Interview with Norman Paech, international spokesman of the
parliamentary fraction of the German party "Die Linke" (The Left) and
professor emeritus for law in Hamburg.
Q: You and your party oppose the NATO mission in Afghanistan and the German participation. Why?
We do not believe that peace can be brought to Afghanistan by military means. The German involvement is highly problematic as it follows the US objective of a Greater Middle East. The invasion and occupation of Afghanistan constitutes a violation international law.
Q: What does the German public opinion think?
The German population is not convinced at all, and as a matter of fact a significant majority is opposed to the presence of German troops in Afghanistan. The situation in the country has deteriorated over the last six years, and when I say this I'm not only speaking of the killed and injured coalition troops but also the Afghan people, who undoubtedly have suffered the most. We are sliding into an Iraq-type scenario. The Western and German intervention is not the solution but rather the core of the problem.
Q: You represent less than 10% of the members of parliament. Is there a hope that other parties or at least MPs might join your position?
Among the MPs the atmosphere has undergone a significant change over the last years. They are starting to feel that we have taken the wrong track in supporting this US-led military operation. They are no longer able to close their eyes to the fact that we are building a protectorate for warlords and drug traffickers. Sooner or later public opposition against the deployment of German troops in Afghanistan will and must be reflected in parliament as well. Actually, it is astonishing how long parliament has been able to ignore public opinion on this issue.
Q: So you mean you will be able to vote for the withdrawal of the German troops soon?
I think so, yes. That does not mean to say that the dominant parties are responsive to our analysis of the situation. But the impact of the worsening situation in Afghanistan will force them to the conclusion that the withdrawal of German troops is inevitable. They cannot continue to ignore reality.
Q: Since World War II Germany has been completely tied to the US. The German participation in the Afghan mission follows as a logical consequence of this relationship. Do you advocate a change in this trans-Atlantic alliance?
Germany, since the end of the Second World War, has been nothing more than a US vassal state. Chancellor Merkel's policy has served to emphasise this fact, and most of the Social Democrats are of similar mind. Saying that, Schroeder's refusal to participate in the invasion and occupation of Iraq proved that such blind submission to US foreign policy objectives isn't necessary. It was not a total break but at least he refused to deploy troops. Sadly, after Schroeder left office, Merkel came in and renewed the shameful tradition of German obeisance to the US. We strongly believe that in order to achieve peace we need to be more independent of Washington. We do not fundamentally put the alliance into question but we do believe that NATO must be dissolved. It was formed as defence pact against the Soviet bloc but with the latter's implosion it has lost its reason for being. Since then it has been transformed into an aggressive alliance in service to imperialism. We see this most emphatically in the Middle East with the objective of securing access to raw materials and energy.
Q: In the West the military presence in Afghanistan is commonly justified under the rubric of the "war on terror" or even as a mission to "export democracy". What mainstream politicians and commentators in West describe as terrorism is for most Afghans legitimate resistance against foreign occupation. What is your view?
It is obvious that all the talk we hear of democracy and human rights is void and serves as nothing more than a pretext to further strategic and economic interests in the region - i.e., the control of the raw materials needed to fuel Western economies. Afghanistan itself is crucial mainly for transit of petroleum and natural gas from the rich deposits of Central Asia. It also has strategic political importance with regard to the relationship of the two nuclear powers of the subcontinent, India and Pakistan. It is not about "nation building" and "good governance". This is a lie. What we have in truth is an imperial protectorate.
Q: So do you consider resistance legitimate?
Resistance against foreign occupation in Iraq or Afghanistan is legitimate as long as it limits itself to military targets and refrains from deliberately attacking civilians. In this sense I would like to make it clear that we distance ourselves from the cruel methods of the Taliban.
Q: According to international law there is a significant difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq the US failed to lend the UN cover to their attack but for Afghanistan they secured the carte blanche of the UN.
We strongly challenge the legal arguments put forward by NATO. Their core rationale is still article 51 of the UN charter which stipulates the right to self-defence. But Afghanistan no longer poses a threat to the US let alone its territory or other any other NATO member country involved in this occupation. In fact, it is questionable if there ever was such a threat in the first place. The mandate lent to ISAF by the UN Security Council is built on this false justification. We therefore strongly doubt that it complies with international law.
Q: If all coalition troops left Afghanistan it is likely that the Taliban would seize power. What do you say to those who would argue that this would be a disaster for the Afghan people?
We should not forget that the entire problem was created by the interference and intervention of the US in Afghanistan's internal affairs going back decades. The mujahedeen which resisted the Soviet intervention was massively supported and funded by the US. The Taliban were backed by Pakistan which is an ally of the US. So Washington bears the brunt of the responsibility. The only solution is the withdrawal of all coalition troops and respect for the principle of self determination. Things cannot get worse than they are now. To always pour in new troops will only aggravate the situation. A withdrawal will certainly not resolve all the problems but it is a first step to a just solution. The main task is to dismantle the protectorate and to restore the sovereignty of the Afghan people. They are capable of deciding their own future without interference from anyone else.
by Wilhelm Langthaler, Vienna, Austria
June 2, 2008
reproduced from Al Ahram Weekly
17 - 23 July 2008, Issue No. 906