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Schadenfreude? How the Smearing of Iraq War Critics Has Changed

"Monday marked the fourth anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein. But instead of celebrations, the tone in Iraq was set by angry anti-American protests," writes Spiegel International and then translates several German editorials on this subject.
None of the editorials has any Schadenfreude. Die Welt for instance points out that "the dissolution of the Iraqi army and of the structures of the ruling Baath party was too hurried and in retrospect counter-productive," but also stresses "all of this is easily said four years later. At the same time, nobody has a blueprint for the new Iraq, which consists ethnically and religiously of three parts and which only achieved a forced unity under Saddam's iron rule. ..."

Still, some supporters of the Iraq war perceive a lot of Schadenfreude in the media. Why?
Shaun Carney, associate editor of the Australian paper The Age, describes in his opinion piece Who'd gloat about it? how critics of the Iraq war have been given different labels by the war advocates in recent years. Before the Iraq war started, skeptics were compared with "appeasers of Hitler in the '30s" (or labeled as weasels, cowards, surrender monkeys, one might add). According to Carney, this phase was followed by
the immediate post-invasion demands for all sceptics to apologise because the defeat of Saddam had taken only a few weeks and the 2004-05 insistence that occupied Iraq was really a good news story that a twisted media refused to report. The latest mantra, now that it's clear the whole enterprise is a frightening mess, is: stop gloating.
Pretty popular in US blogs and newspapers is also to use the German word "Schadenfreude" to describe this alleged gloating:

James Taranto writes in the Wall Street Journal blog about the "Iraqschadenfreudegruppe," but his only "evidence" is a quote from Karsten Voigt, the German government's coordinator on relations with the U.S. in response to the Iraq Study Group report: "We should be happy that there is a course correction in the United States." as well
from Andreas Schockenhoff, a deputy leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in parliament, who "warned" the U.S. against thinking there are "obligations for other NATO partners" from a withdrawal. Mr. Taranto does not explain why he considers this to be Schadenfreude. Instead he complains about Germany's alleged "freeloading off American strength" and wonders "why in the world would they be pleased at the prospect of American retreat from Iraq?" Well, I wonder, why in the world would someone from the respected Wall Street Journal misinterprets the above politicians in such a way...  Schadenfreude is a German word, but it does not mean we are full of it.
Predictably, Davids Medienkritik, has approvingly linked to the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, they did not delete a comment by Amelie de Saintronges, which the James Taranto should read:
Schadenfreude is something you feel when you are happy about the misfortune of somebody else. It is not Schadenfreude when you are happy that somebody finally tries to correct a (perceived) error you told him about time ago. There maybe a certain "toldya so" factor to it but it's not Schadenfreude. Schadenfreude would be stupid since U.S. failure in Iraq would not be to the advantage of Germany, quite the contrary. A "failed state" of Iraq does not help anybody, not even trade. A Middle East in chaos does not inspire Schadenfreude to anyone.
Likewise, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum complains about gloating from "Old Europe," after the publication of the Iraq Study group report. Fortunately, many Washington Post readers criticized her column. According to SuperFrenchie's count "out of almost 150 comments, just 8 of them were some sort of Euro-bashing, and none of them was true French-bashing, despite the easy opportunity. The other 140 comments were bashing… Anne Applebaum!" SuperFrenchie, a blog about "adventures in French-bashing America," has written an excellent criticism of Ms. Applebaum's column.

In the debate in his comments section, SuperFrenchie discusses the difference between gloating and "I told you so" and makes this statement:
My feeling is that there isn't much gloating because the European media is simply not used to gloat about much. They are used to criticize heavily, whether it's American policies or European policies or French policies. Cheerleading media, as exists here (Fox, NY Post, etc…), doesn't really exist in Europe. They have their opinions, but they don't cheerlead.


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Zyme on :

If the usage of "Schadenfreude" in the anglo-saxon media proves anything, it would have to be a decisive weakness of the english language. In German you can so easily combine nouns which makes the language more complex and precise. In english nobody is willing to read a whole sentence created out of one german noun consisting out of several different nouns - so the english expressions are usually simplistic. Englisch als Weltsprache - this tells volumes about the current state of the world ;P

Delfynn on :

I think, it is time to replace design of a site, clause good, but sometimes it is necessary to change color schemes for attraction of new visitors.

David on :

Your mention of the Bush-blog Davids Medienkritik reminds me to ask: Did RayD ever enlist? He's been a huge supporter of Dear Leader's surge: Did he enlist?

Pat Patterson on :

What is the point of an ad hominem attack on Ray D.? Is it now a requirement that to post on anti-American attitudes, both real and imagined, that one must have enlisted? Enlisted in what? Does this new requirement mean that to write critically of the US in Germany one must not have ever enlisted?

Pat Patterson on :

Plus the idea that Ray D. is a tool of the Bush conspiracy might want to follow this link. [url][/url]

Pat Patterson on :

Then again maybe not! That link is to the wrong article, oh well!

Axel on :

I wouldn't call it an ad hominem attack. When it comes to moral principles and military adventures it's a reliable criterion for identifying boasters and their "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" cheap propaganda.

Don S on :

""Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" cheap propaganda." and this was not an ad hominem attack, Axel? "We have met the enemy and they is us!" - Walt Kelley, creator of 'Pogo'

Axel on :

Don, I'm absolutely not impressed by the usual lofty words of US commentors or some armchair warriors speaking of sacrifice, heroism and other "military virtues", especially if these people have never fired one single shoot and don't knowthing about the reality of war. It's very easy to support the "surge" with harsh words in Internet blogs if you aren't personally affected like members of the National Guard or reservists, some of them 41 years old, whom one-third lacked the M-4 rifles, who are confronted with shortfalls in basic equipment like in night vision goggles and who are faced with the problem of cross-leveling. I don't give a damn about such people like Ray D. and their arguments. If this is an ad hominem argument in your eyes, I take your critizism. It's no coincidence that the only realistic and right-minded assessment concerning Iraq was represented by the State Department and Gen. Colin Powell. Unfortunalety, but typically for officers, he valued loyality higher than conscience and better knowledge. The new head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt had the balls to stand up und to call for a withdrawal of British troops in 2006, therefore his soldiers and officers unitely praised him for "telling the truth about Iraq". So if you get a warm glow when people try to persuade young, idealistic and mostly very naive Americans that's it's a duty for them still to join their military, who made one blunder after the other, to fight a war who is already lost ("the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them", as Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld said) I respect your view. If your Commander in Chief ignores completely the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report and the New York Post has nothing better to do than to depict the heads of James Baker and Lee Hamilton superimposed onto the bodies of monkeys, with the headline "Surrender Monkeys: Iraq panel urges U.S. to give up.", I can only shake my head. If Bush already is convinced that someone like neocon Frederick Kagan of the AEI is still more qualified to handle the war in Iraq - as you sow, so you shall reap. But please don't begin to weep and blame other countries about your casualities and the Anti-Americanism and terrorism in the world, but set your own house in order. As Dr. Emile A. Nakhleh, a Senior Intelligence Service Officer and Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program in the Directorate of Intelligence at the CIA for fifteen years of service, recapitulated the effects of the Iraq invasion in an interview with "Harper's": "I have come to believe that our presence is part of the problem and that we should begin to seriously devise an exit strategy. There's a civil war in Iraq and our presence is contributing to the violence. We've become a lightning rod—we're not restricting the violence, we're contributing to it. Iraq has galvanized jihadists; our presence is what is attracting them. We need to get out of there. The idea of Iraq being a model for the region has also been tossed out the window. [...] We've lost a generation of goodwill in the Muslim world." Let's turn back time and remember why especially France and Germany were against the Iraq war (seems that some Americans really have a short memory and still believe the crap people like Krauthammer or Applebaum write): "Led by France and Germany, European countries opposed to using force to disarm Iraq asserted that the case for war had not yet been made. They were skeptical of U.S. arguments directly linking Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and did not view the threat posed by Iraq as imminent — in part, because they believed that the 12 years of international sanctions had limited Iraq’s ability to acquire weapons of mass destruction (12). Thus, France, Germany, and others deemed a contained Saddam Hussein as a threat they could live with, especially given their judgment that war with Iraq would have dangerous and destabilizing consequences. Many Europeans feared that toppling Saddam could further fragment the country along ethnic and tribal lines, and generate instability. Footnote 12: Many Europeans expressed graver concerns about WMD programs in North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan that have not been subjected to the same degree of international scrutiny. Interviews of European officials, January-March 2003." Source: [url=]CRS Report for Congress RL31956: "European Views and Policies Toward the Middle East", p. 6[/url] Sorry, but I can't detect any signs of "America hate", "Anti-Americanism" or a purely populist will to win an election in this assessment. And not to forget the briliant role European media played in uncovering the uncountable lies and manipulations of the Bush administration. On 3rd April 2007 (!) the Washington Post wrote about "How Bogus Letter Became a Case for War. Intelligence Failures Surrounded Inquiry on Iraq-Niger Uranium Claim". Nice investigation, really, but German TV magazine "Frontal 21" uncovered the whole hoax even before the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. I can fully understand why the people at Medienkritik are always so upset about the SPIEGEL coverage of the US. It's not nice to read in a SPIEGEL interview from Tyler Drumheller, former chief of CIA's Europe division, that he had assured his German Intelligence friends and the German government that the "Curveball" BND source wouldn't be in the Powell UN presentation because of its highly dubious credibility and because very senior officials in the BND expressed their doubts. We all know very well that Drumheller's promise was broken. Drumheller about the Bush administration: "The administration wanted to make the case for war with Iraq. They needed a tangible thing, they needed the German stuff. They couldn't go to war based just on the fact that they wanted to change the Middle East. They needed to have something threatening to which they were reacting." So is it ungrateful Anti-Americanism if only a minority of Germans actually rate the actual US government as a trustable political partner? I don't think so. Back in history, it was a time when it really was a question of personal courage for US commentors or politicians to publicly stand for a "dissenting" view. Honor to honor is due - I name just the few I'm aware of: Ike Skelton, Al Gore, Barack Obama, Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi, John Spratt and Howard Dean. They were either completely ignored or characterized as "traitors". New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was one of the few sane voices in the major media opinion pages openly arguing that the Bush administration had failed to meet the burden of proof required to justify an attack on Iraq. He also said a glance at the history of the administration would show that, even when the "war" was swiftly won, the aftermath would be costly in matters of both blood and treasure. The reaction? As the Right Wing Target Number One, he was called "deranged". Krauthammer diagnosed the "Bush Derangement Syndrome", i.e. in the case of Krugman: "Nonetheless, some observers took that to be satire; others wrote off Moyers and Krugman as simple aberrations, the victims of too many years of neurologically hazardous punditry." Krugman was called shrill, gnome-like, disgusting and was threatened with bodily harm in the landslide of hate mail driven by attacks from Bill O'Reilly and others. So if these commentors and right-wing pundits today don't blush for shame and have no other problem as the unsuccessful search for German Schadenfreude - who really cares about their smearings?

Pat Patterson on :

I'm not to sure how to respond except to point out that recruiting for both the Regular Army and the Reseves, and its components, is at 105% of it goals so far this year and was 106% for 2006. Plus the M-4 is a stopgap, until the advanced combat rifle is issued in the near future, it is not a new weapon but rather a shortened barrel M-16 and it is certainly not in short supply as it is being shipped to those units that fight out of Bradleys and Strykers. It has not been issued to security, support or civil affairs units.

David on :

Just pointing out the physical cowardice of the right-wing war supporters like RayD. Add to that the moral cowardice of his blog: RayD and his partner delete and ban comments from Bush critics, while allowing racist comments to stand. This, however, is common practice of the right-wing blogs such as Michelle Malkin, LittleGreenFootballs, Politically Incorrect, etc....

Pat Patterson on :

Odd to refer to a man who lied under oath, spent the war safely in the Hollywood Hills and made sure that he was paid in Swiss francs by the East Germans. Also an ad hominem attack.

mbast on :

Well, ad hominem or not, gloating or not, facts are facts. Iraq is a failure and must be dealt with in some way. Whether that way will be military or civilian, American, European or generally international is a matter of opinion, but pointing a finger at the European media and accusing them of gloating will get us nowhere, just as a "we told you so" from the Europeans won't help. Perhaps we should all remind ourselves of an adage that made the Japanese industry great in the 80ies and 90ies: "don't look for a culprit, look for a solution."

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What would be the solution? I guess, since it is so difficult to find a decent solution for Iraq, many people prefer to blame others: The war critics blame the war supporters for the mess in Iraq 24 hours a day. And the war supporters blame the ungrateful Europeans for not sending troops, but appeasing Saddam and gloating now about US failures. It's much easier to blame others and draft a solution.

mbast on :

"What would be the solution?" Gute Frage. Nächste Frage.... Well, there is one certainty in that whole mess: there is no easy way out. Easy solutions (like pulling out all western military and civilian presence at once) are no solutions at all. Whatever you do, it's all going to be very complicated and long-term anyway if you want to have any chance of success. I'm no expert on the question, and even the Iraqis themselves seem to be divided over what the future for Iraq should look like. So much so that there is a virtual certainty of civil war if ever the Americans pull their military out. Which is why I can't really subscribe to that solution. Then again, when I read about the way some American troops carry on in the areas they're in charge of, I wonder.... I fear that the US military has put itself in a "no win situation" in that it won't be able to guarantee security without a minimum of cooperation by the Iraqi population. That cooperation, however, does not seem to be forthcoming in the foreseeable future. So I guess the only possibility will be to hang in there, try not to mess up too badly and hope that time will heal a few wounds. And btw, things like the Abu Ghraib scandals can definitely not be allowed to happen again. On the "civilian front", I suppose the Americans should allow European firms and governments to pitch in, and the Europeans should be a little more willing to help. That's about all I can think of. Now there may be a genius somewhere out there who has a ready-made solution for all of this, but I honestly doubt that.

2020 on :

"Do not be hasty because your disappointments will be huge...You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat." Mohammed Sahaff, mocked as Baghdad Bob (Comical Ali) - as an example for American Schadenfreude. "Congress, the press, and the bureaucracy too often focus on how much money or effort is spent, rather than whether the money or effort actually achieves the announced goal." Donald Rumsfeld...

Zyme on :

At good step towards solving the problems would be to collect the data needed to create a digital map of Iraq that can be constantly updated. A map showing in different colors the sectors with high crime and violence rating and those that have established order and public security. Then you could start collecting the reasons for why in certain sectors public security is re-established and why in others, it is not. And after this you could start to find out which conditions of the positive sectors can be applied to the negative ones. At that point you actually had a plan for the solution of the most urgent problems. But I fear the occupying powers wouldn´t like the results, as they would demand too much money, personal ressources and will.

randy on :

Sitting in the Crown room at Frankfurt Airport. I spent my day yesterday walking around the forest behind the hotel. I found out it was a US Army garrison many years ago. There is absolutely no marker to mention this. I have come here many times and as of late my opinion of the German people is that they are a nation lacking purpose, a goal which drives them forward. Its a great place, mind you, but no visible drive other than eco-self flagellation. They are very critical of the US yet have a short memory of what put them where they are today. Sort of like a spoiled suburban child.

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