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German Government Refuses to 'fan anti-Americanism'

The German government has refused to open up a parliamentary investigation into the role played by two German BND agents in Baghdad at the time of the US invasion of Iraq, saying that such an investigation would only 'fan anti-Americanism'. This is a welcome sign of sobriety long missing from German politics.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Baghdad-based agents of the BND intelligence service had stuck to clear instructions not to pass on operational military information to the Americans at the start of the U.S. invasion in 2003.

The role of the two agents has become a hot political topic since media reports this month alleged they gathered information for Washington on bombing targets in Baghdad and acted as scouts for an air raid intended to kill then-president Saddam Hussein.

Did the German agents assist with targeting in Baghdad? Almost certainly, regardless of claims.

But this quiet assistance to the US, whether or not it was carried out with the knowledge of the then-Schroeder government, presents not a problem of outrage internally as much as a simple problem of principle: The contrast between outspoken and energetic denunciation of the US invasion by the head of a government while potentially providing tangible support for it behind the scenes. As Sir Walter Scott says,

Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practice to deceive.

Nuance is overrated.