An important part of the European left saw in the Iraq war – and particularly in the protests against it, notably those in various European cities on 15 February 2003 – an awesome moment. ‘The simultaneity of these overwhelming demonstrations – the largest since the end of the Second World War – may well, in hindsight, go down in history as a sign of the birth of a European public sphere (my italics).’ Thus wrote Jurgen Habermas and the late Jacques Derrida, two of Europe’s most notable public intellectuals, in an article, ‘February 15, or, what binds Europeans together,’ published simultaneously on May 31 2003 in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Frankfurt and Liberation in Paris. This claim, that Europe found its common identity in that epiphanic moment, hangs over Europe still. It is the challenge that Europe ‘realise itself ’ against America.
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