In Rumsfeld's Fall, Hope and Reckoning
Iranians expressed hope for avoiding confrontation with the United States as a result of Rumsfeld's departure, according to an AP report from Tehran. The Guardian's reporter in Tehran sent back a similar dispatch: "Sources close to the Islamic republic's theocratic leadership said yesterday that the replacement as US defence secretary of the hawkish Mr Rumsfeld by the more emollient Robert Gates improved the chances of direct talks between Tehran and Washington."
In Europe, Spiegel Online reports that some German newspapers worry that a more multilateral America will expect more military support from Europe.
There are two different schools of thought in the international media about what Rumsfeld's departure says about America.
I. A New America?
More than a few commentators say the Democratic congressional victories that prompted Rumsfeld's resignation show that Americans have finally overcome the trauma of Sept. 11.
Rumsfeld's departure is "the biggest marker of policy change" since the 2001 terror attacks, writers Greg Sheridan in The Australian.
"The citizens of the USA have finally emerged from the stupor into which they descended after 11 September and have voted for a change of
direction in the Iraq war, but also in economic and social policy," said El Pais in Spain.
"For the Americans the new balance of power in Washington means the chance of finally moving on from 9/11. It has become abundantly clear that anger is not a good counsel and war not the best weapon against terror," wrote Evita Neefs in the center-right Belgian daily De Standaard.
But the Arab News in Saudi Arabia questioned whether American has changed: "When US arms seemed to be triumphant, Bush enjoyed his highest poll ratings. But Americans don't like losers. That is why they delivered their devastating verdict on the administration and the Republicans who once backed it so enthusiastically. There was however little reference in all the campaign rhetoric to the horrors Bush has brought to Iraqis, proving that even now, Americans can only see this disaster in their own insular terms," the editors wrote Thursday.
The Jordan Times said "Americans have realised that more and more people given the choice between being with or against the bully are choosing the latter.
"We can only hope that this is the beginning of a long overdue realisation among Americans that neither are they alone in this world nor do they have a monopoly on the right values or the use of force," declared the Amman daily.
II. A Moment of Reckoning?
Other commentators hope for accountability, not change, from America.
In Baghdad, Azzaman (in Arabic) called Rumsfeld's departure "a simple gesture toward the wounded Iraqi people who suffered from Rumsfeld's policy and from the crimes of his collaborators."
The independent daily said Rumsfeld's appointees should also resign: "They should observe the satisfaction in Iraq after the departure of a politician whose name is linked to the worst crimes, from Abu Ghraib's scandal and the unleashing of the criminal groups in the streets to the unwise decision of dissolving one of the best and most nationalist armies in the region, paving the way to the civil war and the partition of Iraq."
"Rumsfeld's fall is the beginning of the end of all who served him in the field, Iraqis and non Iraqis..." said the Azzaman editors.
The London-based Arab daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi said the Iraq resistance "deserves the credit for inflicting this resounding defeat on the US President and his party because of its steadfastness and bold military operations and its foiling of the occupation and all the political processes originating from it."
The Palestinian-owned daily said "Iraq's curse... will certainly chase [Bush] until he is brought before the international tribunal as a war criminal who committed crimes against humanity because the Iraqis' blood and the destruction he had left in their country should not be in vain."
Writing in the London Telegraph, Norman Lamont says "Mr Bush and his new Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, need to realise that greater humility is badly needed in the foreign policy of America. It has transferred to the 'war on terror' the mindset and methods of the Cold War. The Islamic revival, which started with the Iranian Revolution and which today is fuelled by Muslim poverty and humiliation, means there will inevitably be governments in the Middle East not to the liking of the West."
Al-Jazeera's newscast of Rumseld's resignation emphasized the view of a U.S. human rights lawyer that former Guantanamo prisoners who claim they were tortured on Rumsfeld's watch will now find it easier to sue him.
"Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, said that the Center plans to file a new case before a German court, under the universal jurisdiction law, charging Rumsfeld and others of torture," the Arab News channel reported, according the Open Source Center, a subscription site run by the CIA that translates the international media.
According to the newscast, Ratner "added that Rumsfeld sanctioned a host of torture techniques in Guantanamo, such as the use of dogs and sexual humiliation. He added that the resignation deprives Rumsfeld of his immunity and allows the filing of complaints against him in the United States and abroad."
France's Le Monde wonders if Bush has really changed: "The president hasn't yet recognized that his strategy is bad. He pretends remaining firm on the principles and excludes the idea of a defeat in Iraq. But he wants to change tactics. He is looking for a way out, a way to repatriate the 'boys' without letting Iraq consumed by chaos. The task is difficult. (...). Robert Gates, like Donald Rumsfeld, can't win the war in Iraq. To protect the reputation of the president, his mission is to avoid loosing it in humiliating conditions.
* "Thank you, America" (Guardian Editorial, Nov. 9)
* "Relief Suffuses World Views of U.S. Vote" (The Washington Post, Nov. 10).
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