Thursday, March 20, 2003
My dear Abbas,
Well, now it’s finally started; the war began last night. It’s always been said that nobody in Germany was looking forward to it, but I’ve just noticed that this isn’t the case. The moment Bush announced his 48-hour ultimatum, the Frankfurt stock market showed strong gains for the first time in months, and it hasn’t looked back since…
I keep thinking about the young poet we met in Beirut. He had just called his wife to arrange a visit to the cinema to see the new Bond film, and he said to me: “Hopefully, the Yanks will come soon and get rid of Saddam - and Assad with him, if possible. And if they do anything that goes against our interests, we’ll make war on them too. But first of all, they should get over here, at long last, and get rid of Saddam...“
Now they’re there.
I’m sure you remember the mood in Germany, even months ago. A visiting Martian who knew nothing of life on earth would have thought the bombs were about to fall on Berlin and Frankfurt, and not on Baghdad; that’s how big the panic was here. I have to admit I’m tired of this senseless blather, when measured against the Americans’ declared WILL. One doesn’t have to be a military historian to know that simply Not Wanting carries no weight against a determined will (backed up by power).
We also know the only thing that could place any bounds on American military politics: a European military policy, i.e. a united political will on the part of this continent, combined with enough guns and missiles to guarantee credibility and the ability to assert itself. Plus a more developed political culture than that to be found in the USA. The only problem is: this will does not exist - nor do we have the kind of visionary politicians who might formulate and implement it.
I would have more respect for the pacifism of the German government and the German people if I could shake off the following suspicion: that this pacifism is no more than a lack of any political concept (as far as the politicians are concerned) and an extremely selfish kind of cowardice.
Yes: cowardice. If you listen very closely, you can hear WHY the people here are actually so pacifistic: not primarily because they feel sorry for the Arabs, but because they don’t want Germany to provoke Islamist terrorists into carrying out attacks in this country. We have a proverb here: “Oh, Holy Saint Florian, spare my house; burn somebody else’s.“ Of course, nobody will admit it, but the fact remains that we, the German people, did not invent moral courage or the concept of standing up for one’s convictions.
Naturally, the radio and the press are now full of the war, no matter what the actual topic at hand happens to be. It’s hard to find even a cookery recipe that doesn’t include some mention of the war.
You have faced the inevitable with so much more dignity and calm! You, who are in far greater peril!
I am thinking of you there in Lebanon - on a powder keg. I hope that this war will spare you all, and that it won’t sooner or later engulf your little island.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon.