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German Press Review: Irony in Baghdad

German papers on Monday commented on the renewed controversy over the Berlin Holocaust Memorial and recent attacks in Baghdad targeted at U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

"Wise policies detect dead-end roads and situations that only offer the choice between bad possibilities through impartial investigation and thought before, not after having stumbled into them," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote. Iraq presented a two-fold vicious circle. On the one hand, reconstruction and a more positive atmosphere could not be achieved without re-establishing internal security, while at the same time, they were its prerequisites, the paper said. Iraq would neither be secure if the U.S. occupation continued nor if the U.S. left. But the experience provided a lesson for the long-term war against terror, the FAZ wrote. As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had now realized: “In order to win the war against terror, we have to win the war over thoughts.”

In Baghdad, Paul Wolfowitz looked the ongoing war right in the face. Or rather, he saw the many faces of war, the Frankfurter Rundschau wrote. The rockets fired at the hotel where he was staying were part of a precisely-organized guerilla attack, it said. Even the helicopter that went up in flames in Tikrit shortly after Wolfowitz’ visit there evoked memories of the U.S. fiasco in Somalia, the paper said. The United States was not close to achieving a final victory over the Saddam Hussein's remaining troops and terrorist plotters. Nor was resistance strong enough to quickly drive the occupation forces out of Iraq.

It was not without a certain degree of irony, that of all people, Rumsfeld’s deputy Wolfowitz -- who wanted to use his Baghdad visit to stress the progress made in security Iraq -- had been the target of an attack, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten wrote. Wolfowitz stands for the belief that force can be used to reshape the Arab world, the paper said. From such a perspective, the war and the U.S. occupation -- with its structural use of force against civilians -- needn't be borne in mind. Even today it was clear that Wolfowitz’ hopes for a short occupation at low cost could be relegated to the realm of myths.

The Westdeutsche Zeitung in Düsseldorf commented on the stop in construction of the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, after objections arose to the participation of chemicals maker Degussa. The company had a unit involved in the production of poison for Nazi death camps in the 1940's. "A company earns big money by robbing and blackmailing people and two generations later it wants to benefit financially when it comes to commemorating these acts," the paper wrote. "It would be a blessing for all if Degussa would show a noble gesture -- and cancel the macabre deal."

What everyone failed to take note of, Halle's Mitteldeutsche Zeitung wrote, was that the Holocaust lead to a redistribution of ownership that was without parallel -- a redistribution without which the Nazi state would have foundered economically. Where should the line be drawn, it asked. Should Germans born after the Nazi regime, be barred from contributing to the memorial along with German firms? Degussa donated to the Forced Labor Fund and had owned up to its past, the paper wrote. Apparently, the board members of the Memorial Foundation had failed to do the same, it said.

The Kölnische Rundschau said that even if Degussa was excluded from the project, it would be hard to find any German company that hadn't been involved in one form or other. That was the result when a nation of perpetrators set out to build a monument to the victims. The companies that were involved in the Holocaust might now be on a different path, wrote the Cologne-based daily, but that wouldn't free Germans from their inheritance.