By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany
Until the new CDU, CSU, and FDP coalition German government came to power after elections last autumn for nearly a decade it was taboo in Germany for the defense ministry to say the W-word. However, with the worst and most intensive fighting of its 50-plus years of history taking place in Kundus (Afghanistan) last week, Germany's Bundeswehr says the words much more freely now.
The ministry says now clearly in its news reports, "We are at War."
Since 2002, when Germany stumbled into war as America's willing-training-partners for the first time in newly NATO-occupied-Afghanistan, nearly 40 German soldiers have died--even though ostensibly they were sent there for non-combat duties, including the training of local police and construction work.
In September last year, the German military began to recognize it was, indeed, at war, so it went on the offensive and immediately got itself involved in a massacre in Kundus, which may eventually force the current Minister of the Bundeswehr, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, to step down at some point.
Another German officer, Georg Klein, will likely go up for a war-crimes trial for that air attack which he had called down recklessly on civilians last autumn.
Naturally, Germany--due to its 20th Century history-- is more in tune than the weak-USA military leadership in terms of carrying out war crimes charges against their own officers these days. Not-wanting-to-get involved-in-any-more-war-crimes has been a national goal and constitutionally-supported-and-condoned policy and practice of the Federal Republic of Germany for over 5 decades, i.e. since the Bundeswehr's inception.
According to the SPIEGEL, "The Sept. 4  attack saw German commander Colonel Georg Klein call for a US air strike against two tanker trucks which had been hijacked by the Taliban. NATO rules of engagement in Afghanistan call for the presence of an imminent threat before such attacks can be launched, but given the fact that the tankers were stuck in a sandbank in the middle of the Kunduz River at the time of the attack, many have questioned whether the tankers posed a danger. Furthermore, Klein has been accused of ignoring indications that civilians were present at the site. The attack was the largest German-ordered bombing since World War II and killed up to 142 people, including civilians."
A "parliamentary inquiry is aimed at clearing up the still nebulous circumstances surrounding the incident and clarifying which members of the German government knew what, and when they knew it. Guttenberg himself must testify to the inquiry on April 22", reported Matthies Gebauer of the SPIEGEL.
As I noted above, German citizens feel like they have walked into the Afghan War a bit blind-folded and backwards--as opposed to Americans who are often walking into wars blind-folded but forwards. That is, Germany actually has a Peace Constitution that still prohibits its military running-around-outside of NATO-territory in the middle of civil wars. It was only in Somalia in the 1990s that the German military even had an inclination to go to another continent to do work--again, that event in Somalia was supposed to be for peace keeping reasons, too, not WAR.