by "Lone Star Intruder"
As the hot conflict in Iraq cools off, the task of rebuilding Iraq and re-evaluating national relationships with the Axis of Weasels will begin in earnest. Of particular interest is what to do about Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Shroeder. They are the elected leaders of two countries that have been long-time allies of the United States, at least in name. Their behavior in the run-up to GWII has been that of outright enmity and in so doing, they may have succeeded in damaging the United Nations and NATO beyond repair, at least as far as the United States is concerned. Now, they are clamoring for attention as if nothing ill has transpired.
This won't fly. My sense of it is that many Americans will maintain this "F*** the French" attitude for a long time. This passionate disgust does not appear to extend quite so intensely to Germans or German products, however. My belief is that the American population detects some very basic differences between the two countries.
I don't have all the answers, but I have some interesting anecdotal information that illustrates German attitudes in some segments of their population. I am a former member of the American military and communicate with a number of former and current members of the services. This week, I received several emails from American officers and their families that responded to queries about their security and sense of well-being as American military living in Germany during the war. Each remarked how sympathetic their German friends were to the American position and how irritated these friends were with their compatriotsí vitriolic street demonstrations. These friends were mostly older who honor the sacrifices of the US in freeing Europe from fascism and hold in high esteem Americans and the democracy that came with them.
The following accounts were communicated to me by service folks in Germany at this time. (Formal names have been removed for security purposes).
"I've had a number of people asking me what life is like right now for us military stationed in Europe - given the overwhelming lack of public and political support from all but a few of our closest allies. First of all, let me assure you that some of the same countries that were publicly confronting our political policies were quietly leaving their borders and airspace open to us, allowing the movement and re-supply of our troops. Here in Germany, especially, we had no imposed limitations or roadblocks on our stationed troops or flow through of troops and supplies. The German military has also provided thousands of troops to assist in providing force protection for our bases here while troops flowed forward to the fight. Despite the political rhetoric and demonstrations - many Germans, especially here in western Germany where most of our forces are stationed, still support our presence here and support our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines and their families living here.Another soldier writes:
In fact just a few nights ago I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner with several other Flag officers and local... business executives, that was hosted by the 93 year old sculptress, "Grand Frau" of Stuttgart, Frau [XX]. She had the dinner to apologize for her countrymen who had forgotten what we the Americans had done for them post- WW II and had the audacity to demonstrate against the war in front of our gates. For those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting her, you will be happy to know she is still feisty and in fact got on a roll and had most of us in tears as she recalled stories..... like the one of her 60 some year old's son's life being saved over 50 years ago by occupying American Army medics..... and of her escorting American soldier wives through the rubble to the families that needed the clothes, food and milk they were donating most. And she is not the first, or only German - at least here in the Stuttgart area, that spends the first part of time together apologizing and expressing that they hope we know that vocal politicians and public figures don't speak for all of them ..... sounds familiar, huh?
I guess the bottom line is that stories like these [XX] are the real life here. Military to military, and person to person, we still do have friends and allies here...now we just have to get some politicians to put agendas aside when the time comes to stand and be counted.
Thanks, and God Bless our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines deployed world-wide for our Freedom."
"Many of you have asked me what it is like being in Germany these days. With the pretty frank and less than civil discussions between our government and that of Germany, it would be easy to believe that things are really tough. Well, they aren't. Yeah, we have had our share of demonstrations, but for the most part they have been very peaceful. Make no mistake, the majority of public opinion has been against this war, although that might be shifting based on the recent celebrations in Iraq seen even on good ole ARD and ZDF. Somehow, seeing the citizens of Iraq fell Sadaam's statue in downtown Baghdad looks strikingly similar to the picture of young Germans striking down an ugly concrete wall in Berlin in November 1989.The Chaplain's story follows...
The narrative below comes from [a member of Landstuhl chaplain corps]. It may surprise some, but frankly seems quite normal for those of us still serving in Deutschland. Our installations are guarded by 5000 soldiers of the Bundeswehr. Our housing areas are guarded by more than 500 Bundesgrenzschutz (Federal Border Police). They are extraordinarily efficient and polite to the tee. The Germans have been totally cooperative in all of our troop movements to the Theater of Operation...not a single problem in Germany at all. And of course, the Bundeswehr still has the majority of peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan. Not too shabby for a country who has cut the heart out of their defense budget.
Things aren't the same as they used to be...but soldiers are still soldiers and most of our German friends still hold the friendships that we have developed over the past 55 years close to their heart."
"Sunday, 30 March 2003
As usual I was running late. So you can imagine my frustration level as I approached the main gate of Ramstein Air Base only to find traffic backed up! Nearing the checkpoint I realized that not only was there a long line of cars, but traffic had come to a complete stop as a result of all entrance gates being closed. Over the past 18 months there have been many opportunities to practice our patience as we have had to "hurry up and wait" as a result of heightened security. While we realize the necessity, it's still frustrating at times for even the most easy-going folks. ...
Things seemed to go from bad to worse! The German gate guards began walking among the stopped cars, asking us to turn off our engines and headlights. I realized that no traffic was exiting or entering the Air Base. My feelings of frustration began to turn to ones of concern. Just what was going on? A few minutes later I noticed blue lights approaching from the direction of the air terminal. Close behind were two military medical buses with their RED CROSS. Lights were on in the buses, and I.V. bags could be seen hanging. It was then that I realized that these were more of our wounded warriors being transported from the battlefields to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for treatment.
I certainly wasn't prepared for what happened next. All of the German soldiers, our gate guards, began walking toward the concrete barriers that divide the inbound and outbound lanes of traffic. As the blue lights neared, more German soldiers seemed to appear from nowhere, lining the road, shoulder to shoulder. Right on cue, without a word being spoken, these soldiers snapped a sharp salute as the buses drove pass, rendering arms until well after the last bus had passed.
Needless to say, I was speechless and deeply moved. What a show of respect for fellow soldiers!"
This, in a nutshell, seems to capture the sense of difference between our French and German allies. While I cannot say for sure that this would not happen in France, France does not have a long legacy of large groups of American servicemen being based within her borders for the last 48 years. As a result, the low level relationships forged between our militaries in Germany have no corollary in France. Friendships struck up between French civilians and American servicemen do not exist as they do between the United States and Germany. But I can say that vandalism at Allied war cemeteries has only occurred in France.
The many years of cooperation between Germany and the US have woven a tapestry that the average American has seen reinforced many times in movies set in Cold War Germany, if not in actual duty in Germany. Somehow, this collegial fabric, though tattered, has been divined by our population and, as such, it has not reacted so heatedly to German opposition. Americans know that this upset will probably pass in Germany. France does not have this benefit from my point of view. Recent polls indicating that one third of the French population wished defeat upon the US in its multilateral war against Saddam have only served to reinforce what we see as Franceís pathetic grab at world influence by acting as a European "counterweight." Chiracís own stridency in opposition to the US has simply given us a smug countenance with which to ize our disgust.
While Germany will suffer in the near term, economically and politically, I believe her prospects are brighter over the long haul. France, on the other hand, will not escape so easily (weasily?). Americans will remember her stance for a long time and if Chirac continues to force French hegemony on the EU, we will remember for much longer. And the next time France clamors at our stoop for assistance, either financially (remember the French economic collapse in the mid-50s) or militarily, she may not see us answer the door. They have made their bed and now will be forced to sleep in it.