Saturday, February 15, 2003

KARNEVAL IN BERLIN: Among the expected 100,000 [± A new record! See post above.] demonstrating in Berlin today will be at least three prominent members of Gerhard Schröder's cabinet:
  • All Things Green Minister, Jürgen Trittin
  • Protect the Consumer Ministerin, Renate Künast
  • Backward Development Ministerin, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul
Also expected at the festivities is president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse.

Can you find all of them in this photograph?

Oh, by the way, Schröder did ask all of his cabinet members to not participate in the demonstrations, but his authority -- even within his own party -- is worth nix.

Friday, February 14, 2003

APPEASEMENT FOR GERMANY'S ECONOMY: In an address to the Bundestag today, Economy Minister Wolfgang Clement (SPD) said that "the best economic program" for Germany is to prevent a possible war in Iraq.

In an interview with stern magazine, Chancellor Schröder had already announced the SPD's strategy to shift blame for Germany's economic stagnation. Don't blame the stranglehold of the unions or the inflexibility of the German labor market. Don't blame an overly cozy and inefficient social welfare system.

Yet without war, Clement still doesn't expect unemployment to drop, and he has pegged Germany's growth target for 2003 at the overly optimistic 1%. Without war, Germany is shooting for a deficit of 2.85%. Right...

We all know that the short-term economic effects of a war in Iraq are unknown and most likely will be negative. But is that a legitimate reason to look the other way when a ruthless tyrant continues to flout UN resolutions? I am not convinced.

MR. BIG: I've been a fan of Josef Joffe since I started reading him in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, where he was editor of the opinion-page and columnist.

His current gig is as publisher-editor at Die Zeit. He's had a good week in the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, and yesterday in Die Zeit.

Read him.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

PSYCHOLOGY NO ONE: A few people now have written in to Amiland about the Spiegel Online interview with one Eugen Drewermann. (Thanks in particular to Patrick, Godmar, and John.)

To be honest, I really don't know anything about this guy... His bio says that he was booted from the Catholic priesthood and "studied" psychoanalysis.

The perfect man, it seems, for Spiegel Online to interview about the "psyche" of President Bush.

The whole interview is a joke, full of leading questions, unsubstantiated statements and pure psycho-babble. The headline says it all: Why Bush Has to Start this War. It pains me to translate any of it.

Basically, Drewermann sees Bush as having a "father complex." You see, God and President Bush senior have melted together into some kind of force. And it is this force that is driving the current president to conduct a bigger and better war in Iraq than his father did. No, really, you can't make this stuff up.

Drewermann goes on to say that the US isn't even a democracy anymore, and that freedom of the press is only nominal. He says lots of other stuff, too, in case you can read German and are looking for a good laugh.

Although you might think it less funny when you see how Spiegel's readers are responding to the piece.

More than 60% find it "profound and correct," while another 25% see it as "interesting, but maybe a bit one-sided."

Now, I'm more than ready to allow Germany its pacifism. If you don't want to participate in a war, fine. (Just be prepared to share relevance with Vatican City.)

And I'm also comfortable with an excommunicated psychoanalyst holding forth with his wacky opinions. (Even in a tyrannical regime such as the USA, no one has to listen to him.)

But it makes me ill to think that 62% of the people I pass on the street each day find this crap "profound and correct." Another quarter think it's "interesting." (I mean, what the hell is wrong with you all?!)

GERMANY'S HEROES: It even sounds so melancholic and romantic: Der Deserteur. In the Seite Drei (Page Three) section of yesterday's Frankurter Rundschau, a deserter from the US army is profiled as a modern-day tragic hero.

His marriage had ended and he couldn't find a job. His ex-wife had custody of the kids. He wanted to get away. In the army, he thought, he could find a job and make his way in the world. "I didn't think about war," he said. The Rundschau opines:

He's not alone. Many lower class Americans join the military in order to escape their foul existence in a country without a social support system.
No, really, the author wrote that. She goes on:
Finally, they can get out of the -- often black -- ghetto. The phenomenon "poverty draft" explains why these young women and men either don't know what they're doing or don't want to know. They block it out that war is a possible result of their career choice.
As the profile continues, we learn that in the beginning, it actually wasn't so bad for our hero. He was stationed in Germany. "A beautiful country, thought the 29-year old. Even the culture alone [is beautiful]."

But sometimes he didn't like it. "The stupidity of the exercises especially annoyed him."

Then came September 11. "I started to get nervous," he said. "In his megalomania, President Bush wants to bring an end to what his father left unfinished in the Gulf War."

The only bit missing here is the detail that the hero comes from Texas. People who make the "poppy-argument" almost always seem to come from Texas. At least that's how Germans usually tell it.

Anyway, he deserted. Eight months ago. Now he's living somewhere in Germany, with support from the organization "Connection" and the Military Counseling Network.

According to the profile in the Rundschau, about 100 US soldiers "escaped from the ranks" before the Gulf War in 1991. And hundreds of Germans declared themselves ready to take them in.

Also according to the piece: "In 1991 soldiers were bound by their hands and feet and then flown to Saudi Arabia, even though they were applicants for objector status."

Said Rudi Friedrich, a "Connection" employee: "Many officers just simply rip up the [conscientious objector] declarations."

On the Internet, I found this page, which appears to be an article from the "Objector" magazine, dated May 1991. Apparently, the Frankfurter Rundschau also profiled a similar case of an "Annette C." back in 1991.

The Internet page mentions (at that time) "40 active CO cases" and "contact with 30-40 AWOL soldiers." It lists 12 cases by name, all of whom apparently applied for CO status when war became possible in late 1990-1991.

And our modern hero somewhere in Germany? According to the author, he has a tough road ahead.

"The US army belongs to NATO," she reasoned. "As opposed to those from Algeria, Russia or Turkey, it's impossible for US deserters to gain asylum in Germany."

I have many thoughts -- but I'll only share two -- after reading this pitiful writing.

First, I guess it's no wonder Germany, France and Belgium blocked the start of any planning to defend Turkey. They might not even know that it's a member of NATO.

And second, if it's impossible for deserters from the US army to gain asylum in Germany, what about Paul Krugman?

REPLIES: Thanks also to those who wrote in about the deserter story. I may need to set up a comments section... I think that Jane makes some good points:

The deserter post was very interesting even if it did cause me instant revulsion. It would seem that these people would rather there be no military at all. How naive and self-righteous (arrogant) to assume a) that the American military is so malevolent and b) that peace can be achieved without occasional armed intervention.
In the end, all Frankurter Rundschau has described are the problems faced by military forces everywhere - when push comes to shove, there are always some who cannot handle it and no amount of pre-screening and/or training change this. The story they tell might also be told about any person of any background anywhere.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

AN AMERICAN IN COTTBUS: Gregg Berhalter, a defender from the United States World Cup soccer team, made headlines today in the Bild newspaper/tabloid:
U.S. boy Berhalter playing strong as a bear
Berhalter plays for Energie Cottbus in Germany's 1. Liga. While Cottbus has been doing better as of late, they're still sitting in last place, all but destined for demotion to the second level. (At least that's what I surmised from the article...)

For all you Amis out there, I promise this to be the last post about soccer until Germany starts to get ready for World Cup 2006.

LET'S ASK OUR READERS: Thanks to a reference from orf.at (the Internet site of Österreichischer Rundfunk), Amiland's base has grown to include some readers from Australia Austria. Max, a mate from Vienna, writes in to give a history lesson and ask a couple questions:
hey ami! I'm max, i'm 17 and i'm from vienna, austria which is in the middle of europe (not australia).
austria is right between germany and italy. it has been one of the greatest empires the world has ever seen, within most of eastern-europe. austria was unfortunately a part of germany in ww2. now austria is a neutral nation in the EU. you know arnold schwarzenegger, sigmund freud, hermann meier? they're from austria.
Now, I do know that Siggy was the dream-dude, but I thought Arnie was a political activist from Cali... (And who is Hermann Meier?) Anyway, Max asks:
now you know a little about austria. question: do you think austria is a part of "the bad old" or the "good new" europe? and is it a crime to be proud to be european?
So, what do you think, Amilanders? Where does Austria fit in this old-new polarity? And what do we think about their kangaroos?

REPLIES: While some people have tried to put Austria in old Europe, I'm just not buying it. Stefan over at Shark Blog, I think, schnitzels the land of Wieners just about right:

Not sure I'd put it in one camp or the other. Austria is a wonderful place to hike, ski or go to the opera, but there are other countries I'd rather have in my foxhole.
I agree. But I'm still not any closer to knowing who Hermann Meier is...

UPDATE: Oh, that Hermann Meier. You should've said so in the first place.

And no, I didn't mean "Wieners" in the sense of "weenies," but in the sense of coming from Wien. You know, the capital of Austria, in the northeast of the country on the banks of the Danube. You've seen pictures.

WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR: I'd like to thank Gulliver for sending his thoughts to Amiland. I don't agree with him -- he doesn't agree with me, I'm sure -- but I think it's valuable to give him a voice here:
Mr. Bush (and many Americans) believe that their help for the allies during WWII gives them the right to dictate what is right or wrong and insist that the Europeans follow their opinion. They do not understand that in Europe, war is not deemed a solution whatsoever.
I personally understand the American way of thinking (although I do not support it) because I lived in the US for a while and learned a lot about the American mentality. What most people forget is the fact that Europe had wars on its own continent for almost 2000 years! The Europeans have learned that war has never been and will never be a solution for problems. Just imagine that your country, its infrastructure, its political system and economy get completely destroyed every 20 years.
The Americans have never experienced anything similar. There have been basically two wars on the American continent: the war of independence and the civil war. Nobody can personally remember either of these, but approximately 20% of the European population can remember at least one big war (some even more, like my grandparents).
Actually, I am the first generation in my country that has never experienced a war!
Over here, Gulliver's mail represents a very common disposition -- one that can't be rationalized away. It's also a disposition, for whatever reasons, that most Americans simply can't understand.

I won't offer any direct comment, other than to state clearly: No American, whether he or she has experienced it or not, wants war.

REPLIES: A number of replies poured in after Gulliver's email. Thanks to all. Here are two, which sum up the general sentiment well.

Wars do solve some problems -- WWII put a pretty big damper on the Nazi problem the rest of the world was experiencing... (Metroxing)
I don't think Gulliver actually understands the "American mentality" well at all. He doesn't seem to grasp that our heritage of freedom fought for is what makes us what we are. (rbaugher)
I have tried to sympathize with the "war has never been and will never be a solution for problems" camp. I posted Gulliver's mail because one hears it so often over here. It's even an admirable position in some ways. But it just doesn't hold water. It doesn't hold dictators or tyrants, either.
STOP, DOGGONE IT: Amiland reader and new blogger (The 6th International) Mrs. T is dumbfounded that Germans have no scruples about dogs pooping on the sidewalk: "I mean... this is Germany, after all. Germans are normally obedient. They don't even jaywalk." (Go here and here for background.) Mrs. T philosophizes:
In the home of the Kleinkarrierte Korinthenkacker, then, why are pooping dogs given a pass? Oh, Germans like their dogs, I know, but there's more to it than that. I suspect there is something deeply scatological in the German psyche. There's a doctoral dissertation here for somebody, I'm sure.
And no, please don't send me your dissertations...
DOMESTIC GENIUS, DOMESTIC FLOP: In his editorial column today, Kurt Kister of the Süddeutsche Zeitung examines "Schröder's False Instinct."
The Chancellor is handling himself in the Iraqi question as if he is dealing with a domestic problem. He defined a general goal (no participation in a war) and then tried to get closer to it via argumentative volte-face, indiscretion, and instinct. That might work when it involves duping the opposition Union party in the Bundesrat or keeping his SPD party up to scratch. But in foreign policy, the domestic politician Schröder only wreaks long-term damage.
Kister's conclusion is that Schröder miscalculated on his Iraq policy. Even though the majority of Germans continue to support his fundamental position, he's still falling in the polls.
THIS MAN IS A GENIUS: For German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, political conniving knows no bounds.

In an interview with the weekly magazine stern -- it hits newsstands Thursday, but a preview is available at stern.de -- Schröder is laying the groundwork to blame a war in Iraq when his economy doesn't recover.

As laid out in the Stability and Growth Pact for euro-zone countries, Germany is required to keep its public sector budget deficit below 3% of GDP.

Last year, Germany wasn't even close, coming in at the 3.7% mark.

According to stern.de:

Schröder said the 3% goal is attainable, "as long as there are no further slumps resulting from a war in Iraq."
Right... But since the new taxes Schröder proposed will now be blocked by the overwhelming opposition majority in the upper house Bundesrat, it is virtually guaranteed that Germany will not move below 3% in the short term.

I'm sure Schröder thinks this a no-lose situation for him. I can even hear him now: "I did everything I could to prevent war in Iraq, but I couldn't stop the US cowboys from going it alone. And now our economy is suffering as a result." Beautiful...

UPDATE: According to a spokesperson for German Finance Minister Hans Eichel (SPD):

There are currently no plans to loosen [the requirements of] the European Stability and Growth Pact in the case of a war in Iraq.
That's probably true. I guess it would only be necessary in the case that Germany can't get under the 3% maximum.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

IT'S RAINING TAXES AND DOGS: Apparently, dog poop and dog taxes in Germany are topics that Amiland readers feel strongly about. In response to this post about an article in USA Today, I've received a number of comments.

Amiland pro Godmar writes in with (what I hope, anyway) is the last word:

The dog tax [Hundesteuer] is not collected to clean up dog poop, it's there to "keep the number of dogs low." Cleaning up is technically the responsibility of the dog owners, who are threatened with fines in many Hundeverordnungen if they don't. However, the fines are rarely enforced. Most importantly, there's no societal stigma against having your dog poop on the street; most people turn a blind eye.
The tax issue leads to a slightly larger point: you'd think that the Hundesteuer is there to pay for the dog poop cleanup -- but that's naive -- it's like believing they collect green taxes [Ökosteuer] to help the environment, when in reality they're collected to prop up the failing social security systems.
I'll bet you never thought the USA Today and dog poop could be such driving forces of intellectual conversation...
WELCOME NEW READERS: I'd like to extend a hearty welcome to those coming from orf.at in Austria. You might be interested in this latest Spiegelism. This Spiegelism was pretty ugly too.

For those visiting from the estimable InstaPundit, thanks for coming. Have a look around.

In this post, the German government's coordinator of German-American relations said, "We lived with [containment] for 50 years." But he forgot to mention he lived with it on the West side of the wall.

And from Amiland's first days, this post reviewed the "intellectual" response to Rumsfeld's old Europe "scandalous provocation."

And if you can read German, check out ORF's review of anti-Americanism.

MOVING OUT: On Sunday I posted about a story in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, which reported that all construction projects on US bases in Germany are being reconsidered. The value of the frozen plans is more than 100 million Euro. One project has already been moved to Hungary.

Yesterday the New York Times (and today in the International Herald Tribune) reported that members of Congress were briefed about a preliminary proposal to relocate US forces to bases outside of Germany.

The new supreme commander for American forces in Europe, Gen. James L. Jones, is considering a plan to scale back the presence of American troops in Germany in favor of lighter, more mobile units that could jump from country to country on a moment's notice, according to Congressional officials who were briefed on the proposal.
Now I am not a military planning expert -- in fact, I'm not at all involved with the US military -- but this makes sense to me. I've driven around US bases in Germany and have often thought that they make awfully big targets. The article concludes:
While General Jones's proposal might appear to grow out of recent German-American tensions, Pentagon planners have been searching for ways to restructure American forces in Europe, and particularly Germany, since the cold war ended.
In his op-ed for the Times [NYT | IHT], William Safire describes the evolving "concept" in this way:
It holds that the 70,000 U.S. troops garrisoned in Germany, accompanied by their 70,000 dependents, make up too many forces with too outdated a mission stationed too far from potential trouble at too high a cost.
Safire also speculates, "US forces now headed from Germany to the Gulf may not, after the war and occupation, return to their old bases."

While the coming discussion of this idea is sure to be heated -- especially considering the current tensions between the US and Germany -- it is important not to forget how such a shift in strategy would impact the servicemen and servicewomen and their families over here. Being able to jump "from country to country on a moment's notice" might be good military thinking, but it also increases the burden on those doing the jumping.

Already, the story has been picked up by most of the major news outlets in Germany. I'll be keeping an eye on the reaction from here...

TICKET TO RIDE: Domestically, Schröder is starting to hear the fat lady warming up. Reuters is reporting:
German executives angered by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's economic policies plan to give him a giant one-way train ticket to his home town of Hanover in a publicity stunt inviting him to resign.
Yep, it's all been said before:
Don't know why he's riding so high
He oughta do right
He oughta do right by me
Before he gets to saying goodbye
He oughta do right
He oughta do right by me
But seriously, even though Schröder's approval ratings are in the tank, German public opinion stands resolutely behind the Chancellor on his problematic no. A swelling disapproval of how he is handling the economy, though, could still be the end of him.

Another precarious situation for the Chancellor involves his Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, by far the "most popular" politician in Germany. It's no secret that Joschka wasn't thrilled about his boss' Kein Ja. Making matters worse, Joschka apparently didn't know about this weekend's "blue helmet" mirage, either. Tensions between the two are extremely high.

If Joschka were to step down, that might just herald the beginning of the end...

RUMSFELD BEHIND THE SCENES: Thanks again to those who sent a link for the English transcript of Secretary Rumsfeld's interview with German commentator Sabine Christiansen from Sunday night.

In addition to further highlighting Spiegel Online's incorrect and inflammatory translation of Rumsfeld's words (see the post below), it reveals a few more pearls from the Secretary.

The end of the DoD transcript includes an off-camera exchange between Sabine and Donald, who begins by complimenting her interview style...

Rumsfeld: You do that very nicely. Good for you. You push at me and push at me a little bit but very...
Christiansen: - And nothing came out of that. (laughter)
Rumsfeld: I didn't throw a grenade into the thing or light the tinder, is that what you wanted?
Christiansen: No, but, I mean, a lot of people here, and I'm, myself, am working at a lot of institutions, German-American institutions, and so we really worry about what's happening at the moment.
Rumsfeld: We'll survive it.
Christiansen: Yeah.
Rumsfeld: We will.
Contrary to William Pfaff's bold contention today in the International Herald Tribune, Rumsfeld didn't intend to bring about "the political destruction of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and regime change in Germany."

Instead, he was mild-mannered, even trying to give the Chancellor some room to crawl out from behind his isolationist rock.

In return, he was sandbagged by Schröder's "blue helmet" mirage.

DUMB OR DISHONEST: I opened Amiland with Der Spiegel's hatchet job on a quote from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

In response, a fellow blogger wrote in to say that calling Der Spiegel anti-American is like calling the Pope Catholic. He's right, of course.

And in fact, I usually try to stay away from the "anti-American" phrase, as the line between it, and being legitimately critical of American policies, can be a blurry one.

The problem I have with Der Spiegel and its ugly Internet-sister Spiegel Online is not that they are critical, or even that they're critical in a fundamentalist propagandizing sense, but that they are dishonest. At best, they don't know what they're doing, not exactly a resounding endorsement for a "news" outlet, either.

Take for instance the article with this headline: Rumsfeld Threatens Sanctions [Sanktionen]. The summary of the piece also states, "Rumsfeld is threatening consequences" [Konsequenzen].

The way it's written suggests that the US is threatening someone, presumably Germany, with sanctions and serious consequences. ... Huh?!

Reading through the article, I can only assume that the bogus "sanctions" headline is referring to this sentence:

If a blockade [of NATO support] continued, [Rumsfeld] added in an interview on ARD that there would be bilateral Maßnahmen.
I'm also assuming that Spiegel Online has misinterpreted its information from Rumsfeld's interview on Sabine Christiansen -- broadcast on ARD -- where he said (I'm translating from the German transcript, which Spiegel Online probably used as well):
If this decision [to support Turkey] is blocked within NATO, then I'm certain that it will come down to bilateral Maßnahmen.
[± See the update below.] Unfortunately, I haven't yet found an English transcript of the interview. Although I taped it on Sunday night, I can't understand the word Rumsfeld used in English, as the German dubbing runs over it.

But I'm quite sure he didn't use the word "sanctions." My guess is that he said something like "bilateral arrangements" or "bilateral measures" or "bilateral provisions." In any case, the official transcript in German uses the word Maßnahmen, and says nothing about Sanktionen or Konsequenzen.

Even the question that Sabine asked in the interview -- she asked about NATO-Maßnahmen -- demonstrates that Spiegel Online is way off. Somehow, I just don't think she was referring to "NATO sanctions" as a means to protect Turkey.

Rumsfeld's answer to the question was clear for all, except maybe those who are fundamentalist anti-Americans. What he said is that if NATO as a group refuses to support Turkey, then the US will make "bilateral arrangements" with Turkey to ensure its safety. Duh.

In addition to buying a new dictionary and thesaurus, Spiegel Online should pick up their history books from Schule.

They might do well to recall that such "bilateral arrangements" between the US and Germany -- as well as such NATO-Maßnahmen that Germany is blocking for Turkey -- served to keep their country safe for the better part of the 20th century.

UPDATE: Here's what Rumsfeld actually said: "Now, if it is blocked in NATO, I am sure the countries will do it bilaterally." (Thanks to those who sent the link!)

Spiegel Online should be embarrassed of itself...

Monday, February 10, 2003

GEMUETLICHKEIT: As a follow up to the manufacturing numbers I posted below, from USA Today comes the people side of the story:
Economists say Germany is on the ropes. Polls show worried voters know pro-business reforms could get things moving again in Europe's biggest economy. Politicians promise change.
Yet nothing happens -- because the crisis so far is in the economic numbers and not in the homes.
"I live well," says Klaus Holgart, 63, a retired sheet-metal worker. Forget the polls, he says. "People won't support reforms. Germans still live very, very well."
Average Germans don't feel the pinch because they live under a social safety net matched by few other nations. There's cradle-to-grave government health care, nursing care, welfare and education. The government collects taxes for the churches and for cleaning dog poop off the streets. It regulates everything from shopping hours (tight) to sex on television (not so tight).
The system helps satisfy a craving for what the German's call gemuetlichkeit, a word that translates roughly to "coziness." It's sitting on the sofa, secure and content and enjoying a beer. It's a feeling that people are loath to risk, even if it means that their country falls behind. Which, increasingly, appears to be the case.

There it is again: sitting on the sofa, drinking a beer...

UPDATE: Faithful Amiland reader Mrs. T writes in with the following comment:

I saw this on your blog and had to goggle: "The government collects taxes for ... cleaning dog poop off the streets." Not your fault, you were just quoting. But has this USA Today guy ever actually been to Germany?!
Mrs. T, as always, is right. Anyone who has walked the streets of Berlin will agree... I feel as if I've never really seen the Reichstag, as I'm usually looking down to avoid the dog poop.

UPDATE: Amiland reader David also makes a good point:

This does not mean that the taxes are not still collected to clean up the dog poop, only that they never get down to actually doing it.
Go here for more information about the German Hundesteuer.
WHAT WOULD FREUD SAY: Sigmund Freud co-wrote a book called "On the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Phenomena: A Preliminary Communication" in 1893.

Today, the USA Today writes on the "Missing dialogue on Iraq."

DID HE SAY EXCELLENT: I've lived in Germany now for almost five years. I like the people. I (usually) like the culture. And as a number of Amiland readers have written me to say: the beer is pretty good, as well.

Even Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, in his German TV interview with Sabine Christiansen (see post below), had no problem saying that "the relationships between the people in Germany and America are excellent."

But not according to two recent polls -- one from Gallup in the US (a good find by InstaPundit) and another from Forsa here in Germany.

Here's a key quote from the Gallup report.

As noted, France, Germany, and North Korea suffered the biggest drops in the American public's esteem this year.
Countries that showed a slight improvement in US public opinion since last year include Iran and Libya.

Meanwhile, Germans don't seem to think too much of Americans, either.

In a Forsa Institute poll published in Financial Times Deutschland today, 57% of Germans agreed with the statement that the "USA is a nation of warmongers" [Kriegstreiber].

A full 80% of Germans also believe that the US sees war as a means to advance its power. The FTD reports:

When asked whether a politician was considered receptive to peace or more interested in using war to advance his interests, Bush was clearly classified, together with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Il, in the camp of war-ready politicians.
The numbers actually show that Germans can differentiate between the means of a democratically elected President and dangerous tyrants. For Bush, a scant 93% of Germans believed he was "ready to use war to advance his interests," while the same question put Kim Jong Il at a whopping 94% and Saddam Hussein at an overwhelming 97%.

And those who want peace? Naturally Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac. Apparently, they didn't ask about Jimmy Carter or the Pope.

UPDATE: In an (unrelated?) report released today, the Economics Ministry said that German industrial production last month posted its largest month-on-month decline since February 1999.

See this recent post for my observations on how continued stagnation, both economic and psychological, may be influencing Germany's current pacifist stance.

MILD-MANNERED: As I previously posted below, Sabine's interview with Rumsfeld last night was pre-taped. Where we would have liked to hear Rumsfeld's position on the Franco-Germam "blue-helmet" distraction, we instead got his take on the good relationship between Germany and the US.

Since the interview lacked any real fireworks -- Rummy had put on his mild-mannered face -- I don't really have anything exciting to translate/transcribe here. Everything he said last night he'd already said before.

But if anyone comes across a DoD or ARD transcript of the interview, I'd be glad to post it here [English | German].

My only general comment is that Rumsfeld's remarks were seemingly geared towards opening the door for Germany to rejoin the world community. He stayed away from anything inflammatory, I suspect, to give Schröder some political crawlspace.

The fact that Schröder had already intended to slam that door on Rumsfeld, I'm guessing, didn't make the Pentagon a happier place this weekend.

UPDATE: One interesting bit to come out of the Rumsfeld interview last night is another indication of Spiegel Online's incompetence-driven anti-Americanism. Details to follow...

PUNITSCHAU: If you can believe it, Richard "Germany-is-irrelevant" Perle was perhaps the most under spoken of the bunch on Sabine Christiansen last night. He sat back and let the CDU/CSU's spokesman for foreign policy issues, Friedbert "no-applause" Pflüger, take swipes at the Green's Claudia "give-peace-a-chance" Roth.

If Roth even coughed, the audience applauded. Meanwhile, Pflüger usually finished his poignant oratories to a silent studio.

Joining in the fun was Karsten Voigt (SPD), who holds the seemingly misleading title "Coordinator for German-American Relations." This is the same guy who pretty much said to the New York Times that spending the 50 years of the Cold War on the West side of the Berlin Wall actually wasn't so bad.

Rounding out the group was Klaus Naumann, the former General Inspector of the German army and former chairman of the NATO Military Council. He was once the pride of Germany and a sign of its re-involvement in military foreign affairs.

The opening discussion pretty much sums up the entire evening, so I'll relate it here in a bit of detail...

Talk began around the Franco-German "blue-helmet" plan, with Voigt arguing that the US asked for alternatives. Now it has one.

Perle said yes, it's a plan, but an old plan from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and it still has many open questions. But anyway, they're still the wrong questions.

The point, he said, is that Saddam can hide his weapons for as long necessary. The "blue-helmets" are not a suggestion for peace but a suggestion to delay the implementation of UN Resolution 1441, which is crystal clear. "It was a last chance with serious consequences. Sending in more inspectors is not a serious consequence."

But Roth disagreed. The game aint over, she said, until Blix and ElBaradei sing. APPLAUSE. Saying no to war is not saying yes to Saddam Hussein. APPLAUSE. We need new suggestions. APPLAUSE.

(As the camera panned quickly past him, I think I saw that Perle rolled his eyes at this point.)

Since Roth directed most of her argument in Pflüger's direction (German policy to Iraq is, after all, mostly designed according domestic whims), he began by ridiculing the secret "blue-helmet" plan.

If it was really a serious plan, he said, then it belonged as the most important discussion topic between France, Germany, and the US at the security conference, not as a "media-coup" for Der Spiegel. Then Roth and Pflüger bickered with each other. NO APPLAUSE.

For the most part, General Naumann didn't say too much, usually slipping in a clever remark unexpectedly. He did say, though, that 1441 has no chance to succeed, no matter how many inspectors are sent to Iraq.

Later, he also criticized the German position that NATO should not even begin planning for all eventualities, particularly with regard to Turkey. He said he didn't understand the German government, since Germany's security for 40 years was dependent on NATO planning.

His most fiery words accused Germany of being "the one country that has no idea about NATO." NO APPLAUSE.

Other good remarks came from Pflüger, who demanded that the ruling coalition SPD and Greens should stop trying to separate Germany into people who want peace and those who "want war." Who wants war? he asked.

Earlier, General Naumann had also said, "I don't know any American who wants war." NO APPLAUSE.

After claiming (to APPLAUSE) that the US is only working through the UN in order to "legitimize war," Voigt's most thought-out remark accused Perle (and in effect the US government) of being too pessimistic about inspections and too optimistic about war. MORE APPLAUSE.

Perle's last words were that "we are not attacking Iraq, but we are liberating the Iraqi people." NO APPLAUSE.

And since the whole evening was essentially a domestic debate between the ruling coalition and the opposition party, I'll give the last words to Pflüger and Roth.

Pflüger: The inspectors aren't in Iraq because of a diplomatic appeal from the Chancellor. I am for inspectors but not against military pressure. I also support the desire for peace, but you (speaking to Roth) don't want to do anything for peace. NO APPLAUSE.

Roth: After the remarks from Blix and ElBaradei today, I'm optimistic. Give peace a chance. RESOUNDING APPLAUSE. CLOSE CURTAIN. GO TO COMMERCIAL.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

FROM THE BAY OF BISCAY TO DALLAS: Two typically great posts today from John over at Inside Europe: Iberian Notes.

The first is destined to become a modern classic: You know you're an Old European... Read it now before you get it 100 times in your email inbox this week.

And the second is a good long look at the comings and goings in Spain this weekend. It's the only source for your news from south of the Pyrenees and north of the border.

STOP THE BULLDOZERS: On the Friday before last I asked the question, "How long can the United States and NATO continue to use Germany as a critical foreign deployment of American troops?" The very next day, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita (via Cinderella Bloggerfeller) reported that such talks were already underway. Almost as if they knew it was coming, the US immediately denied the report.

Now the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag is reporting that the US has put on hold any further investment for American military bases in Germany. They cite a confidential memo from the US Department of Defense.

As reported in the WamS, the Rhineland-Pfalz parliamentarian Michael Billen (CDU) has seen the memo. "All American investment-plans that can be avoided in Germany were stopped by the Pentagon," he said.

Billen said that further construction at military bases in Ramstein and Spangdahlem in particular have been stopped. The value of the projects would have been more than 100 million Euro.

In Ramstein, construction was halted just before it was scheduled to begin, even though the 70 million Euro cost had already been approved by the US Congress. The plans are now being reconsidered. And separate plans to build a military hospital in Spangdahlem have already been shifted to Hungary, Billen said.

Now that not only Germany and France, but Belgium as well, are threatening to veto defense measures for fellow NATO-member Turkey, the question to stay in Germany becomes even more relevant. Or does it become a question of irrelevance? NATO's and the UN's.

THE SAME QUESTION TODAY: As reported in the Netzeitung, one of the ten questions that Sabine asks/asked Rumsfeld tonight is/was quite incendiary:
Dear Mr. Rumsfeld, how many soldiers do you know of from the Cuban and Libyan armies who are fighting alongside America, and [how many soldiers] from the German army's KSK special forces [are fighting alongside America] against al Qaeda and the dispersed Taliban?
I suspect that Rumsfeld answered this question with the stock quote I've already posted below. But can you imagine how he would respond to such a question now?! It's a good thing for Sabine (and for German-American relations, I think) that we'll never know.
YESTERDAY'S RAIN: Blogger Eamonn Fitzgerald over at Rainy Day has been covering the Sicherheitskonferenz from "appropriately sited" Munich. Eamonn's reports are a solid mixture of fact, insight and man-on-the-street coverage. Good stuff.

He also points out that Donald Rumsfeld will be interviewed on Sabine Christiansen tonight, and I plan to post my second Punditschau shortly afterwards.

Unfortunately, though, the interview was taped on Friday, before both Rumsfeld's speech and the Franco-German "blue-helmet" plan, which itself only came to light as Der Spiegel became available on Saturday.

As of Sunday afternoon, television station ARD is still planning to show the Rumsfeld interview tonight, even though much of what he says/said is no longer current.

After being ambushed by Fischer and Schröder on Saturday, Rumsfeld on Sunday will still be heard to say, "I think that the relationships between the people in Germany and America are excellent."

According to ARD, Rumsfeld also has/had this to say in the interview about his Libya-Cuba-Germany remark:

The German government reached a decision, and other governments have also reached their decisions. ... I simply repeated what is true, what these countries have publicly stated, and I don't understand why everyone's reaction was so senstive and worriesome.
Rumsfeld also apparently repeats/repeated his assertion that "not every country will agree in every question." Unfortunately, we'll never know what friendly words he'd have had for Sabine if asked the same questions today.