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European Press Review: The Art of Secrecy and Deception

Following the latest revelations regarding the alleged existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, several leading European papers examined the implications for the U.S. government and its intelligence services.

The French paper Le Monde accused the Bush administration of continuing to mislead the public, a majority of which says the war against Iraq was justified. The same majority, according to the paper, is also convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 terror attacks. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, the paper wrote, to prove the allegation. The Bush administration has willfully misled the public by linking one deception to the other, the paper concluded.

The Vienna-based newspaper Die Presse urged a swift response to the question whether the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was blown out of proportion. If the answer is yes, the paper called for U.S. intelligence services to be reorganized and even reformed. Weaknesses must be exposed and heads must roll, the paper demanded. It’s bad enough that nothing was done about the CIA’s mistakes prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. There must be an investigation, the paper concluded. After all, it said, there’s nothing less than the credibility of the United States at stake.

Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote that intelligence services have a long history of blunders and misinterpretations. The Sept. 11 terror attacks were arguably the greatest disaster for the U.S. agencies who failed to pick up important clues. Are these services now facing an Iraq-gate, the paper asked? The U.S. and British intelligence services were used politically and indeed let themselves be used, the paper said, if lies and deception were used. After all, the paper added, the aim was clear: to wage war on Iraq. But the paper warned that intelligence services who only uncover what politicians want them to not only deceive the enemy but also their own public. When an allegation is used as a weapon, intelligence services become a danger to the public, the paper concluded.

London’s Financial Times took a look at the dispute over the pay for Members of the European Parliament. The proposal to reform an unjust system and introduce a flat rate of pay for all MEPs seemed like a sensible one, the paper wrote. Unfortunately, a majority of leading E.U. states voted against it, highlighting, the paper said, the narrow-mindedness and populist approach of European politics. Failure to reform the system will cost the European taxpayers more money and will preserve the unjust status quo, the FT argued.

Germany’s business daily Handelsblatt was equally disappointed about the apparent inability by the E.U. to tackle the problem. How can you plausibly explain the discrepancy of an Italian MEP earning four times as much as his Spanish colleague, the paper asked? After all, both are sitting in the same parliament, both are involved in the same committees working on the same legislative bills. The paper wrote that this year’s EU expansion would have been an ideal time for such a reform. However, it concluded that the MEPs didn’t fight hard enough to push through such changes.

Finally, Italy’s Corriere della Sera addressed the wider implications for British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his plans to introduce variable university fees. The paper wrote that Mr. Blair is determined to cut down on public funding and government influence where-ever possible. His reform plans for education are designed to have a serious impact for British society as a whole, the paper said. Whatever the outcome of the parliamentary vote on the fees, governments across Europe will be watching carefully, the paper stated. Especially as most of those governments are traditionally conservative when it comes to redefining the borders between the public and private sector.