Thu Jan 12th, 2006 at 10:37:07 AM EST
Promoted by Colman
At the moment, I am wondering just who makes German foreign policy. Moreover, I wonder what German foreign policy actually is: Today the newspaper editorials celebrate Angela Merkel for continuing Schröder's Bush-criticism. At the same time, the TV program Panorama (part of the public TV channel ARD) and the Süddeutsche Zeitung uncover the secret collaboration of members of the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) with the US Army during the war in Iraq.
It is becoming clear now that the red-green government had a Janus face concerning the "war on terror": Critique on the top political level, but cooperation on the bureaucratic and intelligence level. I am wondering if this Janus face continues to exist.
Today Chancellor Merkel pays her inaugural visit to Washington. She will meet President Bush there and talk with him for as long as three hours, as many publications were eager to point out. She has announced to bring up the Guantanamo issue and said that the camp "can not exist in the long term as it does now". This was quite a coup because nobody expected her to be that resolute. Domestic opinion cheered and interpreted the quote as a demand for closing Guantanamo. An overinterpretation that suits Merkel fine: She did not say much that could hurt diplomatically, but with great effect at home.
But still, I am tempted to view her statement as a good sign for critical and responsible trans-atlantic relations under Merkel. In the last diary on this issue a few days ago, Merkel's real stance on the war on terror, Guantanamo and her relation to the Bush administration were discussed. I would like to point to today's editorial in the Süddeutsche Zeitung by Nico Fried who supports the view that Merkel's former unambiguous pro-Bush positions had tactical reasons:
Angela Merkel learned management of German-American relations under Helmut Kohl. After her political patricide that put her at the top of the CDU, she seems to have felt obliged to be especially faithful to Washington because of her East-German background. This way she hoped to gain foreign policy credit within her party. This burden of proof maneuvered her into one of the biggest political faults of her career.
So much for the "Slinker" part of German WoT-policy. Who would not like good-old Smeagol?
But there is also a nasty "Stinker" who keeps showing up now and then. Fortunately, there are some critical media who take the role of Sam Gamgee. From Spiegel Online (English):
But according to new revelations about the activities of Germany's intelligence service Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country was not nearly so removed from the US-led war efforts as Schröder liked to claim. German intelligence agents, according to reports in both the Süddeutsche Zeitung and in German public television, were active in Iraq during the entire war and even helped the United States choose bombing targets. BND spooks may even have delivered targeting assistance for the early April 2003 bombing in the wealthy Mansour district of Baghdad -- a strike which was meant to vaporize Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein along with several top members of his regime. The attack left between 12 and 19 people dead -- but not Saddam. (...)
ARD quotes an American source, identified as a "former Pentagon employee," as saying that the German help was "very important" for the American offensive. The source went on to say that the BND provided "direct assistance in choosing targets." (...)
The most dramatic example of such direct assistance may well have been the April 7, 2003 attempt on Saddam. According to ARD's Pentagon source, US intelligence received a tip that morning of a column of black Mercedes limousines near a restaurant often frequented by Saddam and other government leaders. It was thought that Saddam might be among the passengers. But how to verify the report? According to the Pentagon source, US officials called up German intelligence and asked them to have their agents do a drive-by of the restaurant. The German agents in Baghdad confirmed the existence of a convoy of armored vehicles outside the restaurant. Not long afterwards, four satellite-guided bombs obliterated the site.
According to Panorama, one of the BND agents was even decorated with a US army medal or received some other reward.
Many people who were then responsible for overseeing and co-ordinating BND activities remained in high ranks within the government or even moved up in the new administrations: Foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier was then chief of the chancellor's office and responsible for overseeing the BND; the former intellgence co-ordinator for the federal government, August Hanning, now is state secretary in the Ministry of Interior.
Would the real German foreign policy please stand up?