German newspapers on Thursday focused on the deepening scandal over the torture of Iraqi prisoners and U.S. President George Bush's decision to go on Arab television.
The Frankfurter Rundschau thinks the Bush interviews are part of an elaborate PR campaign stage managed by the White House instead of giving a real signal for a new beginning in the Middle East. "The fact that the military and civil leadership of the Pentagon admitted not reading the report over the deaths and torture in the Iraqi prisons is not just another scandal behind the scandal but makes a mockery of those tortured." the paper commented. And rather than allowing independent legal experts to investigate, Washington is sending the General Major from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq to give advice on prisoner interrogation – "What a sign!" proclaimed the paper ironically.
"President Bush's political and moral claim to freedom and democracy has been turned on its head with the publication of these horrific pictures," wrote the Märkische Oderzeitung. Bush's main argument against any critical questions about the need to invade Iraq was the overthrow of Saddam's regime. But the paper points out at the core of Saddam Hussein's crimes was the use of torture. "That's why any use of violence by American or British occupying forces is so fatal – and the democratic values they embody lose their
credibility," said the paper.
For the Süddeutsche Zeitung from Munich the torture and abuse scandal will lead to a melt down at the core of the Bush Administrations foreign policy. "Because nothing else has so definitively confirmed that America is losing its values with President Bush at the helm," the paper said. The U.S. has become hypocritical and preaches morals it can no longer keep. This suspicion became evident when Bush first came to power by questionable means, said the paper, adding every policy decision since then has demonstrated America's power, but not its moral leadership.
The impact of the torture photos on the image of the U.S. globally and particularly in the Arab world is disastrous commented the Berliner Kurier. That the interrogators are punished is obvious – but is that all? wondered the daily. Let's just image the unimaginable, that German ISAF soldiers tortured Afghan prisoners – it would lead to a governmental crisis and German Defense Minister Peter Struck would lose his job wrote the paper. "But U.S. politics operate differently - there's no crisis at the White House and Donald Rumsfeld is sitting tight despite being wholly responsible," wrote the Kurier.
The Westfälische Rundschau from Dortmund agreed, saying the pictures from the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad are just more proof of the questionability of this war. The occupying forces are not seen as liberators by the Iraqi population, and they don't see themselves as such either, noted the daily. While Bush reacts with shock it's doubtful this will make much difference. According to the paper, President Bush has lost trust and credibility by responding so slowly and by not immediately sacking his defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.