April 1st, 2007 09:47 EST
War on Terror - who wants to win?
That terrorism must be stopped is obvious to most everyone. Once terrorists are caught and sentenced, they should be kept from the society for as long as the court finds it reasonable, too. Yet, there are politicians, governments even, for whom this argument rings hollow.
Brigitte Mohnhaupt is one of these women who you feel you could trust imediately. For a 57-year-old, she has preserved most of her beauty that she was once famous for. Type her name in any of the Internet search engines and you will find a plethora of black and white pictures of a sexy girl with long, brown hair, deep, black eyes and a sharp nose that must have broken many men's hearts during her student years. But there is something deceptive in her looks. Brigitte Monhaupt is a former member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), an infamous German terrorist group, responsible for dozens of deaths -- among them several American citizens. Some of the victims died at Monhaupt's hand, some of them she helped kill indirectly. She has never regretted a single victim.
After years of pursuing the rabbit, the German police eventually managed to find and arrest Monhaupt in the early 1980s. During the trial, people could watch her standing motionless while the prosecutor was reading out a long list of the alleged crimes. Probably, she thought she was tough when, without the blink of an eye, she answered that regret was out of question. She had killed for the right cause: to turn West Germany into a socialist idyll and make her people enjoy that comfort and standard of living as their comrades in the Soviet Union did. Revolution, she said, was worth many victims. Unsurprisingly, the judge had no doubts sentencing her to five terms of life in prison.
When people seemingly buried the troubled history and returned to bourgeois routine, they found they were in for a rude awakening. On February 12, 2007, the appellate court of Stuttgart proclaimed that Monhaupt had learned her lesson and, having been imprisoned for only 25 years, could be released. German politicians from left to right expressed their deep gratitude for the country's penitentiary system, which had produced another law-abiding citizen. As if it was not enough, the local authorities granted Monhaupt police protection so as “not to endanger her return to society.” One might think that a quarter of a century passes in a flash, but for the German government it appears to be long enough to reshape its policy completely. Once a terrorist, now a victim. Once relatives and friends of the murdered, now a threat to liberal society.
If fanatics like Osama bin Laden read newspapers or surf the Internet (which they obviously do), they could not be happier. A clear message has been sent that whatever they plan, they can sleep peacefully. Even if they are so unlucky to survive their suicide bombings, they can be certain that after few years in a comfortable prison, scores of avid defenders of freedom will secure their untroubled comeback to the society they once tried to destroy. The Monhaupt case sounds almost like an invitation for terrorists – come here, bomb our homes, scare us, or even kill us, and we will still love you and greet you with open hands.
It is not only a problem for Germany and other European democracies. Locked in a vicious circle of misunderstood tolerance and liberalism, they have already spoiled all kinds of thugs by accepting their outrageous behavior. One only needs to remind oneself what happened in France a year ago, when hordes of Muslim immigrants wreaked havoc on Paris' suburbs because the police had dared to arrest two of them. When Nikolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister, spoke his mind and called them “scum,” the French liberal media would slate him until the minister finally gave in and said he was sorry. In this case, Europe is lost. However, this meek attitude towards homegrown and foreign terrorists alike may severely hamper the war on terror still fought by America and her allies.
Brigitte Monhaupt may lead a life of a law-abiding citizen. However, keeping in mind that she has neither renounced violence nor apologized for her past, the more probable scenario is less optimistic. At best, she will join the ranks of other gray-haired apologists for communism who are now living their second youth in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. At worst, she will find out her old comrades and try to restart her revolution. Moreover, from that point, there is only a short distance to forging an unholy alliance with Muslim fanatics since the enemy has always been the same: the United States.
German authorities say that everyone deserves a second chance. Therefore, do terrorists like Brigitte Monhaupt? However, putting criminals' well-being over the safety of ordinary, hard-working citizens can quickly prove a risky business. Next time another bomb goes off in Madrid or London, or in any other place, politicians should blame themselves instead of pointing out a finger at American “blind” policy in the Middle East.
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