Memoir Fallout: German Leaders Accuse Bush of Lies, Duplicity, Deceit

November 26th, 2010 - by admin

Klaus Wiegrefe / Der Spiegel – 2010-11-26 18:17:54,1518,730979,00.html

Berlin Efforts to Prevent Iraq Invasion
Classified Papers Prove German Warnings to Bush

Klaus Wiegrefe / Der Spiegel

BERLIN (November 24, 2010) — A classified document obtained by SPIEGEL shows notes from a meeting between a top German diplomat and Condoleezza Rice just weeks before the Iraq invasion. It indicates steps by the German government to prevent the war and undermines claims in George W. Bush’s memoir that Gerhard Schröder indicated he would support the president should the US go to war.

Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer made every effort they could. The German chancellor and foreign minister spared no effort with their appeals, whether in public or private, in small groups or with the eyes of the entire world upon them. In the end, though, it was all for naught. Then-United States President George W. Bush wouldn’t allow anyone to change his mind. He was dead set on launching a war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and thereby bringing “freedom,” as he put it, to the Middle East. It was a freedom that Bush described as ” God’s gift to mankind.”

Over time, however, this would-be gift from God has grown to become the biggest foreign-policy disaster in US history since the Vietnam War. The war in Iraq and its subsequent occupation has cost more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians and over 4,000 American soldiers their lives. Washington’s credibility has been severely damaged, and Iraq will remain a trouble spot for the foreseeable future.

It is facts like these that have helped stoke the outrage since Bush recently published his memoirs, “Decision Points,” in which he claims that Schröder — the very man who won re-election in 2002 in large part based on his opposition to the war — assured him in January 2002 that Germany would support the United States if it decided to go to war against Iraq. For his part, Schröder was quick to deny Bush’s comments, claiming instead that “(t)he former American president is not telling the truth.”

SPIEGEL has now obtained a previously secret copy of notes taken from a conversation in February 2003 marked “Classified Information — For Internal Use Only.” At that time, in was just a matter of weeks before US soldiers invaded Iraq. Klaus Scharioth, a Berlin-based state secretary in the German Foreign Ministry, had flown to Washington in the hope of still having a chance of changing the minds of Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser at the time, and other high-ranking members on the National Security Council.

Costs of War ‘Higher than Political Returns’
According to the notes — all in German — the meeting amounted to 90 minutes of verbal blows, which primarily stemmed from Rice’s “relatively rigorous and uncompromising” defense of the US position.

The same notes indicate that Scharioth didn’t budge an inch toward Washington, either. In retrospect, though, they document a high point in German diplomatic history, because the objections and predictions put forward by Berlin on that Tuesday have turned out to be legitimate and correct.

The crux of the German argument was that the political costs of a war in Iraq would be “higher than (the) political returns.” While Rice predicted that Iraq would take advantage of the “opportunities for reconstruction” like the ones Germany enjoyed after 1945, the delegation from Berlin countered that the rapid establishment of a democracy in Baghdad was “not (to be) expected.”

The Germans also predicted that the real beneficiary of a war in Iraq would actually be Iran, and that a US-led attack would further complicate efforts to reach a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Likewise, they prophesized that going to war would precipitate a “terrorist backlash.” Scharioth stressed that it was important “to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim elite and youths,” according to the notes, and that this was “not to be achieved” by going to war. He also added that doing so would greatly increase the danger of prompting an “influx to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism.”

Saddam Has ‘Always Misled, Hidden and Stalled’
This remarkable conversation was held just a few days after the now-infamous speech that then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered in New York before the UN Security Council.

Powell had presented what he apparently considered to be proof that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But Berlin sensed that the evidence in no way substantiated Powell’s claims.

With his speech, Powell wanted to convince the Security Council to give a green light to war. Less than three months earlier, the Security Council had passed Resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq with “serious consequences” if it was found to have committed any “material breach” of arms-control sanctions.

Since the end of 2002, inspectors with the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been conducting searches in Iraq for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons — though obviously without any success.

During this time, the Americans were growing impatient because they wanted to launch their attack before the onset of the heat and sandstorms accompanying the warmer months of the year. This, in turn, prompted Rice to push for action in a conversation with Scharioth. She argued that “everything had been tried”* over the last 12 years but Saddam Hussein has “always misled, hidden and stalled.”*

In response, Berlin called for the inspections regime to be intensified and for the inspectors to be given more time. Chancellor Schröder even teamed up with then-French President Jacques Chirac and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, forging an alliance on the Security Council, of which Germany was a non-permanent member in 2003. Rice justifiably complained that the Germans were apparently pursuing the goal of “preventing the United States from going to war.”*

In the end, none of it helped. The United States went to war without any backing from the United Nations. On March 20, 2003, the bombing of Baghdad signaled the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And, from there, destiny ran its course.

* Please note that the asterisk following a quotation indicates it was translated from the German classified document and may differ slightly from the original, verbatim English quote.

This article originally appeared in German on SPIEGEL ONLINE’s history portal,
Translated from the German by Josh Ward

* A ‘Dumb War’: Taking Stock of the Iraq Invasion (10/25/2010),1518,725090,00.html

* Incompatible Interests: The Truth Blurs for Bush and Schröder (11/14/2010),1518,729047,00.html

* Memoirs Trigger New Row Over Iraq: Bush Made Empty Promises to Schröder (11/13/2010),1518,728973,00.html

* Battle over Memory: Former Schröder Spokesman Questions Bush’s Intelligence (11/11/2010),1518,728482,00.html

* A President’s Memoirs: Ex-Chancellor Schröder Says Bush ‘Is Not Telling the Truth’ (11/09/2010),1518,728217,00.html


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A President’s Memoirs
Ex-Chancellor Schröder Says Bush ‘Is Not Telling the Truth’

Der Spiegel

(November 9, 2010) — Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said that ex-US President George W. Bush is not telling the truth in his memoirs, released on Tuesday. Schröder said he never offered his unconditional support for Bush’s aggressive policy against Iraq.

Both ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and former United States President George W. Bush have been out of office for some time. But the enmity which they developed for each other while they were in office seems to have survived.

In his memoirs, called “Decision Points” and released on Tuesday, Bush writes that Schröder told him in January 2002 that the US president had his full support when it came to his aggressive Iraq policy. Bush wrote that Schröder indicated he would even stand behind Bush should the US go to war against the country.

On Tuesday evening in Berlin, Schröder denied that he ever made such a promise. “The former American president is not telling the truth,” he said. He said the meeting in question focused on the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and whether those responsible were supported by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Just as I did during my subsequent meetings with the American president, I made it clear that, should Iraq … prove to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaida fighters, Germany would reliably stand beside the US,” Shröder said. “This connection, however, as it became clear during 2002, was false and constructed.”

Nazi Comparison
Schröder transformed his opposition to the war against Iraq into a campaign issue during his 2002 run for the Chancellery. Indeed, his refusal to support Bush on the issue very likely resulted in his re-election in a very close vote. German-US relations were icy for much of Schröder’s second term in office.

In his book, Bush also wrote that he was shocked and furious in 2002 when he was compared to Adolf Hitler by the German Justice Minister Herta Däubler-Gmelin due to his Iraq policies. He wrote that it was difficult to imagine anything more insulting than to be compared to Hitler by a German official.

Gmelin was forced to resign over the comments.

Battle over Memory
Former Schröder Spokesman Questions Bush’s Intelligence
Der Spiegel

(November 1, 2010) — Already having been branded a liar by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, ex-US President George W. Bush’s intelligence has now been questioned by Schröder’s former spokesman. Uwe-Karsten Heye said on Wednesday that Bush “had no idea about what was going on in the world.”

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is hardly a popular figure in Germany these days. His own party, the Social Democrats, has distanced itself from the reforms he made to the country’s welfare system. And his decision to take a post-Chancellery job with a company owned by the Russian state-owned fossil fuels firm Gazprom has been widely criticized.

This week, however, he seems to have nothing but friends. Ever since former US President George W. Bush’s memoir hit the bookshelves, former German government officials have joined Schröder in questioning the veracity of Bush’s portrayal of Germany’s position in the run-up to the Iraq invasion.

Indeed, one official, Schröder’s former spokesman, has even gone so far as to question Bush’s intelligence.

“We noticed that the intellectual level of the (US president) was exceedingly limited,” Uwe-Karsten Heye, Schröder’s former government spokesman, told the television news station N24 on Wednesday in reference to Bush. “As such, it was difficult for us to communicate with him.”

‘Fixated on Being a Texan’
Heye continued: “He had no idea about what was going on in the world. He was so fixated on being a Texan. I think he knew every longhorn in Texas.”

Heye’s comments come just two days after Schröder himself accused Bush of not telling the truth in his memoirs, “Decision Points,” which hit the shelves on Tuesday. In particular, Schröder takes Bush to task for his interpretation of a Jan. 31, 2002 meeting in the White House. Bush says that Schröder offered him support on Iraq.

Bush wrote that, when he told Schröder he would pursue diplomacy against Iraq but would use military force should the need arise, the German leader responded, “‘What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.'”

Bush continued: “I took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schröder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq.”

The former US president, Schröder said on Tuesday, “is not telling the truth.” He claims he told Bush that, were there a demonstrable link between al-Qaida and Iraq, the US would have Germany’s full support. “The connection, however, as it became clear during 2002, was false and constructed,” Schröder said.

‘Not a Free Pass’
Two additional former German officials have supported Schröder’s version of the story this week. Speaking to the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, Wolfgang Ischinger, who was the German ambassador in Washington during Schröder’s chancellery, said “nobody could have interpreted the meeting as a German blank check for military action against Iraq.”

Dieter Kastrup, Schröder’s foreign policy advisor, added: “Schröder expressed himself in such a way that could not have been understood by Bush as a free pass to start a war against Iraq with German assistance.”

The fact that the two leaders didn’t like each other was no secret, even when the two were in office. Heye insisted in the autumn of 2002 that “there are no problems in the German-American relationship. There are just differences of opinion on an issue.”

Even by then, however, the ice age between Bush and Schröder had begun in earnest — particularly after Schröder made his opposition to the Iraq invasion a major plank of his re-election campaign in 2002.

“As someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust,” Bush wrote in his book. “Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again.”

* The Legacy Battle: Bush-Schröder Enmity Continues in Memoirs (11/10/2010),1518,728336,00.html

* A President’s Memoirs: Ex-Chancellor Schröder Says Bush ‘Is Not Telling the Truth’ (11/09/2010),1518,728217,00.html

* Who Has the Longer Pipeline?: The Eternal Rivalry of Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schröder (02/15/2010),1518,677853,00.html

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