There are several troubling situations in the world at the moment: There is genocide in Darfur. There is unending unrest in Congo. The war in Chechnya has claimed thousands of lives with no end in sight. North Korea seems on the brink of exploding a nuclear weapon. Islamic extremists continue to threaten the civilized world.
But wait a minute. There are elections in four weeks in the USA and a new Bob Woodward book that casts the Bush administration in a less than favorable light. And believe it or not, there are German publications that actually believe they can influence the outcome.
One in particular is "Der Spiegel." Let's not forget the disparaging covers they ran in the run-up to the 2004 election. Recently, it seemed as if "Der Spiegel" had backed away from its campaign of spectacular, America-bashing covers. The last was a special on torture in Abu-Ghraib...two years after the scandal broke. It was in the typical SPIEGEL agitprop mold: "America's Shame: Torture in the name of Freedom". Very much in the tradition of earlier covers on Afghanistan and Iraq also intended to point out supposed American hypocrisy with simple, catchy headlines: "Bombing-Terror for Freedom" or "America's Unholy Bombing War" or "Operation Rambo" or "Blood for Oil."
Some bloggers began to argue that "Der Spiegel" might actually be run by pro-American editors and young professional yuppies with no real left-wing axe to grind. Well, as we predicted, it was only a matter of time before the magazine awoke from its hibernation and returned to its traditional modus operandi. After all, bashing Bush and America on spectacular covers is not only politically well-received among readers, it is also exceedingly profitable. Thus the latest installment:
Power and Lies: George W. Bush and the Lost War in Iraq
We all know that defeat for America (and particularly Bush) is one of the deepest fantasies of many in the German media and on the Angry Left. How else could you explain all of the Iraq = Vietnam comparisons? How else could you explain the self-censorship in German media in the run-up to Iraq in which pro-war viewpoints were systematically discouraged and even shut out? How else could you explain the massive self-censorship in German media when it comes to reporting positive progress in Iraq?
In all of this, let us make one bold prediction about this edition of "Der Spiegel" before it has even come out: The magazine will have made absolutely no real attempt to interview or fairly represent the opinions of anyone who would defend American efforts in Iraq or contend that the war in Iraq has not already been hopelessly lost. In other words, just as in the run-up to Iraq, there will be massive, self-imposed censorship of unpopular views. "Der Spiegel" simply does not possess the integrity and intellectual honesty to present its ideologically-inclined readership with an honest, two-sided debate on Bush and Iraq for fear of losing subscriptions and aggravating its customers. The simplistic, inaccurate, black-and-white coverage of the United States that has predominated at "Der Spiegel" for years now is particularly ironic considering that the magazine and its readership view themselves as paragons of nuance and profound discerners of the world's many shades of gray. The same people who so mindlessly demonize the United States with the most simple-minded, propaganda-like slogans (Bombing-Terror for Freedom - Torture in the name of Freedom - Blood for Oil - Bush is a Liar) are the same people who violently oppose what they perceive to be the "for-us-or-against-us" stance of the Bush administration.
And allow us remind our media friends at "Der Spiegel" of just one fact: The "war" in Iraq has certainly been a difficult and challenging one with many setbacks: But the battle for Iraq isn't over and it hasn't been lost just yet. We know that our good friends at "Der Spiegel" would love defeat for the United States in Iraq to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but if there has been one fatal flaw in the history of the German character, it has been the premature and over-confident assumption that one's opponent is defeated before they have actually been defeated.
And allow us to remind our friends at "Der Spiegel" of something else they may have forgotten: American defeat in Iraq would represent a catastrophe for the millions of people of Iraq and possibly for the wider Middle East, and serve as a major setback for efforts to politically reform (and yes democratize) the region. American defeat in Iraq would almost certainly transform wide swaths of the country into terrorist safe havens and embolden and strengthen Islamic radicals as never before. An American loss in Iraq would leave a nation of millions at the mercy of radical sects and outside governments and would likely end in a civil war that makes today's sectarian strife and car bombings look like a picnic. An American loss in Iraq would leave that nation's vast oil wealth in the hands of unknown groups battling for power, fueling further conflict, bloodshed and terrorist activity. In other words, American defeat in Iraq would be a major loss for the entire civilized world, including Germany and Europe and would make the world significantly less safe.
But to SPIEGEL, none of that matters. Short-term defeat and humiliation for Bush and America trump any long-term humanitarian and geopolitical considerations. The massive humanitarian disaster that followed American defeat and withdrawal in southeast Asia - with millions of deaths and millions more refugees - was of little interest to "Der Spiegel" and other media elites. The same has been and would be true in Iraq. Saddam's atrocities have received only a tiny fraction of the coverage that Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo have received. The chaos, death and suffering that would follow an American defeat in Iraq on a massive scale would also be of little interest to the high minded humanitarians at publications like "Der Spiegel."
Right now, SPIEGEL reporters are busily rehabilitating and canonizing Bob Woodward for returning to the fold. They honestly seem to believe they can influence the upcoming US mid-term elections. They know they can sell more magazines with spectacular covers. And any hope of constructive transatlantic dialog and understanding between Germans and Americans continues to dwindle as the media's innuendo, cynicism and sensationalism continue: Bush lied and people died!
Endnote: SPIEGEL ONLINE wants us to believe that Bob Woodward is a courageous journalistic hero who stood up to a hostile government to tell the truth. He isn't and he didn't. If anyone is a true hero, it is Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She was brutally ambushed and murdered in an elevator in her apartment block in what appears to be a contract killing. Ms. Politkovskaya dared to report on the horrors of Chechnya, an atrocity-filled conflict largely conspicuously ignored by the German media and the professional protesters of the Angry Left. This in a Russia where government-skeptical journalists have an uncanny habit of ending up unemployed and dead. Don't expect to see any sensational covers on that any time soon. It just doesn't sell any copy...