German Press Review: Another Vietnam? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.04.2004
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German Press Review: Another Vietnam?

German editorial pages on Tuesday focused on the situation in Iraq, commenting on the question whether it was becoming another Vietnam for the U.S. as well as the suspected killing of two German security agents.

Many German editorial writers addressed the question, "Is Iraq becoming another Vietnam?" Some said yes, some said no. Der Tagesspiegel from Berlin was among the no’s - the paper pointed out that the Vietnam War lasted 18 years and killed 58,000 U.S. soldiers. It was on a completely different scale. However, Iraq is U.S. President George W. Bush’s Lebanon, the paper wrote, referring to Israeli troops marching into Beirut in 1982. The goal of the Israelis was to expel the Palestine Liberation Organisation, but the ultimate effect for the Israelis was, on balance, negative, the paper commented. The PLO reorganized itself, the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah got stronger, and enmity toward Israel grew. Eventually the Israeli troops were demoralized by the daily skirmishes and pulled back, the daily commented. Now, more and more Americans are having doubts about the Iraq operation. So was it a mistake? Would it be better for the world if the dictator Saddam Hussein were still in Baghdad and could still bully his people and blithely fill up his mass graves, asked the paper. Maybe the answer is...yes, according to the daily.

Die Welt, also from Berlin, took a very different view. Although it agreed that Iraq is no Vietnam, it praised the Bush administration for being the only one to do anything at all about the human rights abuses in Iraq. The paper called on people not to forget that there were 17 United Nations resolutions against Saddam, without any consequences. Now, when the country really needs international support, interest is cooling on helping it out, said the paper. But calling the war "another Vietnam", and thereby making it the U.S.'s problem, isn't going to make the troubles go away.

The Handelsblatt from Duesseldorf on the other hand believed that if Bush doesn’t do something about the situation in Iraq, it could turn into another Vietnam. The paper was highly critical of Bush's Iraq policy. It described it as burdened with ideology and said that the idea of "instant democracy at the push of a button" as a model for the whole Middle East was shockingly naive. If the chaos continues, Bush's credibility with Americans will also continue to melt away, the paper concluded.

The Nürnberger Nachrichten said it doesn't look good for George W. Bush's reputation. His Iraq policy is proving to be a disaster, an adventure that German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and French President Jacques Chirac had good reason not to want to participate in. His war on terrorism is also under fire, because he didn't take warnings about attacks seriously enough and set the wrong priorities, the paper noted. And the fighting in Afghanistan is intensifying. All this just a few months before the election. Rarely has a U.S. president manoeuvred himself into such a dead end where foreign policy is concerned as George W. Bush, the paper remarked.

Several papers also commented on the suspected killing of two German security agents in Iraq, with the General Anzeiger in Bonn saying that ultimately it's all the same to the Iraqi rebels who they kill or kidnap. The fact that Germany didn't participate in the coalition operation in Iraq was never a real protection against attacks, which is why it's logical and right that the last German reconstruction workers have left Iraq, the paper said. It described it as irresponsible to play with the lives of civilians who want nothing other than to help rebuild that maltreated country.