THE SECRET is out. Germany is now the most reluctant of dragons when it comes to supporting the Western allies in the Middle East.
I asked a German acquaintance, Otto Kraus, why Germany has refused to help the U.S. in its battle with Iraq.
With tears in his eyes Otto replied, "We don't have any money."
"Come off it, Otto. What do you mean Germany doesn't have any money?"
He explained, "Iraq won't pay us for all the poison gas equipment and the biological weapons we sent them. They won't even pay for the nuclear machinery that we delivered. We're stuck with so many bills Germany can't afford to get into a quarrel with Iraq at this time."
"Because Saddam Hussein has been one of our best customers. We are unable to sell him anything now. However, once the embargo is lifted we want Iraq to remember us with kindness."
"That's fair, and yet don't you feel an obligation to the U.N. countries who are spitting mad that Iraq annexed Kuwait?"
"We don't like it, but you must remember that Germany annexed a lot of territory at the beginning of World War II, so we're not in a position to criticize anybody else. It is unreasonable that we should be singled out because we won't send troops to Saudi Arabia."
"Does this have anything to do with your constitution?"
"No, it's because it's too hot there. German troops hate the heat, that's why we never did well in North Africa."
"Otto, you owe it to the United States. We helped rebuild your nation out of the rubble. We initiated the Berlin airlift to protect you from the Russians. We bought every camera Germany could make. Now that the chips are down, your people should reciprocate and come to our aid."
"Of course we should, but that means sending troops to the desert. Are you sure you want us to do that?"
"I'm very sure. After all, the oil in Kuwait is your oil as well as ours."
"Nobody knows this, but we are in fact assisting the United States in the Middle East."
"We are supplying stereo equipment to U.S. PXes. This is top-of-the-line stuff you don't even find in Crazy Eddie's."
"I hate to tell you, Otto, but Germany is considered the 'cowardly lion' of the Western world."
"It doesn't matter what the world thinks as long as we can get Iraq to pay its bills."
"Once you had a reputation for being a bully -- now everyone says that you are a wimp."
"What business is it of yours what we do?" Otto asked.
I replied, "Because I have a vested interest in everything Germany does. I own a Mercedes-Benz."
Otto defended himself, "All we have been doing in the Middle East is following orders."
"The German Central Bank's."