Rezzo Schlauch describes himself as a "Greener of the First Hour." He was a founding member of the Greens, an environmentalist movement that became a German political party in 1980. But things have changed for the Greens. They are now part of Germany's governing coalition, not a marginal movement. Schlauch, their spokesman in the lower house of parliament, said it is a shift in style rather than in goals.
Still, it was a painful experience for him to be heckled and kicked as he walked into the May 13 party congress at Bielefeld through a police cordon holding back protesters. Did it remind him of times past when he was on the other side? "I defended these persons pro bono for 15 years," he said, but one has "to stand up for national convictions." Other party members had misgivings about having to meet under police protection -- they who had defied security forces in the past. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was pelted with bags of rancid butter and branded a warmonger. On the bright side, since everyone is a politician now, coverage of the party congress by the Phoenix television channel, Germany's C-SPAN equivalent, got its highest ratings ever.
Schlauch began his activism in the late '60s as a university student and went on to become a criminal lawyer. He worked on hashish-smuggling cases -- one of which involved a German who drove from the Lebanese growing center of Baalbek with the illicit goods tucked in the walls of a trailer. So guess who has tried at least one joint? "I do not make the silly distinction between inhaling and not inhaling -- no offense to President Bill Clinton and no apologies to anyone else," he joked over dinner Wednesday at Restaurant Nora.
What Schlauch really laments is the change in the pattern of contact between him, other Green politicos and their constituents outside the capital. "Our party depends on personal interaction. What is really difficult for people like us is that you can't go into the countryside and discuss things because we have to be back in Bonn securing votes" in the legislature.
On human rights and the pacifist vs. warmonger controversy, Schlauch argues that even in their heyday, the Greens were split, for example, over providing arms to a liberationist guerrilla movement in El Salvador. In 1995, the party discussion over whether to become involved in the Bosnia conflict was a debate carried out for the rest of German society. "It is part of the political culture of the Greens to fight in public. So it looks like other parties are more united and not as dramatic, and I feel good about it," Schlauch said. "I prefer this to having rules come from the top or having a cemetery stillness. Whatever anybody says, it is still a very lively party."
The Sound of One Hand Clapping
"You need two hands to clap; one cannot do it alone," observed Pakistani Ambassador Riaz Khokhar yesterday amid awkward efforts to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Pakistani officials were trying late into the night to release a captured Indian pilot, Flight Lt. K. Nachiketa, to the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad as a goodwill gesture to finalize plans for a visit by Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi. The pilot, whose plane was downed May 27 after India began airstrikes against pro-Pakistani guerrillas entrenched on the Indian side of the Kashmiri Line of Control, was handed to officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In a separate interview, India's ambassador to Washington, Naresh Chandra, explained the "humanitarian" aspect of the low-intensity conflict in northern Kashmir. The guerrillas, he said, are fighting for control of a road used in summer to truck supplies of sugar, spices, medicine and cloth to local inhabitants who are trapped in "snow-bound, cruel heights" for the rest of the year -- a road that is only open for five months. "It is not a picnic," said Chandra. "It was a military objective to occupy these heights, cleverly selected."
Kashmir has been the cause of two wars between India and Pakistan, two nuclear-capable neighbors. Although India had the upper hand in 1949, one of the reasons why Prime Minister Jawahral Nehru decided to halt his army at the present Line of Control was because that is where Kashmiri culture and ethos stop, scholars have surmised, according to Chandra. "On our side, the way of life is more Sufi and liberal, and on the other side there is more of a tribal culture."
Indian authorities say the guerrillas involved in the current fighting infiltrated from the Pakistani-controlled part of Kashmir to the Indian side. But Pakistan's Khokhar insisted the guerrillas are not Pakistanis, but "Kashmiris -- brothers gone to help another brother." For now, some are commanding the heights menacing supplies to Kashmiri areas, and some holed up below are trying to fight their way up to their old positions.
This week, India offered the guerrillas safe passage out of the region, but a guerrilla leader replied that "it is India that needs safe passage, and we will not allow it." Applause, anyone?