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No to the War in Iraq (September 5, 2002)

Shortly before the Bundestag elections in Germany, and several months before international forces invaded Iraq under the leadership of the United States, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder explained his reasons for opposing such an attack. It was often said that the chancellor was extremely self-assured, especially in his relations with the United States; that assuredness comes though in this New York Times interview.

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PERSPECTIVES/Gerhard Schröder
‘No One Has a Clear Idea about What the Effects Would Be’

HANOVER, Germany, Sept. 4 — Following are excerpts from an interview with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany, reflecting on events since Sept. 11. The interview was conducted in German and translated by The New York Times.

Q: Did Sept. 11 really change the world, or is that just an American way of looking at it?

A: First of all, it is understandable that the reaction in America, which for the first time was attacked on its own territory, was more intense than in the rest of the world. But it was also interesting for me to observe how much it affected the Germans, for example, and others as well. The large demonstration in Berlin by 200,000 or 300,000 people was in fact a spontaneous expression of sympathy and solidarity. And I also experienced it much closer to home — if I may be permitted to say so — since my wife had once lived not far away, on the Upper West Side. [ . . . ]

I believe it not only changed America, but also the world, in two ways: first, it was astounding how fast and how impressively this international coalition came into being. One said that the offer of support was a self-evident duty as a friend. And Germany agreed to break with tradition in deploying military forces outside Europe.

But that is only one side of it. I think the other side is that changes have taken place because the analysis of the threat had to be changed. That is to say, in the past, countries or alliances felt themselves threatened by other countries or alliances. That was, after all, the classic confrontation in the cold war. What happened in New York and Washington — this attack on the two cities and on the people in them — has shown that there is a privatized form of war, waged by terrorist organizations, and that we have to defend ourselves against this using appropriate means, including military means.

So I believe two things have changed. First there is the question: who is threatening the civilized world? Not only countries, but also forms of privatized violence that never used to exist in this form. And the second remarkable thing is the unity at the United Nations, rallying an international coalition against terror. It is important to keep the awareness of both alive. [ . . . ]

I asked myself why the attack on New York affected so many people in the world in such a special way. I think the answer has to do with the special importance that this city has always had for all those who were forced to or wanted to leave their own country. New York is thus a symbol of asylum. This was very much the case during the Nazi period in Germany. [ . . . ]

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