Rising German Anti-War Sentiment Troubles Kohl
Although a majority favors the Gulf war, many others protest prospect of being drawn into fight against Iraq
GERMANY has no troops in the Gulf, yet debate over the war is raging here as if thousands of German lives were at stake. Although polls in the United States, Britain, and France show that a majority of the public backs use of force in the Gulf, hundreds of thousands of antiwar demonstrators are passionately, and sometimes violently, protesting in Germany every day.
Meanwhile, as the lawmaking bodies of the US, Britain, and France approve military action in the Gulf, lawmakers in Bonn are heatedly arguing over a possible Iraqi attack on Turkey and whether this could draw Germany into the war. Many politicians here believe if such an attack occurs, it would have been ``provoked'' by US sorties from Turkey and that Turkey would thus disqualify itself for NATO (including German) protection.
The German debate over the Gulf war, springing from a population that after two world wars is markedly pacifist, is putting German Chancellor Helmut Kohl in a difficult position. He must be sensitive to public opinion, yet at the same time credibly support the allied war effort.
The result is that Mr. Kohl is being emphatic where there is little chance of controversy (such as squarely laying the blame for the Gulf crisis on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) and being publicly vague much of the rest of the time.
In the discussion of Turkey, for instance, Kohl is unwilling to state whether an Iraqi invasion would involve Germany or not. Article 5 of the NATO treaty says that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack against all NATO members.
According to a recent statement by NATO Secretary-General Manfred W"orner, Article 5 would pertain to an Iraqi attack on Turkey. But the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), as well as some leading parliamentarians in Kohl's own party, argue that Article 5 would not apply because such an attack would have been ``provoked'' by US bombers taking off from Turkey. They further state that any German decision to enter the war after an attack on Turkey would have to be made by the Bundestag, and the SPD is demanding the return of 18 German fighter jets and support personnel that have been sent to Turkey at its request.
Germany is certainly a reliable NATO partner, says Andreas Schuldenzucker, a government spokesman in Bonn. But Kohl is not willing to judge the applicability of Article 5 now because ``as of yet, there has been no attack on Turkey,'' Mr. Schuldenzucker explains. Were there to be an attack, it would first have to be discussed at NATO, he says.
``The chancellor doesn't want to leave the Bundestag out of the discussion,'' Schuldenzucker adds, but the government is of the opinion that the Bundestag does not have the final say.
Kohl told reporters on Jan. 21 that ``naturally'' Germany will increase its pledge of financial support for the war effort in the Gulf, but he said it was impossible to say by how much because the total cost of Operation Desert Storm is unknown. So far, Bonn has pledged 3.3 billion marks ($2.2 billion) in aid, and provided logistical support. Kohl's pre-election talk of soon beginning the parliamentary process that would change the Constitution and allow out-of-NATO-area deployment of troops has receded into the background.
On Jan. 23, however, Kohl's Cabinet was expected to discuss ways to tighten and reinforce laws against illegal weapons exports. The US and Britain have informed Bonn of more than 100 suspected cases of German companies maintaining economic ties with Iraq, despite the trade embargo.
Kohl has expressed disappointment and indignation at the anti-American tone taken by many demonstrators in Germany, reminding the nation that the war started with the invasion of Kuwait. In an opinion poll taken shortly before the air attack by coalition forces on Iraq, 80 percent of Germans were against military action in the Gulf. They shared the feelings of Annette Ohm, a 31-year-old German woman standing in a silent vigil in front of the US Embassy here last week: ``Weapons are never a solution.''
Some Germans, however, are highly critical of the strong public support for pacifism no matter what, calling it irresponsible. Die Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, two influential and conservative daily papers, have consistently criticized blind antiwar sentiment.
A more recent poll, by an organization called Wickert, showed 80 percent of Germans surveyed supported military action in the Gulf and 85 percent had no understanding for the antiwar demonstrations in Germany. But 75 percent, according to Wickert, still don't believe Germany should itself become militarily involved.