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Europe

European Press Review: A Willful Lie?

Papers across Europe commented Friday on the Iraq Survey Group's confirmation that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and discussed Elfriede Jelinek winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Guardian from London wrote that the more than one thousand pages of the Iraq Survey Group's report, painstakingly researched by 1,200 staff, obliterate an entire arsenal of familiar phrases about gathering threats, clear and present danger, and Condoleeza Rices's catchy but preposterous line about a smoking gun becoming a mushroom cloud. "Saddam Hussein did not have any chemical or biological weapons in 2003 and less than a month before the presidential election, the case for war in Iraq has never looked so threadbare," the paper said.

The Austrian daily Der Standard commented that it took the US weapons inspection team one and a half years to come up with a report and noted that the amount of time and resources spent are something UN weapons inspectors before the war could only have dreamed of. The fact that President Bush did not prevent the release of the report so close to US elections, highlights again how little importance he attached or attaches to legitimizing the Iraq war. "First, the US spoke of weapons of mass destruction, then a weapons program, then the intention to secure weapons, but together with the magic word "terrorism" it works every time," the paper wrote.

Berlin's Tageszeitung said Bush and Blair's main justification for the war in Iraq was not based on false intelligence but was from the very beginning a willful lie. "Everything collated by the head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, confirms the first report of the UN weapons inspectors in 1999." The paper added that Duelfer's report means former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix should be fully rehabilitated and vindicated.

Turning to this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek, Spain's El Pais wrote that "as a political and feminist author, Jelinek created her personal language that is used as an aesthetic weapon against all that is wrong within society: exclusion, the misuse of power, and social pressures that crush and destroy."

Parisian daily Liberation commented that the choice of Jelinek by the Nobel committee -- made up primarily of men and normally very politically correct -- had been a big surprise. "Jelinek is not only an author but an active feminist and a tribute to contemporary Austrian culture," the paper wrote.

Less impressed with the Nobel Committee's decision was de Volkskrant from the Hague. While the paper noted that her bizarre and experimental novels and plays full of self-pity and self-incrimination are anchored in contemporary Austrian culture, they are no longer up to date. The paper argued that if this had been a factor in the decision-making process, then American writer Philip Roth or Arabian poet Adonis should have won the prize. Yet, the paper pointed out, this would have made too much of a political statement; the political aspect of this year's decision is to avoid being too obvious, the daily opined.

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