"The New York Times has a front-page article today about how the fear of terrorism in Germany is leading to a slow but inexorable erosion of civil liberties," writes David Vickrey in Dialog International. David also translates an editorial in Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which accuses Germany's Interior Minister Schaeuble of hysteria and of talking "as if it were vital to prepare the way for the Guantanamisation of Germany's judicial system." Personal sarcastic comment: Great that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung is not hysterical... Besides, I agree to some extent with the professor of law quoted in the NYT: "If something happened, the same people who are criticizing him [Schaeuble] for going too far would criticize him for not going far enough." A serious debate about the usefulness of certain counter-terrorism measures and their impact on civil liberties is good.
Koehler urged Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble to show restraint in presenting ideas which he said could unnecessary unsettle the population. It was the duty of the minister 'to wrack his brains' over the best way to protect citizens, the president said in an interview on Germany's second television channel ZDF. But the staccato 'manner in which the suggestions came about' was not ideal. Schaeuble called for legal powers to intern terrorist 'combatants' before they struck and said that Germany might have to introduce a US-style criminal offence of conspiracy to commit a crime. The minister, who outlined his thoughts in the news magazine Der Spiegel last week, also proposed a ban on the use of the internet and mobile phones by people the state deemed to be dangerous. Schaeuble also called for clarification under what conditions the constitution permits the state to target and kill terrorists. President Koehler said he had his doubts whether 'the killing of a suspected terrorist without a court ruling could be treated so lightly.' The minister's remarks, particularly those about targetted assassinations, provoked outrage in Germany, with opposition Greens party leader Claudia Roth calling on him to resign.
The New York Times' Germany correspondent Mark Landler often exaggerates and is sometimes just wrong. The latest example is his July 11 article "Debate on Terror Threat Stirs Germany," which starts with
While the British public reacted to the latest terrorist strike there with stoicism and a practiced determination to get on with their lives, Germany has erupted in a rancorous dispute over how to deal with a terrorist threat that has yet to materialize here.
I take issue with these claims: First of all, is Landler saying that Germans are not "getting on with their lives"? He certainly gives that impression with the comparison with Britain. Hey, this fear mongering did not happen in Germany: "Americans have apparently heeded the U.S. government's advice to prepare for terror attacks, emptying hardware store shelves of duct tape," reported CNN in February 2003. Second, the German debate about the government's counter-terrorism plans has not "erupted" after the failed terrorist strikes in Britain, but has been going on since September 11, 2001. Every Interior Secretary has been accused of overreacting and violating civil liberties. There is a healthy debate going on about the right measures. What's wrong with that? Such debates took place in Britain as well in the past. Third, a terrorist threat has "materialized" in Germany many years ago; definitely since the deployment of the Bundeswehr to Afghanistan in early 2002. In the past, many American observers, like Instapundit and Anne Applebaum claimed that Europe is denial about terrorism.
Last year Pursuit of Serenity has criticized the exaggerated article by Mark Landler "Bomb Plot Shocks Germans Into Antiterrorism Debate."
Landler has also exaggerated today's impact of unexploded World War II bombs in his article "60 Years Later, Buried Bombs Still Frighten Germans, and Kill Some." Marian Wirth, the author of Pursuit of Serenity, has criticized this article in his blog post The Germans, the War - and Bombs and added:
It's not for the first time, that I got the impression that Mr. Landler is exaggerating things and is actually drawing a picture of Germany which strucks me as... inaccurate.
Why is the New York Times coverage of Germany so shrill and portraits Germans as being "shocked" and "frightened"? Are they trying to compete with the New York Post?
After three failed terror attacks in London and Glasgow, the Brits continue with the big public events this weekend, like the Gay Pride Parade, Wimbledon and the concert for Diana. The German paper Tagesspiegel praises the "stiff upper lip." The Nosemonkey in London has the right attitude and writes "Terrorists these days are rubbish." Would Germans and Americans be as cool and continue with business as usual?
Shortly after the London attacks of 7/7/2005, the We're not Afraid campaign started. Remember the funny pictures demonstrating fearlessness in solidarity with Britain and in defiance of the global terror movements? A good reminder from the "We're not Afraid" About us page:
We refuse to respond to aggression and hatred in kind. Instead, we who are not afraid will continue to live our lives the best way we know how. We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear. We are not afraid.
California's Pepperdine University is hosting a conference about the Eurabia nonsense. Some of the topics of discussions have a few questionmarks, but it is clear in which direction they are going. Some samples:
1. What has been the role of Islam and the EU bureaucracy in fostering collapse? 2. Eurabia: Is Muslim domination of Europe inevitable? 3. Is Europe doomed to continued economic stagnation? 4. Civil Rights or Global Jihad? Are Muslims exploiting the democratic process to erode and destroy European democracy? 5. Collapse of Confidence; How much have Europeans Given Up on Their Own Civilization? 6. The end of the European Enlightenment and the growth of a closed thought society. 7. Europe’s post-Christian society and its mirror in the United States. 8. What steps can be taken in the United States to address the problems of Europe?
Dear readers, would you describe this conference setup as Anti-Europeanism and Islamophobia? I am surprised that they don't have a panel about Rapture Readiness.
The list of speakers is extremely one-sided and includes many prominent supporters of the Eurabia myth. Wasn't California supposed to be liberal? What happened to academic standards of listening to both sides? The Polish consulate in New York got into trouble, when an NGO organised a discussion with Tony Judt about the Israel lobby in one of the consulate's rooms. The event was cancelled, but this conference probably will not get canceled because it is about Muslims and Europe rather than about Jews and Israel.
If you happen to be passing though Malibu next month, why not pop into an intriguing-sounding conference at Pepperdine University on "The Collapse of Europe". One of the early sessions is entitled - "Eurabia: Is Muslim domination of Europe inevitable?" My answer to this is "No" it's not inevitable. In fact, given that the Muslim population of Europe is just 4% at the moment, I would say it's highly unlikely. But don't trying telling that to an audience of American conservatives. The idea that Europe is about to be submerged by the Muslim hordes seems to be almost received wisdom over there. It is certainly a notion that has launched a great many books.
"Europeans of a nervous disposition should probably avoid going into bookshops on their next visit to the US. If they venture inside, they will come across an array of titles with a blood-curdlingly bleak view of their continent’s future." writes Gideon Rachman:
In Bruce Bawer’s While Europe Slept (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) -- now into its eighth printing -- the American reader is told that by ignoring the threat from radical Islam: "Europe is steadily committing suicide and perhaps all we can do is look on in horror." Tony Blankley, author of The West's Last Chance (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), warns that: "The threat of the radical Islamists taking over Europe is every bit as great to the United States as was the threat of the Nazis taking over Europe in the 1940s." In The Cube and the Cathedral (Amazon.com, Amazon.de), George Weigel, a Catholic conservative, claims that "western Europe is committing a form of demographic suicide". In this he echoes Pat Buchanan, who argued in his best-selling The Death of the West (Amazon.com, Amazon.de) that Europe's population is set to fall to 30 per cent of its current level by 2100, meaning that "the cradle of western civilisation will have become its grave".
I suspect that few Europeans would recognise themselves in this distorting mirror held up from the other side of the Atlantic. And yet -- tempting as it was to toss all these books into the bin and go out for a drink in the midst of my doomed civilisation (one might as well enjoy what little time is left) -- it is impossible completely to dismiss the American prophets of European doom. Strip away the hysteria and the hype and they make two serious points.
He describes these points as rising Muslim populations and low fertility rates, but also points out:
Similarly, the American vision of a Muslim takeover of Europe -- creating a new continent called "Eurabia" -- relies on projecting demographic trends to their limit and beyond. Weigel fantasises about a day when "the muezzin summons the faithful to prayer from the central loggia of St Peter's in Rome". Given that just 1.7 per cent of the Italian population is currently Muslim, that seems a long way off. Of the 456m people of the EU, just 15m to 16m are Muslim.
"The American vision"? Surely, most Americans do not share these opinions...? The Financial Times provides his entire review article. Endnote: Davids Medienkritik approvingly quotes more Islamophobia, but also thankfully presents Dr. Gedmin's great column "If I were Muslim, I'd be offended by the Pope's speech". Related:Too Much Cookies (German Blog) analyses the Mozart opera controversy. English summary in Dialog International.
On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law a bill that critics consider "one of the most un-American in the nation's long history," writes Dan Froomkin for the Washington Post:
The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture. Here's what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: "The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom." But that may not be the "clear message" the new law sends most people. Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules.
And the LA Times points out that "the Justice Department moved immediately to request the dismissal of dozens of lawsuits filed by detainees challenging their incarceration."
The Independent asks in light of last week's shooting in the Rockies in Colorado and in the Amish county of Pennsylvania: "Can America ever be weaned off its love affair with guns?" and mentions these shocking statistics:
In the US, there are roughly 17,000 murders a year, of which about 15,000 are committed with firearms. By contrast, Britain, Australia and Canada combined see fewer than 350 gun-related murders each year. And it's not just about murder. The non-gun-related suicide rate in the US is consistent with the rest of the developed world. Factor in firearms, and the rate is suddenly twice as high as the rest of the developed world. Children are affected particularly hard. An American youth is murdered with a firearm every four and a half hours on average. And an American youth commits suicide with a firearm every eight hours. It's worth remembering that many of the most spectacular mass murders of recent years were really suicides, with the perpetrators choosing to take a few other people with them while they were at it.
Read the entire article at The Independent and the discussion at The Moderate Voice. Among Germany's 82 million citizens there have been 794 murders in 2005. That's two more murders than in 2004. These numbers are from "the German FBI" Bundeskriminalamt (pdf). DW World reports about "Safer Streets, Growing Fear",
Between 1993 and 2003, the number of murders fell by 40.8 percent and domestic burglaries fell by 45.7 percent. All in all, crime in general dropped by 2.6 percent during the 10-year period and today, Germany is considered one of the industrialized world's safer countries. But among the German populace, the mental picture of the nation's crime rate is markedly different. In a survey conducted in 2004 by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN), a representative sample of 2,000 people were asked about their perceptions of crime trends in the previous 10 years. In almost all categories of crime, respondents grossly overestimated crime rates in Germany.
Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to FBI data. Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years. Murders jumped from 272 to 334 in Houston, a 23 percent spike; from 330 to 377 in Philadelphia, a 14 percent rise; and from 131 to 144 in Las Vegas, a 10 percent increase. Despite the national numbers, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York were among several large cities that saw the number of murders drop. The overall increase in violent crime was modest, 2.5 percent, which equates to more than 1.4 million crimes. Nevertheless, that was the largest percentage increase since 1991.
Okay, let's do the math: Murders per 1.000.000 inhabitants in the US: 56,3. And in Germany: 9,7. That means the murder rate is nearly six times higher in the US than in Germany.
Remember George Orwell's, "1984"? "Animal Farm"? Huxley's "Brave New World"? William Golding's "Lord of the Flies"? All of them were required readings in many an English class all over Germany. Have you always considered Mark Twain, Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath and John Steinbeck some of the greatest American writers? Did you always feel you should finally read those classics of American Literature: "Huckleberry Finn", "Gone With the Wind", "Little Farm on the Prairie"? Well, maybe you better hadn't. Because in some people's opinion, these are bad books, dangerous books, books that should disappear from school library shelves and required reading lists. Read why some American citizens are trying to censor books -- and how American authors, libraries and Booksellers counter the attack celebrating an annual "banned books week" every September. Atlantic Review editor Sonja Bonin wrote about it in Der Spiegel (in German).
A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. The positive message of Banned Books Week: Free People Read Freely is that due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.