Thursday's German papers commented on the release of a man suspected of involvement in the Sept. 11 terror attacks from a Hamburg prison and the spiralling violence accompanying American involvement in Iraq.
The Ostsee Zeitung in Rostock said the Americans are in a dilemma. If they deal too harshly with Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al Sadr and his militia, they risk full-scale conflict. If they were to cede ground militarily, then the consequences would be no less tragic, the daily noted. The only people who can help contain the revolt are moderate Shi'ite leaders who have their eyes on a bigger slice of the cake in Baghdad, the paper concluded.
The TZ newspaper in Munich thought that the worst-case scenario appears to be turning very real: Iraq is collapsing into chaos. The Americans, once applauded as liberators who freed the country from Saddam Hussein, are now being seen by Iraqis as their enemies. The number of fatalities on both sides increases daily. Innocent civilians are killed, mosques are consumed by flames and the perpetrators of attacks are never arrested. Developments like this prompt the population to rise up against the occupying power, the paper observed. George Bush's remark that only rogues, Saddam supporters and terrorists are responsible for the escalation in the violence could turn out to be dangerous miscalculation, the daily wrote.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung noted that according to opinion surveys just 40 percent of U.S. voters approve of Bush's activities in Iraq. However, a majority of Americans remain convinced that terrorism can only be fought from a position of strength. But this belief, conviction has been shamelessly exploited in a gigantic PR campaign to justify the intervention in Iraq, the daily wrote. The whole fabrication was brought to the ground by former counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke. American soldiers were not sent to the desert to catch dangerous terrorists or pick up weapons of mass destruction, but to topple a hated regime and secure access to one of the world's biggest oil reserves, the paper commented.
Mounir el Motassadeq, the only Sept. 11 suspect ever convicted of involvment in planning the attacks, walked out of a Hamburg jail on Wednesday, released after judges ruled the evidence against him was to weak to hold him pending a retrial. What is the use of all those promises by Europe's interior ministers to co-operate more closely over terrorism, or the purpose of close ties between Germany's Otto Schily and Tom Ridge from the U.S. Department of
Homeland Security, if politics obstructs justice, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked. The court in Hamburg had its hands tied. The American and German governments had denied it access to a key witness, Ramzi Binalshibh. Then a higher German court ruled that the interests of the executive in maintaining its secrets cannot be allowed to work against a defendant in court. It is not the judiciary about which one should have one's doubts, but political decision-making for it is the cause of defeats like this in the battle against terror, the paper concluded.