A little more info THE WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE IS LINKED BELOW Germany's Mr. Tough Guy By Michael Kelly Wednesday, February 12, 2003; Page A29 "Excuse me. I am not convinced." -- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, lecturing to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Munich last week, after Rumsfeld's argument for war against Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld may have convinced the leaders of 18 European nations, but not you, Mr. Fischer. It's personal. This seems to me the right way to look at it. The question of failing to convince must be seen in the context of whom we have failed to convince. Sometimes "who" explains "why." Mr. Fischer, who are you? You are the foreign minister of Germany. You have been that since 1998, when Germany's left-wing Greens party, of which you are a leader, won enough in the polls to force the Social Democratic Party into the so-called Red-Greens coalition government. But for the formative years of your political life, you were no man in a blue government suit. You were a man in a black motorcycle helmet. That is what you were wearing on that day in April 1973 when you were photographed, to quote the New Left historian Paul Berman, "as a young bully in a street battle in Frankfurt." In 2001, Stern magazine published five photographs of you in action that day. What these pictures depicted was described by Berman in a deeply informed 25,000-word article, "The Passion of Joschka Fischer" (The New Republic, Sept. 3, 2001). The photos showed you, Mr. Fischer, inflicting a "gruesome beating" on a young policeman named Rainer Marx: "Fischer and other people on the attack, the white-helmeted cop going into a crouch; Fischer's black-gloved fist raised as if to punch the crouching cop on the back; Fischer's comrades crowding around; the cop huddled on the ground, Fischer and his comrades appearing to kick him . . ." As Berman reported, Mr. Fischer, you rose in public life as an important figure in the anti-American, anti-liberal, neo-Marxist, revolution-minded German radical left of the generation of 1968. This was the left that produced and supported the Baader-Meinhof Gang (or Red Army Faction), which, as Berman wrote, "refrained from nothing," including "kidnappings, bank holdups, murders." You were not a terrorist yourself, but you were a good and active friend to terrorists, weren't you, Mr. Fischer? In 1976, to protest the death in prison of Baader-Meinhof founder Ulrike Meinhof, you planned and participated in a Frankfurt demonstration in which, Berman wrote, "somebody tossed a Molotov cocktail at a policeman and burned him nearly to death." You were arrested but not charged. In 2001, Meinhof's daughter, Bettina Rohl (who gave those damning photos to Stern) told the press that you were responsible for the throwing of that firebomb. Other contemporary witnesses, Berman reported, said that you "had never ruled out the use of Molotovs and may even have favored it." You denied it, for the record. In 2001 the German government put on trial your old friend Hans-Joachim Klein, who had been an underground "soldier" in the Revolutionary Cells, an ally of the Red Army Faction and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The Revolutionary Cells helped in the murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972, and Klein himself took part in a 1975 joint assassination operation with Carlos the Jackal in which three were killed. During your testimony at Klein's trial, you were accused of having harbored Red Army Faction members in your Revolutionary Struggle house, the Frankfurt center for the group Revolutionary Struggle, which you co-founded with housemate Daniel "Danny the Red" Cohn-Bendit. You were forced to admit there was some truth in the accusation after it was revealed, as Berman reported, that Margrit Schiller, "who had served jail time for her connections to the Red Army Faction," had in her memoirs "plainly stated that she had spent a 'few days' in the early 1970s living in the Revolutionary Struggle house." (After your testimony, you shook hands with your old terrorist friend Klein. Sweet.) In 1969, you attended the meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization in which the PLO resolved that its ultimate aim was the extinction of Israel -- that is to say, the extinction or expulsion of the Jews of Israel. Seven years later, Revolutionary Cells terrorists led by your Frankfurt colleague, Wilfried Boese, hijacked an Air France plane to Entebbe, Uganda. The hijackers intended to murder all the Jewish passengers on that flight but were killed by Israeli commandos. "Suddenly," Berman wrote, "the implication of anti-Zionism struck home to [Fischer]. What did it mean that, back in Algiers in 1969, the PLO, with the young Fischer in attendance, had voted the Zionist entity into extinction? Now he knew what it meant." So, that's who you are, Mr. Fischer, the man we haven't convinced. You are the man for whom Munich wasn't enough, the man who needed Entebbe to convince him that murdering Jews was wrong. You ask to be excused. You have been excused. © 2003 The Washington Post Company He Said What? – A Collection of Fischer Quotes Both Past and Present Frankfurt, Luisenplatz, April 7, 1973: Joseph Fischer (in black helmut) attacking a policeman. (Photo: Lutz Kleinhans) 1974 / Panel discussion "Tribunal Against Torture" There are only two alternatives: either we accept some kind of reformism that in the last resort represents the practice of capitalism, or we go for what people denounce as actions by political rockers, but what in reality means organizing mass-resistance against reactionary violence. 1976 / Conference of the "Socialist Bureau" Precisely because our solidarity is with the comrades living underground, because of our close links with them, we ask them to abandon their death trip, to get away from their armed, self-inflicted isolation, to put away the bombs and the stones and to resume a resistance that aims at a different life. But we can not simply distance ourselves from the city. 1979 / Essay in the alternative magazine Pflasterstrand Our revolution simply did not exist, either here or in Vietnam, Persia or China, it existed and continues to exist only within us. We never associated revolution with a political coup, with a different state, a different distribution of power and property. Instead, it meant the negation of all that. No state, no power and no property. 1983 / Interview in the weekly Die Zeit During the "German Autumn" in 1977, the game suddenly became deadly serious. One of my acquaintances received a suspended sentence of several months, because he had justified (Hanns-Martin) Schleyer's (director of the German employers' federation) abduction. At that point, the question of an armed struggle became really acute -- either the guerrilla is right, and you have to do it, or it is sheer madness. Interview in the newsmagazine Der Spiegel Every democracy, every open system is the result of laws being broken. The big problem is that in Germany, the great majority of people, including the established parties, view citizens' liberties and human rights as imports. In other countries, in the American South for instance, those civil rights were achieved and slavery abolished by people consciously violating the legal rights of the majority. I can only tell you one thing: I will continue to accept breaches of the law to create humane conditions. 1985 / Interview in Playboy You were never armed? No, never, because we didn't agree with the direction the city guerrilla was taking. Of course, there were also virility rituals, rituals of courage, and there was a fascination with violence -- I mean the experience of success when we had not run away for a change but knocked over a policeman armed with baton, helmet and shield in hand-to-hand combat. (...) Sounds almost bellicose. No, because it was much more harmless, that is the decisive point. It wasn't about life and death. It was a ritual. Our model democrats have to understand how important these ritualized violent clashes can be. 1995 / Open letter on the war in Bosnia. A policy aimed at overcoming violence can not be based on violence. Non-violence is therefore among the universal basic values of the left. By the same token, we should not allow ourselves to deny the victims of murderous violence our help to survive, and in an extreme case, that means using military force. That is the necessary result of another basic value of the left, solidarity. 1997 / Sybille Krause-Burger quotes Mr. Fischer in her biography: "Violence, that was a mixture of ideology, macho-behavior and experience with the police. But it also was something like a revolutionary myth: Vietnam, Che Guevara." But he is reluctant to go into greater detail, beyond saying he "fought." -- "I fought, nothing drastic." Did he throw stones and punches? "I did nothing, I fought. With very few exceptions, we managed in Frankfurt to stick to the strategy of a mass movement and therefore didn't go beyond stones and beatings." 2001 / Interview in Stern magazine Yes, I was militant. But I was always against the armed struggle and strongly opposed it politically . We occupied houses, and when the police tried to clear them, we defended ourselves. We threw stones. We were beaten up, but we didn't hold back either. I never tried to hide anything. How important was violence for you personally? First we were beaten, and then we defended ourselves and hit back. That is also when the fascination with revolutionary violence began. (...) Did you throw Molotov cocktails at the police? Definitely not! What did fighting mean for you in those days? Fighting meant demonstrating, demonstrating against the power of the state, which we wanted to overthrow. Stones were thrown, and we were beaten. But we also handed out beatings. (...) Would you say even today that there were circumstances when violence was justified? As a result of my own experience, I now accept violence only as a means of last resort -- when life and freedom are at stake and all other means have failed. Otherwise, violence is extremely dangerous, and I am opposed to it. (...) It was one of my worst experiences when an Air France plane was hijacked in 1976 with the participation of two Germans from Frankfurt. The commando collected the passports and then made a selection among the hostages according to Jews and non-Jews. That was disgusting and horrible and triggered massive, internal disillusionment. How often did you bear a weapon in those days? Never. With the exception of an air rifle, I haven't fired a single shot in my life. Interview on ARD television There was a time when we fought for freedom but also succumbed to the lure of totalitarianism. It was a time to which I have an ambiguous relationship from today's point of view. (...) We wanted to get rid of the role of being a victim. We did not try to use violence against those weaker than us. We crossed a line, particularly in the clashes with the police, and that is the aspect where we have to admit guilt, or rather, where I have to admit guilt - I don't want to fall back into the plural again. (...) I don't want to get into a situation again where people say that Fischer is trying to justify himself. It can't be justified. I'm only trying to explain (the situation). (...) Because I stand by my history, rather than being proud of something, as is often said about me. Compiled by Volker Hagemeister.Jan. 15, 2001 © Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited.