European Press Review: The Iraqi Puzzle | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.04.2004
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European Press Review: The Iraqi Puzzle

European newspapers on Wednesday commented on the escalating violence in Iraq and took a look at Rwanda 10 years after the genocide.

There can be no doubt, said Vienna’s Kurier, that war has returned to Iraq, whether U.S. President George W. Bush likes it or not. At fault are the hardliners in his administration, who from the beginning were responsible for catastrophic misjudgements, the paper added. Forget the ‘domino theory’ that predicted the triumphal march of democracy through the entire region after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the daily wrote and suggested that chaos and anarchy are much more likely to take hold all over the Middle East.

Italy’s La Repubblica said the west is in danger of losing the war, not just in Iraq, but also in the strategic confrontation with Islamic terrorism. A year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. still hasn’t managed to master the Iraqi puzzle, the paper noted. More and more fronts are opening up: First were the Sunni rebels, then terrorists who slink across the borders, and now there are Shi’ite hotheads. Only the Kurds are missing, the paper pointed out, commenting that at the moment they’re watching from the sidelines while consolidating their actual independence.

The Allgemeen Dagblad from the Netherlands criticized the U.S. president, saying he acts as if the June 30 date for the hand-over of power to an Iraqi interim government were etched in stone. This date is too soon, the paper said. It’s too early to predict whether the Iraqi adventure is going to be as much of a debacle as the Vietnam war, but there are signs that friends as well as opponents of the Bush administration are worried about the course the White House is taking, the paper concluded.

Britain’s The Independent examined the situation in Rwanda 10 years after the genocide there, commenting that it is still a fragile nation struggling to recover from unfathomable evil. President Paul Kagame is correct to blame Western racism for its disgraceful failure to make a strong intervention in 1994, the paper wrote, adding that this exacerbated the genocide. The paper went on to say that history could yet prove that his iron-fisted leadership was necessary. But the precedents are not good, the paper noted, saying that few leaders who win elections with a 95 percent majority end up building lasting democracies.

And also in Britain, the Financial Times said the brutal truth is that a small country with no strategic resources in the middle of Africa was not judged important enough for western governments to risk troops’ lives or the political cost of intervention if it went wrong. Although hardly anyone could have predicted the speed and scale of the slaughter, the paper wrote: All the warning signs were there. It was not an intelligence failure, but a political failure, the daily concluded. And finally, France’s L’Independant du Midi declared that where Rwanda is concerned, so much cowardliness and hypocrisy were involved that with regard to what we all let happen, only one feeling is possible: shame.