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Monday, 1. January 2007

German News Anti-American?

I've copy-pasted this from another site where it was originally posted. My copy-paste also includes comments made at the other site:

German news "anti-American"?
A friend of mine recently remarked that the German state-sponsored news programs are a source of anti-American propaganda. I disagreed, pointing out that they are critical of many things, not just the United States, including the German government itself. Well, the coverage of Saddam Hussein's execution last night made me rethink that assessment. In the ZDF 19:00 news, the summary of Saddam's political biography included the following "facts":

- During his war against Iraq, he was a "armed by the United States."

- When he attacked Kuwait, he was a "friend" and "ally" of the U.S. (Verbundeter) now turned enemy.

Excuse me? Certainly, a quick google search for terms such as "armed Iraq" or "weapons for Saddam" and the like will give one the impression that the United States was Iraq's biggest friend in the 1980s. But that is not the case. The United States helped supply the Iraqi military and even played a role in supporting Iraq's chemical weapons program. But the United States also armed Iraq's enemy, Iran.

U.S. policy was arguably cynical, deadly, counter-productive and many other things. But the U.S. was not alone.

Who armed Saddam Hussein before 1990?

- 53% of his arms came from the Soviet Union.
- 20% came from France. Yes, France.
- China 7%
- Brazil 4%
- Egypt 4%
- Czechoslovakia 4%

(figures for the period 1980-1989)

All other suppliers combined made up for 10% of his arms imports -including the support given by the United States and GERMANY. Germany played an important role in developing Iraqi missile and chemical weapons capabilities. (See Hippler, Jochen: Iraq's Military Power: The German Connection. Middle East Report, Jan-Feb 1991, 27-31.)

Instead of mentioning these facts, the German news report ZDF heute and the ZDF-Spezial mentioned only that Saddam was "heavily armed" by the United States (hochgeruestet) and that the U.S. did "not leave his side, even when he used poison gas."

The video "potrait" of Saddam now available at is fairer. It emphasizes the French role in Iraq's nuclear program and notes that many people profited off of Saddam in the 1970s . The German role in building
up his chemical weapons program is mentioned. But the weapons for the attack on Iran "come from the USA and Europe."

The impression is still that the USA is, as usual, the primary culprit. In this particular case, I don't think that is the case. The lack of any mention of the large role played by the Soviet Union in arming Saddam's dictatorial regime is telling.
mhatlie - 31. Dec, 13:33 - edit

2 comments - add comment

P Shrier (guest) - 4. Jan, 21:53
Bias in the Media
I am surprised that you are just now realizing that the european news is slanted. In my 8 years in germany i always thought it was amzing how different American and German reporting about the same event could sound. My wife, who is German agrees though we disagree about who is more accurate. I will never forget how the retaking of Samarra in Iraq in sep-oct 2004 was reported, compared to the reality of the operation on the ground.
I now no longer trust any popular media outlet whether fox news or MSNBC. The medias distortion of facts has jaded me to the point where I want independent verification of everything they say.

mhatlie - 8. Jan, 11:56
Yes and no...
It is a bit of an exaggeration to say that I am "just now realizing that the European news is slanted." It is the crass anti-Americanism in some cases that I am becoming more aware of. It is not totally new for me. I considered Der Spiegel anti-American in 1987, when I was reading it before I came to Germany, for example. I would probably still agree with your wife on some issues.

But this will certainly color my viewing in the future. A story in the weekend paper is an example. It is about a German citizen who has been rotting in a Virginia prison for 20 years. On the one hand, the general data presented in the article is probably accurate and reflects a real problem (for example Virginia has less than 1/4 the population of Canada, but twice as many people in jail and continues to build prisons and close schools). But I simply don't trust their portrayal of the particular case which is the focus of the article: A man who was convicted despite his purportedly obvious innocence, going before parol boards one of whose members actually fell asleep during the hearing, etc. I can't help but suspect they are leaving out information which would give a more nuanced picture of the situation.

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