Across Spectrum, Politicians Condemn U.S.

As the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day approaches, German foreign minister Joschka Fischer arrived in Washington with glowing praise for US conduct during World War II. But his account of recent American military actions was strongly critical. As more details of the Iraqi prison abuse scandal emerge, Fischer said the Bush administration must “restore U.S. moral leadership in the world.” Fischer’s criticism echoes recent statements by German politicians from both the right and the left. The leader of the ruling Social Democrat party has called for US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation, and members of the opposition have spoken out against what one called “a moral and political catastrophe.” Yet Germany’s leader is striking a more conciliatory tone. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, an opponent of the Iraq war, condemned the mistreatment but said that the US Congress’ investigation of the scandal revealed the "power of American democracy." – YaleGlobal

Across Spectrum, Politicians Condemn U.S.

Fischer says administration must restore American 'moral leadership' in wake of prisoner scandal
William Pratt
Friday, May 14, 2004

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer went to Washington this week bearing a message of contrasts.

With the 60th anniversary of the D-Day invasion approaching on June 6, Fischer concluded a visit to the U.S. State Department on Tuesday by saying Germany would never forget what U.S. troops “did for us“ during World War II. “The United States was always a beacon of peace, the rule of law, democracy and freedom,“ he said.

But the praise of past American glories then turned into harsh criticism of the recent U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners that has been documented in the soldiers' own digital scrapbooks. Now, Fischer said, the Bush administration must do all it can “to restore U.S. moral leadership in the world.“

Across party lines in Germany, political leaders have been expressing their outrage about U.S. soldiers' mistreatment of captives at the Abu Ghraib prison, the home of Saddam Hussein's own torture chambers.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was among the German leaders who condemned the mistreatment. But the Social Democrat, an opponent of the U.S. war in Iraq, also said in Paris on Thursday that the investigations into the cases illustrated the “power of American democracy.“

In Berlin, other Social Democrats, who are the senior partner in the national coalition, expressed their disgust about the abuse. The party's leader, Franz Müntefering, said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld should be dismissed. “I know that if this were happening in Germany, I would make sure that the person was dismissed,“ Müntefering said in a television interview.

Members of opposition parties were equally strong in their condemnation. The Bavarian premier who was the major opposition parties' chancellor candidate in 2002 led the criticism. “This is a moral and political catastrophe,“ Edmund Stoiber said.

In the wake of the debate, a professor at one of the German military's universities may face disciplinary action for saying that torture was justified in some circumstances. On a television interview program, Michael Wolffsohn said: “As a way to combat terrorism, I think torture or the threat of torture is legitimate. If we try to counter terrorism by using gentlemen methods, we will fail.“

In reaction, one Social Democrat called for Wolffsohn to be fired. It is “a catastrophe for the image of Germany and its armed forces when a person charged with the education and personal development of young German officers makes such disgusting comments in public,“ Johannes Kahrs said.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000. GmbH Publishing Group, Germany.