German Press Review: NATO in Iraq? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 12.01.2004
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German Press Review: NATO in Iraq?

Newspapers across the country on Monday weighed in on the conversion of Saddam Hussein’s status to that of prisoner of war and considered the possibility of a NATO mission in Iraq.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung wrotes that Saddam Hussein is now a prisoner of war. That’s the best thing that George Bush could have done to him – whatever criticism there may be from Iraq or Iran. "The United States is now adhering to the norms of international law, at least in its treatment of the deposed dictator. They are same norms that were used to justify the annihilation of Saddam Hussein's sons," the editors wrote. As heads of special forces and instigators of violence against the occupying powers, they were legitimate targets, as, of course, was their father. But he was taken alive and must therefore be treated as a prisoner of war. The paper went on to explain that the U.S. is acquiring political capital by abiding so meticulously by the letter of international law. The anger of Iraqis who want to see Saddam Hussein in front of an Iraqi court as soon as possible is understandable. One can have equal sympathy for Iranians who point to crimes committed by Saddam Hussein while he was attacking their country. But it is because his crimes are so monstrous that the Americans want to take him out of the firing line, as it were, by giving him POW status.

The Berliner Zeitung also welcomed Saddam Hussein’s new status. It shows, the paper wrote, "that in matters pertaining to Iraq the United States is now edging back to positions adopted by the rest of the international community."

Another paper published in the German capital, Neues Deutschland, pounced on the remarks made to the U.S. media by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill. O'Neill told CBS News over the weekend that President Bush was intent on ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein long before the Sept. 11th attacks. To the paper’s editors, this is confirmation that Iraq was seen by Bush as the ideal battle ground for extracting personal revenge. He tied this in with the pursuit of national geostrategic and economic interests all under the guide of a preventative war on terror.

The editors of the Financial Times Deutschland wrote the onus is now on NATO. It hasn’t been officially decided yet that the alliance will take on a mission in Iraq in the summer, but the ‘coalition of the willing’ is searching desperately for assistance. The Americans, British and Poles need help from their partners in NATO, who will be expected to do everything they can to "internationalize" the mission in Iraq. NATO will have to say where it stands by the next NATO summit in early June at the very latest; though it will probably make a statement at the informal meeting of defense ministers in Munich in February. It is unthinkable, the paper concluded, that NATO would turn down a mission in Iraq.