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  • Konrad Werner: Mere hypocrisy


Konrad Werner: Mere hypocrisy

The German government likes taking a pacifist stand on war – it opposed Iraq, got all cagey about Afghanistan and has now avoided NATO's Libya operation. That's all very well, but it would help if it stopped selling weapons to every dictator going.

There’s an old Bill Hicks routine in which Bill compares the USA to Jack Palance in the movie Shane. I once watched the movie Shane just to find out what he meant, but it doesn’t add anything to Bill’s masterful imitation. The whole situation is too complicated to go into, but Jack throws a gun at the feet of a goat herder. He tells the young goat herder to “pick up the gun”. The goat herder is afraid and refuses, but after being bullied for long enough by Jack, he does it, and Jack shoots him. This was Bill’s metaphor for US foreign policy.

The metaphor for German foreign policy would be similar. Maybe instead of a lumbering, craggy-jawed, violent cowboy there would be a very impolite, emotionally repressed salesman, who would say “Das musst du wissen” while he lists the technical qualities of an MP5 and waits for the goat herder to react. And then when the goat herder gets flustered enough, and finally buys the gun, which is incidentally the exact same assault rifle as the one all the cowboys have, the salesmen just goes off, and leaves the cowboys to deal with the newly armed and emotionally confused goat herder.

Something like that. The point is that in the last 10 years, Germany has become the third biggest arms exporter in the world, supplying 20 percent of the weapons to the developing world, after only the USA and Russia. In the current war in Libya, the German company EADS provided both anti-tank missiles to Gadhafi and Eurofighters to NATO.

The USA and Russia have never cared very much about the moral rights and wrongs of selling armaments everywhere, but at least when they sell weapons to dictators, they have the decency to go and kill them themselves. What’s the word of the week? Scheinheilig.