A Symbol of the Nation's Mood: 'Europeans Find the Ground Zero Celebrations Somewhat Embarrassing'
The death of Osama bin Laden has raised important questions about how far a country can go in the desire for revenge. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, German political scientist Herfried Münkler discusses whether democracies can carry out targeted killings and talks about the "unthinking naïveté" of the American celebrations at Ground Zero.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted by saying she was "glad" that the US had managed to kill bin Laden. She is now being criticized in Germany for expressing satisfaction at his death. Is it acceptable to celebrate the death of a man, even if he was a mass murderer?
Münkler: The question of revenge did not play a major role for Ms. Merkel, in my opinion. She just happened to express herself in an unfortunate way. Her statement shows the semantic insensitivity of a trained scientist. (Eds note: Merkel is a physicist by training.) Instead, Merkel could have said something like: 'I am pleased that the problem of Osama bin Laden being at liberty has been solved' or 'I am pleased that my colleague Obama has achieved such a success.'
SPIEGEL ONLINE: How should politicians deal with the desire for revenge?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: At Ground Zero in New York, people openly rejoiced about the death of bin Laden. The images were reminiscent of Muslims celebrating in the Gaza Strip after the 9/11 attacks. Do you think that is acceptable?
Münkler: For European observers, these kinds of public gatherings are indeed somewhat embarrassing, because they demonstrate a kind of unthinking naïveté, and also because there is something provocative about them. But it was only a small number of Americans who demonstrated their feelings so openly, just as in 2001 it was only a few Muslims who were happy about the thousands who were killed in the terror attacks. Nevertheless, the photos of the revelers at Ground Zero have now become the definitive symbol of the entire nation's mood. That is something that cannot be changed, unfortunately.
Interview conducted by Anna Reimann.
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