Old Europe

Bill Mauldin Cartoon, image: pstripes.com
“Them buttons wuz shot off when I took this town, sir.” (image: pstripes.com)

GI cartoonist Bill Mauldin dies the day Donald Rumsfeld apologizes for setting the value of drafted soldiers at zero (“no value, no advantage, really”).
Then, Rumsfeld zeroes out “Old Europe,” (i.e., France, Germany, the 75% of the population which doesn’t want war), which sets off a firestorm of criticism.
When I began Souvenir November 2001 a year ago, it was an attempt to underline a feeling of unity–of empathetic understanding, painfully-earned through suffering, destruction, sacrifice–that I sensed was on the wane even then. By making a movie of a New Yorker visiting a battlefield in France, seeking to learn from a war in which one in ten British men were killed (draftees, except for all the volunteers); where French, British and German soldiers died in horrific numbers, for no justifiable strategic or military purpose; where freshly dedicated WWI memorials served as shelter and vantage points in WWII assaults; where the psychological weight of the violence can still be felt, eighty years later; I imagined it could somehow be a sign, a marker, something even slightly useful for recovering and progressing from the September 11th attacks. As the chasm between the US and the civilized world widens, though, I sometimes feel like a naive, idealistic idiot.
Then I read, of all people, Brian Eno’s comments in Time, and figure I’m not entirely alone in seeing a better way: “There’s a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don’t shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it’s asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn’t that the original idea?”