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Europe

German Press Review: Sacking a General and Problems in Iraq

The German Defense Minister's dismissal of General Reinhard Günzel because he praised supposedly anti-Semitic comments occupied Germany's editorialists on Wednesday. They also commented on American operations in Iraq.

Peter Struck's decision almost universally won the approval of Germany's editorial writers. And they were equally upset by the CDU's choice not to pull Martin Hohmann from the party's parliamentary group -- Hohmann made the supposedly anti-Semitic comments praised by General Reinhard Günzel, whom Struck removed from office. The Neue Ruhr/Neue Rhein Zeitung from Essen said Struck's reaction was quick and convincing and demonstrated a way of acting that should have been followed by the head of the CDU, Angela Merkel, when Hohmann's original comments came out. But what disturbed the paper even more was that Hohmann made his comments in front of a large audience, which didn't question his remarks.

The Mittelbayerische Zeitung from Regensburg also thought that Struck was a model politician -- if they were all that quick, forceful, and correct, the country would probably be a lot better off. The paper found the general's letter simply distasteful, in particular the part where he said Hohmann expressed the feelings of the majority of Germans. The paper said that statements about the "silent majority" often serve to legitimize bad actions.

What goes for Günzel, goes for Hohmann, wrote the Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich. Angela Merkel hasn't had the guts to kick Günzel out of the party's parliamentary group.

The Express from Cologne agreed, saying Hohmann and Günzel are brothers in the dark spirit of anti-Semitism. Struck's decision was an act of what the paper called political hygiene, but it wasn't convinced by Struck's description of Günzel as a single, confused general. The paper said that raises the question, what is a confused person doing making a career in the German defense forces and ending up as head of the German KSK special forces?

And Die Welt from Berlin criticized Günzel for making himself into a victim. He didn't want to speak himself, just mumble his anti-Semitic ideas. There is no place where this kind of resentment should be protected, said the paper -- certainly not in the defense forces.

On the Iraq situation, the Berliner Zeitung pointed out that George Bush is starting to have problems at home because of his Iraq policy. The American people are becoming impatient with the fact that their pension, health insurance and education budgets are being cut while billions of dollars are going to a distant and ungrateful country. But the paper was optimistic that this would be a chance for the realists in Washington to have some influence. They recognize that although the U.S. government can win a war alone, it has to pay attention to its partners and the rights of Iraqi citizens. Only that way can it present a friendly face to the world, and to Americans themselves. And that's a prerequisite for the Iraq-operation not to end up a catastrophe. U.S. citizens will be able to vote on this idea -- in one year, during the presidential election.