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Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Member of the European Parliament, can't accept the German "Nope" to Libya

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Daniel Marc Cohn-Bendit is a German politician, active in France and Germany and a member of the European Parliament. His German-Jewish parents had fled Nazism in 1933 to France and Cohn-Bendit was born in Montauban in 1945, where he spent his entire childhood.

Cohn-Bendit turned into a student leader during the unrest of May 1968 in France, which brought him the nickname "Dany le Rouge" alluding to his politics -- and the color of his hair.

Now "Dany le Rouge" is slowly but surely turning into "Dany le Vert" being the co-president of the "European Greens-European Free Alliance" in the European Parliament.

In 2010, he was involved in founding JCall, an advocacy group based in Europe to lobby the European parliament on foreign policy issues concerning the Middle East.

Charismatic and candid, he has been a spokesman for the disenfranchised all his life and is currently not very impressed with the German veto regarding the military operation "Odyssey Dawn" in Libya.

Lia Petridis Maiello: The French foreign minister, Alain Juppe, was quoted on Monday with the statement that, "Europe's joint security and foreign policies are dead." What do you think about that statement?

Daniel Cohn-Bendit: "What I think about that statement? I think that times like this leave blood on the carpet and it will take time to fix it."

LPM: What are the reasons for Nikolas Sarkozy to strongly support a military intervention in Libya?

DCB: "I believe that he came to the conclusion that an intervention was absolutely necessary. He wanted to prevent a blood bath in Bengasi, and as a result, that the world further have to deal with Gaddafi. Another reason for his approach is that as far as domestic policy is concerned, he is somewhat stricken and he wanted to show that he is still capable of politically complex decision making."

LPM: Why do you support military intervention?

DCB: "I would like to argue along the lines of Israeli pacifist Uri Avnery. He says, if you are confronted with a massacre like this and you don't intervene, you are taking responsibility for the outcome. Or to put it into the terminology of the United Nations, 'The responsibility to protect,' occurs."

LPM: How do you explain that German chancellor Angela Merkel is disproving of the intervention, meanwhile she was very critical of Gerhard Schroeder's veto back in the day regarding the second war in Iraq?

DCB: "Angela Merkel is Germany's great disappointment. She has no political orientation. She is a callous strategist, and obviously not very good at it. She has a tendency to change things around right before elections are coming up. She denied support for Greece because there were federal state elections in North-Rhine-Westphalia lying ahead, then she switched on nuclear energy as a result of a defeat in the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, and now she is playing the great pacifist with her foreign minister. It shows you very well that she is a technician of political power, but the spine is missing."

LPM: What long-term effects is the German veto going to have on the international political stage?

DCB: "Well, it got even worse with Germany's rejection to organize the naval blockade together with NATO in order to exercise the arms embargo. Get this, we are in this absurd position that the Turkish government decided to support the embargo and the only ones who stay out of it are the Germans. That is really ludicrous! That will of course weaken Germany's position in the world. I also believe that nobody will take this foreign minister that seriously in the future."

LPM: Germany's permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations is going to be jeopardized?

DCB: "You can kiss that permanent seat Good-Bye! If you don't take responsibility in a situation like this you deserve a seat in the International Fishing Association."


LPM: Chancellor Angela Merkel asked yesterday for an immediate stop of Libyan oil imports to Europe. Is that realistic?

DCB: "Well, she has to travel to Rome first and convince Silvio Berlusconi. That should be great fun. More than 30 percent of Italy's oil is from Libya. Besides, I do believe that we shouldn't import any more oil from Gadaffi, but certainly from the rebels in case they are initiating a democratic process in Libya. We obviously should support that."

LPM: Merkel also suggested possibly hosting Libyan refugees in Germany in the future.

DCB: "I am also skeptical about that statement. To this day Europe did not agree to share the burden and distribute refugees to all European countries. So, I don't believe that Germany will agree to host refugees. That would be a political position Merkel vehemently rejected only yesterday. The Green party suggested hosting refugees temporarily like we did with fugitives from Bosnia back in the day, and the conservatives said no. So, just forget about these short term statements before the elections!"


LPM: The opinions regarding military intervention in Libya are also divided in the U.S. Former ambassador to Saudi-Arabia, Chas Freeman criticized that the United States demonstrated indifference towards the Arab world by intervening so late.

DCB: "The Europeans are also guilty of indifference. Obviously the world would have saved itself some troubles with an earlier intervention. We wouldn't have been on the brink of a massacre in Bengasi. I think that US Defense Secretary Gates and the US Army are brassed off. During international crisis the USA usually pull the chestnuts out of the fire - in order to be punished for it afterwards. I think that Afghanistan and Iraq irritated the US Army to a great extent."

LPM: The speaker of the House, John Boehner, framed the criticism of the American right in a letter to president Obama on Wednesday. He is missing clear objectives for Libya. Is it that simple to formulate those objectives at this point?

DCB: "No. That letter is foolish. I think the mandate is a milestone in the history of the United Nations. For the first time the responsibility to protect is being implemented. The goal is that the Libyan army does not harm their own people with tanks and planes. The goal is not regime change. That is, and can only be, the responsibility of the Libyan people. That is a very clear goal as far as I'm concerned. So, we will have to wait and see if indeed, in the next few weeks or months, the Libyan people will be on the streets and demonstrate for a regime change. Thereby the allies are forcing a political solution by supporting parts of the Libyan people and fighting the Libyan army."

LPM: Only in 2003 the US government, at the time a republican government, initiated a war without a UN mandate in Iraq only to find out that there were indeed no weapons of mass destruction to be found. How do you assess the sudden skepticism of the US conservatives?

DCB: "The current political opposition to President Obama is an unintelligent one. If Obama had decided to not intervene, I guarantee you they would have made a big deal out of that. That's a bit Pavlov-like. As far as I can tell the political opposition in the US is acting predominantly by Pavlovian reactions, without substance and without drawing lessons from history."

LPM: In comparison to his predecessor, George W. Bush, President Obama is operating under UN mandate. Is that the return to multilateral policy, or, as Obama put it, "A way to share the costs?"

DCB: "If he said that, his explanation falls short. This UN resolution is a milestone as I explained earlier, and it turned UN policies back to being the core of political decision making. That is fundamental!"

LPM: With so much political calculation going on, in Europe and in the US, one could entertain the idea that it is less about the democratic process in Libya and its people, but more about the preservation of power and political positioning.

DCB: "If it was about the preservation of power, the allies would have stayed out of Libya. All in all, I believe that the West is completely overwhelmed with the goings-on in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Who would have believed around Christmas last year that only three months later, Mubarak and Ben Ali are history?"

LPM: There are different opinions on the outcome of the military intervention in Libya. One is that of Wladimir Tschamow, former Russian ambassador to Libya, who is painting a rather dark picture of Libya's future. The military intervention could destabilize the country for a long time and turn it into an unsafe palladium, comparable to Iraq or Somalia. According to his view, Gaddafi is capable of stringing the allies along for months and be sure of the support of his people. What do you believe the future in Libya will look like?

DCB: "Hang on, let me look into my crystal ball. I think it depends. If the majority of people in Tripoli will be able to overcome their fear, I absolutely understand that they are in fear by the way, but it seems to be the only way to put Gaddafi out of power: An aligned action between allies and the people of Libya. If that doesn't happen, there will in my opinion, be a separation of the country."