War And Peace And The Greens Of Germany

The color green is not usually associated with anger. But a fair number of leaders of the Green political party in Germany turned purple with rage this past weekend. And they are still simmering. The party of the Greens is not the same as the related party in the USA or other countries. True, the party developed in West Germany during the 1970′s and 1980′s as a militant fighting out fit devoted to environmental protection, opposing atomic energy plants, feminism, anti-fascism, social improvements and pacifism. In those days, it was a leading party on the left, and its unusually informal clothing, taking babies to meetings, and male and female members busy knitting during conferences were ridiculed in the press, but brought some fresh wind into the stuffy legislatures of the day.

Then there was a split between the so-called Fundies – the fundamentalists, who insisted on leftwing goals and slogans like socialism – and the Realos, the realists, the pragmatic wing of the party. The latter won out, and many leftists quit. They were partially replaced by members of the “Alliance 90″ from East Germany, made up of intellectuals who had been active in bringing about the downfall the East German government and who were hardly leftist in their views.


It became easier for the Greens to move upwards in the political scene, winning seats in provincial legislatures and then in the Bundestag. In 1998, when the Social Democratic Party (SPD) needed a junior partner to gain a majority in the Bundestag, the Greens became part of the government coalition under Gerhard Schroeder, and were granted three Cabinet posts, including the important Foreign Minister job held by Joschka Fischer.


Sadly, their years in office, lasting until 2005, robbed them of any last claims to political virginity. They made one compromise after another, joining in economic reforms which were devastating to millions of the jobless and even supporting the bombing of Serbia in the name of “humanitarianism”.


Like Schroeder they did oppose the war in Iraq (though not the huge US bases in Germany which serve the invasion) but most Green deputies in the Bundestag have continually supported German involvement in the military struggle in Afghanistan. No, not quite the NATO struggle led by the USA and NATO but alleged reconstruction efforts by German soldiers thus far restricted to more pacified areas in the north, but which are viewed by most Afghans as just as much a military presence as the more openly belligerent Operation Enduring Freedom and have therefore been under attack Thus, they too are able to accomplish virtually nothing in the way of reconstruction – or training Afghani police who often quickly desert to the Taliban or other resistance groups. Then the German government decided to send Tornado fighter planes to Afghanistan for reconnaissance purposes, which are inevitably used to spot Taliban fighters – or the civilians nearby.


All members of the new Left party in the Bundestag opposed sending German warriors abroad in any military mission, pointing out that the German constitution permitted armed forces only for the defense of Germany. The other four parties supported the move, but a number of independent Greens and Social Democrats defied party pressure and also voted against sending the planes. According to then Defense Minister Struck (a Social Democrat), the defense of Germany is “located in the Hindu Kush Mountains“.


Now the military mission in Afghanistan is again due for a vote. Since nearly two thirds of the population and some deputies oppose the use of the fighter planes, the Christian Democratic-Social Democratic coalition thought up a great trick. They coupled the decision to send troops for reconstruction purposes with the sending of Tornado fighter planes.


While The Left continued its opposition to both – and organized a demonstration on Saturday saying “Get Out of Afghanistan” (and “No War in Iran“), the Green leaders were in a quandary. They would like to support one half of the decision but not the other half – the Tornados – but must vote for or against both (or abstain). Very much against its will, the Green leaders were forced to hold a special congress on Saturday (September 15th) to decide how party deputies should vote. Most leaders wanted a Yes vote, but in view of grass roots opposition, they reluctantly tried to compromise, leaving it up to individual deputies.


Then came the big surprise. A virtually unknown party member named Robert Zion made a motion insisting that when the issue comes up next month the Green deputies should oppose any motion which involves keeping Tornado fighters in Afghanistan. They should either vote against the double motion or abstain. And this motion won by a solid majority.


The Green leaders, amazed by such impertinence, were outraged and some said they might defy the decision. The other parties immediately began a sharp attack on the Greens, who had “removed themselves from political relevance” to quote one gentler statement. They were accused of supporting the ostracized positions of The Left party, which would now no longer stand alone in the voting. They clearly fear this may encourage more independent Social Democrats or even some from the conservative parties to buck the government’s commands.


There will hardly be enough votes to alter the decision, but there should be enough to prove a great embarrassment to those powerful elements in Germany who want to expand their military outreach to all sections of the world, like the Horn of Africa, Bosnia or the coast of Lebanon where they are already present.


The decision was a triumph for the growing grass roots opposition within the Green party and for the sentiments of a majority of the German people, who want the billions in taxpayers’ money to be spent for urgent needs back home, not wasted in ever bloodier military adventures abroad.

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