Cleaning up the mess

A reader has forwarded us this article by Terence Kivlan from yesterday’s Staten Island Advance (brief registration required) on Rep. Vito Fossella’s letter to the Belgian Prime Minister protesting the anti-Bush urinal stickers that we noted last week at the time of the president’s visit to Brussels: “Belgians get scolding from Vito.” Kivlan wrote:

Photo stickers of President Bush and the American flag placed in urinals in some Belgian ministry offices in Brussels right before the president’s European tour have Rep. Vito Fossella mighty peeved.
But the lawmaker’s ire, expressed to the Belgian prime minister at the Belgian Embassy here, may have been misdirected.
Although Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) accused the prime minister of responsibility for the stickers, Serge Wauthier, an embassy spokesman, noted that the Belgian government had condemned the stickers and their placement earlier this week, taking “a very clear position distancing itself from this initiative.”
In his letter, addressed to Prime Minister Johan Vande Lanotte, Fossella wrote that “such cheap political humor at the expense of the American flag was beneath a country with such a rich heritage as Belgium.”
Wauthier responded that, although he found Fossella’s letter very moving, it was up to Belgian Ambassador Frans Van Daele to respond to it, not the prime minister.
The congressman noted that the American flag graces the graves of thousands of American troops who died while liberating Belgium and other European countries from German occupation during World Wars I and II.
He also chided the Belgians for expressing any disagreement they have with U.S. policy on such a childish level.
The stickers, which bear the caption, “Go ahead. P— on me,” are said to be a common sight in the public toilets of Belgian schools, youth clubs and pubs.

“Distancing itself from the initiative” is probably not the perfect metaphor to use under the circumstances here. Moreover, “distancing itself from the initiative” seems a little understated in commenting on the behavior involved as well. Are American diplomats abroad this ineffectual speaking on behalf of the United States?

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