German Press Review: Fighting Torture and Reforms | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 25.08.2004
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German Press Review: Fighting Torture and Reforms

Papers discussed the trial in Germany of several US soldiers accused of torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Eggs thrown at Chancellor Gerhard Schröder during a protest also made it onto editorial pages.

"The ghosts of Abu Ghraib have returned," wrote Düsseldorf's Handelsblatt. New investigations into the torture of prisoners in American run prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba have again put US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the defensive. While his name has not been directly mentioned in any of the reports, the commission appointed by Rumsfeld himself put political responsibility for the scandal directly at the Pentagon’s door. The report said Rumsfeld’s office could be faulted for inadequate supervision. The Schlesinger Commission also accused the military and political leadership of failing in their supervisory duty and creating a climate where such unspeakable crimes could take place.

"It's almost official," declared the Tageszeitung from Berlin. The trial of the American soldiers and military police accused of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison only scratches the surface of the scandal. And the responsibility goes to the highest levels of the leadership chain that is the heart of the Pentagon, the paper analyzed. While the Pentagon commissioned inquiry does not go so far as to blame the officers, it does speak of bad leadership and lack of control. In other words, the paper commented, deliberately turning a blind eye. The paper continued that a more realistic investigation of the scandal would be to look at the humanitarian side of the entire US war policy, but it doubted this will occur any time soon.

The moral credibility of the Bush administration and even America as a whole has almost entirely melted away, and the justification will further decrease, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung remarked. Secretary Rumsfeld can enjoy the bonus of political protection until the Nov. 2 presidential elections, but he and his colleagues should not be part of a second Bush administration, the daily warned.

Meanwhile, demonstrations in Germany that led to egg attacks against Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for his social welfare reforms also captivated the attention of editorialists.

While criticism and outrage at the planned Hartz reforms are understandable, egg throwing or other attacks against politicians should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung assessed. Physical violence, in whatever form, is not part of the rules of a democracy. Those who wish to be governed well should not be treating their government representatives as fair game, the paper added.

However, the Hamburger Abendblatt saw the egg throwing as a signal that the protests against the social welfare reforms are not over yet. The government only has itself to blame, in paper's opinion. For example, even the term "€1 job" implies exactly the opposite of what is intended. The jobs are designed as a bridge to a real job for unemployed and are actually a bonus on top of the current unemployment benefits. The paper was completely baffled as to why the government has not been able to bring this message across to the public.

The Kieler Nachrichten was outraged that protestors throw stones and eggs and yelled "We are the people," a parole that helped topple the former East German government. "It's an affront to the memory of the East Germans who with these words set in motion the peaceful revolution of 1989." The paper noted that the majority of protestors were peaceful, but the violence is cause for alarm as the Hartz reforms have become the outlet for the growing dissatisfaction in eastern Germany and is not simply directed at the government's planned reforms but the general feeling of discrimination, the paper concluded.

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