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German Press Review: Strange Bedfellows

German papers turned their attention to the growing cooperation among erstwhile foes in Afghanistan and Iraq in working against a common enemy, the Americans, as well as on Germany’s own deepening fiscal crisis.

"Afghan rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s declaration that the terrorists in Afghanistan should use radical Shiite Leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s Iraqi terrorist movement as a blueprint can hardly be dismissed as martial rhetoric by the America military," warned the Düsseldorf-based Handelsblatt financial daily. "The current Shiite revolt in Mesopotamia shows how painful it can be to underestimate the motivating power of revenge and mutual hatred to overcome political and religious differences. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are far from being defeated. In fact, the opposite is true: it’s not for nothing that the Pakistani and American fighting forces are embarking upon new offensives. And the danger that Hekmatyar and his followers might link up in an unholy alliance with the remnants of the once despised Taliban and the still-at-large Osama bin Laden cannot be ignored."

"The Sunni-Shiite parallel revolt shows that not only the political, but also the operational plans of the occupation forces have more to do with the wishful thinking of Washington than the reality in Iraq," echoed the Frankfurter Rundschau. "There is no instant democracy for Arab countries, and no synthetic army or police force. If need be, high-ranking former officers of Saddam Hussein’s army are to be reinstated. So much for the decision of U.S. civil authority leader Paul Bremer to dissolve this army."

"Just as the Kennedies, the Johnsons, and the Nixons had their Vietnam, Bush is in Iraq with no political situation in sight capable of delivering relative peace and freedom to the occupied land," an editorial in Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung read. "The Americans, back then in Saigon and today in Baghdad, will certainly try, as they once said, to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the liberated occupyees. But the world between Washington and San Francisco operates much differently than the world between Mosul and Basra. It seems that the ‘Quiet American’ of Graham Greene’s 1955 Vietnam novel about a man who wants to do good but can’t quite get it right has been reincarnated on the Euphrates."

In Berlin, the editors of Die Welt found a beam of hope in the darkness of a homegrown German disaster: namely the failure of €1.25 trillion pumped into formerly communist eastern Germany over the last 14 years to revive the region’s fortunes. "There are still things to celebrate in the East," the paper declared. "The last stone of the reconstruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche has been put into place. The unachievable has been achieved. The 260-year-old baroque masterpiece, which had been reduced to a pile of rubble in World War II, has been masterfully restored by technicians and artisans from all across Germany employing historic methods. This achievement required overwhelming will and dedication –- the Enthusiasm of the Century. We cannot minimize this achievement, for generations to come will look back with envy."

Meanwhile, the Hamburg-based Bild newspaper turned its ire on German tax officials, who have balked at calls for a longer work week. "Nearly 5 million out of work, the health system in dire straits, and the pension system wobbling," the paper wrote, "and the tax collectors want ‘prescription work'? What does ‘prescription work’ mean? They say it means they won’t bring files home with them any more –- as if any of them had actually done that! Anyhow, the files don’t belong on mother’s kitchen table -- they belong in the office. This whole affair is the final proof that our tax system is over-regulated and inhumane, as opposed to the 42-hour week, which is by no means inhumane."