And: Ted Koppel was on the mark (you could say prophetic) in his comments from December 2005, recounted this past Sunday on "Meet the Press":
"MR. KOPPEL: But the point--the one issue I would add, Tim, is the
mousetrap that is waiting for the Democrats is if they do not publicly
acknowledge that U.S. national interest is just fundamentally involved
in a stable Iraq and a stable Persian Gulf, if they simply come after
the Republicans, and take the cheap shots on the war, and say, "You
gotta bring the troops home at all costs," they might even win the
election, but if they win the election, they're going to find
themselves confronting the same issues of national interest that the
Republicans are facing right now. The simple fact of the matter is it
is in America's national interest that there be stability in the
Persian Gulf, and if we precipitously pull the troops out of that area
now, there'll be hell to pay."
The mousetrap has snapped tightly shut. One can only hope that reality sinks in soon.
UPDATE: Yet another outstanding article on Iraq that identifies a fundamental problem for Democrats: They are intellectually trapped in the Vietnam era. Excerpt:
"Generals often make the
mistake of fighting the last war. On Iraq, Democrats are doing exactly
that. They just cannot get past Vietnam. Someone might want to remind
them of two important lessons of Vietnam they seem to have forgotten:
1) In the absence of U.S. troops, the Communists slaughter of innocents
continued unchecked; 2) Our retreat taught the world what the North
Vietnamese already knew: To defeat the United States you don't have to
win a single battle, you just have to kill enough Americans to turn
public opinion against the war.
The irony is that only if
Democrats have their way and U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq before the
mission is complete will Iraq be another Vietnam."
And one final point: If US troops withdraw before that nation is stable, it will have also confirmed Osama bin Laden's hypothesis that Americans are a nation of casualty-sensitive paper tigers.
You may want to have a look at this report of the Iraq Survey Group. Some members of the group are known as “Gold Star Families” as they have lost a child in the war effort.
Excerpts from the report's summary:
The authors of this report believe that winning the war in Iraq – not “solving the problems” of Iraq – is essential to the United States commitment to the war against terrorism. Defeat in Iraq, which we define as an immediate or near-immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, would have devastating geopolitical consequences, embolden Islamic terrorist groups and send the message that the United States lacks the will to see through its commitment to defeat those who employ terrorism, bloodshed, fear and violence to advance oppression and tyranny. (...)
The principal mission of Operation Iraqi Freedom was to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and thereby eliminating his ability to provide safe harbor to terrorists, halt his development of weapons of mass destruction programs and prevent him from aiding and abetting terrorist organizations with aims to attack the United States and our interests. This core function of the mission in Iraq has been a resounding success.
Coalition Forces have wreaked havoc upon the Islamic terrorist groups who have waged a guerilla campaign since Saddam’s military was defeated. This includes the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the one time leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, who traveled to Iraq in early 2002 – more than one year before Operation Iraqi Freedom had begun. Over 5,000 terrorists have been
The tone of the article below says a lot about the mentality of the self-righteous German media elite following the midterm elections. Keep in mind that these are the same people who looked the other way while Saddam was building palaces with UN money on the corpses of his own nation after invading two neighbors and murdering hundreds-of-thousands of his own people.
Many Europeans are feeling a deep sense of gratification over the election disaster of George W. Bush: The American warlord, who started the campaign against Iraq with false "proofs," is finally being punished by his own people. The fact that his henchman, the arrogant Mr. Rumsfeld, had to go, further crowned the day: Somehow morality and justice do win in the end. That's what some think. And for many Europeans that was worth a good glass of red wine.
But what remains after this short triumph? Nothing has been won in Iraq with the humiliating defeat of the Republicans. Even if the US troops withdrew in the foreseeable future, that would hardly improve the situation there. The land has long sunken into violence and chaos, a war has long been underway between ethnic groups, clans and religions.
This war should have never been allowed in the first place. It was wrong from the beginning, indeed a crime. Some Americans have finally recognized that; for Iraq it is too late. Hardly anyone there will drink a red wine to the election debacle of George W. Bush."
Mr. Heuken makes it sound as if Iraq was a paradise before the Americans showed up. Clearly, not too many Iraqis are happy with the out of control killing and sectarian violence. That violence is certain to get worse should American troops leave in the near future. On the other hand, it would be wrong to say that no one in Iraq will celebrate the departure of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen.
Furthermore, what do Germans plan to do (other than write indignant editorials and train a few police) to help stabilize the situation in Iraq? Germans would be well served to listen to recent comments by President Horst Kohler, who pointed out that sitting back and doing nothing is no longer a viable option and would be "stupid, short-sighted and arrogant." He also went on to say that Germans had "a direct, existential interest" in preventing the Middle East from sinking into chaos. Whether anyone listens to (or acts on) these statements remains an open question.
Ein Verlierer der US-Kongresswahl steht jetzt schon fest, egal wer am kommenden Dienstag gewinnt: die Neokonservativen. Deren Ideologie von einer militärisch demokratisierten Welt unter amerikanischer Führung ist im Irak gescheitert.
Das hätten die Realpolitiker und Appeaseniks wohl gerne. Sie können es offenbar einfach nicht verwinden, daß der 11. September und der darauf folgende Sturz Saddam Husseins wie auch der
Weil viele im Verdacht stehen, mit den Todesschwadronen zusammenzuarbeiten, hat die irakische Regierung mehr als 3000 Polizisten entlassen.
[…] Mehr als 1220 Polizisten seien auf Geheiß des Ministers gefeuert worden, weil sie Verbrechen begangen, die Menschenrechte verletzt oder sich weiterer Vergehen schuldig gemacht hätten, sagte ein Sprecher des irakischen Innenministeriums.
[…] Die irakische Polizei war 2004 eilig aus früheren Polizeieinheiten zusammengewürfelt worden, weil es nicht genügend Sicherheitskräfte im Land gab. Viele Polizisten stehen im Verdacht, mit Freischärlern und Todesschwadronen gemeinsame Sache zu machen.
Hoppala, haben wir uns da aus Versehen ein bißchen verplappert? Bisher war doch die offizielle Linie des SPIEGEL, daß dieser gräßliche Bush und seine tumben Berater so blöd waren, das damalige
(The following text is a final exam paper authored by Ray for a graduate level class on media and politics taken in Spring of 2006. It contains excerpts from actual interviews conducted with top members of the German media as well as outside experts on the German media scene. Particularly shocking are admissions by top German journalists that self-censorship took place to a significant degree in the run-up to the Iraq war at the very highest levels of both state-sponsored and private media. The paper offers a comprehensive look at many of the problems with media coverage of the United States today:)
The international media research institute Media Tenor has released several studies over the past few years with one common finding: Rising anti-Americanism in German media. A 2005 study concluded that German television broadcasters had been continually casting “US-American protagonists and institutions” in a negative light since 2002. Another 2004 study on German-American divisions over Iraq concluded: “Especially German TV broadcasters worked less as news reporters and instead came across as part of ‘their’ government.” The same study found that in the run-up to the Iraq war, German media “barely drew a distinction between democracy and dictatorship in their news coverage.” Another study concluded: “While there were more opposing voices, such as the FAZ, available to the German readers than in its neighbor France, the media generally jumped on the popular, anti-war band-wagon.” 
The German media’s coverage of the United States was also discussed at length at a 2004 conference hosted by the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS). The participants concluded that German media “overwhelmingly backed the Schroeder government’s position” in the months prior to the Iraq war. Panel members also debated whether influential segments of the German media tend towards anti-Americanism. Considering decades of robust German-American ties through the much of the Cold War and beyond, the implications were troubling. But recently, a slew of contentious issues and conflicting interests, including the Iraq war, have served to widen the transatlantic divide. Several AICGS panelists discussed the recent rift and concluded that, “while the media is part of the problem, they are not the source or instigator.” In private interviews, however, numerous German journalists and media observers expressed a far more candid view of the German media’s role in shaping perceptions of the United States. Some spoke openly of pandering to anti-American populism, pressure from above to exclude certain viewpoints, lack of expertise and access, and pervasive bias. What follows is a summary of those interviews and the major themes addressed.
Ideological Media: Tradition or Problem?
Professor and State Department Foreign Service Officer Richard Schmierer served two four-year tours at the United States Embassy in Germany from 1992 to 1996 as Press Attaché and from 2000 to 2004 as Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs. During his second tour, transatlantic relations cooled considerably and media coverage of the United States became noticeably more critical. When asked whether he thought anti-Americanism was a problem in German media, Schmierer diplomatically replied that the charge of anti-Americanism was “too broad.” He emphasized that German media, “are professional and world class,” and have a long tradition of reporting from a particular viewpoint. Generally speaking, Schmierer felt that some German media reflect, “a certain European point of view that sees elements of the U.S. and certain administrations as not having the worldview they share.” Cornel Faltin, the Washington, DC Bureau Chief for Springer Publishing, also pointed out that, “there are different papers for different readers. On the one hand youhave TAZ (Tageszeitung – left-wing daily) and on the other you have Die Welt (conservative daily). That’s freedom of press.”
Others, including ZDF Bureau Chief and Correspondent Eberhard Piltz, felt that ideology was a major impediment to quality coverage of the United States. Piltz spoke of “prejudice” and described it as “an intellectual arrogance that thinks that the American way of life, feeling, taste and thinking is inferior and not authentic.” He complained that many journalists see “the U.S. through an ideological lens,” and that “most of them grew up with the leftist, socialist dream and now they look for scapegoats.” Stern magazine correspondent Michael Streck agreed with Piltz’s statement and worried “that populism goes over the line quite often.” Deutsche Welle Bureau Chief for North and South America Ruediger Lentz also expressed deep concern that “populist” ideology and views often “resonate the public mood” when it came to coverage of the United States.
Iraq: Views Suppressed
Ideology is clearly a serious problem in some corners of the German media. All too often, particularly in reporting on foreign affairs, viewpoints that go against popular sentiment are not given a fair hearing. Additionally, most of the journalists interviewed worried that bias negatively influenced reporting. One of the most troubling aspects of the interviews was the assertion, made by at least three of the interviewees, that journalists were pressured, or knew of colleagues who were pressured, not to run certain stories in the run-up to the Iraq war. Eberhard Piltz related that he “had to fight with the desk people (the editors) to tell and get in why the war was coming” and added that he "had a hard time telling the stories." Martin Wagner of Bayerische Rundfunk radio broadcasting said that he had not personally been pressured, but that “more than a couple colleagues,” experienced a “tendency especially in the run-up to the Iraq war,” not to run stories explaining the Bush administration’s position for fear of upsetting readers. Wagner claimed that the pressure on colleagues came from “above” from “owners.” Professor Schmierer observed that: “In the run-up to Iraq, media were put under strictures to limit the opposing side because readers and viewers might become incensed and the media were afraid to alienate or lose audience.” He summarized the situation this way: “Things got emotional.”
Stories in their Suitcases and “Leitmedien”
Cornel Faltin put it best: “Some colleagues already have stories in their suitcases.” In Faltin’s view, some correspondents working in the United States are influenced by pre-existing views. One interviewee stated anonymously that many journalists come to the U.S. “with preconceived bias.” Eberhard Piltz concluded that, “they tend to look at America with their European, German eyes.” He added that, "stories that make Bush look bad were requested all the time." According to Piltz, one would only have to "wait by the phone for the editors." Piltz also stated that the editors were those who "went in the streets and cried for Ho Chi Minh" at an earlier time and many still viewed the United States as "the spoiler of their dreams." Piltz was of the opinion that Spiegel and Stern magazines were in the forefront of "Bush bashing" and cautioned that it was often difficult to separate "Bush-bashing from anti-Americanism." He described anti-Americanism as a "larger phenomenon" that reaches back to at least 1917.
Another factor that has contributed to “predetermined” reporting is the excessive reliance on so-called “Leitmedien” or leading media. Martin Wagner explained that many “editors at quality papers read The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Der Spiegel and have stories and ideas all ready before the day starts.” This game of follow-the-leader reduces the number of issues that actually reach the German news consumer. Wagner stressed that many examples of good journalism were ignored because they did not relate to “hot” topics. The problem is compounded by what Cornel Faltin identified as, “too much entertainment” reporting. Uwe Schmitt agreed that media was “too celebrity oriented.” The result is limited coverage of substantive issues.
Monolithic Views, Pet Issues, and Clichés
Medien Tenor studies conducted over the past few years clearly indicate an increase in critical, negative reporting on the United States. German media have “picked out only the negative (issues) and forgotten the others,” according to Ruediger Lentz. Lentz suggested that too many Germans see America in a “monolithic way” and have a stereotypical image of a “bad, ugly American.” He lamented that German media “don’t follow up on the open and heated debate in the U.S. and the divisions.” Eberhard Piltz agreed that, “the criticism in the U.S.A. doesn’t fit into some Germans’ picture of the bad or ugly America.” David Kaspar, the founder of the German-American blog Davids Medienkritik, pointed to an excessive interest in the negative and sensational as a source of bias: “They search for problems and even if there weren’t any they would invent them.” Kaspar opined that positive stories, such as low unemployment levels in the United States, are often ignored.
A frequent complaint expressed by interviewees was that German media inadequately convey the complexity and internal divisions that make up American society. Professor Schmierer emphasized that it is important for Germans to understand “America’s position, values and approach” as well as the country’s “unique circumstances.” He felt that German media “did not generally give that level of depth.” Uwe Schmitt argued that, “high quality papers do get nuance,” but added that, “there are pet issues” that some media dwell on. Cornel Faltin acknowledged the presence of pet issues, but felt that it was a “periodical thing” and that “certain issues” evoked more interest at times than others. One interviewee stated anonymously that the media “don’t make an honest effort to explain the American mind” and don’t “explain why people supported Iraq.” He worried that the media regularly “feed stereotypes.”
Two Media Tenor reports from 2004 spoke of a view of America clouded by clichés. One offered a fitting quote from author Friedrich Mielke: “Today the Americans and Germans are again allowing themselves to be seduced by clichés. For many Germans, America is the land of predatory capitalism, striving for hegemony, and the arrogance of power.”
Lack of Access, Experience, and Travel
The most universally expressed frustration among journalists interviewed was the lack of access to the United States government. Claus Tigges, the Economics Correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), referred to German journalists in the United States as “no vote reporters.” When asked how he dealt with the problem, Tigges concluded that German media are often forced to rely on U.S. media and think tanks. Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief of the financial daily Handelsblatt, agreed that access was “tough” and “networking crucial.” The access problem clearly boils down to a lack of interest and time on the part of U.S. government officials. Because most American politicians are interested in reaching voters, even small domestic newspapers receive more attention than the largest German network. With the end of the Cold War, Germany has become less central to U.S. geopolitical objectives and, as a result, no longer attracts the same level of interest from high-ranking U.S. government officials.
Professor Schmierer also pointed out that some reporters had inadequate knowledge of the United States: “Those who are reporting should have had recent exposure to the U.S.” As an example, Schmierer pointed to ZDF, a major public television network. According to Schmierer, most of the “ZDF staff assigned to foreign affairs had never been to America and an exchange was arranged.” Martin Wagner countered that, “many Germans have been to the U.S.” and added that, “media are often prepared.”
While it is true that many Germans have been to the United States, it is not necessarily the case that German journalists assigned to cover the world’s only remaining superpower are fully prepared. As in most nations, German media focus primarily on domestic events. International coverage, though relatively extensive in Germany, still suffers from limited budgets and lack of interest. When coupled with the pressures of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the need for ever-shorter sound bites, the impact on the quality of coverage can be stifling. Limited budgets also make it difficult for some journalists to travel outside of Washington, DC or New York. Uwe Schmitt felt that it was “pulling the rug out if you can’t travel” and worried that, “it does influence journalism.” Ruediger Lentz agreed that, “it is a problem getting out” and getting “exposure.” Other journalists, including Michael Backfisch, felt that the focus on Washington was “overloaded” and remarked that journalists often felt compelled to stay in Washington for “scoops” and “new material.”
But not everyone agreed that travel was a problem. Several correspondents insisted that a reasonable balance was possible. Additionally, escaping the Washington “bubble” is hardly a problem unique to German media. The focus on Washington, DC is, however, clearly another factor that influences German coverage of the United States.
Anti-Americanism? Populism, Bush, the 800 Pound Gorilla, and Iraq
There is little doubt that the German media has grown more critical of the United States over the past five years. But there is disagreement as to the causes and implications of this trend.
Since September 11, 2001, German and American leaders have cooperated in Afghanistan but bitterly disagreed over Iraq. Gerhard Schroeder turned opposition to a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein into a winning campaign issue during the 2002 elections, much to the dismay of the Bush administration. Overall, approval of the United States and the Bush administration has fallen significantly in Germany since 2001. The overwhelming majority of Germans opposed the Iraq war and America’s refusal to seek a more multilateral solution. Many Germans dislike President Bush and what they perceive to be his overbearing approach to issues such as the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court, and Guantanamo Bay. Some worry that America is striving towards world hegemony. Uwe Schmitt remarked that the United States is admired as a “cultural leader,” but is also perceived as an “800 pound gorilla that wants to dominate yet be loved at the same time.”
So is German media coverage of the United States a fundamental source of the transatlantic divide or simply a reflection of larger societal trends? The answer is both. History is an undeniable source of differences. Contemporary observers too often forget the heated disagreements between the United States and West Germany over Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s and over the deployment of nuclear missiles in the 1980s. These disagreements also revolved around the question of military force and American geopolitical dominance. For Germany, the use of military force was taboo for decades following the Second World War. Because of its past, Germany has a far more skeptical view of military action and tends to favor multilateral approaches, even if they are sometimes flawed or ineffective.
Unfortunately, many influential figures in German media, politics and society have undeniably exploited recent transatlantic tensions for political and financial gain. All too often, populism and anti-Americanism have replaced honest, constructive criticism. Take, for example, the following covers from Stern and Der Spiegel, two of Germany’s best-selling, most influential political weeklies:
How America Lied to the World (2004) / Method Wild West (2004)
USA: The Lords of the World (1997) / Blood for Oil (2003) / The Conceited World Power (2003) / Operation Rambo (2003)
“A writer for the German weekly Der Spiegel told me during the Iraq debate not to take offense at the crude anti-American covers of the magazine such as the ugly, bearded, drooling Rambo figure it used to show the typical GI in Iraq. "We're just trying to please our million readers," he explained.”
Some, including German diplomats, have attempted to downplay and deny the problem of anti-Americanism. Others, including some of the journalists interviewed, felt that most of the recent ugliness in German media was attributable to dislike of the Bush administration. Ruediger Lentz put it best when he said that, “it’s not as simple as anti-Bush.” Lentz worried about a vicious cycle or “Teufelskreis” of anti-American media feeding anti-American, populist sentiment. When asked how the cycle could be broken, Lentz offered only this: “To change patterns of behavior is a long process.” It now seems that that process is slowly beginning to move forward. Iraq is no longer as divisive an issue and Gerhard Schroeder has since left office, leaving a more America-friendly Angela Merkel to patch up the wounds. Most observers hope that this difficult period in German-American relations is just another bump in the road of an otherwise healthy relationship. Only time will tell.
Eberhard Piltz, Bureau Chief and Correspondent, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) – German state television.
Uwe Schmitt, Senior National Correspondent, Die Welt – Daily newspaper.
Ruediger Lentz, Bureau Chief and General Manager of Deutsche Welle North and South America – State sponsored international news broadcaster.
Michael Streck, Correspondent, Stern magazine – Weekly political illustrated.
Martin Wagner, Foreign Corresponent, Bayerischer Rundfunk – Bavarian Radio Broadcasting
Cornel Faltin, Bureau Chief, Springer Publishing – Media publishing house.
Michael Backfisch, Bureau Chief, Handelsblatt – Daily financial newspaper.
Richard Schmierer, State Department Foreign Service Officer and Georgetown University Professor, Press Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Bonn from 1992 to 1996 and Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin, Germany from 2000 to 2004.
David Kaspar, Founder and Editor in Chief, Davids Medienkritik – English-language weblog on German media and politics.
 Media Tenor, “Wenn Klischees die Wahrnehmung trüben (When Clichés Cloud Perceptions),” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Media Tenor, “Bush hat bei Europas Journalisten einen schweren Stand (Bush Has a Difficult Standing with Europe’s Journalists),” March 2006. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Lehmann, Ingrid A., “Transatlantic Divide over Iraq,” Sep. 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
 Media Tenor, “Supermacht mit Imageproblem (Super Power with Image Problem),” June 2004. At www.medientenor.de (registration required.)
Addendum:Pet issues common in German media coverage of the United States include:
Perceived American religiosity.
Perceived American obsession with guns and violence.
The death penalty.
The perceived excess and superficiality of American capitalism and (non)culture (i.e. fat people, the super rich, SUVs, fast-food, M-TV/hip-hop culture, Hollywood, corporate scandals, buy-outs and "excessive" profits.)
Perceived social inequality in the United States (i.e. amerikanische Verhaeltnisse, poor Americans are starving and freezing to death or at least struggling with 2-3 jobs and no health insurance while the rich live it up. Perception that America has no social safety net or a woefully inadequate social safety net.)
Perceived American unilateralism/exceptionalism (i.e. Iraq, Kyoto, ICC, Guantanamo)
Perceived American "hurrah" patriotism or "hyper" patriotism (i.e. flag-waving).
Perceived American paranoia/overreaction about terror and obsession with security and the "war" on terror and the perceived willingness of Americans to sacrifice key civil liberties (the Patriot Act has become a favored target) and take extrajudicial actions involving torture, renditions, etc.
The perception that the Bush administration controls (or at least dominates) the media and can somehow intimidate media into following the party line. The perceived view that there is a lack of diversity of opinion in US media and that FoxNews, talk radio and blogs are the menacing conservative vanguard of what all US media are becoming or have already become. (i.e. US media are "gleichgeschaltet" or in lock-step.)
Anything that casts a negative light on the US military (i.e. Abu Ghraib, trials of US troops, bombings or killings of civilians real or imagined).
Anything that casts a negative light on the Bush administration.
Iraq is a disaster-quagmire-catastrophe-debacle perhaps unparalleled in human history. Iraq = Vietnam = defeat and humiliation for America, the US military and Bush.
The perception of the US as an imperial hegemon out to expand its global power and military-industrial complex while using democracy as a convenient (yet false) excuse to do so. Oil = blood = Halliburton = war.
Es ist eine verheerende Bilanz: Mehr als 650.000 Iraker sind laut einer Studie an den Folgen des Krieges gestorben. US-Präsident Bush räumte ein, dass es in dem Land "entsetzliche Gewalt" gebe - und zweifelte die Glaubwürdigkeit der Studie an.
Washington/London - Einer heute veröffentlichten Studie von irakischen und US-amerikanischen Fachleuten des Gesundheitswesens zufolge sind damit seit Beginn der US-Invasion 2003 und der anschließenden Gewalteskalation zweieinhalb Prozent der irakischen Bevölkerung ausgelöscht worden. Die Todesrate habe sich seit Kriegsbeginn mehr als verdoppelt, hieß es in des Studie weiter, die die medizinische Fachzeitschrift "The Lancet" im Internet veröffentlichte.
Na, wenigstens einer behält hier einen klaren Kopf. Denn anders als die SPIEGEL-Redakteure kann sich der US-Präsident durchaus noch genau daran erinnern, daß es zufälligerweise eben genau jene
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.
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!
US-Präsident Bush veröffentlichte ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Leider gibt es denen nur noch mehr Munition: Der Irak-Krieg, heißt es darin etwa, fache die Dschihadistenbewegung täglich weiter an
Wenn der Autor dieses Artikels irgendjemand anders gewesen wäre - Schwamm drüber. Aber der Autor heißt Marc Pitzke. Und das wirft die Frage auf, was Bush in der Frage der Freigabe des Geheimdienstmemos hätte machen können, damit unser Marc endlich mal zufrieden ist und sagt "Chapeau, Dubya, das war jetzt zugegeben mal ein cleverer Schachzug". Denn eigentlich gab es neben der Veröffentlichung der Dokumente nur eine weitere Alternative, nämlich sie nicht zu veröffentlichen. Nehmen wir aber spaßeshalber mal an, Bush hätte sich tatsächlich für die zweite Variante entschieden, was hätte der gute Marc dann geschrieben? Tatsächlich das hier?
US-Präsident Bush hielt ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror zurück, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Damit nahm er ihnen den Wind aus den Segeln. Ob der Irak-Krieg die Dschihadistenbewegung tatsächlich weiter anfacht, ist somit nicht zverlässig bekannt.
Oder nicht doch eher das hier?
US-Präsident Bush hielt ein Geheimdienstmemo zum Krieg gegen den Terror zurück, um sich gegen Kritiker zu wehren. Leider gibt das denen nur noch mehr Munition: Die Geheimniskrämerei läßt nur den Schluß zu, daß Bush etwas zu verbergen hat und der Irak-Krieg die Dschihadistenbewegung nur weiter anfacht.
Die Verantwortlichen beim SPIEGEL sollten allmählich wirklich mal ernstlich drüber nachdenken, ob ein Amerikahasser wie Pitzke wirklich die richtige Besetzung für den Posten in New York ist. Denn
Die von der US-Regierung gerne benutzten Aussagen von Informanten aus den Reihen der Exil-Iraker, vor allem vom Iraqi National Congress (INC), waren meist falsch und auf politische Bedürfnisse zugeschnitten. Mit ihnen wurde die zweite Lüge gezimmert, die angebliche Existenz von Massenvernichtungswaffen oder zumindest von laufenden Programmen zu deren Herstellung. Damit ist nun gewissermaßen amtlich, dass die Bush-Regierung den 11.9. für den Krieg gegen den Irak instrumentalisiert und dazu "Beweise" fabriziert hat oder, will man unrealistisch gutgläubig sein, zu nachlässig mit der Verifizierung der Informationen gewesen ist.
Auch mehr als 3 Jahre nach dem Irakkrieg ist Heise noch kein bißchen weise. Denn nur wenige Monate bevor die ersten Bomben fielen gab der US-Präsident folgende Erklärung ab, die Telepolis-Autor Florian Rötzer offenbar entgangen sein muß:
Let me be clear on what the U.S. objectives are: The United States wants Iraq to rejoin the family of nations as a freedom-loving and law-abiding member. This is in our interest and that of our allies within the region.
The United States favors an Iraq that offers its people freedom at home. I categorically reject arguments that this is unattainable due to Iraq's history or its ethnic or sectarian
Ohne den 11. September 2001 säße im Weißen Haus ein anderer, über Afghanistan wüsste die westliche Welt so viel wie über West-Kansas, und stehen gelassene Koffer wären höchstens als Stolperfalle gefährlich. Oder doch nicht? Experten skizzieren für SPIEGEL ONLINE die Welt, in der wir jetzt leben würden.
[…] Israel, Syrien und Iran scheinen sich allmählich aussöhnen zu wollen. Die Furcht vor dem Unsicherheitsfaktor Nummer eins in der Region eint sie: Saddam Hussein rasselt seit dem Golfkrieg 1990 ständig mit dem Säbel.
Nette Idee. Hätte man tatsächlich was draus machen können. Hat man aber nicht. Stattdessen malt man sich eine nahezu idyllische Welt voller rational handelnder Akteure, in der die einstigen Erzfeinde Israel, Syrien und Iran plötzlich dicke Freunde sein wollen, und das wird dann makabererweise auch noch mit Saddam Husseins friedenstiftendem Säbelgerassel begründet.
So greift man erst in einen Wassermalkasten voll bunter Farben, und stellt dann angesichts der unattraktiven Schwarzweißbilder der Bush-Ära mit kindlichem Erstaunen fest, daß die Welt ohne ihn viel hübscher wäre. Mit der Bezeichnung Best-Case-Szenario sind diese Träumereien jedenfalls noch äußerst freundlich umschrieben. Doch der SPIEGEL wäre nicht der SPIEGEL, wenn er eine dermaßen peinliche Schönfärberei nicht wenigstens pro forma mit dem Feigenblatt einer pseudokritischen Analyse zu entschärfen versuchen würde:
Schöne neue Welt - könnte sie so aussehen, wäre ein bestimmter Tag des Jahres 2001 anders verlaufen?
dass sich die Welt ohne die Terroranschläge dieses Tages völlig anders entwickelt hätte? Dass der mächtigste Mann der Welt ein anderer wäre; dass die Welt friedlicher wäre; dass islamistischer Terror nicht unser Leben bestimmte?
Experten zweifeln erheblich an einem solchen Szenario. Bei SPIEGEL ONLINE beschreiben sie, was dieser eine Tag wirklich verändert hat.
Soso, Experten. Ich kann mir schon gut vorstellen, wie man die aufgetrieben hat. Wahrscheinlich hat unser Redakteursschneewittchen einfach "SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL, in der Hand, wer ist der klügste im ganzen Land?" gerufen und plötzlich standen unsere sieben Zwerge vor der Tür, überglücklich, daß sie endlich mal jemand nach ihrer Meinung fragt.
Anders ist jedenfalls nicht zu erklären, wie dieses Dreamteam es fertiggebracht hat, einen Artikel zum Thema "Die Welt ohne 9/11" zu schreiben, ohne dabei wenigstens einmal Begriffe wie Dschihad, Demokratisierung, Achmadinedschad, Katjuscha oder Völkermord zu verwenden; ganz so, als ob die Erfindung der Schariah, die ethnischen Säuberungen im Sudan, die Gründung der al-Qaida, der palästinensische Terrorismus, die Raketenrüstung der Hisbollah, der Beginn des iranischen Atomprogramms oder das gegenseitige Massakrieren von Sunniten und Schiiten erst durch die amerikanische Reaktion auf den 11. September ausgelöst worden wäre, während diese Politik gleichzeitig natürlich nichts, aber auch gar nichts mit dem Sturz der mittelalterlichen Schreckensherrschaft der Taliban, den ersten freien Wahlen im Irak, der Demokratiebewegung im Libanon und der zunehmenden innerarabischen Diskussion über westliche Freiheiten zu tun hat.
Aber lassen wir stellvertretend für diese geballte Brainpower unserer glorreichen Sieben einfach mal den "Politologieexperten" zu Wort kommen, der durch seine rosarote Brille unter seiner über die Augen gezogenen Zipfelmütze offenbar einen ganz ausgezeichneten Blick auf die Weltpolitik hat:
In den USA wäre Bush auf relativ unspektakuläre Art ein zweites Mal gewählt worden. Keinesfalls war eine solche Polarisierung zu erwarten, dass Bush am Ende unter seinen Republikanern bessere Zustimmungsraten hatte als Ronald Reagan zu seiner Glanzzeit - und unter Demokraten schlechtere als Richard Nixon vor seinem Rücktritt. Die Welt wäre weniger dramatisch, doch vielleicht ein schönerer Platz zum Leben mit beliebteren USA.
Mal ganz davon abgesehen, daß der Verlust des Beliebtheitspreises in einem globalen, um das nackte Überleben geführten Konflikt nur Abzüge in der B-Note bedeutet, ließe sich ohne allzu viel Phantasie mit einer weit größeren Berechtigung als jede der hier in SPIEGEL online vorgestellten Märchenwelten auch folgende, nicht einmal extrem negativ fortgeschriebene Entwicklung skizzieren:
Nur noch 35 Prozent der US-Amerikaner unterstützen laut einer Umfrage den Irak-Krieg. Präsident George W. Bush gab zwar zu, dass der Einsatz "die Psyche unseres Landes belastet". Aber einen Abzug lehnt er nach wie vor ab.
Ja, das freut den deutschen MSM-Redakteur: Die Zustimmung in den USA zum Irakkrieg ist erneut gesunken (wobei sich die Frage stellt, wie das möglich ist, so oft, wie SPIEGEL ONLINE das bereits gemeldet hat; ein Wunder, daß die Werte da überhaupt noch im positiven Bereich lagen). Was ihn hingegen ihn nicht so freut: Dasselbe gilt für die Verluste der irakischen und Koalitionsstreitkräfte. Denn auch wenn die Gefahr um sich greifender ethnisch-religiöser Gewalt noch nicht gebannt ist, gehen die Angriffe auf die Sicherheitskräfte selbst drastisch zurück.
Das kann natürlich bedeuten, daß die von ihren zahllosen heroischen Siegen zunehmend gelangweilten "Widerstandskämpfer" einfach nur die Lust daran verloren haben, ihre kostbare Zeit mit den längst geschlagenen US-Besatzern und ihren irakischen Kollaborateuren zu verschwenden. Es kann aber auch sein, daß aufgrund von Produktionsengpässen derzeit nicht genügend Jungfrauen geliefert werden können und potentielle Märtyrer deswegen angewiesen wurden, sich in der Wartschleife verstärkt auf das risikolose Massakrieren wehrloser Zivilisten zu konzentrieren.
Obwohl der Wert der oben genannten Umfragestatistiken also äußerst begrenzt sein dürfte (zumal dem Leser sowieso nie mitgeteilt wird, wenn er mal steigt, sondern interessanterweise immer nur, wenn er fällt), so sind sie trotzdem für einen anderen Zweck ein ganz hervorragendes Instrument: Denn da uns die hiesigen Medien kaum freiwillig darüber informieren werden, wenn der "Widerstand" besiegt worden ist, müssen wir einfach nur schauen, wie sich die Umfragwerte entwickeln: Wenn die Zustimmung zu Bush's Irakpolitik bei Null angekommen ist, haben wir vermutlich gewonnen.
Was die generelle Bedeutung der Popularität von Regierungsentscheidungen angeht, so hat der Präsident selbst kürzlich in einer Pressekonferenz neben anderen vernünftigen Dingen auch ein paar kluge Worte zum Thema "Von den Medien instrumentalisierte Meinungsumfragen und wie verantwortungsbewußte Staatsmänner damit umgehen sollten" verloren, die sich die Macher gewisser Nachrichtenmagazine, die sonst immer beklagen, daß Politiker in der Demokratie nur ihren öffentlichen Beliebtheitswerten hinterherhecheln, mal dringend zu Gemüte führen sollten:
I don’t think you’ve ever heard me say, gosh, I’d better change positions because the polls say this or that. I’ve been here long enough to understand you cannot make good decisions if you’re trying to chase a poll. … I’m going to do what I think is right, and if people don’t like me for it, that’s just the way it is.
Angesichts der Eiertänze, die in Deutschland von der politischen Klasse bei jedem noch so kleinen Reförmchen aufgeführt werden, sind die Amerikaner um einen Präsidenten, der den Mut hat, derartige Wahrheiten auszusprechen, jedenfalls nur zu beneiden.
Because Iraq has long been declared a total failure in most German media and any mention of positive progress is subject to massive self-censorship, facts such as those mentioned in yesterday's Washington Post will likely never see the light of day:
"The consequences of Operation Iraqi Freedom for U.S. forces are being documented by the Defense Department with an exceptional degree of openness and transparency. Its daily and cumulative counts of deaths receive a great deal of publicity. But deaths alone don't indicate the risk for an individual. For this purpose, the number of deaths must be compared with the number of individuals exposed to the risk of death. The Defense Department has supplied us with appropriate data on exposure, and we take advantage of it to provide the first profile of military mortality in Iraq.
Between March 21, 2003, when the first military death was recorded in Iraq, and March 31, 2006, there were 2,321 deaths among American troops in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent were a result of action by hostile forces. Troops spent a total of 592,002 "person-years" in Iraq during this period. The ratio of deaths to person-years, .00392, or 3.92 deaths per 1,000 person-years, is the death rate of military personnel in Iraq.
How does this rate compare with that in other groups? One meaningful comparison is to the civilian population of the United States. That rate was 8.42 per 1,000 in 2003, more than twice that for military personnel in Iraq.
The comparison is imperfect, of course, because a much higher fraction of the American population is elderly and subject to higher death rates from degenerative diseases. The death rate for U.S. men ages 18 to 39 in 2003 was 1.53 per 1,000 -- 39 percent of that of troops in Iraq. But one can also find something equivalent to combat conditions on home soil. The death rate for African American men ages 20 to 34 in Philadelphia was 4.37 per 1,000 in 2002, 11 percent higher than among troops in Iraq. Slightly more than half the Philadelphia deaths were homicides.
The death rate of American troops in Vietnam was 5.6 times that observed in Iraq. Part of the reduction in the death rate is attributable to improvements in military medicine and such things as the use of body armor. These have reduced the ratio of deaths to wounds from 24 percent in Vietnam to 13 percent in Iraq."
Bush lied and people died! It is time for America to recognize it's mistakes and pull out of Philadelphia, NOW! How many more young black men have to die before Americans finally open their eyes and withdraw?
Seriously though. Facts that put the casualty rates into perspective will never make it into a German media that clearly engaged in massive self-censorship shortly before the Iraq conflict began. Several German journalists working in the United States, including some highly prominent media figures, admitted to me in interviews (conducted with the understanding that specific content such as direct quotes and identities would only be used in a graduate level thesis paper on media) that, in the run-up to the Iraq war, they were ordered (or at least strongly pressured) by editors and owners not to run stories explaining the Bush administration's position for going to war. The owners and editors were so afraid of losing and upsetting readers that they essentially decided to eliminate an entire field of information critical to understanding why the United States acted as it did in Iraq. We aren't going to name any names because we promised to keep identities private, but we simply can't keep this massive media fraud quiet any longer.
Anyone who really wants to investigate this will find that what we are saying is true and anyone who believes Germany has a free press ought to take a closer look.
If you read German, check out this outstanding interview with Victor Davis Hanson via German bloggers Politically Incorrect or Kewil. If anyone has a link to an English translation, please let us know via email or leave a comment here. Here is another piece by Hanson in English that is also a must read. The following passage applies not only to much of the American Left, but to wide segments of the German Left as well:
"Third, there is a fine line to be drawn between legitimate criticism of a war that is supposedly not worth American blood and treasure, and general slander of the United States and its military. Yet much of the Left’s rhetoric was not merely anti-Bush, but in its pessimism devolved into de facto anti-Americanism."
Isn't that what we've been saying for the past three years? Bravo Mr. Hanson. That one is going on our sidebar...