(By Ray D.)
This week, SPIEGEL ONLINE published an article criticizing the supposedly harsh approach taken by US military forces in Iraq. The article focuses on how British troops reject "American actions" and the notion of being put under US command. The piece quotes a "high-ranking official in the British Ministry of Defense" as saying that: "We have to be prepared to fight alongside the Americans, that does not mean that we have to fight like the Americans." The article claims that, in the opinion of the British forces, "the conflict can only be resolved in the long-run politically and not through more and more soldiers."
The fact that the US has chosen to seek diplomatic solutions to the tense standoffs in both Fallujah and Najaf goes completely unmentioned in the article. Yesterday, the US announced it is willing to pull back its forces from Fallujah and allow an all Iraqi force to attempt to restore order in the city in a diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis. The other option would have been to storm the city, occupying it with massed military force, likely unleashing a bloodbath among the city's civilians.
And is the US being praised for its recent diplomatic efforts and restraint by the German media? Do I even need to ask that question? Of course not! The entire thing is being covered as a military withdrawal. The media is also focusing on the fact that the Iraqi security force will be led by one of Saddam’s ex-generals. A scandal indeed! The media's talking heads never seem to tire of reminding their audiences that this is the same US that wanted to rid Iraq of Saddam and bring the land democracy. "How could they turn to Saddam’s ex-henchmen for help? Isn’t that hypocrisy?" they ask in disgust. (I guess the Germans are forgetting now many ex-Nazis were involved in German politics following World War II.)
In other words, the US will be criticized if it seeks a military solution to conflicts, and it will also be criticized, as is the case now, if it seeks political solutions. One day the US military is "too hard" and the next day it is "withdrawing."
Disorder Anywhere is the Equivalent of Disorder Everywhere
And when isolated hotbeds of resistance flare up as they have in Fallujah and Najaf, the German media often portrays the entire situation in all of Iraq as "out of control" or "chaotic," when, in fact, the vast majority of the country is quiet and stable. Today, N-TV reported that “the US wanted to bring democracy to Iraq” and now shocking abuses and torture against Iraqis have been uncovered. The reporting made it seem as if the alleged actions of an isolated handful of stupid, undisciplined military police reflected the intentions and behavior of the entire US Army and government. So if anything, anywhere in Iraq goes wrong, that is further evidence to the German press that the US effort is failing in all of Iraq, and headlines "Bush and Blair Under Massive Pressure" are sure to follow.
For the majority of German media, it is not about constructively criticizing their American counterparts, it is simply about tearing the US down at all costs no matter what the country does, in Iraq or elsewhere. It is about demoralizing the country and breaking its will to succeed in Iraq. Hence, the fascination with the Iraq-Vietnam comparison and the urgent desire to show pictures of coffins bearing US soldiers. Yes, make no mistake, the people at SPIEGEL ONLINE want to see the US fail, regardless of what the consequences of that failure might be. Just look at the web-site’s “picture of the day” if you have any doubts that the site is fraught with cynical anti-American propaganda:
His helmet was left lying on the asphalt: In the Iraqi city of Bakuba north of Baghdad a US soldier was killed by a roadside bomb, another was injured. With that the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq in April climbed to 126.
And that is the point, this type of media coverage, which represents the majority of German media outlets, is fundamentally anti-American, because no matter what the US does, it will inevitably be torn down and bashed. So Americans should take what they hear in the German media, a group that is largely biased, with a grain of salt. There is very little that the United States could do right in the eyes of outlets like SPIEGEL ONLINE short of curling up and dying. And as the “picture of the day” above shows, that is what they delight in showing.