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German Press Review: “The Phantom Will No Longer Haunt his Victims”

German papers on Monday focussed on the unexpected capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and speculated on what the arrest would mean for the future of Iraq.

Germany’s mass-selling tabloid Bild Zeitung wrote that patience and perseverance had finally paid off and that the surprising capture of the cruel tyrant, Saddam Hussein was a deserved triumph for the Americans. U.S. President Bush, laughed at and attacked by some, can now, despite some mistakes, feel vindicated in his fight against terror and its perpetrators, the paper wrote. The daily said the capture spelled the end of the dream of Saddam’s fanatic devotees of a return to power and demonstrated that ‘the Coalition of the Willing’ has a real chance to crush terror and tackle the peaceful construction of the country. The paper concluded that Osama Bin Laden sooner or later will share Saddam Hussein’s fate as well.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote that Saddam’s capture meant that the old phantom would no longer haunt his victims, and that reconciliation could finally begin. At the same time, the paper said, anticipation is mounting about what Saddam has to say when he testifies before a tribunal, and once his words are made public. The daily said the capture once again gives rise to the inevitable questions – ‘why didn’t Saddam give orders to his army to fight the invading forces with all their might and determination? What about the weapons of mass destruction? Do they or don’t they exist?’

The Berliner Zeitung looked at how Saddam’s capture would directly benefit George W. Bush, both at home and abroad. For George W. Bush, yesterday was one of the best days of so -called postwar Irak, the paper wrote. Americans being cheered on the streets by the people of Bagdad or Kirkuk had become a rare event. Likewise, the President showed his voters that in distant Iraq, not everything is going badly. The President has moved a step closer to a second term, the daily opined.

Another Berlin paper, Tagesspiegel commented that big moments sometimes come alarmingly matter-of-factly. The United States and most Iraqis have been craving for this news for months. The jubilance is understandable yet appears a bit vapid, the paper said. Seeing Saddam there, as an aging, wasted man with matted hair and resignedly receiving an oral examination...this is supposed to be the head of the resistance, who has made the superpower, America look weak and helpless the past half year? the paper asked. The paper wrote there is no point for Saddam’s supporters to carry on fighting, nor do Iraqis need to fear him anymore, instead they can now openly support the reconstruction of a new Iraq. Saddam’s capture has also given the Americans an opportunity to swing the prevailing mood in Iraq, according to the daily. At the same time the paper underlined the importance of letting Iraqis decided the fate of Saddam – ‘Saddam belongs before an Iraqi tribunal, representatives of his people should judge him in the name of the uncounted victims – it is to them, above all, that he is accountable’, the paper wrote.

Finally, the Cologne-based Kölnische Rundschau wondered what kind of court will try Saddam Hussein: 'Numerous questions arise. The most interesting is, before which court and under what law will the deposed dictator have to answer to?' The daily wrote that everything depended on who will conduct the trial, whether the Americans, the Iraqis or the international community. As a precedent the court can look to the case of Milosevic in the Hague, the paper suggested.