(By Ray D.)
Nobel Prize Winner Grass Vilifies America to Standing Ovations at International Writer's Congress...
It's hard to stay relevant these days. Even as a Nobel Prize winner. Just ask Jimmy Carter. Fortunately, Guenter Grass, who won the prize for literature in 1999, has a knack for staying in the news, even at the ripe old age of 78. Germany's resident bard recently opened a book congress in Berlin for writers in "a world without peace" along with German President Horst Koehler. And it was Grass who received standing ovations from the audience. How? By extensively quoting fellow Nobel laureate Harold Pinter. Grass described the United States as a nation guilty of "systematic, constant, infamous and merciless" crimes and derided American foreign policy as "dangerous and stupid."
At the PEN Congress: German President Horst Koehler (center) and Guenter Grass (right)
Grass blasted the Iraq war and emphasized that it was the duty of authors to give names to the faces of those killed in the conflict. Interestingly enough, the author never felt the need to give a face or name to those tortured, imprisoned and put to death by Saddam Hussein's murder regime, at least not in a way that received the same notice in the German media. He felt no need to blast North Korean mass murder and imprisonment or Iran's threat's to "wipe Israel off the map." He felt no need to highlight the thousands murdered by the fanatical car bombers and assassins of Al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah. He felt no need to speak out on genocide in Congo or Sudan.
No. The United States is the real enemy. Stand up and cheer. Bravo!
Like Pinter, Grass characterized the United States as a scheming power that has made others believe it is really fighting for good by putting on a "brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis." He attacked the US as responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths stemming from its Cold War support of dictators in Indonesia, Chile, Brazil and Greece.
Unfortunately, Grass seems to have descended into the deep abyss of selective reality. He claims that the war on terror has only strengthened dictators and their power structures. Apparently the Nobel laureate missed the overthrow of the Taliban terror regime in Afghanistan. He must have also missed Libya's renunciation of its weapons programs and Syria's retreat from Lebanon. He must have overlooked the increasing international cooperation to isolate Iran.
And what of the Cold War? Did the United States support Pinochet in an historic vacuum? It seems that Grass still hasn't noticed the difference between eastern and western Germany. It seems that he has forgotten the millions murdered by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and Ho Chi Minh. Grass belongs to a fading elitist class that still believes that Germany's Ostpolitik could have negotiated a merciless Communist regime into submission without the backing of American tanks, infantry and missiles. In reality, it was both the military and diplomatic efforts of the United States and its allies that ended Soviet absolutism following World War II. That said, there is no doubt that the United States involved itself with leaders who, in hindsight, it was wrong to support. But for Grass to ignore or omit the historic context of the Cold War is a ringing declaration of intellectual bankruptcy oft repeated by the far left.
Sadly, Grass belongs to a class of Europeans who have themselves never lifted a finger for democracy or human freedom, yet feel obligated to criticize those who act, and sometimes fail, in the fight against fanaticism and dictatorship. These self-satisfied, smug armchair critics are so blinded by visions of moral superiority that they can't so much as acknowledge facts that don't conveniently fit into their worldview.
The most damaging aspect of the inflammatory, populist banter spewed by Grass and others like him is that it completely undermines and undercuts all honest, constructive criticism of the United States. How can Germans expect Americans to fully respect their honest concerns when Americans see, day for day, ignorant populist hatred spewing forth from German society? The simple answer is that they can't.
Unfortunately, Guenter Grass DOES represent a powerful, influential segment of the German mainstream that has manifested itself time and again in German media and politics. The fact that German President Horst Koehler listened nearby as Grass made his comments is clear evidence of that, as are the magazine covers displayed on the sidebar of this website. Sad but true...
Update: A great article (in German) on Grass from Die Achse des Guten. And another good commentary (in German) at Politically Incorrect. And another via Statler & Waldorf. Additionally, the PEN conference is an international congress taking place in Germany, not a German event as we earlier indicated.