Fool's Crusade, part five

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed May 14 18:31:27 MDT 2003

If there is one continuing theme in Diana Johnstone's "Fool's Crusade," it
is how florid sounding phraseology about peace, civil society and human
rights became the cover for the first war on European soil since the defeat
of Hitler. Ironically, as she points out in Chapter Four (Making of
Empires), the impetus for this war came from the new Germany itself. While
cloaked in the rhetoric of NGO's, the German state's true motive was
expansion of its geopolitical influence over the Balkans. She characterizes
this aptly as a singular blend of "ideals and interests"--and personified
by the rise of Joschka Fischer, the German Green Party leader.

By 1991, when Yugoslavia began to unravel at the seams, a hate campaign in
the German media was already in full swing. In the influential Frankfurter
Allgemene Zeitung (FAZ), editor Joann Reissmuller denounced the "the
Serbo-communist power called Yugoslavia", or "Belgrade Serbo-communism"
that held a "Greater Serbian-communist knife at the throat" of the Slovenes
and the Croats. Reissmuller's racist hysteria was often framed in terms of
anti-fascist rhetoric such as the time he warned the "civilized world"
against the Serb's "master race madness". This garbage was written at
exactly the time that Serbs were being massacred in Croatia under the
banner of a crypto-Ustashist movement. The liberal "Der Spiegel" was not
much better. It had a cover article on July 8, 1991 devoted to "Serb
terror" and depicted Yugoslavia as a "prison of peoples" trying to free itself.

Considering the Nazi massacres of Serbs during WWII, this kind of
demonization was positively disgusting. One might have expected the German
Greens and other anti-Serb leftists to be more sensitive to this kind of
smear campaign.

What accounts for this monomaniacal drive to destroy Yugoslavia? Johnstone
explains it in terms of an almost ritualistic purification for the trauma
Germany suffered when it ended up on the losing side of two world wars.
Indeed, a leading policy-maker named Rupert Scholz linked the question of
Yugoslavia with the need "to overcome the consequences of World War I". By
enlisting Germany on behalf of a crusade to "liberate" Yugoslavia, it would
be possible to kill two birds with one stone. Not only would humanitarian
ends be realized, German would become a "normal power" in the process.

Johnstone identifies a peculiarity in German thinking about nation-state
formation that can be found from Kaiser to Hitler to Joschka Fischer and
that would explain to some degree the zeal for dismantling Yugoslavia. In a
nutshell, the nationalist intelligentsia in Germany has a history of
favoring states built on a racial or ethnic basis. While obviously most
closely associated with the Third Reich, it is first articulated in the
waning days of WWI when Chancellor Max von Baden submitted a paper to the
Kaiser titled "Thoughts on Ethical Imperialism". (Sounds familiar, doesn't
it?) Von Baden saw Germany as protector of 'Randvolker' (peripheral
peoples) in Europe. In the name of protecting the weak and the helpless,
the support of ethnic claims in neighboring and hostile states would weaken
their host and facilitate the spread of German influence. Of course, when
those 'Randvoker' are German minorities, it is all to the better.

This policy was pursued not only by Hitler, but by the "enlightened" Weimar
Republic that preceded it. In neighboring Poland and Denmark, 30 million
Reichsmarks were spent to buy up real estate and businesses that were
ultimately used on behalf of German 'Volksgruppen' in what the Foreign
Ministry called 'Kampf um den Boden' (struggle for land).

This trickle turned into a full-scale flood after Hitler took power. It
provided the excuse for the invasion of both Czechoslovakia and Poland, as
well as the absorption of Alsace. In Franz Neumann's "Behemoth", a study of
Nazism, the strategy is described as follows:

"Nothing could be more frank. Self-determination is merely a weapon. Take
advantage of every friction growing out of the minority problem. Stir up
national and racial conflicts where you can. Every conflict will play into
the hands of Germany, the new self-appointed guardian of honor, freedom,
and equality all over the world." It was not just German minorities who
were "rescued" by Nazi humanitarian interventions. The Nazis surveyed all
of Europe in pursuit of other regional populations that could be drawn into
their orbit, including the Bretons in Brittany.

Not long after the end of WWII, Germany once again took up the cause of
'Volker' or small nationalities. In outfits like "The International
Association for the Defense of Threatened Languages and Cultures", founded
in 1963, the oppression of Croats and Slovenes was weighed and remedies
considered, among which was the "right to independence" of the two
republics. Long before the IMF began to rake Yugoslavia over the coals, the
German nationalist intelligentsia was trying to figure out ways to carve it

Once the Berlin Wall fell and the two Germanys united, the nationalist
intelligentsia gained a new hearing from a newly emboldened ruling class
anxious to reassert itself. A parliamentarian named Rupert Scholz put
forward some proposals in a 1995 paper titled "The Right to
Self-Determination and German Policy" that basically followed in the
volk-state tradition. Now that Germany was reunited, many "lesser"
nationalities could be expected to turn to the new power for support.
Furthermore, Germany should not shrink from "military operations on behalf
of oppressed nationalities", especially those groaning under the Serb heel.

Just at the time German imperialism was rediscovering itself, important
figures in the German left were beginning to dispense with the foolish
pacifist illusions of their youth. Although the Green Party was devoted to
peace, ecology, feminism and grassroots democracy, Johnstone points out
that Joschka Fischer was not the typical Green. He was a Maoist street
fighter who joined the Greens after the sectarian movements in Germany
imploded in the 1980s, just as they had in the USA. As "war minister" of
his organization's combat unit, Fischer trained his comrades in
street-fighting tactics. His journey from ultraleftism into warmongering
reformism was a well-traveled one, considering the path of other sixties
radicals who would soon learn how to "work within the system".

He was joined by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who became famous as "Danny the Red"
in the May-June events in France, 1968. After he moved to Frankfurt, he
joined the "Realo" faction of the Greens that unlike the misty-eyed
"Fundis" showed a readiness to compromise principles in order to win elections.

In 1994, after the war in Bosnia took a bloody turn for the worse, the
German big-business press and bourgeois politicians began to call for a war
against the Serbs. They dragged figures like Fischer and Cohn-Bendit in
their wake. Johnstone describes their role in the sorry march toward war:

 >>The highly controversial question of German participation in military
intervention against Bosnian Serbs was a burning issue in December 1994. At
that time, Chancellor Kohl was arguing that, on the one hand, because of
the suffering caused to the people of Yugoslavia in World War II by the
Wehrmacht, Germany should stay out; but, on the other hand, "precisely
because of German history we cannot evade our responsibility" to contribute
German Tornado fighter planes to "humanitarian intervention". At that time,
the Social Democrats and Greens were overwhelmingly against such
intervention. The exception was Cohn-Bendit, who dismissed Green objections
as "ridiculous" and found original arguments to support Kohl's position. He
claimed that the peoples of the world would revert to nationalism if they
saw that the international community was failing to defend the "little
multicultural Volk" in Bosnia - overlooking the regrettable fact that the
"multicultural Volk" was split into warring factions unlikely to be
reunited by Tornados flying to the aid of one against another.

At that time, Fischer was still arguing that Germany should stay out. But
by the following August, Cohn-Bendit was able to announce that his friend
Joschka was "on the right path", even though he still opposed sending in
German soldiers. But, predicted Cohn-Bendit with remarkable clairvoyance,
"Once Fischer is foreign minister, he won't be able to maintain this
position." Ambition was having its effect. On 6 December 1995, the historic
question of sending German armed forces to intervene outside the NATO area
came before the Bundestag. By then, the Green parliamentary group was split
on the question of sending troops into Bosnia. As Green spokesman, Fischer
was in the early stages of the transformation that would make Cohn-Bendit's
prediction come true. The rhetorical hinge by which Fischer led the gradual
swing from one "moral obligation" to its opposite was a profound moral
dilemma allegedly afflicting the Green conscience: a "genuine conflict of
basic values". On the one hand, "non-violence"; on the other, the need to
help people survive. Over several years, Fischer developed variations on
this theme of a dilemma between "values". In a sharper version, the value
of "non-violence", or "pacifism", was pitted against the need to "combat
Auschwitz", or "genocide", posited as a special German obligation.<<

As it turns out, Cohn-Bendit's appetite for war was shared by some names we
have become familiar with in recent weeks. In an open letter that was
addressed to " The United Nations, President Clinton, and the Congress" and
that appeared in the March 4, 1993 New York Review of Books, a citadel of
neoliberal imperialism, demanded that the "cruel arms embargo" imposed
against Bosnia be lifted (an embargo that Johnstone characterizes as
largely ignored.) In addition to Cohn-Bendit, the signatories include Ariel
Dorfman, Erika Munk, Jennifer Scarlott, Joanne Landy, Ken Worcester,
Manuela Dobos, Michael Lerner, Peter Weiss, Thomas Harrison, and Todd
Gitlin. All of whom have the additional distinction of signing the CPD's
anti-Cuba petition.

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