IRAQ CRISIS; Germany Prepares for a Diplomatic Assault as Rumsfeld Embarks on `Fence- Mending' Mission ; FOREIGN RELATIONS

By Cornwell, Rupert | The Independent (London, England), February 8, 2003 | Go to article overview
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IRAQ CRISIS; Germany Prepares for a Diplomatic Assault as Rumsfeld Embarks on `Fence- Mending' Mission ; FOREIGN RELATIONS


Cornwell, Rupert, The Independent (London, England)


"WELL, THAT'S Rumsfeld." Those were the words of Joschka Fischer, Germany's Foreign Minister yesterday on the latest outburst from the US Defence Secretary as he began what one news report optimistically called a "fence-mending" mission to Europe.

The idea of fence-mending by the swaggering Donald Rumsfeld - a former college wrestler and a man described as a "black belt in bureaucratic infighting" - is far-fetched at the best of times. The thought of him doing so on a trip to Germany, where he will attend this weekend's Wehrkunde defence conference in Munich, is beyond credulity.

To offend once might be a slip of the tongue. To do so twice within barely a week suggests you really mean it. And so with Mr Rumsfeld.

A few days after contemptuously dismissing Germany and France as "old Europe" for their temerity in challenging US policy on Iraq, he inveighed against Germany in cavalier style on Wednesday, to a panel of senior congressmen.

A member of the House Armed Services Committee enquired what co- operation the Bush administration could expect in the event of war. He listed the good boys, foremost among them Britain, followed by a category of doubters who might reconsider the folly of their ways.

Then the Defence Secretary delivered the punchline. "There are three or four countries that have said they won't do anything. I believe Libya, Cuba and Germany are the ones that I have indicated won't help in any respect." Mr Rumsfeld could hardly have been more wounding. The "old Europe" jibe may have contained a grain of truth. But the second one was a straight lie: Germany may have refused to send its forces to the Gulf but it has promised to make all its logistical facilities available to the US in the event of war.

He topped the untruth by bundling Germany - for most of the second half of the 20th century among the most Atlanticist of European countries, and home to most American troops in Europe - with two of America's enduring foes, Cuba and Libya.

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