Government complicit in Iraq war
- Secret service BND remained in Baghdad and supported US military in "identification of targets", Panorama reveals
Over the last few months, suspicions of Germany's knowledge of the much debated CIA flights transporting European and non-US citizens through European airports to extra-judicial territories to be interrogated and tortured, have been confirmed. There is also increasing evidence that Germany's Federal Crime Police Authority (Bundeskriminalamt - BKA) interrogated German citizens imprisoned and tortured by local secret services in Beirut (Lebanon), Damascus (Syria) and Guantanamo (Cuba).
However, the most recent BND scandal has enraged parliamentarians who have until now been led to believe by the German government that it followed an anti-war stance, until the television programme Panorama and the daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung revealed on 12 January this year that the foreign secret service (Bundesnachrichtendienst - BND), on order of the chancellor's office, remained in Baghdad during the war and worked closely together with the US military secret service Defence Military Agency (DIA). Although the long-standing but ineffective parliamentary control commission (Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium - PKG) on the secret services already heard witnesses to investigate the allegations, parliament has now voted in favour of a special Parliamentary Investigations Committee (Untersuchungsausschuss) being set up. An investigation into the BND's activities in Baghdad, according to Green party whip Renate Künast, would no longer yield results through conventional parliamentary means.
When confronted with the question of what the BND was doing in Iraq during the war, the government has given various and sometimes contradictory answers. They range from: protecting the German embassy, protecting German soldiers stationed in Kuwait, providing the German government with intelligence as well as passing on intelligence to foreign colleagues. The critical question is if the BND collaborated in war actions, and according to a former Pentagon officer as well as a BND employee working on the operations in Iraq, it did. Both claim in the TV programme Panorama that the German foreign intelligence helped identifying targets "that were later bombed", as well as conducting intensive searches for the whereabouts of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. These claims are refuted by BND president and former BND coordinator in the chancellor's office, Ernst Uhrlau, who said that "we were not involved in the hunt for Saddam Hussein". More concretely, the former Pentagon official claims in the Panorama programme, that a tip from the German BND about the possible presence of Saddam Hussein in a restaurant in the district of Mansur led the Americans to bomb the area, destroying four buildings and killing 12 civilians.
All these concrete allegations, although not the presence of the BND officers in Iraq at the time, are denied by the former government and BND chiefs. Political commentators, however, say that it is impossible to imagine that then chancellor Gerhard Schröder, foreign minister Joschka Fischer, chief of chancellor's office (and present foreign minister) Frank-Walter Steinmeier and BND heads August Hanning and Ernst Uhrlau did not know of the US collaboration. One unnamed MP commented that the government seems to have pursued a shadow policy in 2003, on the one hand the official and populist stance against the war, as it was promoted by Schröder, and on the other the real operational collaboration in the war in Iraq: "If one looks at this operation in Iraq, it appears parts of the red-green government coalition foreign policy will have to be rewritten", he commented.
1. Süddeutsche Zeitung 12-15.1.2006
2. Panorama programme: http://www.ndrtv.de/panorama/archiv/2006/0112/bnd.html
Filed 16 January 2006
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