(By Ray D.)
In the repeated rush to judge the United States from the moral mountaintops of Europe, most German media have long forgotten Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. A morbid obsession with American crimes, real and perceived, has replaced most authentic concern for international human rights.
And the contrast couldn't be more extreme: While the German government busily promotes German industry at annual trade fairs in Khartoum, the German media quietly looks the other way as the Sudanese government continues its campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Darfur. On the other hand, when previously unseen photos of Abu Ghraib recently emerged, the German media had an absolute field day. SPIEGEL came out with a particularly exploitative cover and finger-wagging editorials popped up like so many mushrooms.
It's much the same with Guantanamo Bay. The American prison has become a perverse national obsession in Germany while most Germans ignore the plight of hundreds-of-thousands imprisoned, abused, tortured, and murdered in North Korean, Russian and Iranian prisons. Where is the balance? Where is the sense of proportion?
In pointing out these contradictions, we need to be very clear on one point: It is not our intent at Davids Medienkritik to quell or discourage discussion on the legitimacy of Guantanamo as a means of dealing with stateless enemy combatants or the very real abuses at Abu Ghraib. The very opposite is true: These are vitally important issues and we believe they must be discussed and debated openly and constructively.
But that isn't happening in Germany. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have become little more than populist baseball bats with which leftists media and political elites repeatedly bludgeon the United States and George W. Bush. Why? Because Bush and fellow conservatives represent a massive ideological threat to everything they stand for. Fairness and objectivity have long been replaced by a sick moral relativism, as the cartoon below (from Tagesspiegel) demonstrates:
"I should have also made such pictures of my crimes at Abu Ghraib. Then maybe I also wouldn't have been held accountable..."
This cartoon is just another example of a media mentality grounded in an array of cynical, flawed assumptions. In this case they include:
- The false assertion that President Bush ordered or supported criminal acts at Abu Ghraib and therefore must be held accountable. Unlike Saddam, who knowingly ordered the mass torture and execution of men, women and children, Bush has repeatedly condemned the crimes of American soldiers found guilty of torture and abuse.
- The equation of Saddam Hussein's systematic, systemic and intentional mass-murder, torture, invasion and aggression with sporadic abuses committed by US soldiers in clear violation of US law.
- The false perception that no one has been held to account for Abu Ghraib. Several soldiers have been charged, sentenced and imprisoned, the commander of Abu Ghraib was demoted.
A lot of well meaning people on both sides of the Atlantic talk about the need for greater dialog. But many of the same people don't understand how much damage the German media is doing. The central question is one of constructive versus destructive criticism. When we look out across the German media landscape over the past three to four years and beyond, we see far too much of the latter and far too little of the former. That has to change. If it doesn't, meaningful dialog will continue to grow increasingly difficult and the German-American partnership will continue to disintegrate.