BY ROBERT DEES
AUGSBURG, Germany - The German government's participation in the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia is its first use of military force - outside of the cover of so-called peacekeeping operations - since 1945. In a debate March 25, the morning after the bombing began, many of the major parties in the German parliament expressed their support for the action.
The current government is a coalition of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green parties. "You can count on the support of the CDU-CSU fraction," said Wolfgang Schauble, chair of the opposition parliamentary fraction of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union. These parties are usually sharp critics of the government. Angelika Beer, representing the Greens, and Wolfgang Gerhart for the Free Democrats (FDP) made similar statements. Gregor Gysi of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), successor to the former East German Stalinist party, spoke against the attack.
German chancellor Gerhard Schroder of the SPD alleged that NATO had worked up to the last minute to prevent war, and that "we have no other choice." In fact, at a transition meeting that included the previous CDU-FDP and the current SPD-Green governments, the Schroder administration agreed last October 16 to participate in NATO air attacks on Yugoslavia. The decision to send ground troops to Macedonia for a "peace-keeping mission" in Kosova was approved by parliament November 19.
When the Stalinist bureaucracy that ruled Yugoslavia began to crumble in 1990, Bonn was the first imperialist power to get involved, immediately recognizing the Croatian regime of Franjo Tudjman.
Fourteen German Air Force Tornado jet attack bombers are among the 400 military aircraft that have carried out the most recent attack. The Tornados, armed with Harm missiles, specialize in destroying air defense systems. Germany also has 3,000 soldiers stationed in Macedonia as part of the 12,000 NATO troops there. The German soldiers have some 1,900 vehicles, including 28 Leopard II heavy tanks armed with 120 mm cannons and 52 medium and light tanks with 20 mm cannons. The force also has 30 Fuchs armored personnel carriers armed with 7.6 mm machine guns, 10 medium and light helicopters, 3 armored mine sweepers, and an armored, motorized bridge builder. Another 2,600 German ground troops are stationed in Bosnia as part of the 30,000-strong imperialist occupation force there.
Schroder alleged the attack is intended to "prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kosova." The killings and expulsions of Kosovar Albanians by soldiers of the Belgrade regime have received prominent coverage in the media here. This "humanitarian" rationalization is contradicted by the German government's actual practice toward Kosovar refugees. More than 98 percent of asylum petitions by Kosovars are rejected as "obviously unfounded."
War of conquest
Germany has the second-largest trading economy in the world, with more than $527.61 billion in exports in 1998. But exports to Russia fell 53 percent in the last quarter of 1998 over the same period a year before, and exports to southeast Asia dropped nearly 33 percent. Trade with China and Japan also declined. Exports to the United States increased, but are marked by ever-sharper clashes and protectionist legislation as the various capitalist powers turn increasingly on each other. At home, "the engine of the German economy is sputtering," according to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine.
Attempts at "peacefully" finding profitable new areas of investment in Eastern Europe and Russia have been a disaster. Even integrating the workers state of East Germany into the capitalist economy, to date, has failed. And that attempt has dragged Germany down from its position as the dominant economic power in Europe. The recent Romanian miners strike and march on the capital served notice that dunning letters from the IMF would not be sufficient to reimpose capitalist property relations. The attack on Yugoslavia is the beginning of an effort to use military force to accomplish this goal in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Shortly before the attack, German General Klaus Naumann, who heads NATO's military committee, made clear that any idea of a short-term intervention in the Balkans is an illusion. "If we go in, it will be a beginning that will bind us for years."
Chancellor Schroder evaded a journalist's question March 25 on whether war plans included sending in ground troops. Schroder claimed that "the question is not posed." Two months earlier, however, he said, "Isolated air attacks would not lead to any improvement for the people in Kosova," and it is "urgently necessary to consider broader military pressure." Wolfgang Petritsch of Austria, currently European Union Commissioner for Kosova, has openly called for sending in ground forces, though there do not appear to be concrete plans to do so right now. NATO strategists have from early planning stages considered 200,000 soldiers necessary.
Majority in east oppose the bombing
Within days of the initial attack, Ilona Rothe, a teacher from the eastern state of Thuringia whose son is stationed in Macedonia, formed "Mothers Against War" in an appeal has gotten broad coverage. She said that more than 1,000 women called her from all over Europe less than a week into the air campaign. A recent poll stated 55 percent of those asked in the eastern states of Germany opposed Bonn's use of bombers against Yugoslavia. This is in comparison to 25 percent in the western states.
The rapid transition of the Green party leadership from "pacifists" to war politicians surprised many people here. Green deputy Hans-Christian Strobele denounced the attack in parliament as an "offensive war from German soil."
Divisions within the ruling SPD and Green parties are being played out in the media, and both parties called special congresses in mid-April to attempt to deal with internal dissent. Three-quarters of the delegates at the SPD congress voted for Schroder as the party's chairman - a solid majority but not as large as usual. The congress adopted a motion backing Bonn's involvement in the assault on Yugoslavia, and a proposed amendment opposing the use of German ground troops was defeated by a wide margin.
Former Hamburg mayor Henning Voscherau, a member of the SPD executive committee, spoke out against German involvement "for historical reasons."
The previous conservative defense minister, Volker Ruhe of the CDU, generally considered a hawk, publicly distanced himself from the attack. This reflects divisions within the German ruling class about whether the NATO intervention is the best way to advance Bonn's imperial interests in the region.
The right-wing tabloid Bild ran a headline asking "Is This War Right?" with brief statements from 50 "prominent Germans" - several of whom said "no." Manfred Kock, chair of the Protestant Church of Germany, Catholic Archbishop Joachim Meissner, and Michel Friedman, executive committee member of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, all came out in favor of the attack
Demonstrations against the bombing have taken place in Berlin, Bonn, Stuttgart, Nuremberg, and other cities. Most have been dominated by pro-Milosovic forces. An Albanian group rallied in Munich in support of the attack.
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