(By Ray D.)
Moral relativism has a way of producing strange rationales and value systems. Nowhere was this more clearly on display than in a recent article in Germany's Handelsblatt, a financial daily. The piece, entitled, "US Firms Pressure German Firms Out of Iran," starts off with this fabulous graphic:
Caption: "Moving on treacherous terrain: Juergen Hambrecht (BASF), Dieter Zetsche (Daimler), Wolfgang Reitzle (Linde), Klaus-Peter Mueller (Commerzbank) and Klaus Kleinfeld (Siemens)."
That's right. It's all America's (and Bush's) fault. Again. Poor German CEO's can't trade in Iran because of US pressure. Here excerpts from the Handelsblatt piece (read the entire translation here):
"USA Pressures German Firms Out of Iran
The USA is putting firms under massive pressure worldwide to stop doing business with Iran. With that economic isolation they want to force the country to stop its controversial atomic program. Especially German firms are hard hit by that, indeed they traditionally do good business in the region. The latest case comes from the banking world.
BERLIN. After massive pressure from the USA, Commerzbank has now announced that it will end its processing of dollar-business for Iran at the end of January. Commerzbank boss Klaus-Peter Mueller has already publicly complained about the pressure from the Americans in his position as President of the Federal Union of German Banks."
The article almost makes it sound as if the United States is to blame for Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. There is absolutely no hint that it might be wrong or unethical to trade with (and financially prop-up) Iran or other violent dictatorships/state-sponsors of terrorism. This despite the fact that Iranian President Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated that Israel should be wiped off the map and that the Holocaust is a myth. There is also no mention of Iran's support of Hezbollah nor does Handelsblatt mention the country's bleak human rights record. Instead, America is made out to be the bad guy while Ahmadinejad gets a free pass. One honestly has to ask, where are the German concepts of fair trade and economic and social justice in all of this? Where are the traditional objections to profiteering and capitalist excess?
The article continues:
"Now other German companies in other branches are worried about their traditionally good Iran business. The results of the worsening climate are already clearly visible: The German exports to Iran sank noticeably in 2006 - in the first three quarters by 14 percent.
German businesses are now trying to prevent the contracts they have signed with Tehran from becoming public at all. "Everything that might touch on the US-business is deadly. Therefore nobody in Tehran talks about his Iranian contracts," said a German business representative in Tehran under the condition that his name would not be printed. Above all, companies that are listed on US stock markets like Daimler-Chrysler with large businesses in America are affected. Siemens, for example, that according to Handelsblatt information is near to concretely completing a 450 million Euro contract with Tehran to deliver locomotives, does not want to comment on it publicly. Other firms listed on the Dax (German stock market) like BASF or Linde are moving on treacherous terrain with their involvement in Iran. BASF has just now signed and sealed a 304 million Euro project involving an Ammoniac-Urea facility in the Shiraz Petrochemical Complex. By contrast, Linde's contract for a petrochemical facility, believed to be secure, was cancelled by Tehran for the time being.
Not only the German economy is feeling the American intervention. In order to prevent the billion-dollar involvement of the Chinese oil company CNOOC in Iran, Washington presented "our concerns" to the government in Peking and to the company. That was reported by the speaker of the US embassy in Peking. Before that, US interventions lead to the stoppage, for the time being, of Japanese financing for a project in Iran worth about ten billion dollars.
The German government is following the US actions with concern. For one, the Berlin strategy in the Iran negotiations is to only sharpen the sanctions against Iran in increments and to thereby include all countries, in other words Russia and China as well. Chancellor Angela Merkel again emphasized that goal on Wednesday after a meeting with Japanese Minister President Abe. On the other hand, the German government fundamentally rejects the attempt by the US government to enforce American law beyond its borders.
This growing problem of the so-called "Extraterritoriality" is also named as a theme for the "Transatlantic Economic Initiative," with which Chancellor Merkel seeks to strengthen the economic relations between the EU and the USA."
Perhaps Chancellor Merkel ought to consider the chronic and growing problem of Iran's terrorist "extraterritoriality" in Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere in her efforts to improve transatlantic trade. Perhaps she ought to consider the potential impacts of a massive US boycott of goods from German companies like Siemens and BASF that insist on doing business with brutal dictators bent on a second Holocaust. Is it really in Germany's long-term interest to continue trade with a nation that threatens the fundamental security and moral interests of the entire western world? Are the short-term profits worth the cost?
And how about this double standard: When American investment firms do business in Germany, they are derided as bloodsucking parasites and "locusts" by German politicians and unions. On the other hand, when German firms busily sign deals in nations run by the most violent and reprehensible thugs, they are just trying to do some good business - and it is only the awful American "extraterritorial" interference getting in the way. And make no mistake: Iran is not the only case in point. While the international community struggles to put an end to genocide in Darfur, the German government is actively promoting annual trade fairs in Sudan for many of the same German multinational corporations that want to keep doing business in Iran.
Der SPIEGEL cover, December 2006: "The Greed of Big Money: Finance-Investors Grasp at German Businesses." Of course many of the "greedy investors" in question are American or British. No mention of greedy German CEOs profiteering in Iran and Sudan.
Perhaps German media like "Der Spiegel" and German politicians such as SPD Minister Franz Muentefering should spend a bit more time reviewing the activities of German corporations abroad before embarking on their next crusade against foreign multinationals. Of course it is far more convenient to make a scapegoat out of "the Americans" and the other foreign "locusts" than it is to stand against the unsavory trading practices of Germany's corporate giants. One honestly has to wonder why German anti-Globalization demonstrators aren't lining up by the thousands to protest German multinationals' dealings with Tehran and Khartoum. Perhaps morality applies only when it can be directed against the United States and Bush.