After marathon debates marked by vehement opposition and high drama, the Greens yesterday voted in favor of German troop deployment in Afghanistan.
Emotion-charged speech: Joschka Fischer
Germany's Green Party reluctantly endorsed the deployment of 3,900 Bundeswehr troops for the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign yesterday at its annual conference in Rostock. With the decision the Greens secured their place in government, thereby averting its collapse.
But the decision wasn’t a easy one to make. The Green Party, which is pacifist in origin has been agonizing for weeks over the issue of whether to support the deployment of German troops in the US-led war against terrorism in America.
After ten hours of heated and impassioned debate, two-thirds of 750 delegates voted for mobilization.
"Most difficult decision in the history of the party"
Greens co-leader Claudia Roth described the vote at the party's congress as the "most difficult decision in the history of our party". But she stressed that at times like these a Green Party was needed to make people stop and think before blindly supporting a war.
The coalition government must continue, she said because it is good for the country and people.
The majority of speakers at the party congress in Rostock appealed to the party's grassroots to support the motion.
Most opponents stressed the Greens' pacifist origins and said that countering terrorism with a war would only lead to more violence.
"Killing innocents leads to another generation of hatred"
Hans-Christian Ströble defended his decision not to support the government last week, when the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, voted to send troops to Afghanistan. He told the 800 delegates that he cannot support the US bombing of Afghanistan because of the killing of innocent civilians that forges in his opinion another generation of hatred.
The Greens leadership put forward a proposal in favor of staying in government, but stressed its anti-war credentials and "critical" support of the United States in contrast with Schröder's pledge of "unlimited" backing.
"I want you to support my politics and not leave me alone"
The highlight of the conference yesterday was undoubtedly Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s 30-minute fiery speech peppered with theatrics and high emotion. He sweated, gestured wildly, and at the end even pleaded with his party to support him, "I ask for your confidence. I want you to support my politics here with this congress and not to leave me alone," he said, close to tears.
In his speech Fischer spoke of the mindless destruction in New York in September and took the delegates through a quick run-through of UN peacekeeping troops which included German soldiers in Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia. He said during these opearations for the first time armed soldiers had helped to break the vicious cycle of terror and destruction and save the lives of people.
"In the world of the 21st century, we cannot as a ruling party circumvent the military factor".
Though Fischer had to survive some hecklers, about half the delegates sprang to their feet after his speech and gave him a standing ovation for almost three minutes amid rousing applause.
"If Germany goes through with this, we've learnt nothing from two world wars"
The conference had its share of anti-war demonstrators. They greeted the 750 delegates with placards and whistles. Some of them carried a poster portraying Fischer in combat gear and with a rifle in hand.
Among the protestors were a number of regional party leaders who had quit the Green party in disgust at the party’s support for the US-led campaign.
"If Germany goes through with this policy, we've learnt nothing from two world wars," said Werner Kuhn, a long-time Greens member who quit in 1999 when the party supported sending German troops to Kosovo.
Heinz Born, a World War Two veteran, produced a small fragment of a mortar round.
"I've experienced war and an American bomb put this into my lungs. War kills the innocent and this is happening again," the 83-year-old said.