Jewish organizational support for President Obama’s temporary determination to enforce international norms and his own red line on Syrian use of chemical weapons brought out the nasty legions. DavidDuke.com and Blacklistednews.com, among others, were vociferous in their condemnation of Jewish “warmongering.” Even Jewish media outlets — TabletMagazine, The Forward and JPost.com — seemed surprised that the left, right, and center of the Jewish political spectrum gave the president support. They shouldn’t have been. Visceral horror of poison gas is part of the collective Jewish psyche; also dead children. An estimated 1 million Jewish children died at the hands of the Nazis, along with half a million other children, including Roma and the mentally and physically disabled. In all, 2,700,000 Jews of the 6 million total are believed to have been killed either by poison gas in trucks, gas chambers, or by shooting.
But if the Jewish response is reasonable in the Jewish context, what to make of Germany in the German context? Germany was responsible for the 1.5 million children and the 2.7 million people gassed or shot, and so many others in so many awful ways. Germany’s stain and Germany’s horror should have affected German DNA as well. So…
Germany apologized, “de-Nazified,” paid reparations, wrote Holocaust education programs, created a “special relationship” with Israel and was pacifist in public outlook. Germans were believed to have tried to atone for what might, in fact, be unforgivable. Time passed and most of the people directly responsible died; many of them comfortably of old age. But Germany and younger Germans never got out of the gas-for-killing business — or the other nonconventional-capabilities-for-killing business.
In 1991, investigative journalist Kenneth Timmerman’s book, The Death Lobby, annotated in great detail the German businesses that sold poison gas components and missile technology to Saddam Hussein with the complicity of the German government. More recently Timmerman wrote, “The overwhelming majority of technical expertise, know-how, and design information of the Iraqi dictator’s chemical weapons plants came from German companies. The nerve and mustard gas was produced in German-built factories in Samarra and Fallujah.” Tens of thousands of Iranians and as many as 5,000 Kurds were killed by Saddam’s use of poison gas.
[It should be noted that more than once, the U.S. Department of Commerce approved licenses for dual-use technologies to Saddam, and in one particularly egregious American lapse, approved a license for atropine injectors for Iraq — chemical weapons antidotes — that would have permitted Iraq protect its own troops from blowback from the use of poison gas against Iranian troops. A Pentagon official saw the license and threatened to hold a news conference if the license wasn’t revoked; it was.]
And along with the poison gas capabilities, German companies sold missile technology to Saddam. And not just to Saddam.
Germany, with the complicity — sometimes overt — of the German government, sold poison gas capabilities to Syria and embargoed items to Iran for its nuclear program.
According to RT News, between 2002 and 2006 more than 100 tons of chemicals were sold by German firms to Syria, including hydrogen fluoride, ammonium bifluoride, and sodium fluoride, which have civilian application but can be used in the production of chemical weapons. The German Ministry of the Economy said in a statement reported this week, “The permits (for chemicals to Syria) were granted after a thorough examination of all potential risks including the dangers of misuse and redirection.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel told a local television station, “According to all the findings that are at my disposal, they were used for civilian things.”
So the German government thought about its culpability as regards dead Jews and dead Kurds resulting from the German use or sale of poison gas and decided to sell the components of poison gas to Bashar Assad, either deciding he wouldn’t use it — which would be stupid and criminal — or deciding he might — which would be venal and criminal. Those are the only two options.
On trial now in Hamburg, Germany are businessmen charged with exporting to Iran nearly 100 German-produced specialized valves required for a plutonium reactor and arranging for 856 nuclear-usable valves to be sent from India to Iran in 2010 and 2011. Political scientist and historian Matthias Kuntzel attended the trial, apparently as the only outside person with an interest in the proceedings. The most striking part of Kuntzel’s report is NOT what was sold, nor the fact that companies routinely changed their names and mailing addresses to avoid investigation, but the attitude of German officials.
A customs official identified only as Stefan M. received periodic warnings and alerts from the United States about the possibility that German companies were selling embargoed items to Iran. These, he told the court, he promptly stuck in a drawer, because, “When I get a proliferation alert, my point of departure is always: this German firm is clean. BAFA [the German export control authority] works in the same way… their assumption is that the firms are credulous [credible?]… It would be counter-productive to assume per se that every German firm mentioned in an alert is involved in criminal activity.”
Kuntzel reports from the trial that in 2012, 136 preliminary investigations were initiated regarding breaches of German export regulations. “According to the Senior Customs Officer, three-quarters of these cases concern the Mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” he wrote.
As between the reflexive Jewish impulse to stop and/or punish the use of poison gas, particularly on civilian populations, and the deliberate, careful, legal German decision to sell hardware, software, and chemical components of weapons of mass destruction to murderous dictators, the Jewish reflex is not only understandable, but distinctly preferable.