Saturday, March 05, 2005

Exit Der Spiegel

After my friendly post on Der Spiegel, I fact-checked them. Turns out that they present opinion as fact, don't check the facts they do present, and they suppress important context. So they're off my blogroll. The past is the past, and I don't hold modern Germans responsible for the sins of their fathers. But I do expect truthful journalism from them.

The Spiegel feature claims three American war crimes, which I've checked out on Google and Wikipedia.

"(General Patton's troops in Sicily) killed 150 Italian soldiers and 50 Germans - after they had already surrendered"

Prisoners killed numbered 73, not 200. The officers and men responsible were prosecuted by the US Army as war criminals and convicted.

Spiegel omits the context. The killings took place during a brutal battle in which over 50,000 men were killed or wounded on Allied and Axis sides. And WW2 was a war to the death. In 1943 German savagery on the Eastern Front was known and the Allies reasonably believed that if Germany won, tens of millions of Brits and Americans would be killed or enslaved.

As an example of what the Allies faced, consider Oradour-sur-Glane. In June 1944, in reprisal for a Resistance raid, German troops slaughtered the whole village. They separated the men from the women and children, who they shut up in the local church. Then they machine-gunned the 197 men. Then they burned the 240 women and 205 kids alive in the church.

Allied POWs (Prisoners of War) knew what to expect from the Germans.
POWs were entitled to escape under international law, but the Germans shot any escapees under the Kugel Erlass (bullet decree) which provided for the immediate execution of any flyers found on the ground. Hitler called the Allied air forces “terror flyers” and Nazi party members lynched many. 50 RAF airmen who escaped from Silesia in 1944 and quickly recaptured were machine-gunned. Their names were posted as a warning to others.

Even though Germany signed the Geneva Convention for the humane treatment of prisoners, the Nazi ideology of racial purity and the thirst for vengeance led to millions of POWs dying in forced labor or shot by German ground forces.

"The US is Guilty of war crimes in Guantanamo"

A statement of opinion, not fact. Although there has been a war crime claim filed against the US Government in Germany - see this article in the World Socialist Web - there has been no trial or judgment.

"The US is guilty of war crimes in Iraq"

Context shows they mean Abu Ghraib. This is another statement of opinion, not fact. The US has charged 6 personnel with offenses that include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. So far 3 have been convicted, The crimes are nasty, but not a war crime and similar to what goes on in bad jails the world over, possibly even in Germany. Spiegel suppresses the context again. Nobody had their head sawed off. Nobody was burned alive. Nobody had their tongue torn out. Nobody was forced to kill their kids. Nobody was machine gunned. No toddlers were bulldozed alive into mass graves.

Context is all about degree. Killing of 73 prisoners is always wrong, but less terrible than, say, the "shared responsibility" of the EU's French and Dutch "Peacekeepers" for the Serbian murder of 7,000 men and rape of thousands of children and women at Srebrenica in 1995.