Yesterday, I wrote an article for a friend's website dealing with McCain's competency regarding the office of President of the United States. In this article, I explain why we over here in Germany, one of America's closest and most important allies, wish for Obama to win the election. I thought some of you, especially the Americans among you, might find it interesting. Here it is: ------------------------------------- Please America, get sober again -- don't vote for McCain In July, Barack Obama visited Berlin. 200,000 Germans came to Victory Column in Berlin in order to listen to his speech. Obama received overwhelming applause, and this is no coincidence. Obama enchanted his German audience, he has proven he understands Germany and its people very well, he has the sensibility necessary to win our hearts. Polls have shown an overwhelming majority of the Germans (76%) hope for Obama winning the election, against 10% only who favor McCain. Why is that? In order to answer this question, let me explain a few things about my country and my life first. I grew up as a member of the second post-war generation in Germany. For my generation, America is very close, there probably is no other country in Europe which is as much „Americanized“ as Germany. I grew up with American cartoons and TV series, most movies playing here were made in Hollywood, the German chart hitlists are dominated by American artists and English is tought as the first foreign language in elementary schools already. For my generation, which grew up in the 1980s and 90s, America probably is the closest foreign country in the world. The common history of our two peoples may explain why Germans feel so close to America: Only three years after the end of World War 2, the first step was done for that an occupying army became friends, when America protected West-Berlin against a siege by the Soviets. In 1948 and 49, America organized an airlift to support the isle of West-Berlin, winning the hearts not only of the Berlin citizens, but all freedom loving Germans. When in 1958, Chruchtchev flexed his muscles to get a grip on West-Berlin, America stood firm once again. President Kennedy was welcomed in 1963 by a large number of Berliners, who enthusiastically cheered him. West-Germans knew America is not just an occupation force or an ally, but a friend we could count on, who would not abandon us, but stand with us together against the authoritarian Soviet threat. But all these actions also instilled hope in the East Germans on the other side of the Wall, which President Reagan demanded to be teared down in 1986, and which finally fell in 1989. Again, America was on Germany's side, as a good friend, when President Bush sr. immediately supported our efforts towards the Reunification of our country in 1990 and reached Gorbachev his hand, unlike some of our European neighbors. In the 1990s, after Allied troops had left Germany and our country had become fully sovereign once again, our friendship as NATO partners continued, when our countries together ended the bloodshed and defeated authoritarianism in former Yugoslavia. One day after the horrible terrorist attack on America, 9/11/2001, the German Chancellor declared „unconditional solidarity“ with America, and Germany joined America in the „War on Terror“ in Afghanistan, as second largest contributor after America, but even before Britain. America was our friend in the past decades, who protected us, who allowed us to build a new, free and democratic Germany, once and for all breaking with our past. For that reason, the German people is very fond of America and we feel very close to your people. But this seems to have changed in the past years, when George W. Bush was President. For the first time in history, the German people no longer is fond of America's policies. A recent poll published in the popular German weekly „Der Spiegel“ found that while by the end of the 1990s, an overwhelming majority of more than 70% of the Germans considered America a positive factor on world politics, this number had reached a low never seen before, by dropping below 30%. Other polls found Germans consider America a bigger threat to world peace than „rough states“ like Iran or North Korea. Millions of Germans went on the streets in 2003 to protest against the American invasion on Iran. Why is that? Are Germans just „anti-American“? The latter question can easily be answered with a clear „no“. Many Americans may have had trouble understanding the sudden German criticism, and thus drawn this conclusion – was America not about liberating a country from a horribly tyranny, much like Germany in 1945? Was America not, once again, defending freedom against terrorists who may attempt to repeat their attacks from 9/11? Where did that sudden German distrust stem from? In order to answer this question, after having explained what makes our people feel close to America, I'd like to explain what distinguishes us. You cannot understand our reaction on George W. Bush and his policies, without understanding Germany. And I am sure once you understand us, you will no longer believe we are „anti-American“, that we hate freedom or even support terrorism against America. And you will understand why so many Germans desperately hope for Obama to become the next leader of the free world. Germany had a long way to go, before it would become the mature democracy it is today. When the Second Republic was created in 1949, Germany lay in ruins. More than a third of all housings were destroyed, millions of dislocated Germans from the East filled refugee camps, hundreds of thousands had died, even more were crippled and dozens of thousands were slowly released from POW camps. The Second World War deeply affected German collective conscience; it was the worst experience our people ever made. But very soon, we experienced a wonder: Within a decade only, West-Germany's economy was florishing and our political system had become extraordinary stable, unseen before. The wounds were healing slowly, but marks on our soul remained. But Germany was not a mature democracy yet. The Nazi perpetrators were still among us. Soon, many former low-rank, or even some prominent Nazi figures were in leading positions again – in the new West-German army, as state employees, even as top advisors in politics. And the time of Nazism was a taboo, all the low rank Nazis did not admit any guilt whatsoever, no word was lost about the past. Authoritarian thought was not entirely gone yet. Members of my parent's generation, who grew up in the 1950s and 60s told me there was a horrible, dreary, oppressive atmosphere. The same people who were responsible for the murder on millions of innocent people now snubbed their kids when they listened to „nigger music“, attacked the individualism of the new generation as a lack of discipline and phrases like „such behavior wouldn't have been possible back then“ were to hear at all family tables. The new generation, whose idols were Elvis Presley or James Dean, soon got the impression a restauration of Nazism was going on. That so many former Nazis again were in leading positions supported their notion. When they grew older, they were fed up with the criminals of two decades ago telling them what to do: In 1968, the generational conflict became violent, a huge wave of protests and demands for a genuine democratization of everyday life swept through colleges all across Germany, and the post-war generation figuratively put their parents on trial. The youth protested, shattered the false morals of their parents and experimented with anti-autoritarian ideas, free love, drugs alternative models of life and far-left ideologies. When in 1969, former Nazi Party member and then Chancellor Kiesinger was diselected and replaced by former anti-Nazi activist Willy Brandt, the new generation finally thought „now, we have won the war, finally“. Many of these „1968s“ then took a „long march through the institutions“, graduated and became politicians, journalists, lawyers and teachers, who would dominate German mainstream from the late 1970s up to today. The Nazi past became a top topic on German school curricula, harsh attacks on Nazi mindsets were published and new politicians entered the political landscape. Thanks to that, the Nazi past was the main topic in my school career, starting in the last grade of elementary school, where we would read youth novels with Jewish protagonists during Nazi times, and continously in high school, where history classes offered detailed information, both German and religious education classes offered many novels about Nazi time. On TV, documentaries about Nazism are everywhere. Up to this day, Germany is obsessed with our Nazi past. And what we are tought is that Nazism does not start the moment when crematories start burning, or when troops cross the border to Poland. No, Nazism started way earlier. It started with a nationalistic jingoism that would justify any crime, as long as it was wrapped in the flag. It started with anti-intellectualism of people who considered military strength the ultimate yardstick for the greatness of their country. It started with newspapers pandering to „patriotism“ instead of doing their job of questioning their leaders and the own prejudices. It started when the first person was denied a fair trial for political reasons. It started with a seemingly harmless racist remark. And it even started with an authoritarian education that included physical punishment of children, which suffocated individualism and replaced it with „discipline“ and obedience. And all of this reached back to the time of the German Empire's militarism and imperialism. „Never again!“ still is the dominant slogan for Germany's post-war generations. Because of that, many of us Germans must seem a little peculiar to you Americans. Most of us don't love our national symbols, like flag and anthem, not few even hate them. Expressing pride in the own country is often answered with a frowning, and the suspicion of Nazism. We don't love our army, consider it a necessary evil at best and are deeply suspicious of any politician sending it away for whatever reason. When a Hitler wax figure is displayed at a panopticum, it doesn't take a day until someone will rip off its head. And when for the soccer World Cup, people are displaying the flag, many feel uncomfortable and seriously ask the question: „Should we do that? Isn't that tasteless, considering our past?“ The shadow of our past of imperialism and Nazism is still hanging above our country. You may find that over the top. And yes, probably some of us overshoot the mark. Many of us are overly inhibited, when it comes to our past our generation isn't even responsible for. And maybe we are too unwilling to go to war, even when it is a just war. But you have to understand all this stems from the deeply engrained will that never again, Nazism can rear its head, that we have to destroy it root and branch. We Germans have learnt our lesson, are still learning it, studying it. And we have learnt so much from America. But today, I think, you Americans can learn from us too, from our experience, like a friend from a friend. America changed after 9/11, and many of America's facets became very visible we Germans are suspicious towards. We saw an America we didn't recognize anymore. That Americans displayed the flag after 9/11 still was understandable, but when an attitude of superiority joined it, we Germans gave up. This was most dangerous, in our eyes. President Bush would advance most martialic rhetorics, but even worse were pundits and bloggers, who openly called for bloody revenge, sometimes even genocide on Muslim populations. And the American mainstream media failed, it did not balance the people's intoxication with jingoism, but even fostered it. President Bush and his neoconservative friends, who had the plan of establishing a „New American Century“, soon pushed for a war against Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But the Bush government presented false intelligence, which was unreliable and ripped out of context at best, to abuse the fear of the people of WMD which might be used for another terrorist attacks. John McCain joined this chorus, by warning the public of an alleged threat by WMD. Lies were advanced about alleged connections between Saddam and bin Laden. And the media completely failed, once again, by uncritically multiplying these lies and horror scenarios. America post-9/11 was a dangerous brew of fear, jingoism and militarism, which was fueled by the own government! The German government refused to participate in the Iraq invasion, and so did the German people. The risks were obvious to us, we predicted it would be almost impossible to stabilize Iraq after the invasion, a large bloodshed was expected, and a very high price. On the other side, we did not believe in the hyped unreliable and inconclusive traces of information pointing to Iraqi WMD. We kept a cool mind and found an invasion on Iraq would be way too risky, and not justifyable with the information we got. Chancellor Schröder accordingly declared Germany will not join any invasion on Iraq, and Foreign Minister Fischer said he is „not convinced“ by American intelligence. What then emerged was a wave of jingoistic hatred from America, which reminded us of our own past: A dangerous mix of blind hatred, bloodlust, militarism, feeling of the own superiority mixed with prejudices and a complete lack of knowledge about Europe. Prominent American pundits and journalists would call us „anti-American“, „terrorist appeasers“, „cheese eating surrender monkeys“ and advance the most uninspired and uneducated prejudices, like connections between European authoritarian past and our alleged sympathy for terrorists, entirely unaware of the unintended irony that lay in these accusations. John McCain even compared Germany's and France's opposition to the Iraq invasion to the support of Mussolini's fascist Italy in a February 2003 speech. American jingoism seemed to run amok, much like German jingoism did in 1933. And another unprovoked war was not far. We Germans did not understand this hostility and were deeply offended by this ignorance. Aren't we close allies and even friends? When you sit in a bar with a friend, someone attacks him and he overreacts, suddenly pulls his gun, and you then hold him back saying „keep cool, don't do something you will regret later“, is your friend's right reaction to spit in your face, shouting „either you are with me, or against me“? History has proven us right. No WMD were found in Iraq after the invasion Bush started and McCain agreed on, the country is still far from stability, peace and democracy and about 650,000 civilians have died since the invasion, due to the invasion, which is about five times the number per year than under Saddam's rule. America has literally burnt billions of dollars in Iraq, and still has to. In the meantime, Iran, which actually owns WMD, is standing aside, waiting for America to leave, until it can expand its influence on Iraq's Shia population. America's reputation abroad is shattered, never before its approval rate was as low among America's closest allies. You Americans should have listened to a good friend. But that's not all. Bush was far from finishing yet: It would not take long until a prisoner camp for terror suspects was opened in Guantanamo Bay, and probably many other, similar secret sites abroad. John McCain occasionally voiced criticism, but he would always vote in favor of Bush on that matter. And we Germans didn't believe it when we learnt mere suspects are held there indefinitely, being denied the right on fair trials where there guilt will be determined! How can the alleged „leader of the free world“ violate the most basic principles of our common Western civilization? Haven't you Americans told us after World War Two that a constitutional state and a fair legal system are basic standards of a democratic republic? Did Nazism not start, when the first suspect was denied a fair trial for political reasons? Will we ever learn how many held there are in fact innocent? Even a German citizen named Al-Mazri was kidnapped from the streets in Munich by the CIA, then shipped to an internment camp in Afghanistan, held there without any legal assistance whatsoever, tortured, and, after a few months released again, after the CIA found they confused him due to a name similarity. The man is broken, probably his psychological wounds will never heal. He filed a complaint at an American court, which denied him justice by claiming that would „violate national security“. The German prosecution filed an arrest warrent against the CIA agents, but America refuses to deliver them. Is that how a democratic state behaves towards its allies? Kidnapping their citizens from the streets of allied free countries? And then the introduction of torture as systematic policy. Not only are mere suspects, many of whom are likely innocent, yet denied a fair trial, held indefinitely, but they are also tortured. Again, McCain attempted to appear different, by voicing criticism against torture, but there was not a single bill he voted on against it. He even voted against a bill proposed by the Democrats in Congress that would have put an end to these practizes. How can a civilized, enlightened nation resort to the tools of our worst enemies? Hasn't torture been the first choice tool for authoritarian regimes like Hitler's, Stalin's or Saddam's? How can we still attempt to win hearts and minds of people living under authoritarian rule, by claiming we are better? Won't they show us the finger, telling us we do the same? For a German who has been taught over and over again in school that Nazism was evil, not just because the Nazis murdered Jews and started a world war, but also because they eroded the constitutional state and law, because they denied suspects fair trials, because they held political prisoners indefinitely and used torture, all these actions are unbelievable. And we feel America is today committing many of those mistakes which once pushed our country into the worst disaster it ever experienced. And we, as your friends, feel you should listen and learn from our experience. Of course some Germans overshoot the mark. Some are too ready to make wrong comparisons between America under Bush and Nazism, which, despite the similarities I explained above, still is invalid. Some may be too harsh in their criticism. And some maybe do not understand America well enough to realize Bush's and McCain's America is not the whole America, that the friend we used to love still is there, somewhere hidden behind the fear and jingoism. But most Germans, I believe, are not „anti-American“. They do not hate America. They are especially disappointed, just because they love America, and know the immense goodness it was capable of in the past. It's the wasted potential that disappoints us. Going back to the bar fight analogy, we found America under Bush and McCain resembling a good mentor and friend we used to respect and even love, but who now is completely drunk, intoxicated by jingoism and the megalomania of the own perceived greatness, loses control and behaves like a fool. He loses the respect of all people in the bar witnessing his drunken, self-righteous blather, his adolescent bragging with his guns and the fights he picks. We feel ashamed for this friend, want to help him, but in the end, we know we cannot help him. He alone can decide to go home and get sober again. That is why Germany desperately hopes for Obama to win the election. Obama is the personification of the „other America“, the one we used to love. A sober America, not infected with the virus of jingoism and militarism. An America that thinks before shooting. And an America that respects and understands its allies, instead of wallowing in the delusion it is superior to everybody else. Obama's speech has proven he understands Germany very well. And his German audience has proven we are not „anti-American“, or hopeless pacifists unwilling to fight for freedom, by applauding when Obama demanded more German troops for Afghanistan, in exchange for more co-determination of our common actions. No, it's not that we Germans hate America, hate freedom or all are hopeless pacifists. We just want respect as allies, we want to pick our fights wisely and we want our mentor on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean to be a good, shining example for us all, by respecting our common values, the same values you brought back to us after 1945. As for John McCain, there is no indication whatsoever he would follow different policies than Bush. He voted in favor of the Iraq war and defended it numerous times. He generally agrees to unilateralism which ignores even America's key allies, when they disagree. Although he opposed torture at first, he finally flip-flopped and now supports it. He has the image of a „maverick“, a moderate who often disagreed with Bush, yet his voting record indicates nothing like that at all. Everything he did in these regards were nothing but lip service, a PR stunt. He even jokes about the killing of innocent civilians, when singing a song about „bombing Iran“. All observations indicate McCain would continue Bush's legacy of utter disrespect for America's allies, the megalomaniac delusion of American superiority, the militarism, the jingoism. Please, America, get sober again. We want our old mentor and friend back, we want to respect America again, instead of looking at it with shame, because we love it. Don't vote for John McCain, who would just give you the next drink. ------ -------------------- Here is the according website where a shorter version of the article was published: Is John McCain Ready?