German Press Review: An Attack on Democracy | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.03.2004
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German Press Review: An Attack on Democracy

A day after the deadly bombings in Madrid, German newspapers expressed shock and condemnation. Many drew parallels to Sept. 11, 2001.

The mass-circulation Express in Cologne criticized those behind the attacks, the worst in Spanish history. "First, all perpetrators of terrorist attacks claim to be bombing for a better world, but in the process they destroy what makes up this world: humanity, trust, life. They are cowards and murderers and don’t deserve this world." The paper continued: "After 911, Jerba and Bali, the almost daily suicide attacks in the Middle East, and now after Madrid, it’s clear humanity’s opponent is its deadly enemy and it’s called terror. It doesn’t fight, it murders. It turns the earth into hell – in every country in the world."

According to the Mittelbayerischer Zeitung, by claiming the lives of hundreds of completely innocent and unsuspecting people, the unscrupulous bombers intended above all to undermine the feeling of safety of citizens in the western democracies. "Horrific though the Madrid bloodbath may be, the perpetrators of the attacks know quite well that they cannot simply bomb away a functioning democratic state by planting explosive devices on trains. Instead they target the psyche of citizens and seek to foment widespread fear."

"The democratic Spain is by no means on the verge of disaster," wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Not only the conciliatory King Juan Carlos, but also the incumbent prime minister José Maria Aznar, and the leading candidates of all parties taking part in Sunday’s elections signal true self-confidence." The national daily went on to say that there’s no real comparison to Northern Ireland, Corsica or the Balkans where the mentality and rationality of Basque separatists are concerned. But the paper expressed confidence that despite all barbarism, "modern-day Spain with its moderate political climate, prosperity and deliberately European identity will be able to cope with them."

As Spanish officials sift through the evidence, the question of who was behind the attacks featured prominently in German editorials.

The Frankfurter Rundschau reminded its readers that it could not be ruled out that al Qaeda terrorists had decided to make good on their threat to punish Spain for its involvement in the Iraq war. But Die Tageszeitung argued that the logic of politics would suggest that ETA was behind the attacks. "With elections just days away, this act of mass murder could be an attempt to bomb the conservatives back into office. The conservatives are ETA's enemy and one they need to justify their existence," the paper suggested.

The Nürnberger Nachrichten responded to the attacks by stressing that in the whole of Europe, the despicable train bombings were regarded and condemned as an attack on the foundations of democracy. "Terror is always a rejection of human rights, the principal of tolerance and the UN Charta that obliges all nations to settle their conflicts by peaceful means," the southern German paper said. "An ethnic group, or its self-proclaimed leadership, that resorts to bombs to achieve its independence by violent means cannot expect the solidarity of the European states," it warned.

"What remains after all the tears, the sadness and the anger is the certainty that there are many of us but only a few of them," the Berliner Kurier told its readers. "Terror is destructive," it conceded, "but it can also unite. And if we all close ranks, the evil of the 21st century will one day have nowhere to hide."

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