It looks like Angela Merkel will refuse to be Bush's poodle (a la Tony Blair). The Los Angeles Times reports today on comments the chancellor made in her interview with Der Spiegel:
In an interview published Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Washington should close its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp and find other ways of dealing with terrorism suspects.
"An institution like Guantanamo can and should not exist in the longer term," Merkel told the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, days before her first visit to the United States. "Different ways and means must be found for dealing with these prisoners."
It will be interesting to see how this plays out on Friday when Merkel meets with President Bush in Washington. The neoconservative gang was anxious to see Gerhard Schroeder leave office, but Angela Merkel could be a much bigger headache, since she is seen (so far) as having a much more independent position (outside the Schroeder - Chirac - Putin axis). In any event, her remarks on Guantanamo were welcomed even by the opposition parties in Germany:
Eine Schließung sei überfällig und würde „die Glaubwürdigkeit der USA als freiheitsliebendes Land fördern“, sagte Grünen-Fraktionschef Fritz Kuhn. FDP-Vorsitzender Guido Westerwelle mahnte gleichfalls, auch im Kampf gegen den Terrorismus könne es keine rechtsfreien Räume geben. „Auch für unsere Verbündeten muß die Menschenwürde überall unantastbar sein.“
In a related story, there is both good and bad news concerning the case of Murat Kurnaz, the young Muslim from Bremen who has been languishing in the Guantanamo prison without charges since early 2002. Der Spiegel reports that that the German government will join with Turkey in negotiating for his release. Up to now, the German government has refused to get involved, since Kurnaz is not a German citizen (he is the son of Turkish guest workers). The bad news is that the German Ministry of the Interior will refuse to allow Kurnaz to return to Germany after his release until May of 2007; they fear that he has become "radicalized" by the torture and the long imprisonment at the hands of the Americans. I cannot think of a more blatant case of "blaming the victim". Kurnaz was born in Germany - it is the only country he has ever known. Where else should he go?
Also worth reading today is this report in the Guardian on the brutal force-feeding techniques being used on the 81 hunger strikers at the Guantanamo prison. All the more reason to shut down this travesty, as Angela Merkel now demands.