open letter to joschka fischer michael danby

  1. 375 Posts.
    Federal Member for Melbourne Ports

    “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department, says Werner von Braun” – comedian Tom Lehrer’s apocryphal song about German failure addresses the issue of the use of German armaments.


    Dear Foreign Minister Fischer,

    As the current Chair of the United Nations Security Council, Germany’s role in the current debate on Iraq is even more important than usual.

    I am writing to you about the disturbing practice of German firms continuing to supply chemical weapons agents, precursors and dual-use agents to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. I believe this undermines Berlin’s moral authority on whatever decisions the UN makes.

    The recently released reports by Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei detail the surprising record that your country, and your government, has on the sale of chemical weapons to Iraq. However, as someone whose father and uncle fled Germany, and whose grandparents were murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz and Therisienstadt, I am most concerned by these prima facie breaches of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which you signed in 1993, and ratified in 1994.

    The report by Iraq to the UN Security Council on 7th December 2002 shows that German firms made up the bulk of the suppliers of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The list of Iraq’s chemical weapons declaration, dated 1998 to current, contains 31 major suppliers, 14 of those from Germany. The nuclear suppliers list, dated 1996 to current, has 62 company names on it, 33 of which are from Germany.

    Can you confirm that on November 13 2002 the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, provided a confidential briefing to members of the Bundestag, which confirmed that Iraq has an extensive Weapons of Mass Destruction program, based largely on the export of German skills, technology and materials?

    It is true that since the 1980s, the German government has monitored German exports to Iraq of dual-use nuclear technologies, precursor chemicals for poison-gas weapons and products and equipment for biological weapons, and this provision of assistance continued after the 1991 Gulf War?

    Allegedly, the BND helped operate a front company, Water Engineering Trading, which covered for, and facilitated, exports to Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. At what point did Water Engineering Trading cease exporting nuclear, chemical and biological materials to Iraq? Why did this trading continue after the Gulf War, and after your entry into the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1994?

    It is very disturbing that the BND continued to warn the German parliament, government and media, in 1994, in February 2001, in April 2001 and again in November 2002 that German firms were exporting nuclear, chemical and biological materials to Iraq. If this is the case, why were these not stopped, in contravention of both the Chemical Weapons Convention, the European Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and UN sanctions on Iraq - all of which I understand your country and government is a signatory to?

    According to Iraqi declarations, companies like Preussag, Hoechst, Daimler-Benz, Siemens, Kloeckner, Carl Zeiss, Schott Glas, Karl Kolb and Walter Thosti Boswau (WTB) were all Iraqi suppliers. What other German firms supply materials to Iraq? I find it very surprising that a Green/Social Democrat government like yours has not launched more prosecutions.

    I appreciate that the owner of the Rhein-Bayern Fahzeugbau Corporation was imprisoned for five years for exporting more than 1,000 ignition systems for Iraqi missiles, including Scud missiles, which can carry biological and nuclear warheads. But why was the Rheining Haus Corporation only fined $75,000 for shipping 24 tons of chemicals to Iraq that may have been used in the chemical weapons industry?

    If these allegations are accurate, then no wonder that at the annual Baghdad International Trade Fair in November, the Iraqi Information Ministry reported that Saddam himself had ordered domestic buyers to “give priority” to German companies as a reward for “the firm positive stand of Germany in rejecting the launching of a military attack against Iraq by the US.”

    Some 101 German companies were represented at the November 2002 Baghdad expo, including companies offering air-conditioning equipment, energy and transportation services, cosmetics, textiles and numerous other products. Direct two-way trade between Germany and Iraq amounts to about US$350 million annually, while another US$1 billion is sold via third countries, according to Iraqi authorities.

    When Germany is the major supplier of chemical, biological and nuclear materials to Iraq, how can you and Chancellor Schroeder stand by and say, “Germany will not participate in military intervention in any case”?

    I can understand that people of goodwill have differences about the use of war to disarm Iraq. But is it morally honest of you to stand by, and allow German firms to export dangerous materials to Iraq, and allow Iraq to possibly develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons with German intelligence and material, yet advocate that only inspections continue? Germany, above all countries, needs to assure the world by action, not just rhetoric that it will do everything to prevent Iraq using weapons of mass destruction.

    Yours sincerely,

    Michael Danby MHR
    Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
    Opposition Whip

    Michael Danby visited Germany with an Australian parliamentary delegation and gave the official vote of thanks at the Bundestag on behalf of the Australian delegation. His father’s family came from Rostock, Mecklenberg in northern Germany. His grandparents perished in KZ Auschwitz and KZ Thereseinstadt
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