Bin Laden again unites, then divides, US and Europe

Updated: 2011-05-05 09:27


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LONDON - When Osama bin Laden's men flew airliners into New York's World Trade Center 10 years ago, they sparked an outpouring of solidarity from Europe, captured by a French newspaper under the headline "We are all Americans now".

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It didn't last. A decade of wars has followed that strained old alliances - few in Paris will forget the US jibes about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys". And now bin Laden's death, unarmed, at the hands of American troops has brought a new wave of contrasting emotional responses across the Atlantic.

Jubilant Americans poured into Times Square to chant "USA, USA, USA!" and hit the Internet to snap up T-shirts reading "We Got Him" and "Hey Osama, Tell Hitler We Said Hello."

Europeans, also targeted by al-Qaeda, kept satisfaction more contained, even if tabloid headlines - "Bin Bagged" and the like - were no less triumphant than in the United States. And, crucially, not a few began to question the legality and morality of the killing and the risk of revenge attacks.

That attitude has simply outraged many Americans.

When Tony Metcalfe, the British editor-in-chief of the Metro newspapers in the United States, ran a Reuters story on European qualms over what a former German chancellor called a breach of international law, "we knew it would cause a reaction".

Writing on his blog on Wednesday, Metcalfe said: "Given the celebrations around the US on Sunday evening, the objections from France, Germany, Spain and parts of the UK came as no surprise, and fitted neatly into many Americans' view of Europeans as a bunch of, well, cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

A glance at Metro's online comment thread shows near unanimity among the paper's American readers on the European criticism: "Arrogant, smug, thoughtless and thankless people," wrote LisaC - in one of the less vitriolic posts.