations

Observer Viewpoint | Tuesday, September 6, 2005

I have followed from my perch in France, with slight bemusement and not a little disappointment, the exchange of views of foreign support for the tragic hurricane and its aftermath in the Gulf.

Not only have European countries replied very quickly to the disaster with offers of help, but they, and their public opinion, were rather offended at being publicly rebuffed by the Bush Administration. President Bush stated in a press conference late last week that America can take care of this crisis on its own, that it has the resources and the wherewithal to take care of its own.

Luckily the European Union and individual countries nevertheless organized discretely and held their preparations in reserve – most notably the French with military and humanitarian capacities, which it has already in the Caribbean (Martinique). I say luckily, because this morning driving into work and listening to the French news radio, I learned that late last night Washington phoned up the European capitals (ahem, instead of just Brussels which is supposed to co-ordinate EU actions) and said that they would accept their offers of support after all. The news reports indicated that the first planes were already on their way with tents, food, water and vehicles.

The Bush Administration has been a severe test to U.S.-European relations, but the deep and emotional bonds between Europeans and Americans can and will outlast this Administration.

Mary Ann Hennessey-GopaulStrasbourg, FranceClass of 1990Sept. 5