Sunday, October 22, 2006

Schroeder: Bush's faith raised suspicion

BERLIN - Ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose second term was marked by vehement opposition to the war in Iraq, described in an advance copy of his memoirs how he was suspicious of President Bush's constant references to his Christian faith.

In an excerpt of his book, "Decisions: My Life in Politics" published in the German weekly Der Spiegel Saturday, Schroeder discusses the key political choices that marked his seven-year term in office, including the decision to call early elections and his split with Bush over the Iraq war.

"I am anything but anti-American," Schroeder told Spiegel in an interview to accompany the excerpt of the more than 500-page book that goes on sale Thursday.

In it Schroeder, who led the Social Democrats to power in 1998, recalls the tears in his eyes as he watched television footage of people jumping from the burning World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

He knew Germany would have to react.

"It was important to me that Germany fulfill its requirements as an ally" of the U.S., he wrote. "It was also fully clear to me that this could also mean the German army's participation in an American military mission."

Several months later, during Bush's 2002 visit to Berlin, Schroeder wrote he was surprised at what he described as Bush's "exceptionally mild" speech to the German parliament.

While meetings with Bush at that time were friendly, Schroeder said he could not reconcile himself with the feeling that religion was the driving force behind many of Bush's political decisions.

"What bothered me, and in a certain way made me suspicious despite the relaxed atmosphere, was again and again in our discussions how much this president described himself as 'God-fearing,'" Schroeder wrote, adding he is a firm believer in the separation of church and state.

Schroeder accused some elements in U.S. as being hypocritical when it comes to secularism in government.

"We rightly criticize that in most Islamic states, the role of religion for society and the character of the rule of law are not clearly separated," Schroeder wrote. "But we fail to recognize that in the USA, the Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the Bible have similar tendencies."


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