FEUILLETON: Dissolution of Yugoslavia, NATO aggression, and the seizure of Kosovo (6): Pacifists as warmongers

Gerhard Šreder i Vesli Klark 19. maja 1999. u sedištu NATO-a u Briselu
Source: RTS

Writing for Kosovo Online: Miroslav Stojanovic

Chancellor Gerhard Schroder apparently found it easier to lead the country into war, for the first time since World War II, than to justify and explain this radical act, and an even more radical shift in foreign policy compared to pre-election promises, to his own party membership and the public.

Everything happened just a few weeks after the parliamentary elections. And the solemn promises of the new ruling coalition, left of center, that after sixteen years of conservative rule Christian Democrats and Liberals), everything in domestic policy would move forward (necessary reforms), while in foreign policy, an entirely different, peaceful path and direction were to be taken.

It was necessary, namely, to stop the (increasingly noticeable) militarization of the foreign policy of Chancellor Kohl and his Defense Minister Volker Ruhe. A policy that the two parties of the new ruling coalition, Social Democrats and Greens, fiercely and consistently criticized while they were in opposition. Their creed was: resolving conflicts exclusively through diplomatic, not military means.

Gerhard Schroder himself often warned and emphasized in public statements that the logic of peace must not and could not give way to the logic of war. And then, suddenly, the pacifist became a warrior. Claiming that he had no choice: the obligations undertaken had their consequences.

The country's entry into the war against the "remainder of Yugoslavia" (a term the chancellor often and deliberately used) shocked the citizens of Germany and political parties, Schroder notes in his memoirs (about "his life and decisions in politics") as "completely unprepared." And it's no wonder, he says, that a strong "political earthquake" followed.

The new government suddenly faced a new and "heavy experience." At public gatherings and protests, it was accused and labeled as "warmongering." Requests were coming from Serbia, he says, demanding that he, as the most responsible figure, be accused and brought before the international court in The Hague.

The leadership of the parties in the newly formed ruling coalition, where pacifism had been an unquestionable and binding principle for years, found themselves facing tough challenges: emergency congresses were held to justify and defend the new war policy.

The congress of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was held on April 12, 1999, in Bonn. Schroder, he says, knew well that for many in the party and society, it was "incomprehensible and unacceptable" for German soldiers, in this case, fighter pilots, to attack a region that had suffered greatly under German occupation during World War II.

Expecting opposing views, he tried to convince the congress participants, and thus the public, of the "necessity of German engagement" in the "NATO operation." He felt, he says, that he had not succeeded in doing so at all.

Chancellor was saved by the party veteran Erhard Eppler. He reversed the atmosphere prevailing in the hall. With a "sense of the tragedy of the moment," Eppler spoke like that metaphor about the dark wilayah. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

He said that the feeling of guilt for the bombings was inevitable. However, he offered the shaken government (rhetorically) a "lifebelt": we will be less guilty for what the government is doing than if it does nothing. The lesser evil is more acceptable than the great evil.

The situation in the Green Party was more dramatic. The Green's pacifism turned against them. For decades, their pacifist cry had been: "War never again."

In the "Kosovo conflict," the earlier mentioned Vollmer says the party found itself in a great dilemma: if we want to prevent ethnic cleansing, we must at least tolerate the use of military force. If we don't use force, we will have to accept ethnic cleansing. The two basic principles of the Greens stood against each other. And that "conflict tore the party and each of us individually apart..."

And the warmongering attackers surged uncontrollably. The head of diplomacy, Joschka Fischer, heated up the atmosphere and political passions: Yes, we said never again war. However, we must also say: never again Auschwitz.

He compared (supposed) ethnic cleansing in Kosovo with Auschwitz, which caused a wave of protests. Especially loud and powerful ones from the Jewish community.

Social Democratic Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping competed in warlike (warmongering) rhetoric with Fischer. He added fuel to the already blazing fire. He invented (non-existent) concentration camps for Kosovar Albanians in the middle of Pristina, at the football stadium! And he sparked with the (also non-existent) "Horseshoe" plan (supposedly handed to Germans from the Bulgarian side) about an alleged (Serbian) plan for mass expulsion of Albanians.

At the party congress of the Greens in Bielefeld, the atmosphere was indeed heated. And dramatic for the party leadership. In such an atmosphere, one of the delegates hit Fischer in the head with a plastic bag full of red paint. The photograph of the "bloody" leader of the party and head of diplomacy went around the world.

The great master and manipulator did not give up. He skillfully spread the rumor that if he was not supported at the party gathering, he would resign. And the trick succeeded. The fear prevailed that if Fischer resigned, the ruling coalition, in which the Greens had gained power at the federal level for the first time, would collapse. And the possibility for them to participate in governing the country.

The media reported that war supporters won over the pacifists at the Green Party congress. And that Fischer was supported and saved by the warmongers.

To be continued tomorrow: Schroder's invention - Ahtisaari