Germany Condemns Anti-War Poster Hailing Soldier's Death

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Germany's defense minister has condemned as an insult to the country's troops an anti-war poster that calls the death of a soldier in Afghanistan a "step to disarmament."

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung was quoted by the Bild newspaper Thursday as saying that the poster on the Web site of Germany's "Bureau for Antimilitary Measures" group was "tasteless" and "irresponsible."

"It is a slap in the face to our soldiers who risk their lives for Germany's freedom," he told the top-selling newspaper, a week after a German soldier was killed in a roadside bombing in northern Afghanistan.

The downloadable poster — which has been available for five years — shows three soldiers standing next to the flag-draped coffin of a comrade killed in a 2002 helicopter crash in Afghanistan. "We greet this concrete measure to reduce the size of the military one-by-one," reads the caption under the poster's headline.

The poster was produced in conjunction with the Berlin-area branch of the larger peace organization DFG-VK, whose parent organization on Thursday said it had not been sanctioned. The group called the poster an "inappropriate form of addressing the issue of Germany's involvement in war."

"The cynicism of the poster is for us hard to bear," the group said in a statement. "Our humanistic world view forbids us from gratification at the death of any human being — even in the form of satire."

At the same time the group insisted "The poster, however, is not a crime — unlike the war that deliberately claims the lives of soldiers and innocent civilians."

It was not clear why the controversy has surfaced now, though Bild's interview with Jung came Wednesday during the defense minister's surprise visit to Afghanistan in the wake of the recent attack on German forces.

In the United States, the Bush administration has blocked media coverage of the coffins of slain service members arriving home but there has been no such ban in Germany.

Twenty-six German soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the country's mission there began in 2002. About 3,300 German soldiers are serving in Afghanistan as part of its international force, most of them in the country's relatively calm north.