War comes to Germany
Germans have spent the last six decades trying to be as un-militaristic as possible.
Their struggle to make a complete U-turn from their belligerent past has caused many an awkward moment for the country and its NATO allies. In avoiding the mere mention of the word “war” that seemed to be all but banished from their vocabulary, German leaders raised in a post-war era and the motto “Nie Wieder Krieg!” (No more war ever) have gone through tortuous tongue-twisting excursions about what the increasingly deadly mission in Afghanistan isn’t – a war.
But all that angst about “war” was suspended, at least temporarily, on Friday when Chancellor Angela Merkel went, for the first time, to a funeral service for three German soldiers. They were killed in an ambush in Afghanistan on Good Friday.
Until now Merkel had kept her distance to the increasingly unpopular mission in Afghanistan and the 4,300 German soldiers stationed there. But on Friday she cut short a holiday to attend an emotional ceremony broadcast live on German TV networks, where she defended the country’s involvement despite 39 soldiers killed so far on what was supposed to be a peacekeeping mission. “Most soldiers would call it a civil war or simply war — and I can well understand that,” said Merkel, 55.
“What we experienced on Good Friday would understandably be called ‘war’ by most people — and me too,” said Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, 38. He offered a moving tribute, using language rarely heard to describe soldiers in post-war Germany.
“I was trying to explain my sorrow to my daughter on Good Friday and she asked me if the three young men were ‘courageous heroes’ of our country (tapfere Helden unseres Landes) and whether it was okay to be proud of them,” said Guttenberg, who was close to tears.
“I answered both questions, not politically, but instead simply with ‘yes’.”