Saturday, December 20, 2003

Wolfgang von Eitzen, the German citizen and former Billings resident whom immigration authorities were busy separating from his American family while foreign terrorists were learning to steer airplanes, sent along a packet of stories from the German press about the United States and the war in Iraq.

I'm about halfway through the packet, and it is fascinating stuff. If nothing else, it redefines concepts of what constitutes liberal bias in the media. As others have noted, what passes for liberal in this country would be firmly in the conservative camp in much of Europe. In general, the German press appears to view Bush and Iraq this way: He was a pampered child, fond of "Cowboy-terminologie," who never had a serious idea and never gave a flip about Iraq until he was "gekidnappt" by neoconservatives. Now he's gone from being a big talker to a supplicant for help from the United Nations to bail out a failed effort in nation building. As the editor of Stern, a popular German news magazine, put it, Germans should give Bush no money and no soldiers but rather some advice: Listen to your allies and don't view the Security Council as a self-service store.

In a withering critique of Bush, Stern asks, "How could it have come about that a politician who after the attacks of Sept. 11 had won the support of the entire world has become only two years later the most hated man on the planet?"

If there's a bright side, it may be that Stern doesn't seem to blame Americans themselves for the nation's sorry relations ("worst in history," Stern maintains) with the rest of the world. It blames Bush.

It all reminded me of the chuckle I got the other day when a caller to Sean Hannity's radio show announced, as if it were a fresh discovery he wished to share with the world, that people in other countries don't think like we do. It was a shocker, but he had an explanation: "They don't use reason." If only it were so simple.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention the most interesting quote, which I have not seen anywhere in the American media. According to Stern, Bush told three senators during a meeting in the White House in March 2002, "Fuck Saddam. Wir stuerzen ihn." The last part means, "We'll destroy him" or, "We'll take him down." The first part means the president was really annoyed at Mr. Hussein.

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