German Foreign Minister Westerwelle on Death of bin Laden

By Stephen Fuchs on Email @StephenWFuchs

Germany.info released an interview, originally published in Die Welt with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on his thoughts about the recent death os Osama bin Laden.  Some of his responses are included below…

Mr Westerwelle, the Federal Chancellor and the CSU Chairman have said they are pleased that Osama bin Laden has been killed.Is that an appropriate reaction from representatives of a state based on the rule of law which has emphatically abolished the death penalty?

The fact that Osama bin Laden cannot continue his bloody deeds is good news for the whole world, for the West and for the vast majority of people of the Muslim faith. And I think it’s understandable that there is a certain feeling of relief that this terrorist, who had many thousands of victims on his conscience, can no longer spread his terrors. With regard to the storming of the house, it has been reported that the terrorist leader, for whom an international arrest warrant had been issued, defended himself using a weapon. He is said to have been killed during an exchange of fire.

So as far as you know there was no deliberate attempt to kill him?

It is reported that a fight broke out and he was killed in the course of it. I have no other information than that.

Already there are calls from the opposition here in Germany for the Bundeswehr engagement in Afghanistan to end now that bin Laden is dead.

That would be reckless in foreign policy terms and would run counter to our own security interests. After all, we didn’t go to Afghanistan to catch a terrorist leader. We went to prevent Kabul from once again becoming the global capital of terrorism, as it was under the Taliban. Terrible attacks are planned, and murderers are trained, in Afghanistan. The remaining terror camps in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan still pose an immediate threat to the citizens of Europe and Germany. It is no coincidence, you see, that the members of both the Sauerland group and the recently detained Düsseldorf terrorist cell were trained in al-Qaida camps. We will continue to pursue our present policy on Afghanistan, because over the past 16 months it has brought us the prospect of withdrawal.

There are radical forces who want to use bin Laden’s death for their own ends. How can they be countered?

First of all we must take care that our reactions here in the West – as understandable as the feeling of relief may be – do not send the wrong signals to the world, signals that would help incite or glorify al-Qaida. Religious cultures must be respected, Islam must be respected. Seeing misguided individuals in the West burn the Koran in their religious fanaticism is something which not only disgusts me personally; it also has a political impact, because it plays into the hands of radical forces. We should instead use this time now to work towards détente, understanding and dialogue. The time has come for a new chapter in relations between the West and the Arab world. Because for the vast majority of young people in the Arab world terrorism belongs to yesterday; the young people want to live in greater freedom, and above all they want better opportunities.

It’s said that the information that finally put the USA on bin Laden’s trail came from Guantanamo. Do you see any occasion to reassess the prison camp or George W. Bush’s policy?

We won’t know what information led to finding bin Laden until all the relevant papers have been evaluated. So the history will be written in a few years’ time. But one thing is clear: we share President Obama’s critical view of Guantanamo. It is our view that in a democracy there should be no prisons which ignore the state’s own legal order.

Feel free to share your thoughts and also check out the entire interview, which includes more questions on Germany’s Middle East policy, at the Germany.info site.

Photo © NATO

Stephen Fuchs
Stephen founded German Pulse and LGBT Germany out of a passion to introduce Americans to a Germany that goes beyond beer and polka (although with enough beer he has been known to polka it up a bit). He's a coffee addict, lover of wine and good times, a hit in the kitchen and editor of TV commercials. You can follow him on Twitter (@StephenWFuchs) to find out a lot more.
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