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European Press Review: Washington's Prisoner Problem

European newspapers on Wednesday looked at the problems the U.S. government is having in dealing with the alleged torture of Iraqi prisoners.

The Paris paper, Libération, said that Saddam Hussein must be laughing. The Americans justified their intervention in Iraq, among other things, with the maltreatment of prisoners in Iraqi gaols. Now, it wrote, the USA has opened itself up to similar accusations, and the American military has scored what the paper described as “an own goal.” And you can tell by the lively reactions in the Arab world, wrote Libération, how much anger and bitterness has piled up there, just waiting for an excuse.

In Switzerland, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung takes a tough line. It’s not yet clear whether the incidents are only the tip of an iceberg, it said, but one single case of maltreatment is too many. “Violation of international human rights law,” it warned, “is likely to provide a setback for the Americans in their struggle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis, and for Iraqi consent to the new democratic order.” In any case, it concluded, it allows the insurgents to describe their resistance as a fight against the torturers.

In Moscow, Kommersant is even more dramatic: With dozens of former prisoners now competing to tell Western journalists how they too were mistreated in Abu Ghreib prison, many Iraqis see no difference between Saddam Hussein and the new

rulers.

But the Austrian tabloid Kurier is full of understanding. In which war have such things not happened? it asked. The dismay at such activities is understandable, but the astonishment isn’t, and it concluded: “War is a dirty business which calls forth perverse energy—among the so-called “good” as well.”

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