Ed Driscoll

Then And Now, Backing The Man With The Mustache

Reader Patrick Cox sent me a link to this Reuters piece, titled, “WITNESS: Berliners’ love affair with America grows cold“. Here’s a sample:

During the 1990s pro-American sentiment was still high.

They appreciated George Bush’s support for reunification in 1990 that overcame British and French reticence. And Bill Clinton got rock star treatment every time he came here.

Even in the wake of September 11 attacks, Berlin’s support for the United States was special. More than 200,000 attended a pro-America rally in Berlin on September 14, 2001 to hear German President Johannes Rau say:

“No one knows better than the people here in Berlin what America has done for freedom and democracy in Germany. So, we say to all Americans from Berlin: America does not stand alone.”

Germans even dropped their taboo on taking part in foreign military operations and sent forces to help the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan.

So what went wrong?

It was, of course, the dispute over the invasion of Iraq.

Before that, U.S. presidents had always been welcomed in Berlin. However, in May 2002 George W. Bush needed 10,000 German police to shield him from 10,000 anti-war protesters.

In June, Bush spent only a few minutes at Berlin airport on his way in and out of Germany for meetings with Chancellor Angela Merkel in an isolated village 100 km to the north.

It was difficult to believe that a U.S. president seemed to be avoiding the city that owed its very survival to America. There was a brief ray of hope a month later when Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama gave a speech in Berlin — and 200,000 people showed up.

In case things don’t change after November 4, perhaps it’s time to try finally to get rid of the American accent.

Which brings Germany full circle: having been liberated by the US after their feverish support of a genocidal mustachioed tyrant, Germany is apparently peeved at the US because we defeated another nation’s genocidal mustachioed tyrant. Yet curiously, that nation seems pretty happy not to be under Saddam’s yoke.

(Triangulation spotted here; potential for deja vu all over again, here.)

Update: The proprietor of the Bitter Sanity blog spots a little time traveling going on, and emails:

From the article you just commented on:

It was, of course, the dispute over the invasion of Iraq.

Before that, U.S. presidents had always been welcomed in Berlin.
However, in May 2002 George W. Bush needed 10,000 German police to shield him from 10,000 anti-war protesters.

Um… people protesting an invasion that didn’t start until ten months later? Prescient, those Germans.

Iraq didn’t become an area of major controversy in Europe until winter 2002/2003, if I’m remembering correctly. These people wouldn’t have been protesting Iraq – they would have been protesting either the dethroning of the Taliban, or America in general. Probably America in general.

I’m surprised that made it through Reuters’ layers and layers of fact checkers.