Berlin Efforts to Prevent Iraq Invasion Classified Papers Prove German Warnings to Bush

A classified document obtained by SPIEGEL shows notes from a meeting between a top German diplomat and Condoleezza Rice just weeks before the Iraq invasion. It indicates steps by the German government to prevent the war and undermines claims in George W. Bush's memoir that Gerhard Schröder indicated he would support the president should the US go to war.

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Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer made every effort they could. The German chancellor and foreign minister spared no effort with their appeals, whether in public or private, in small groups or with the eyes of the entire world upon them. In the end, though, it was all for naught. Then-United States President George W. Bush wouldn't allow anyone to change his mind. He was dead set on launching a war against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and thereby bringing "freedom," as he put it, to the Middle East. It was a freedom that Bush described as " God's gift to mankind."

Over time, however, this would-be gift from God has grown to become the biggest foreign-policy disaster in US history since the Vietnam War. The war in Iraq and its subsequent occupation has cost more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians and over 4,000 American soldiers their lives. Washington's credibility has been severely damaged, and Iraq will remain a trouble spot for the foreseeable future.

It is facts like these that have helped stoke the outrage since Bush recently published his memoirs, "Decision Points," in which he claims that Schröder -- the very man who won re-election in 2002 in large part based on his opposition to the war -- assured him in January 2002 that Germany would support the United States if it decided to go to war against Iraq. For his part, Schröder was quick to deny Bush's comments, claiming instead that "(t)he former American president is not telling the truth."

SPIEGEL has now obtained a previously secret copy of notes taken from a conversation in February 2003 marked "Classified Information -- For Internal Use Only." At that time, in was just a matter of weeks before US soldiers invaded Iraq. Klaus Scharioth, a Berlin-based state secretary in the German Foreign Ministry, had flown to Washington in the hope of still having a chance of changing the minds of Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser at the time, and other high-ranking members on the National Security Council.

Costs of War 'Higher than Political Returns'

According to the notes -- all in German -- the meeting amounted to 90 minutes of verbal blows, which primarily stemmed from Rice's "relatively rigorous and uncompromising" defense of the US position. The same notes indicate that Scharioth didn't budge an inch toward Washington, either. In retrospect, though, they document a high point in German diplomatic history, because the objections and predictions put forward by Berlin on that Tuesday have turned out to be legitimate and correct.

The crux of the German argument was that the political costs of a war in Iraq would be "higher than (the) political returns." While Rice predicted that Iraq would take advantage of the "opportunities for reconstruction" like the ones Germany enjoyed after 1945, the delegation from Berlin countered that the rapid establishment of a democracy in Baghdad was "not (to be) expected."

The Germans also predicted that the real beneficiary of a war in Iraq would actually be Iran, and that a US-led attack would further complicate efforts to reach a solution in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Likewise, they prophesized that going to war would precipitate a "terrorist backlash." Scharioth stressed that it was important "to win over the hearts and minds of the Muslim elite and youths," according to the notes, and that this was "not to be achieved" by going to war. He also added that doing so would greatly increase the danger of prompting an "influx to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism."

Saddam Has 'Always Misled, Hidden and Stalled'

This remarkable conversation was held just a few days after the now-infamous speech that then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered in New York before the UN Security Council. Powell had presented what he apparently considered to be proof that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. But Berlin sensed that the evidence in no way substantiated Powell's claims.

With his speech, Powell wanted to convince the Security Council to give a green light to war. Less than three months earlier, the Security Council had passed Resolution 1441, which threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" if it was found to have committed any "material breach" of arms-control sanctions. Since the end of 2002, inspectors with the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been conducting searches in Iraq for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons -- though obviously without any success.

During this time, the Americans were growing impatient because they wanted to launch their attack before the onset of the heat and sandstorms accompanying the warmer months of the year. This, in turn, prompted Rice to push for action in a conversation with Scharioth. She argued that "everything had been tried"* over the last 12 years but Saddam Hussein has "always misled, hidden and stalled."*

In response, Berlin called for the inspections regime to be intensified and for the inspectors to be given more time. Chancellor Schröder even teamed up with then-French President Jacques Chirac and then-Russian President Vladimir Putin, forging an alliance on the Security Council, of which Germany was a non-permanent member in 2003. Rice justifiably complained that the Germans were apparently pursuing the goal of "preventing the United States from going to war."*

In the end, none of it helped. The United States went to war without any backing from the United Nations. On March 20, 2003, the bombing of Baghdad signaled the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And, from there, destiny ran its course.

* Please note that the asterisk following a quotation indicates it was translated from the German classified document and may differ slightly from the original, verbatim English quote.

This article originally appeared in German on SPIEGEL ONLINE's history portal,

Translated from the German by Josh Ward

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Anntink 11/26/2010
1. For the first time
I'm ashamed of my country, thanks to Mr. Bush, however, that shame is nothing compared to all the lost lives. Many, many Americans were opposed to the war. I wish international leaders had spoken out more publically in opposition. Perhaps with some international support for the opposition, the war could have been averted.
Norberto_Tyr 11/28/2010
2. USA behaves as if WW II ended yesterday
It is not surprising that Bush Jr. did not listened to a German diplomat for many reasons: 1- in the same way everyone knows that German cars are good, people knows that her diplomacy is bad; 2- the economic and financial kerfuffle must have been brewing for some time in USA-UK and a new Marshall Plan for Iraq was already cooked; 3- this is a symptom more than a cause, Kissinger, a spokesman for the American Jewish lobby, declared in an interview: “Why Iraq ? Because after Sep 11 Afghanistan was not enough…”; 4- even if this sounds surreal, the Old Testament is currently been written (at least this is the belief of some Jews, especially in Israel), therefore in connection with this millenary document the invasion was as a revenge for the Babylonian captivity on modern Iraqi people and also a personal vendetta on Saddam Hussein for bombing Israel during the first Iraqi war. The knives were out from the start regardless since ex-ante analysis ‘demonstrated’ that it would be an easy military exercise (a sequel of the first Iraq war), and a Iraqi ‘democratic’ government would use their oil export profits to rebuild the country’s infrastructure kick starting the rather languid American economy (similar state of affairs previous WW II). On the other hand, it will be an excellent way to get rid of due date ammunition and to test new military technologies. Pope, John Paul II, declared that it was an unjust war. Ex-post analysis proved that Iraq’s invasion was an ex-ante disaster. The bigger winners were Iran and Al Qaeda by far, the conflict increased the importance of the Hormuz strait and terrorism spilled into Yemen, Pakistan and beyond. On the liabilities side, the American credibility was shattered into pieces even before Fanny Mae (some called it Funny Mae) and the 2008 global financial scam. It is clear that Iraq War II will go in history as one of the major blunders in American history but more importantly: it marks the end of the “Three Stooges of Yalta” era, a mere 50 years party with a prospect of a long and painful hangover. Norberto
belal123 12/01/2010
3. Compare Germany with Bush Blair Motive.
Zitat von sysopA classified document obtained by SPIEGEL shows notes from a meeting between a top German diplomat and Condoleezza Rice just weeks before the Iraq invasion. It indicates steps by the German government to prevent the war and undermines claims in George W. Bush's memoir that Gerhard Schröder indicated he would support the president should the US go to war.,1518,730979,00.html
Germany is successful without debt.USA has $7 Trillion Debt and UK$1.5 Trillion.I remember pre Invasion Rhetoric of Blair.Jointly they did it.Iraq had sanctions and WMD inspectors for years.Israel(dependent on US handout) had bombed presumed Nuke Power Plant construction.Their friend Sadam even went to war with Ayotollahs.Shah Iran was selling oil for $1.85/barrel.9/11 was reason for Iraq invasion and for Afghanistan invasion.All those Car users are now after Iran WMD with Iran sanction.Ayotollah Khameini has been blamed for encouraging ahmed din jad.They both insist that they will never build Nuke Bomb.US and allied want to repeat Iraq episode for presumed Iran WMD.They ignore own WMD.This is vicious cycle.
scipioafricanus 12/04/2010
4. No trial for Bush and other criminals?
If someone who is not a politician kills even one person they are tried for murder. A person becomes a serial killer when they kill more than perhaps 4-6 people. Why is that politicians, and especially those from the "great democracies", seem to be able to kill perhaps hundreds of thousands of people and remain immune from prosecution? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Blair, Aznar and Howard, those of the "Axis Powers" (the Washington-London-Madrid-Melbourne axis) committed crimes against humanity. Yet they are retired with honors and magnificent pensions. Further, Bush's attack on Afghanistan and Iraq--itself a terrorist action--is what really kick-started modern terrorism. If after 9/11 Bush instead had apologized for 900 years of Western and Christian interference in the Arab, Muslim and Persian worlds, and told Israel to restore the 1967 borders and grant independence and freedom to Palestine and Palestinians, terrorism would have been stopped in its tracks. Ask any of the terrorists from the 1990s and early 2000s if this is not true...
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