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March 2003

Jaw Jaw is better than War War

Winston Churchill’s famous saying is as true now as it ever was

“Better to Live in Old Europe, than Die in a New War” was one of the slogans used at the demonstration attended by 35,000 of Munich’s citizens on Saturday, February 8. This year’s peace march was held under the aegis of our city’s mayor, Christian Ude. It was a wise decision on his part to have secured the right for locals to demonstrate for peace long before the start of the Conference on Security Policy. While 250 politicians from around the world exchanged ideas undisturbed in their hermetically sealed hotel, and the 3,500 policemen drafted in to protect them stood around looking bored, Münchner took to the streets, happy in the knowledge that, here at least, common sense rather than the overblown rhetoric of politicians, had the upper hand. People had come out not to protest against the Conference but against a war in Iraq and for peace. The pointed accusations leveled against us “Old Europeans” by would-be war minister Donald Rumsfeld backfired. We felt proud to be living on this old continent, made more and not less confident by his implied criticism that we are behind the times. If he and his cronies represent a new way of thinking, we want no part in it. Though perhaps it is Mr. Rumsfeld who is out of touch. If anybody had bothered to take the American Secretary of Defense up to the beautiful rooftop terrace of the Bayrischer Hof and explain that 57 years ago one could see all the way across the bomb-craters from the Siegestor to the Hauptbahnhof, he may have understood that the stance being taken by so many Germans is not simply one of willful anti-Americanism but about finding a different way to secure the happiness and well-being of humanity.

As the German editor and publisher of an English-language magazine in Munich, I can only hope that all this mindless anti-Americanism prattling will be recognized for what it is: the wishful thinking of a bunch of mediocre politicians, whose intellectual horizons do not stretch to anything more arduous than the plot of a second-rate Western and whose understanding of world events is limited to black and white (“if you’re not for me you’re against me”). Anyone who doesn’t subscribe to Bush’s moral code and finds fault with his controversial political agenda—and there are plenty of Americans who have a less than rosy view of his policies—is immediately browbeaten with the cudgel of anti-Americanism. This kind of polarization tends to put us Germans on our guard and we find ourselves defending our democratic credentials ad nauseam to American friends and acquaintances. Curious then that someone criticizing the politics of Mr. Berlusconi is not labeled anti-Italian? The opposite is true. In fact those who criticize the Italian leader are generally part of the so-called Toscanafraction (Tuscany Faction), i.e. one of those Germans who love Italy and the Italian way of life more than Germany. Or does describing Tony Blair as Bush’s lap dog automatically make us anti-British?

Well, thank God there’s more to America than the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, the NRA and Newsweek. Thank God for Jimmy Carter, Naomi Klein, Michael Moore and Richard Sennet. Listen to what they have to say and you will understand that the ostensibly troubled relationship between Germans and Americans is nothing more than obfuscation, a smoke screen employed by global, mostly American-owned corporations, who like to keep their shameless domination of world economic markets under wraps. The small band of immensely rich and powerful businessmen, to which Bush, his family and associates belong, who run these corporations, wish to preserve their wealth and/or power. Any attempts to control their activities has them up-in-arms, literally, though they will of course not personally be paying the price for maintaining the status quo. Aiding and abetting this situation is the American system of education and much of the media. Recent polls have shown that there is a lack of discerning political coverage in provincial papers or on local television stations in the US. Old Europe’s interest in education, ethics and political responsibility could work wonders here.

Bush was right to feel himself “misunderestimated”. We never thought things would get this bad. Now we find ourselves relegated to the ranks of rogue states, such as Libya and Cuba, though for some inexplicable reason the “Chicken Hawks” seem to have forgotten to add that other rogue state, the Vatican, to the list of condemned. I, for one, still believe that in a civilized society, war is not an option and can only hope that by the time this issue of MUNICH FOUND goes on sale, war has not taken the place of political debate.

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