Wednesday, March 22. 2006
Posted by Joerg Wolf in Transatlantic Relations on Wednesday, March 22. 2006
Popular German magazines such as Der Spiegel frequently put US critical pictures on their cover. Critical reporting about the world's sole superpower is necessary, but statements like "Torture in the Name of Freedom" (as seen on a recent Spiegel cover) appear to be malicious distortions to sell more copies rather than critical, ethical journalism. (More at Medienkritik)
The German media (e.g. Die Welt) reported that Salon.com published more Abu Ghraib torture pictures. Bild published some pictures.
Those responsible for the torture in Abu Ghraib have done great harm to their victims, their families and the US reputation in the world. The number of insurgent attacks increased dramatically after the Abu Ghraib scandal first became public. The torturers and the high ranking officers who failed to maintain discipline in Abu Ghraib have unintentionally aided the US enemies.
New abuse reports from Iraq should be taken seriously, like the NYT allegations that some US soldiers used some detainees as paintball targets.
Some Americans (and others) don't like to be lectured by foreigners, but it is of course fair enough that the German media and German politicians criticize US violations of human rights. The US State Department issues annual human rights reports for all countries and wrote most recently about the following human rights problems in Germany:
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens. The following human rights problems were reported:Americans and Germans can learn from well-meaning criticism from each other. Criticizing Guantanamo and being concerned about the rule of law and the humane treatment of terror suspects is good, but exaggerations are not. (See also our post on the Guantanamo detainee from Germany.)
Why is so much more ink spent on (alleged) US wrongdoings than on the human rights violations in other war zones and crisis regions?
It seems that the German media picks on the US more than on any other country. This could be understood as either a compliment, i.e. the assumption that the US would care about German criticism and change their policies, or as Anti-Americanism as the Wall Street Journal opined (see our post on Europe's Moral Outrage).
Source: Davids Medienkritik.
Why is the German media reporting again about the horrible Abu Ghraib pictures taken by dishonorable US soldiers, but not about the even more horrible Darfur pictures taken by an honorable former U.S. Marine?
Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine captain, was a member of the African Union team monitoring the conflict in Darfur, where he took hundreds of photographs documenting atrocities. The U.S. Holocaust Museum (sic!) published many of his pictures and his Wash Post Op-ed. Some photos serve to shock nearly as well as the Abu Ghraib photos. He is currently on tour in the US increasing awareness for Darfur.
Above picture by Brian Steidle:
"Refugees in Menawashi, Darfur. Approximately 7,000 came to Menawashi in just a few days."
Above picture by Brian Steidle:
"After the Janjaweed chased the people from the village of Kokoba, they burned it."
Although Darfur is much closer to Europe than the US, the mass murder, expulsions and rapes in Darfur (some call it "genocide") seem to be covered more extensively in the US than in the German media. American NGOs devoted to Darfur are more vocal than German NGOs.
Do Germans care more about alleged torture, abuse, human rights violation and inhumane living conditions in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib than about much worse conditions in Darfur and many other war zones?
Why is the media in general more concerned about the alleged German intelligence agency's support for bombing Bagdad, but not concerned about the German government support for trade fairs in Sudan?
Darfur is more outrageous in both magnitude and intensity than Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, but the US scandals are more in the news because the media is more interested in the perpetrators than in the victims. US perpetrators are more sexy than Sudanese perpetrators, it seems. German criticism of US human rights violations would be more credible if the German media would be equally concerned about the much serious violations around the world.
I know, I have been generalizing about "the media" in this post. There are many exceptions, but I do have the impression that the overall international politics coverage tends to be that way. I am not saying that the media is pre-dominantly anti-American. I think it is more like an obsession with the United States.
Moreover, I am not at all suggesting that Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo should not be criticized any longer. There are just so many other and much worse stories that need to be covered more extensively.
The Noble Peace Prize winning Doctors Without Borders (MSF) issued their annual top ten list of the Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories:
According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal The Tyndall Report, the 10 stories highlighted by MSF accounted for just 8 minutes of the 14,529 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks' nightly newscasts for 2005. Natural disasters like the south Asia tsunami and the war in Iraq dominated international reporting. But in a year that Tyndall said had an unusually high amount of international coverage, only 6 minutes were devoted to DR Congo and 2 minutes to Chechnya. The remaining stories highlighted by MSF were not covered at all.Similarly Coalition for Darfur reports:
During June 2005, CNN, FOX News, NBC/MSNBC, ABC, and CBS ran 50 times as many stories about Michael Jackson and 12 times as many stories about Tom Cruise as they did about the genocide in Darfur.While the international affairs coverage is much more extensive in the German media, the coverage of the worst humanitarian stories is probably not much better. The huge US media coverage of the war in Iraq is understandable since some 150.000 Americans are serving in Iraq, but Germany does not have troops in Iraq.
Nicolas de Torrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Border in the United States says:
People all over the U.S. tell us how much they want to show solidarity and do more to help others in crisis around the world. But how can they when a crisis is virtually invisible? (…) Millions of people are struggling through crises in places that rarely, if ever, get mentioned in the U.S. news, and in our experience, silence is the best ally of injustice.Blogs have done a great job counter-balancing or even replacing the mass media, but they could do even more to address the most underreported stories rather than constantly bashing their favorite political opponents, which gets rather boring. Covering underreported humanitarian stories once in a while can be incorporated into any blogs mission. The Atlantic Review's focus is transatlantic relations, but this post managed to combine the German media's coverage of the US with increasing awareness for humanitarian problems.
Parliamentarians on Darfur:
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi recently led a congressional fact-finding mission to Darfur and told the Voice of America (VOA):
Refugee children struggling in the oppressive heat, without shade, without adequate clothing, sleeping in huts made from USAID food bags stitched together. (…) At night, their parents would have to walk for miles to get firewood and water, always under the constant fear of attack. But even [amid] this horror, we saw in the bright and playful eyes of the toddlers, we saw hope. That hope diminished in the haunted eyes of the older children. (…) The humanitarian disaster in Darfur challenges the conscience of the world. It is the systematic destruction of a people. It is genocide. And, if we allow something like this, then we can just indict all of ourselves for -- well, we lose any moral authority to say 'never again.'VOA also reports that the House of Representatives approved $50 million in additional funding for peacekeeping operations in Darfur last week. US lawmakers had shrugged off a request from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for those $50 million on December 27, 2005, i.e. just after Christmas.... Maria and Joseph, shelter, manger...festival of love...Got the irony? Most members of Congress describe themselves as religious. In December many conservative journalists, bloggers and other Americans were concerned about a "war against Christmas" because of the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" and "Season's greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas" and "Christmas Greetings." Why have they been more concerned about the "war" against Christmas than about a real war during Christmas?
I am not aware of any German Bundestag delegation traveling to Darfur. Kenneth Jacobson, the associate national director of the Anti-Defamation League, asks in the International Herald Tribune Where is Europe's voice against genocide?
Europe has a particular responsibility for several reasons. First, the European Union often presents itself, in alleged contrast to the United States, as the guardian of human rights in the world. Whatever the issue - capital punishment, gun control, avoiding war - the EU seeks to depict itself as occupying the moral high ground. The shamelessness of this posture in light of the inaction on Darfur must be exposed. Second, Europe is not only the continent where the genocide of the Jews took place; it is also the place where Srebrenica happened, on the doorstep of the EU, only nine years ago. (via: Passion of the Present)The International Crisis Group provides excellent information and links to various resources on Darfur and many other conflicts around the world, incl. recommendations to help.
Blogs of Zion criticizes the liberal NYT Times for publishing an advertisement by the Sudanese government as the "most immoral thing I can think of."
Sirocco writes on the hypocrisy of the Arab world regarding the cartoons and Darfur.
Darfur did not even make it into the Doctors Without Borders list of the top ten of the most under-reported humanitarian stories in 2005. Those were:
• Congolese Ravaged by War and Disease
• Staggering Needs, Insecurity, and Dismal Response for Chechens Living in Fear
• Haiti's Capital Wracked by Waves of Violence
• No R&D for HIV/AIDS Tools Adapted to Impoverished Settings
• Clashes in Northeastern India Take a Heavy Toll on Civilians
• War is Officially Over, But Urgent Needs Go Unmet in Southern Sudan
• Somalis Endure Continuing Conflict and Deprivation
• Colombians Trapped by Violence and Fear
• Insecurity Worsens Already Desperate Situation in Northern Uganda
• Crisis Deepening in Ivory Coast
Fabrice Weissman, head of Doctors Without Borders in West Darfur, writes:
In these towns controlled by government forces—like garrison outposts—the living conditions, although improved, remain prison-like. The people living in these open-air jails still cannot—and do not want to—return home because of the continuing insecurity outside these sites.So why not focus on these prisons as much as on the Abu Ghraib prison?
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Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Lou Minatti - #2 - 2006-03-22 18:29 -
"Why is the German media reporting again about the horrible Abu Ghraib pictures taken by dishonorable US soldiers, but not about the even more horrible Darfur pictures taken by an honorable former U.S. Marine?" Perhaps it's due to the fact that European countries have raped Africa for centuries and then abandoned them after destroying their societies. Europeans, particularly leftist Europeans, like to lecture America, but when it comes to abuses Europe wins hands-down. Worse, European countries refuse to clean up the messes they created in Africa and throughout the world after deciding that these colonial properties were no longer profitable ventures. Europe is directly responsible for the mess Africa is in. Directly. From the Mediterranean to Capetown, Europe has meddled and stolen and raped and pillaged its way through the continent, and continues to do so to this very day. (Right, France? Protect that vital cocoa industry in Ivory Coast! So what if it requires shooting a hundred civilians armed with protest signs!) So no, there will never be any outcry to report on manmade tragedies in African countries, much less actually do something about it. To do so would be to accept responsibility. That would cost money and prestige.
Sudan Watch - #3 - 2006-03-22 18:33 -
Hello Jorg, As far as I am aware, German news agencies, particularly DPA and Der Spiegel have frequently reported on Darfur over the past two years, and very well too. Der Spiegel publishes New York Times pieces on Darfur by Kristof. Germany has done a lot for Darfur and Sudan as a whole over the past two years. High ranking German politicians and delegations have visited Khartoum and expended a lot of time, effort and money on helping to broker peace for Sudan. Also, Germany is part of the European Union which is responsible for starting, funding and supporting the African Union and the AU Mission in Darfur. Sorry I do not have the time to search my Sudan Watch archives for some examples, but here is a link to one with photos of German troops on their way to Darfur dated 18 Dec 2004: A Transall C-160 cargo plane is loaded at the military airbase Penzing, 50 kilometers (28 miles) west of Munich, southern Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004. The German Bundeswehr is supporting the Mission 'African Union Mission in Sudan' with one Airbus A310 passenger plane, five Transall C-160 cargo planes and 70 soldiers, who will transport Gambian soldiers and equipment from Banjul in Gambia to El Fashir in the Darfur region in Sudan. http://sudanwatch.blogspot.com/2004/12/german-troops-airlift-au-soldiers-and.html
Jorg - #3.1 - 2006-03-22 19:07 -
Yes, there is news coverage of Darfur, but I haven't seen any cover stories in Der Spiegel and other publications that would encourage public debate. If you find time to look for the info on high ranking German politicians and delegations visiting Darfur, I would appreciate it. Thank you!
eRobin - #4 - 2006-03-22 20:09 -
Good post. Thanks so much for paying attention to Darfur. I think we have the capacity to pay attention to all human rights tragedies at the same time. And, after all, that's what Congress and the media (a real media - not the corporate infotainment network we have today) are supposed to be for. I don't think it's an either/or thing between Abu Ghraib and Darfur. And here's a question for you: Some of the same abuses that are happening at Abu Ghraib happen daily - hourly - at prisons in the United States. Why can't we fix that human right's abuse? My answer is that we can - and that we don't have to pay any less attention to any other human rights abuses anywhere in the world to do it. We need to make America the country that opposes any and all human rights abuses instead of letting Team BushCo turn us into one that perpetrates them at will.
RayD - #5 - 2006-03-22 22:35 -
@ eRobin, I was following your statement and agreeing with much of it until you absolutely fell apart by getting political in the last line. That sort of intellectual dishonesty absolutely ruined an otherwise constructive comment. If you truly believe that the current US government wants to turn American into a nation that tortures "at will" than you need to get your head out of whatever hole you've stuck it in. That is simply disingenuous nonsense. That said, I think we need to take both situations seriously. However, as Joerg points out, there has been far too little coverage of Sudan proportional to the coverage given Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
David - #5.1 - 2006-03-23 13:14 -
@eRobin, I agree with you, and anyone who doesn't see that the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo were the result of policies crafted in Washington really has his "head stuck in a hole". The lead editorial in today's New York Times points out that these abuses were "organized and systematic, and flowed from policies written by top officials in his (Bush's)administration." Recently the Washington Post wrote the following about detainees that were tortured to death while in US custody: "Mr. Rumsfeld and the military command have grown so confident of their impunity that they don't even try very hard to defend themselves. "Some 250 people have been punished in one way or another," Mr. Rumsfeld replied last month when asked about abuse cases. Spokesmen offered a similar response last week to the Human Rights First report. Sadly, it has been left to retired officers, such as Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, to speak honestly about this shameful record. The "torture and death" catalogued by Human Rights First, he wrote in a response to the report, "are the consequence of a shocking breakdown of command discipline on the part of the Army's Officer Corps. . . . What is unquestionably broken is the fundamental principle of command accountability, and that starts at the very top." Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/27/AR2006022701320_pf.html How the Bush administration led a great nation to betray its most cherished principles is THE story of our times, and deserves the widest possible media coverage.
Jorg - #5.1.1 - 2006-03-23 13:31 -
"How the Bush administration led a great nation to betray its most cherished principles is THE story of our times" Should it be THE story of our times in Germany as well?
RayD - #5.1.2 - 2006-03-23 21:36 -
"I agree with you, and anyone who doesn't see that the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo were the result of policies crafted in Washington really has his "head stuck in a hole"." Which policies precisely? Can you name them? @ reality check: If you want a reality check, you would realize that Saddam is the one who tortured and abused on a mass scale and destroyed the Iraqi infrastructure. Now the Iraqis have a chance for democracy for the first time in decades and it is "a disaster on every level"? No one said there aren't lots of problems, but I think you have been reading far too much self-reinforcing babble in the German media. Again, no one is excusing abuses perpetrated by Americans. They need to be exposed, discussed and dealt with. The real question (again) is whether this is being done in a proportional and fair manner. Jorg rightly concludes that it is not.
Mark Collins - #6 - 2006-03-23 02:19 -
Jorg: See latest guest-post at "Daimnation!": "Darfur: A German compares his country's press coverage with that of US activities (you want cartoons?)": http://www.damianpenny.com/archived/006064.html Mark Ottawa
reality check - #7 - 2006-03-23 09:17 -
Iraq is a disaster on every conceivable level and those pictures are real and representative of the abuse that has taken place in the name of freedom. Der Spiegel is right. They not only reveal the widespread abuse of Iraqis and other nationalities by American forces but are symbolic of the theft of millions of dollars of Iraqs resources and the destruction of its infrastucture. The responsibility for that goes back to Washington not Berlin. Those pictures unfortunately will not go away no matter how much people would like them too and we have to accept that. Many supporters of George Bush would like to censor those photos to calm tensions down but truth is a greater and more honourable principle. Germany accepts and debates its colonial and nazi past more so than I suspect America will ever be able to do - based on the current climate. Unfortunately and sadly these pictures are just tip of the iceberg of the human misery US foreign policy has caused in Iraq. That's worth a front page any day of the week..
Jorg - #8 - 2006-03-23 09:48 -
Thanks for all your comments. @ eRobins I agree, it's not either Abu Ghraib or Darfur. Both human rights violations should be covered. What concerns me is that there is not front-page coverage of or public debates on Darfur and other even more underreported humanitarian stories. @ realitycheck I am not saying that those Abu Ghraib pictures should go away. Have a look at our previous post on Abu Ghraib: [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/143-Standing-up-for-moral-values-in-the-war-on-terrorism.html[/url] My point is that there are worst and more important things happening in the world that should be investigated, analysed, and extensively featured in the media as well. I wasn't trying to say that Abu Ghraib should be ignored, but that other humanitarian stories deserve more coverage than they are getting right now in the EU and in US.
Fuchur - #9 - 2006-03-23 11:34 -
Jorg - #10 - 2006-03-23 12:17 -
Fuchur, I didn't say Spiegel is obsessed with Abu Ghraib. I claimed: "I am not saying that the media is pre-dominantly anti-American. I think it is more like an obsession with the United States." I could have been more specific and stated that the international affairs coverage is obsessed with the US. Thank you for the links to the Spiegel covers. The US is featured more often on the cover than any other country. And usually in a negative way. Why is the international politics coverage focused on the US? Why do more covers about international politics deal with US policies than with Darfur, wars in Congo, in Northern Uganda, in Colombia or poverty, famines, AIDS, malaria, Tuberculosis etc? Sure the US is the sole superpower, but Europeans look for more independence from the US. So why are do sooo many more cover stories have something to do with the US, but hardly any with the EU. (The last one was in 2002, I believe.) Is it because the US is expected to take care of all issues? I agree with you, there are many other silly cover stories. Indeed I could have said that Darfur (and other even more underreported humanitarian stories) should have been featured instead of "online partnership agencies", divorces, "planet deep sea", "siblings" etc.
GM Roper - #12 - 2006-03-23 15:45 -
Jorg, you probably can't see me right now, but I'm standing and tossing you a salute! Excellent report!
Peg C. - #13 - 2006-03-24 15:38 -
The inescapable answer is that Americans are expected to be perfect and the rest of the world is not. In the Left's view, when we Americans fail to be perfect, it is 1000 times worse than the failures of the rest - which, of course given that there are no expectations for the rest, cannot be failures. The Left's game is so rigged it's preposterous, it's supremely intellectually dishonest, and it is an obvious sign of overt racism, sexism, xenophobia, and in this instance the HARD bigotry of no expectations.
Mike - #14 - 2006-03-24 15:54 -
This is a reasonable idea but kind of a lame take on it. "Yawn, Abu Ghraib is a cover story again? Almost as if it was an outrage or something." You could easily make a point about the underreporting of Darfur without marginalizing Abu Ghraib. If the President, or the American people, had taken some semblance of a decisive stance against what went on at Abu Ghraib the issue might have been resolved. But Bush's response to Abu Ghraib was half-assed ("We do not torture" ... right), and so was ours. Public outrage was only mild, and it's rumored the McCain Amendment hasn't stopped the same things from happening. It's not that this isn't a small abuse compared to Darfur; the point is it's exactly this kind of morally dubious issue and dismissive attitude on the part of the President that leaves us on unsure footing when it comes to real human rights issues. So good job, but cut the apologies for America. We're not doing anything about Darfur anyway.
MnZ - #14.1 - 2006-03-24 16:20 -
Mike, the comparison between Abu Ghraib and Darfur is relevant, because it demonstrates an inconsistency in the German media. The German media is hard-hitting and provocative when there are human rights abuses of prisoners by the US. They are so hard hitting and provocative that they will cover the same story again and again with the same vigor. However, when there is on-going genocide in Darfur, they become rather demure. If the German media had been demure with Abu Ghraib, we could have attributed their reticence regarding Darfur to distaste for upsetting stories. However, we are now given the impression that the German media (and the German Left) don't really believe in human rights. Rather, they view human rights as an cudgel that they can use opportunistically against the US.
Jorg - #14.2 - 2006-03-24 17:01 -
I don't think I have marginalized Abu Ghraib and other US wrongdoings. Neither in this post nor in our blog in general. I have a look at our posts on "torture" [url]http://atlanticreview.org/plugin/freetag/torture[/url] or our posts on Guantanamo [url]http://atlanticreview.org/plugin/freetag/Guantanamo[/url] "So good job, but cut the apologies for America. We're not doing anything about Darfur anyway." Thank you. I appreciate that. Did I apologize? I thought I had criticized US policy on Darfur as well and called for taking seriously the new abuse reports from Iraq as reported in the NYT.
Anonymous - #14.2.1 - 2006-03-24 21:31 -
I'm sorry; I didn't read thoroughly enough. I agree you haven't marginalized Abu Ghraib.
Jorg - #15 - 2006-03-24 16:49 -
@ Sudan Watch Thanks for stating German aid to Darfur. However, I don't think it is impressive. Other countries might have provided less, but still. When I look at the outrage concerning Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, I get the impression that human rights are high on the agenda. But I don't see such a priority when I look at media coverage of policy concerning Darfur or other much larger humanitarian crises.
Aaron - #16 - 2006-03-24 18:07 -
I don't understand why Germany which has thousands of conscripts and is a rich country cannot deploy a division to Darfur! Are they too busy occupying Kabul?
Johnny - #17 - 2006-03-24 23:15 -
Please don't let my comment discount your excellent point, but I'd like to make one of my own. Abu Ghraib was an abomination. It is being dealt with, though I think that everyone would like to see the punshments go higher up the ladder. A continued focus on this is a good thing. (Though at some point I question where the use of the photos to aid in media oversight ends and the purely commercial exploitation of the photos begins.) When it comes to Guantanamo though, I guess I draw the line. In just about every war I can think of, the captured combatants from the enemy side have been detained until the end of hostilities. When those prisoners are captured outside of uniform and it is believed that vital intelligence can be obtained, there is interogation. These prisoners are not having their finger nails pulled out, their genitals fried, etc.
Bruce Miller - #18 - 2006-03-25 07:17 -
One of the worst effects - among many - of the Bush administration's preventive war policy and its implementation in the Iraq War is that it has set back the efforts to address genocide in international law, and to legitimate "humanitarian" military interventions in situations like Darfur. (Although as Helena Cobban has observed, the entire concept of "humantarian war" is fairly Orwellian in itself.) The current issue of the US Army War College's journal has a good article looking at this aspect of the problem: "Humanitarian Intervention and the War in Iraq: Norms, Discourse, and State Practice" by Eric Heinze *Parameters* Spring 2006 http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/parameters/06spring/heinze.htm
lecentre - #19 - 2006-04-17 00:59 -
1) Excellent Post. 2) The Mediocre Media carnival will be up shortly. 3) Congrats on the Instapundit link, you lucky dog!
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