Fischer Calls for New World Order By Eckart Lohse © Frankfurter Allgemeine

NEW YORK. It was 11:50 a.m. on Thursday when a colleague of Hanns Schumacher leaned over and whispered in his ear. The news was clearly disconcerting.

Once again, there was something wrong with the information that had been issued about the number of Germans who died in the terrorist attacks on New York. For days, Mr. Schumacher, a representative at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations in the Deutsches Haus in New York, had been trying to shed some light on the uncertainty over the number of German victims.

On this Thursday morning, at any rate, the whereabouts of 143 Germans was still unclear. The German diplomats trying to establish the truth now assume that around 100 Germans did not survive the attack on the World Trade Center. Assumptions, followed by conclusions. Not one single German national has yet to be identified as dead.

Just as Mr. Schumacher was relating these facts, German Foreign Minister Joseph (Joschka) Fischer arrived in the city. He had come from Washington after talks with President George W. Bush. In New York, he visited a fire station on the corner of 48th Street and 8th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Here, he was confronted with the gruesome details. Some 15 firefighters did not return from the South Tower of the World Trade Center; their pictures hang on the wall at the fire station. But Mr. Fischer did not want to visit the ruins. During the planning of his trip, the minister specifically said he was not there to engage in "disaster tourism."

Mr. Fischer's visit to Washington on Wednesday and New York on Thursday highlighted the framework within which German foreign policy will respond to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. In Washington, he was dealing with the political and military consequences and with how the world situation was developing. But in New York, his attention was elsewhere. Here, still many blocks north of the point where the twin towers once stood, amid the pervasive stench of smoldering cables, the German foreign minister learned from his diplomats how they were coping.

Immediately after the attack, staff at the Permanent Mission, the General Consulate and the German Information Center, all based at the Deutsches Haus, set up a crisis team. Initially, there were countless phone calls, many from "stranded tourists" in need of assistance.

Mr. Schumacher said there was "considerable unease" because of the "spectacular" number of assumed victims -- some talked of 1,000 dead. Now, things have calmed down somewhat. But the officials say that for many there will never be any certainty at all, because the fire and the huge weight of the slabs of concrete crashing down have rendered the bodies unidentifiable.

So why did Mr. Fischer travel to America and not Chancellor Gerhard Schröder? After all, France sent its president and Britain its prime minister. Sources in Berlin said that Mr. Schröder had told Mr. Fischer that he should go, and diplomats in Washington and New York agreed that the Americans did not mind. According to German diplomats in the United States, other German leaders had come under criticism. They said that President Johannes Rau and Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping had caused offense by saying that the United States did not expect military assistance from Germany and that war was not imminent.

Mr. Fischer endeavored to produce rhetoric that was impeccable from the U.S. point of view. A few days before the trip he had, in familiar German style, woven soothing words for the home audience into his messages of solidarity. There was "no automatic mechanism" that would draw Germany into U.S. military action without prior discussion, he had said, adding that in Germany the Bundestag had the last word.

At the start of his visit to the United States, however, he rang a different tone. Germany, he said, was "not ruling out any options" of support for the United States. Then he even named the military option without being prompted. It remains to be seen whether Washington will even want to take up the offer of German military assistance, or instead take the approach of New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who gratefully turned down an offer of help from the German technical emergency service saying that coordination would be too difficult.

As much as Mr. Fischer is obviously shocked by the events of Sept. 11, they have also stimulated his political imagination. Mr. Fischer spoke of "completely new challenges" that required a "very difficult rethinking." He has become the German spokesman of the "nothing will be the same again" movement, which divides history into before and after Sept. 11.

In the spring, he was still playing by the rules of the cold war, and the debate over American missile defense was in full swing. Before traveling to Washington to visit the newly appointed secretary of state, Colin Powell, he went to Moscow to tell the Russians that Berlin would not be used as a wedge dividing the Western alliance. Now the impression could arise that Mr. Fischer believes that Sept. 11 had completely abolished the mechanisms of the cold war, and the missile defense debate along with it.

In its place, a new world order is required to cope with the phenomenon of political globalization. There must be no more "black holes of lawlessness, underdevelopment and desperation," said the foreign minister, looking firmly toward Afghanistan.

This struggle requires forces of law and order, and in Mr. Fischer's view the top such force can only be the United States. He has no doubts about the strength of the United States, "they have the military strength -- without the shadow of a doubt -- to act on their own anywhere in the world." Of course it would be better if any action occurred together with the anti-terror coalition, he said. It would be crucial for every state to decide which side it was on, said Mr. Fischer, sounding a lot like Mr. Bush.

The German foreign minister sees a need for order not only in central Asia. From there his gaze swings across the Middle East to the west, where he predicts that a strategy for Africa will soon be needed. While we are at it, we can move on to reform the United Nations too, seems to be the approach.

If you think that it is all a bit overwhelming, you are still thinking in the time frame of the world before Sept. 11. Mr. Fischer certainly is not, and although he sees the United States as the unchallenged world power, he also appears to have a minor role for Germany in mind. The first cautious steps to this end are being made in the Middle East.


By John Balzar © 2001

A stranger walked through my neighborhood and planted American flags in the yards of every house on my block.  The feeling of our community closing ranks didn't last long, though.  The next thing I knew, these and other flags across the nation were being mocked by a loathsome group that for too long has held esteem in our country and purported to define its national purpose.

I am speaking of Wall Street and its disciples: that grim gambler's den that rushed to bet against us.

The profiteers failed the first test of patriotism in 2001.

The short-sold their country.  Cowards, they ran.

I'm going to join the lunch-bucket brigade, the soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines, the flag-wavers and New York firemen and legions of volunteers who have given something of themselves on this one.  Right now, in the middle of September 2001, we needed to feel the country pull together, not just with slogans but in deeds.  We needed to shake off our collective cynicism about ourselves.

Many tried.  Not the profiteers.  A curse on their house.

I'll be quick to acknowledge the mixed blessings of patriotism.  It can run away with us, and blind us to good judgment.  But patriotism is also the way we express our collective hopes when we're under siege.

This week, eyes went to Wall Street, Congress, the Federal Reserve, the president and many of us on the sidelines asked for a little backbone among the investor clique.  Congress rushed to signal that it would bail out the airlines.  The Fed cut interest rates for the eighth time this year.

Investors?  They grabbed what they could from the moment and skittered off.  They didn't think red, white and blue, only green.  In a far-off bunker somewhere, Osama Bin Laden had a second reason to rejoice.

For days and months ahead, what this nation does with its patriotism will test our levelheadedness.  For the moment, though, patriotism is the measure of whether we believe in ourselves, collectively.  Or do we still see the country as chiefly some opportunity for shrewd individuals to exploit for personal gain?  Wall Street gave its answer.

Don't even try to talk to me about "market forces."  If other Americans answered to market forces alone, TV networks would have showed ads for toilet paper last week instead of absorbing huge losses to carry the story uninterrupted.  Newspapers would have shrunk instead of expanded.  Strange, isn't it?  The "liberal media" sacrificed at the bottom line.  Too bad the hustlers of the stock markets couldn't even hold fast.

If rescue workers thought like the big-money investors, they would have bet against saving any lives and resumed their eight-hour shifts.  If F-16 pilots over Iraq had no more guts than Wall Street, they'd figure the odds of enforcing a no-fly zone are lousy and report to sick bay.  And thank God it wasn't Wall Street investors on United Airlines Flight 93 or no one would have fought off the hijackers and that airplane, too, have reached its target.

Instead of showing bravery, investors served up a record number of sell orders.  The realm of bulls and bears turned out to be a herd of sheep.

Yes, there were some who stood firm.  But they were dragged down by the overpaid mutual fund managers who led the retreat, by the brokers who churned orders as they spread fear, by the hedge fund players who could see no further than the closing bell, by the individual investors who let themselves be stampeded.  Hey, terrorism is one thing, but this is Money!

A small example: These same investors who were glued to their TVs and who scooped up newspapers in a frantic effort to keep informed promptly drove down the value of these same media companies --  Wall Street's twisted rewards for American enterprise.

At least it wasn't panic, analysis said.  We are supposed to be reassured that they didn't go completely berserk?

Good news, general!  Our crack Wall Street troops only yielded 7 percent of the value of this nation's publicly held industry on the first day they were summoned to battle.

Now can you imagine lowering the capital gains taxes on money earned by those who play this market against us?  This is blood money.

If you're one of those who bet against America this week, one of those renegades who, like the terrorists, answered first to your own god, The God of Gain, then hurry out and make sure someone didn't mistakenly stick a flag in your yard.

If so, pull it up and hand it over to a patriot who deserves to fly it.

John Balzar writes for The Los Angeles Times