Since the Second World War’s ending, the major European powers have pandered to their master across the Atlantic. While the United States has waged war and ousted governments around the world, European states have either bloodied their hands with them, provided aid, or nodded their silent approval.
As populations across the West rebel against neoliberal globalisation, cracks are beginning to emerge. The strain has been exacerbated by the election of US president Donald Trump, whose recent severe sanctions on Russia affect old allies like Europe’s powerhouse, Germany. Heaven forbid that Germany, who have longmercilessly strangled Greece’s economy, should suffer indirect consequences of sanctions against Russia.
Last week, German Minister for Economics and Energy Brigitte Zypries denounced the US sanctions bill as “being against international law, plain and simple”. Weighing in, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel lambasted the “unacceptable” measures which demand “a much higher price” from Germany.
Yet it was not “against international law” when Angela Merkel, then opposition leader, vociferously backed the 2003 US-led Iraq invasion – this despite protests from within her own party. Merkel said, “War had become unavoidable. Not acting would have caused more damage.” She urged her country to “stand by America’s side” in the illegal attack on a sovereign nation. If we believe Merkel’s judgment, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens was “unavoidable”.
Merkel insisted Germany should participate in an invasion which further generated millions of refugees, incited a massive and continuing sectarian conflict, while also helping to spawn ISIS. Apparently, “not acting” would have had more severe permutations than this.
As German Chancellor, Merkel assured the public [in 2007] that America has been “a force that has brought freedom to the peoples of the world”. Words seemingly spoken with a straight face. The US has undoubtedly been “a force” but those who have suffered under American imperialism might find the word “freedom” a contentious one.
Merkel’s wisdom in supporting the Iraq invasion, described accurately as “the major crime of the 21st century”, has been carefully erased from history. It would not do to question the reputation of the newly proclaimed “leader of the free world”. Further, her German ministers were not heard complaining it was “unacceptable” when the EU – with German backing – imposed recent sanctions on Russia in relation to the Western-initiated Ukrainian conflict. Sanctions are only “against international law, plain and simple” when it affects German business interests one can assume.
Merkel remained obediently quiet as the US performed a key role in the unlawful overthrowing of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014. She chose to “stand by America’s side” once more, meekly offering no opposition that might have affected her “friendship” with then US President Barack Obama. Still, the Chancellor spoke up a month later as Russia reintegrated Crimea into its territory, hugely backed by the Crimean people. She demanded that Russia “must not be allowed to get away with it”.
The Ukrainian coup has resulted in the country being ripped asunder but that doesn’t seem of great concern to the German leader. The US has been “allowed to get away with” financing the illegitimate putsch, or “brokering a deal” as Obama said – and also more forceful interventions elsewhere. All of this has not prevented Merkel from sanctimoniously addressing the rights of minority groups.
In May during a meeting in the Russian city of Sochi, she said, “I asked President [Vladimir] Putin to use his influence to protect these minority rights [homosexuals in Chechnya]. I have… indicated how important the right to demonstrate is in a civil society.” The liberties of minority groups, it appears, are more important to Merkel than the rights of millions of Iraqi or Ukrainian citizens. Lecturing Putin on how to behave “in a civil society” served its purpose in public relations – especially with an election on the horizon which Merkel expects to win again.
There looks to be no major strain (as of yet) in Franco-American relations. The French President Emmanuel Macron behaved amicably with Trump during the latter’s visit to Paris last month. Previously, in June, Macron had said, “Tonight I wish to tell the United States, France believes in you, the world believes in you. I know that you are a great nation. I know your history – our common history.” If by “the world” Macron was referring to parts of Europe, Canada and Australia, then perhaps he was correct. It’s doubtful whether the people of Latin America, the Middle East or Africa “believes” in the United States at this stage.
The “common history” of France and the US over recent centuries has involved the persecution and exploitation of people across the world. This legacy appears to instil pride in the investment banker turned politician. As do assaults on freedom of speech. In the days after being elected, Macron felt the need to chastise Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik for being “organs of influence, of propaganda, of lying propaganda”. Macron neglected to rebuke Western networks like Sky News and CNN, who have been known to criticise Putin, while supporting him.
One could be forgiven for attributing Macron’s comments to Britain’s Tony Blair, partner-in-crime with George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq. Blair has been attempting to rehabilitate his reputation in recent years with comments such as “democracy is not on its own sufficient”, and that “you need effective government taking effective decisions”. The former Labour leader certainly made “effective decisions” by joining the US in waging a war that’s consequences continue to the present. Stations like Sky News and the BBC have seemed eager in airing his opinions.