What the Foreign Op-Ed Pages Say About Bin Laden's Killing

The French are inflamed with liberal zeal, a Spanish op-ed brings up Melville, and more

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Even the American publications barely managed to get a quick editorial onto the op-ed page for today's papers; news of Osama bin Laden's killing came late at night on the East Coast--a troublesome time for print editors worldwide. Now, however, the headlines have shifted into arguments. Here, in a special edition of Home News from Afar, we've provided a sampling of some of the most interesting op-eds thus far.

Impassioned Poetry from France

An editorial in the French Le Monde stands out:

"His death will close a somber decade in relations between the Arab world and the Occident, opened by the attack of September eleventh and closed up by the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, by Tahrir Square in Cairo, and by the aspirations of the Arab peoples to democracy and the rights of man. ... The change in the Arab world ... is reinforced by the death of the most charismatic of the jihadists--and the prudence of which the White House communications are proof guards again all triumphalism ... This president, sneered at by his tea party adversaries for pusillanimity ... has succeeded in what the braggarts in the previous administration failed to do, despite the liberticidal drifts of the war on terror: kill those responsible for the September 11 attacks, "do justice" according to its proper meaning, to the innocent victims of the World Trade Center, of the Pentagon, and of the airplane which crashed in flight."

Sharply Contrasting Views of America from Germany

Compare this glowing review from Die Welt's Thomas Schmid...

The USA worked persistently for this goal, never taking its eye off it. If it is true, that crucial information on the whereabouts of the target came from the Guantanamo detainees, this would throw a new light on America's handling of terrorism suspects: as problematic as the stockpiling and choosing of detainees is--there were good reasons to set up Guantanamo and not to close it prematurely. ...

In words that could come on the lips of no German politician, [Obama] justified a man's murder from America's horizon of values. No word of revenge, but the signal was clear, that at the end, despite all pragmatism, Americans' indivisible nation is so holy to them that they will always be ready to defend it--the Pilgrims will not have fled the European despots for nothing. ... Now as it seemed to all the world that America after the attacks of 9/11 had, as a result, done everything wrong: from Afghanistan to Iraq to, again, Afghanistan. Today it looks a bit different. ... The world of 2011 is no longer the world of 2001.

...to Henryk Broder's much more critical take in the same paper. Several readers left notes saying things like, "I hope this is satire," but a quick perusal of Broder's Wikipedia page suggests he has something of a reputation for polemic.

And today the Americans celebrate again as if they had solved all their problems with a single blow: high unemployment, galloping national debt, failed health care reform, the tarnished image of the USA in the world. The execution of Osama bin Laden--or should one call it murder?--lets them quickly forget their cares, and is a balm to the wounds of the nation. ...

In the USA too the rule applies that every suspect must be innocent until proof to the contrary. Guilt or lack of guilt can only be decided by a fair judge. ... Probably [Osama] was not offered the chance to give himself up. Such a procedure is unworthy of a constitutional state. Even Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind of the Final Solution to the Jewish question, was charged and judged with due process.

From Spain, a Comparison to Moby Dick

Some pretty heavy stuff here from El País's Enric Gonzáles:

Each society is reflected in a story that, mysteriously, contains the code of collective instincts. The U.S. worships a strange tale of horror, obsession, purity, vengeance and catharsis written by Herman Melville in 1851: Moby Dick. On September 11, 2001, the metaphor of the monster seemed to be fierce and elusive reality. The white whale was transformed into a tall, soft-spoken man with which a whole country had something akin to an outstanding bill. ... If Osama bin Laden took to the collective condition of cruel and elusive monster, Americans were put in the shoes of Captain Ahab: there was no other purpose than revenge. Never mind the means, no matter the consequences. It was a moral issue with absolutely no possibility of nuance. ... With Osama bin Laden, the American story took on a dark mystique. ... A vapid president who came to the White House through a judicial fluke, George W. Bush was capable of things unthinkable. And these things he did, by popular acclaim. ...

As in Moby Dick , the end of the "monster", the man called Osama bin Laden, provokes a certain bitter stupor. As if waking from a nightmare and finding that the nightmare is still there.

From the Arab World, Some Thoughts About Al-Qaeda's Survival

Here's just one of several offerings in the pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. More to come. This is from Ghassan Charbel:

Killing bin Laden does not mean the end of Al Qaeda. And it does not mean the end of terrorism.Yet it may be considered an important event in the battle of symbols. And it confirms to Al Qaeda the punishment of the perpetrator, whoever it was. The battle against terrorism will remain open. The drainage of its resources requires combating injustice and poverty, marginalization and occupation. It requires freedom, prospects of openness, development and reform and participation.

Heather Horn is fluent in written German and French, and proficient in written Arabic. All other languages are muddled through with the help of Google Translate.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.