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German Press Review: The Iraq Question

With Germany’s foreign minister conducting an extended diplomatic tour of the United States, German newspapers pondered how Berlin should contribute – or not – to rebuilding and peacekeeping efforts in Iraq.


U.S. soldiers in Iraq have faced an increasing number of guerrilla attacks in recent weeks.

”There is no doubt that everybody should have an interest in bridging the gap between America and the war opponents,” wrote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. “Even the war critics should wish the U.S. success with its mission in Iraq and help it.” The precondition should be that the U.S. stop punishing old allies who were against the war, the editors wrote. The Middle East is a hot spot of world politics that lies in Europe’s neighborhood, and for that reason the U.S. and Europe must depend on each other to make progress and create stability in the region, the paper concluded.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung observed that the U.S. government now has to explain to its people why the situation in Iraq is not going as smoothly as promised. “There will be more bloodletting, more time will go by until the troops can return and more money will seep away in the desert sand,” the paper’s editors wrote. But that’s not something people in the U.S. want to hear right now – especially after (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld and (Vice President Dick) Cheney made it all sound as if it would be easygoing, the Süddeutsche opined. “But the difference between truth and fantasy lies in the coffins of dead U.S. soldiers." That is why the government is forced to switch its rhetoric back to reality. The paper concluded that current events suggest the “evil ghost of the Vietnam war has been let out of the bottle.”

The Ostthüringer Zeitung took an altogether different stance. “The situation is far too complicated to be messed about with silly accusations and offenses,” it wrote. “But it’s right for Germany to wait. Now it’s America’s turn.” Nonetheless, its editors cautioned that a categorical refusal to help would endanger the laboriously repaired U.S.-German relationship again. In the end, Germany can hardly take up the role of the uninvolved bystander, the paper concluded.

The editors of the Nürnberger Nachrichten perceived a more ominous development in their Friday editorial pages. “The empire is overstraining itself,” the paper wrote. “Now the cockiness of neo-conservatives in Washington is rebounding on them. First they looked down at the rest of the world and now they are suffering hardship in Iraq. This serious situation offers a chance (for Europe and the U.S.) to get close again,” it wrote. Now the cockiness of neo conservatives in Washington is rebounding on them. First they looked down on the rest of the world, and now they are suffering hardship in Iraq. This serious situation offers a chance to get close together again. Not even “Old Europe” can be interested in the continuing chaos in Iraq and the Middle East, the paper wrote.

The Ostsee Zeitung commented that the guerilla warfare tactics of the Iraqis threaten to destabilize the country for a long time to come. Obviously, the gratefulness of many Iraqis is rather slim, just like their hope for a better life, the editors wrote. The promises of the U.S. administration have been nothing but lies in the minds of most people, the paper wrote. The U.S. won't be able to reconstruct Iraq on its own, it'll need the help of the UN and NATO. And that is a bitter pill to swallow for the U.S. president, the Ostsee Zeitung concluded, but probably a beneficial one.