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German Press Review: A New Vietnam on the Persian Gulf?

A day after the bombing in Iraq, Germany’s editorialists commented on the situation in the postwar country. On the domestic front, they turned their focus to the local elections in the eastern state of Brandenburg.

German editorials on Iraq ran from pessimistic to gloom and doom predictions on Tuesday. Among the most negative was the Märkische Oderzeitung from Frankfurt an der Oder. It compared the situation in Iraq to Vietnam, pointing out that U.S. troops were in Vietnam for ten years, and have only been in Iraq since March. How bad are things going to become, the paper questioned. The security situation is catastrophic, and more aid organizations are just going to pull out. In the worst case scenario security won't be restored, the paper worried. If that’s the outcome, then during the U.S. presidential election Iraq may become a major campaign issue, and Bush will pull his troops out to avoid losing his presidency. What future is then in store for Iraq, the paper sighed wistfully, is only in the stars.

The Lübecker Nachrichten agreed that chaos is reigning in Iraq. It opined that reconstruction and destruction are in a kind of competition, and nobody knows which one will cross the finish line first.

The General-Anzeiger from Bonn criticized U.S. President George W. Bush for painting a too-rosy picture of Iraq's future. The paper admonished Bush's political rhetoric when he interpreted the newest series of attacks as desperate moves of the last remaining bits of ex-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime. Fact is, the paper stated, the situation in Iraq has gone awry. The attackers are getting support from Islamic terrorist circles. Even large sections of the Iraqi population are helping them, because the Iraqis see Americans not as liberators but as occupiers.

The editorial writer for the Hamburger Abendblatt saw only one solution to the security problem: more international help, more money, and if necessary, more troops. All aspects Germany, for instance, is not willing to provide.

On the domestic front, the German newspapers focused their attention on the local elections in the eastern state of Brandenburg, where the ruling Social Democratic Party suffered major losses over the weekend.

It's the second time this year that the federal coalition of Social Democrats and Greens has received a slap in the face in local elections, the Leipziger Volkszeitung wrote. In March it was in Schelswig-Holstein. In both cases the ruling party lost out to the conservative Christian Democrat Union.

The Berliner Zeitung took aim at the SPD’s leadership, blaming the party for having too few new people with new ideas. The paper, however, regarded Matthias Platzeck, Brandenburg’s state premier as a way out of the party’s doldrums. The rather young politician has enough experience butting heads with the opposition leader, Jörg Schönbohm, and is riding a wave of popularity that can carry the SPD into the next election. His rallying cry should be: "him or me."

The Frankfurter Rundschau read the losses as an indication of an increasingly narrow political mainstream in Germany. Anyone who suggests alternative ideas doesn't get a hearing from the major political parties, including the Social Democrats, the paper wrote.

And the Braunschweiger Zeitung faulted the Social Democrats for being too slow with reforms. After years of hesitation, the federal government only just stumbled out with an uncoordinated reform package with unclear consequences, the paper wrote. The party frittered away the trust of the voters. But there's not much the Social Democrats can do, other than hope for an economic recovery.

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