Lead­ers laud the fallen of WWI, 100 years later

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Raf Casert and An­gela Charl­ton

PARIS — Trav­el­ing from across the world to mon­u­ments hon­or­ing sol­diers who fell 100 years ago, vic­tors and van­quished alike marked those sac­ri­fices Satur­day ahead of Ar­mistice Day and as­sessed al­liances that have been re­drawn dra­mat­i­cally since the dark days of World War I.

The lead­ers of for­mer en­e­mies France and Ger­many, in an in­ti­mate ges­ture that un­der­scored their coun­tries’ cur­rent roles as guar­an­tors of peace in Eu­rope, held their heads to­gether at the site north of Paris where the de­feated Ger­mans and the Al­lies signed the agree­ment that ended the 1914-18 war.

After Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel briefly snug­gled her head into the neck of French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron, the two went in­side a replica of the train car where the ar­mistice was reached and put their names in a guest­book.

Macron then took Merkel’s hand in his, again high­light­ing the changes on the con­ti­nent where two world wars were fought in the 20th cen­tury.

“Our Eu­rope has been at peace for 73 years. There is no prece­dent for it, and it is at peace be­cause we willed it and, first and fore­most, be­cause Ger-

many and France wanted it,” he said.

Merkel was equally con­vinced of the power their friend­ship ex­udes.

“The will is there, and I say this for Ger­many with full con­vic­tion, to do ev­ery­thing to achieve a more peace­ful or­der in the world even though we know we have very, very much work still ahead of us,” she said.

The open show of af­fec­tion was a wel­come an­ti­dote for Macron. Ear­lier Satur­day, the French leader had a some­what awk­ward meet­ing with his Amer­i­can coun­ter­part. As Air Force One landed in Paris on Fri­day night, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump wrote on Twit­ter he had been in­sulted by com­ments Macron made that he con­sid­ered anti-Amer­i­can.

Macron said last week that Eu­rope needed to pro­tect it­self against “China, Rus­sia and even the United States” in terms of cy­berspace. Later, Macron re­it­er­ated that Eu­rope needs to build up its own mil­i­tary be­cause it can no longer de­pend on the U.S. for de­fense.

Trump tweeted in re­sponse that Macron’s words were “very in­sult­ing” to the U.S. and sug­gested that “Eu­rope should first pay its fair share of NATO.” Macron’s of­fice said Trump had mis­un­der­stood his re­marks and on Satur­day the two men ap­peared to take pains to dis­play their friend­ship.

French of­fi­cials later said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had agreed to con­sult with NATO part­ners on its plan to pull out of an arms con­trol treaty with Rus­sia.

Trump him­self was to visit a ceme­tery Satur­day, but the White House can­celed the trip be­cause of bad weather, which grounded the he­li­copter that was to fly him to Bel­leau, about a two-hour drive east of Paris. The White House sent a del­e­ga­tion that in­cluded chief of staff John Kelly in his place, but the can­cel­la­tion drew bi­par­ti­san crit­i­cism back home.

David Frum, once a speech­writer for Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush, tweeted it was “in­cred­i­ble” that a pres­i­dent would travel to France for a WWI cer­e­mony and not pay re­spects to the U.S. ser­vice­men who died there.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, said the White House should have had a fall­back plan for the pres­i­dent.

“There is al­ways a rain op­tion. Al­ways,” Rhodes said.

Trump is to visit a dif­fer­ent ceme­tery Sun­day.

In the four years of fight­ing of World War I, re­mem­bered for bru­tal trench war­fare and the first use of gas, France, the Bri­tish em­pire, Rus­sia and the U.S. had the main ar­mies op­pos­ing a Ger­man-led coali­tion that also in­cluded the Aus­troHun­gar­ian and Ot­toman em­pires.

Al­most 10 mil­lion sol­diers died.

Yet, de­spite a war that was sup­posed to end all wars, World War II pit­ted both sides against each other once again in 1940.

Across the line that once marked the Western Front, lead­ers lauded the courage of sol­diers who were killed dur­ing the un­prece­dented slaugh­ter, be­fore con­verg­ing on Paris for a din­ner.

The ar­mistice en­tered into force on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. On Sun­day, 69 world lead­ers will com­mem­o­rate the cen­ten­nial of the ar­mistice that ended the war at the Tomb of the Un­known Soldier, un­der­neath the Arc de Tri­om­phe in cen­tral Paris.

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