If I had to be anything in a Middle East war, I would be a German businessman. Germany has the best of all possible worlds: Because of its constitution it can't send troops, but it can take care of the needs of the Iraqi people.
Just the other day it was revealed that as many as 110 German companies were involved in sales to Iraq after the U.N. sanctions were imposed. Germany has been the major supplier of Iraqi poison gas factories and nuclear plants. It is also the builder of Saddam Hussein's $65 million bunker, which can keep him in hiding for a whole year.
Some of you may be asking why Germany would do this to its NATO allies.
A German trade expert told me: "It's strictly business. Saddam has always been a good customer for Germany. He bought the top of the line and he never argued about price. You don't cancel a guy's credit card just because he invaded Kuwait."
"But everything he bought is going to be used in the war. Doesn't that bother you?"
"It never occurred to us at the time. Our reasoning was that if we didn't sell him the technology for poison gas, somebody with ulterior motives toward the West would."
"Germany has always made good poison gas," I admitted.
"We're the best," he said proudly. "That's why everyone comes to us."
"Some people say that you have made life very difficult for those who are fighting Iraq."
"They shouldn't say that."
"It's not nice. Maybe we helped Iraq with its manufacturing problems, but we are also donating money to the allies who are fighting them. If that isn't being evenhanded, I don't know what is."
"Since you have so much invested in Iraq, does Germany have a rooting interest for one side or the other?"
"We want the United States and its allies to win so that they can rebuild Iraq after the conflict, and we can get back to supplying them with arms."
"Including the poison gas plants?"
"Not to mention germ warfare. In the export business, an order is an order. Thanks to Iraq, Germany had one of the best trade years in a long time."
"My next question is, why did you sell this equipment after the U.N. sanctions were placed against Iraq?"
"My hands are clean. I'm in sales. The people in charge of delivery could answer your question."
"Do you have a problem about not participating in the war while knowing that German equipment is being used by the Iraqis?"
"Of course we have a problem, but it's not as big a problem as keeping the German mark from falling against the dollar. Look, we're going to give the allies money so they can fight the battle for us. We just don't want a lot of blah, blah, blah about biological warfare and the missiles that we sold to Iraq in its hour of need."
"That's good of you."
"For crying out loud -- it's our oil too, but that doesn't mean we have to die for it."