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German Press Review: U.S. Underestimated Risks in Iraq

German papers on Wednesday commented on the sacking of the controversial Hamburg senator Ronald Schill, the release of the European hostages from Mali and the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq.


Chaos and violence in Iraq reaches a new dimension.

The Rheinische Post from Düsseldorf said the attack on the United Nations headquarters has hit the very organization working to rebuild and free Iraq from the occupying forces. The chaos and instability reigning in the country and the daily deaths of U.S. troops is slowly pushing the Americans away, which would only serve as a victory for Saddam Hussein and his cronies, commented the paper.

With the attack on the U.N. headquarters, terrorism in Iraq has reached a new dimension wrote the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. For the first time the international aid organization has been targeted, making it clear for the bombers that there's no political difference between the United States and the United Nations – they both belong to the hated foreigners occupying Iraq, the paper said. And this attack is frighteningly similar to the al Qaeda attack of September 11, 2001, when the main objective was to spread fear and terror. The situation in Iraq is increasingly getting out of U.S. control, noted the paper and the governments in London and Washington seriously underestimated and played down the risks of a long occupation in Iraq.

The Müncher Merkur agreed, writing that the bomb attack on the U.N. has sent a clear signal that the extremists are becoming more mobile and targeting all foreigners. That can only mean, added the paper, that the Americans are faced with a guerrilla war that they can't win, especially as the freedom fighters will be supported by many in the Islamic world.

Commenting on the sacking of the populist right-wing Hamburg Senator Ronald Schill, Berlin's Die Welt wrote that Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust did the right thing. For the first time in German politics since the end of World War II, personal character and private life choices were openly used against a leading politician. Ronald Schill threatened the mayor of Hamburg that he would reveal his alleged homosexual preferences if the mayor did not back down in his decision to sack Walter Wellinghausen. In refusing to be cowed and by sacking Schill, the mayor of Hamburg has set an important precedent, commented the daily.

The Stuttgarter Zeitung wrote that at the end of his very short career in politics, the colorful populist Ronald Schill showed his true colors. Behind the facade of an upstanding citizen, the paper maintained, Schill has been revealed as someone blinded by ambition and populism who doesn't shy away from using the lowest forms of political blackmail.

The Bremer Nachrichten is more critical pointing out that Mayor Ole von Beust was warned often enough not to enter a coalition partnership with the raving right-wing "Judge Merciless." Now the political marriage has ended in a disaster unparalleled in German political history, the paper stated. It said Schill was never anything more than a demagogue and political gambler who rose like a comet and fell as hard as a comet tripped up by his lack of self control and character flaws.

The return of the European hostages from Mali on Wednesday was also cause for comment in the Dresdner Neuesten Nachrichten, which wrote that even in the future tourists will travel to dangerous locations. Such is human nature and thirst for adventure, opined the daily, and besides, freedom to travel counts as part of basic democratic rights. The Sahara tourists have experienced first hand that the world can also be a terrible place. Others who go hiking in German forests or swimming on Caribbean beaches are safeguarded from the gloomy reality – but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

The Saarbrucker Zeitung took a look at the current debate about holiday makers being forced to pay insurance if they travel to dangerous locations. Although the German consular law requires that the government intervene to help citizens abroad who end up in emergency situations, the paper noted that six months worth of crisis-management and the rescue of the hostages was an expensive affair and one that needs to be reviewed very carefully.

The Fuldaer Zeitung was more critical saying as long as the situation in the world's largest desert remains dangerous, then not every motorbike enthusiast needs to conquer it. Just as not every amateur rock climber needs to ascend Mt. Everest. Whoever still chooses to do so, needs to take responsibility for their own actions.

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