30 January 2007

Germany v Downer

After the hors d'oeuvre he touches on the German army's mission in Afghanistan. But it isn't until the main course is served that Steinmeier asks: "Do you want to talk about it now?" After a rundown of the world's crises he knows it's time for him to turn to his own personal trouble spot: The case of Murat Kurnaz, who spent four and a half years in detention at Guantanamo Bay where he was mistreated.

Steinmeier is earnest and seems a bit irritated but is by no means defensive. He insists that he feels deeply troubled by Kurnaz's story. But then he adds that, as head of the German Chancellery, it was his job to look out for German security -- and, shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Kurnaz was considered a security risk.

What if Kurnaz, after returning from Guantanamo, had been involved in an attack, he asks? "You have to imagine what would have happened," he says, answering his own question, "if there had been an attack and it later turned out that we could have prevented it." Steinmeier is a calm person but at this point he talks himself into a rage. "I wouldn't decide any differently today," he says.

It's a strong sentence by someone who is intent on sticking to his position. Rather than make proclamations of repentance, Steinmeier wants to convince critics that his actions were necessary.

A committee of the German parliament is investigating their government's response to the War on Terror. The investigation has found that Steinmeier, now the foreign minister and then head of chancery (roughly a minister assisting in our terms) took a decision not to accept an offer of release for a Guantánamo detainee in 2002. Now that David Hicks' unlawful detention at Guantánamo has passed the five year mark, someone should ask our foreign minister and our government if they received a similar offer. It'd be strange, if not impossible, if the US was less generous to Australia than Germany.

Perhaps the government could refer the question to a competent US psychologist, since it seems they consult competent US jounalists on psychological questions.

The next question to the Australian government, if they tell us there was a US offer to Germany but not Australia, is: 'Why not?'.

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