As more and more photographs and evidence surface, European newspapers on Tuesday weighed in on the repercussions of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal on the U.S. and British governments.
London's Financial Times criticized Washington's response and belated apology. The president was slow to apologize last week at first continuing his re-election campaign, the paper observed. He presented himself as ignorant of these most damaging allegations, presiding over an administration in a tailspin over the affair, praising the defense secretary and painting an optimistic picture of progress in handing sovereignty back to Iraqis in just seven weeks. "While the damage is enormous and may be irretrievable," the paper warned, "nothing less than full inquiries will do."
For the Czech paper Respekt, the weakness in the handling of this scandal is that more heads haven't rolled, including that of Defense Minister Donald Rumsfeld who accepted responsibility for the disaster. "The Americans have only one advantage now over Osama Bin Laden," the paper commented, "and that is to tell the truth, implement changes and punish the perpetrators and give the Iraqis real power and not the feeling of sovereignty in June."
"The U.S. administration is helping al Qaeda in it's propaganda campaign," mocked the Spanish paper El Mundo. "The only explanation for George Bush's blind faith in his defense minister is that the president is trying not to allow the opposition to jump on any sign of disunity in an election campaign," the paper wrote. "The sacking of Rumsfeld is sorely needed," it said, adding that the al Qaeda couldn't ask for a better propaganda campaign to recruit new terrorists.
The Danish paper Jyllands Posten was more critical: "With not much ado and with deep resignation, one must state that the U.S. has lost the war in Iraq." The question now is how and when American forces will withdraw without leaving a completely unmanageable situation that could lead to new bloody conflicts, the paper wrote. "Every form of authority in Iraq representing the lofty ideals of a free and democratic West have been shattered -- not by supporters of Saddam Hussein or Islamic militants -- but by the U.S. itself."
"Until now the role of Great Britain was obvious," said Austrian daily Der Standard: "Washington declares war and London justifies it." According to the paper, the fact that British soldiers behaved no differently from their American counterparts has destroyed the image of the 'Gentlemen' soldiers in Basra who are more polite than the 'Cowyboys' in Baghdad.
The Parisian daily Le Monde was of the opinion that the chaos in Iraq will force Europe to intervene. "If Europe spoke with one voice," the paper maintained, "then the voice of reason would be somewhat audible over the chaos that exists now." However, this means that international engagement for the stabilization of Iraq would also have to be combined with serious efforts at negotiating peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it argued. "The Europeans have this mess at their doorstep and will feel its shock-waves – therefore they must act."