April 8, 2003


El Paso becomes hostile territory for German troops (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/5/2003)
For 35 years, there has been a single permanent force of foreign troops on US soil, here on the western tip of Texas, home of the largest air defence training centre in the world and the permanent home of Germany's Air Force Command.

On joint training exercises, over pilseners at the Soldatenstube pub, the two forces have coalesced as partners, a proud emblem of post-World War II alliances.

But the war against Iraq is beginning to weaken that cherished solidarity. As Germany's opposition to the war has grown increasingly strident, as the mood here plunges with word that Iraqis have killed or captured at least 15 Fort Bliss soldiers, the troops are suddenly viewing each other with a wary, distant eye. After all these years, they are - once again - strangers more than allies....

[S]ome military personnel at Fort Bliss grumble about the irony of welcoming German troops only to watch them lay their arms down when America went to war....

Ilse Irwin, 73, was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, near Frankfurt, and emigrated to the US as a Fulbright scholar in 1954. A practising Catholic, the retired university professor devotes much of her time to fighting hatred and genocide, largely by working with the area's Jewish community. Irwin volunteers at the local Holocaust museum, and lately has steeled herself every time she has to guide German airmen through an exhibit or take them on a tour of a local temple.

Repeatedly, she said, they have been hostile about her work. Some have raised questions about the US's agenda and suggested that the motivation for the war is oil and the close relationship between the US and Israel - a common charge in Western Europe.

"I've had a terrible time," she said. "They say that Israelis are just modern-day Nazis. I defend Israel, but I get very nervous because I don't want to blow my cool. I don't hear it too often. But I hear it often enough."

Action requires decision; and decisions reveal character. War, always a time of action, reveals the truth about people and nations. And the truth is not always pleasant.
Posted by Paul Jaminet at April 8, 2003 10:33 AM

Thanks for this post.

I admire Ilse Irwin greatly and hope that she can influence people for good.

As for the German airmen, I hope not all are affected, but here is proof that the poison is working and that it is strong.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 8, 2003 10:54 AM

I was posted briefly at Ft. Bliss and did some drinking with the Luftwaffe officers.

They were pleased that what they saw as the Battle of The Fulda Gap was being fought--by us in Southeast Asia.

It's too bad, but cultures change slowly.

I guess there are times when that's good, but this isn't one of them.

Posted by: Richard Aubrey at April 8, 2003 1:15 PM

Get our troops and facilities out of Germany and the Germans out of El Paso. Let them go to France. They have common cause in deciding what to do about the growing Islamic presence in both countries.

Whie I'm at it: move the UN to Sicily or the south of Italy and convert the UN to a performance center, a museum of art, restaurants, condos and office space donated to the city of N.Y. Put a bronze plaque on an outside wall commemorating what it was and forgedaboudit!.

Posted by: Genecis at April 8, 2003 4:58 PM

The worm turns. I've saying for decades that

I didn't trust the Germans, and everybody

said I was living in the past. (True, in fact.)

Last week, one of our reporters went out and

interviewed tourists about their views on the

war. A German woman lectured her about the

immorality of it all.

Next day, a letter to the editor said it was

way too early for him to be taking moral advice

from a kraut.

Reaction in the newsroom was antiGerman.

Sometimes I think I know how it felt to be a

premature antifascist. Both ways.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 10, 2003 2:12 AM