Fischer Drops the Anti-War Rhetoric of The Past

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Fri Feb 23 03:36:25 MST 2001

Quite good analysis from the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. At
the moment Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is among the most outspoken
defenders of Fischer's services for the bourgeoisie. Appearantly one of the
editors (Müller-Vogg) objected against that line and was kicked-out by the
other four editors in a sort of coup-like action last Tuesday. Readers of
the FAZ were only informed through a small note in the Thursday edition.


Fischer Drops the Anti-War Rhetoric of The Past

By Eckart Lohse

BERLIN. When German Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer was asked about his past
this week while standing next to his U.S. counterpart, Colin Powell, the
pecking order soon became clear.

For a couple of seconds Mr. Fischer's face reflected the uncertainty of a
boy who has just been reminded of his misdeeds and who knows he is standing
in the company of the personification of adulthood. It was up to Mr. Powell,
who in his entire life has not experienced anything that could be recognized
as an irresponsible phase, to forgive Mr. Fischer his past errors of
judgment. He did it because he knew perfectly well that the days of Mr.
Fischer's immaturity have long since passed.

But there was a time when Mr. Powell's earnestness in action born of
responsibility and Mr. Fischer's ease of argumentation born of not having to
bear responsibility came very close to one another. Those were the days when
Mr. Powell, exercising his powers as chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of
Staff, waged the Persian Gulf War and Mr. Fischer, exercising his powers as
leader of the parliamentary group of the Green Party in Hesse, argued
against this war.

That was 10 years ago, in early 1991. At the time, an international alliance
under U.S. leadership drove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. In Germany, the
Greens, a party that had, in part, grown out of the peace movement, were
particularly opposed to this war. And Mr. Fischer did what some Greens
obviously still expect him to do when the United States attacks Iraq even
now that he is foreign minister. He screamed bloody murder.

Referring to the -- indirect -- participation of the German armed forces in
the war and the role of then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl, he told the Frankfurter
Rundschau newspaper, that if "Mr. Kohl carries on like that he will not go
down in history as the chancellor of reunification, but as the chancellor
who for the first time since World War II sent German soldiers to die on
distant battlefields."

Mr. Fischer rejected the Gulf War, using the kind of strong language that
can be used by a regional politician but not a foreign minister. His
reaction to the deployment of German soldiers to Turkey on the border with
Iraq was to recommend "conscientious objection" on a grand scale. Mr.
Fischer took part in demonstrations against the Gulf War and said it had to
be made clear to U.S. President George Bush and the German chancellor that
there was "no majority for warmongering" in Germany.

But Mr. Fischer also said other things in those days that, if studied
closely, showed that in an internal party dispute, he had started to realize
that foreign policy had something to do with weighing facts and taking
responsibility. In mid-January 1991, Mr. Fischer made a statement that was
unusual for the Greens of the day. He said one should condemn not only the
attack against Iraq but also the Iraqi attacks on Israel. A few days later,
he took part in a demonstration organized by Frankfurt Jews to protest the
attacks against Israel.

At the time, the Greens were by no means united in their opinion about how
the attacks against Iraq and those made by Iraq against Israel should be
weighted. That was made clear by a conflict waged over statements made by
Hans-Christian Ströbele, a party leader. During a visit to Israel together
with other Greens, he told The Jerusalem Post that the attacks against
Israel were the result of Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and the
Arab states, including Iraq.

Most Israelis who had been scheduled to meet Mr. Ströbele canceled their
appointments. Members of the Green executive committee demanded Mr. Ströbele
return to Germany. The man whose comments had attracted such media attention
said there had been a misunderstanding and condemned the attacks against
Israel as a "wicked crime."

The Green party in Hesse, to which Mr. Fischer belonged, was especially
critical of Mr. Ströbele. In contrast to the national executive, the Hessian
Greens approved the delivery of defensive weapons to Israel. Mr. Fischer
reprimanded Mr. Ströbele, saying he was horrified about his comments and
even called him a slave of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Fischer said Mr. Ströbele had caused great harm to the party and was
alone in the party with his opinion. A short time later, Mr. Fischer
demanded the peace movement issue a sharp condemnation of the anti-Israeli
attacks, saying nobody should question Israel's right to existence. He
obviously did not see that as a contradiction to his demand for an immediate
end to the Gulf War.

At the end of January 1991, the argument among the Hessian Greens about
Israel reached a climax at a conference of the regional party in
Neu-Isenburg. While the demand for an immediate cease-fire in the Gulf was
more or less unanimous, the stance taken above all by Mr. Fischer that
Israel had a right to support in defending itself against the attacks only
found a majority after a fierce debate.

Even then, other Greens accused Mr. Fischer of following the "logic of war."
He has been repeatedly subjected to this criticism, especially when -- by
this time he was already foreign minister -- he defended NATO's war over

The current wrangling among the Greens about Mr. Fischer's comments in
Washington concerning the U.S.-British attacks on Iraq is only a late reflex
compared with the disputes at the time of the Gulf War. Those who object do
so mostly for personal rather than ideological reasons.

At the same time, the internal party desert storm in a teacup is a late
reminder of the more substantial controversy about the matter among the
Greens that is not all that far back in the past. Maybe Mr. Powell was so
lenient with Mr. Fischer and let the past be the past because he knows Mr.
Fischer accepted the historical relativity of current affairs sooner than
the other Greens.

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