German press review: What will bin Laden′s killing achieve? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 02.05.2011
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German press review: What will bin Laden's killing achieve?

German newspapers have welcomed Osama bin Laden's death - but have their doubts about the way the al Qaeda leader was killed. One paper called the news "a bit too 'wild West.'" Others doubt it will help stop terrorism.

Pile of German papers

The German press recognized the significance of bin Laden's death as largely symbolic

A decade after the deadly attacks of September 11, US President Barack Obama has announced the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. While Germany's newspapers by and large welcomed the terrorist mastermind's death, many questioned the nature of his killing - and what good it might bring in combating global terrorism.

The website of news magazine Der Spiegel called bin Laden's death "a victory for America and President Obama" and an opportunity in the fight against terrorism that must not be "squandered."

The publication implied it was more convenient for the US to kill bin Laden than to drag him to court:

"Now the Americans have found him and shot him dead straightaway … Justice has been served by bin Laden's death - according to the quintessentially American understanding of sin and atonement: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."

While questioning the nature of bin Laden's killing, the magazine still deemed it "good news for freedom."

Osama bin Laden

The nature of bin Laden's death was questioned by large sections of the German press

The Berlin-based, left-leaning Tageszeitung (TAZ) rated the killing as "a bit too 'wild West.'" At the time of his death, the TAZ said, bin Laden had greater significance as "an odd pop icon, a product of our projections" than as a threat to international security.

"The news of his death comes years too late to stir up great emotions or even make waves in world politics, on one hand. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden was the first iconographic figure of the new millennium."

The Frankfurter Rundschau daily was similarly dismissive of the American "victory." The paper recognized the symbolic significance bin Laden's death had for Americans but stated that, in concrete terms, it meant "nothing - or if anything, nothing good."

"Isn't this killing in reality the continuation of the mutual escalation that really began with Bush's 'War on Terror?'" the newspaper asked. "Was there really no alternative to granting the old top terrorist his wish of dying as a 'martyr?'"

The newspaper posited that the more salient threat was not from bin Laden himself but from governments seeking to infringe on citizens' privacy rights under pretext of battling terrorists.

The national daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) meanwhile focused on American morale and how Obama's presidency would be affected by the news. The paper took bin Laden's death as further evidence that "America can get everything it wants - if it just acts decisively enough." The paper called Obama's announcement of the killing "remarkable, if for no other reason than his effort to avoid any triumphal tones."

President Barack Obama announces bin Laden's death

One German paper praised Obama for his sober address

However, the paper commented that bin Laden's death wouldn't be enough to create a turning point for "a nation that appears to be unsure of itself and losing its faith in itself, as it has rarely done before in its history."

Germany's most-subscribed newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, similarly warned that America could not afford to rest on its laurels, emphasizing that the threat of terrorism would not die with bin Laden.

"The US has for years permitted the fight against terrorism to be reduced to a duel with the al-Qaeda leader, but … [Bin Laden's] figure will not fade quickly in the minds of young jihadists. The sheik has become a martyr, and the delusion now lives on."

By contrast, the Düsseldorf daily Rheinische Post offered hope for the fight against terrorism. The paper said bin Laden's death came at a time when al Qaeda seemed to be losing its foothold in large parts of the Arab world, as anti-government protesters were demanding greater freedoms.

"The demonstrators are looking for hope in a better life through democracy, not terror … For the West, the Arab revolution is also an opportunity in the fight against terrorism."

Compiled by David Levitz

Editor: Rob Turner

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