Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

‘Sorry I can’t report a more U.S.-friendly opinion’

DISCUSSIONS | June 09, 2006

Guenter Haaf, Munich

1976 Nieman fellow; editorial director, Wort & Bild publishing house in Baierbrunn (Munich metropolitian area)

I'm editorial director at the Wort & Bild publishing house in Baierbrunn (Munich metropolitan area), and I'm in charge of the editorial quality of five health magazines with a combined monthly circulation of 14.5 million (nationwide distributed in Germany).

9/11 has been a shock to all people I know, and certainly to the great majority of German citizens (especially after the disclosure that the Atta group was based in Hamburg). There has been some criticism of the U.S. on the far left fringes by groups known for their basic anti-Americanism already.

Things have thoroughly changed with the Iraq war. Chancellor Schroeder won national elections by a very narrow margin most probably because of his opposition to George W. Bush and the Iraq war. Opposition to the Iraq war by a rather big majority of Germans has been steadfast since then, even though Schroeder lost the elections (and his office) last fall and the country now is governed by a grand coalition of conservative Christian Democrats and left-leaning Social Democrats led by chancellor Angela Merkel, CDU.

Distrust of the U.S. has been fueled, too, by a very negative image of George W. Bush as a not-so-bright, dogmatic, and internationally insensible politician. The ongoing carnage in Iraq, Guantanamo, the kidnapping of a German citizen by the CIA, the disastrous handling of hurricane Katrina, and the hard-to-believe advance of "intelligent design" in U.S. schools all led to a rather skeptical, if not outright negative image of the U.S. in this country.

The U.S. is viewed widely as an internationally insensible bully. Only a minority of Germans, mostly with personal experience in the U.S. and of some in-depth knowledge of U.S. history, still hope that U.S. domestic political checks-and-balance will eventually correct the internationally harmful course of the Bush II administration.

The fond memories of the Americans as friends helping this nation to find its path back to civilization after WW 2 is fading.

Sorry for not being able to report a more U.S.-friendly opinion.

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.