BERLIN -- The realization that Germany was far and away Iraq's largest supplier of military and high-technology know-how is slowly becoming a political issue here.
Among the public and in government, it has become increasingly difficult for Germans to ignore the fact that lax export controls allowed German firms to help Saddam Hussein's regime build everything from poison gas factories and rockets to helicop
ters and trucks.
"Dear Germans, many thanks for the great weaponry. See you soon, your Saddam," read one poster at a recent demonstration in Berlin.
According to information compiled by various sources, including U.S. Senate report on foreign assistance for Iraq, 87 of the 218 companies involved were German. In second place in the listing was Austria with 18, followed by France with 17 and the United States with 16.
The companies involved read like a Who's Who of German industry, including Daimler-Benz, armored personnel carriers; Messerschmidt-Boelkow-Bloem, military helicopters, anti-tank weapons, missiles, laboratory equipment and chemical weapons; AEG, a weapon and ammunition production facility; and MAN, transport equipment.
NTC While few expect companies to do anything other than sell to any customer, regardless of reputation, many Germans have asked why their government can't stop the often embarrassing flood of exports to the world's tyrants.
One of Germany's most prominent philosophers and physicists, Carl Friedrich von Weizsaecker, recently called on the government to ban all weapons exports because of the risk that even limited permission to sell could result in misuse.
In addition, the Federation of German Unions has said that Germany should "draw the consequences" of its past and forbid military exports.
But such demands and the seemingly regular export scandals have not resulted in much stricter legislation, according to experts.