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Schroeder Says Bush's Religious Talk Worried Him
Published on Sunday, October 22, 2006 by Reuters
Schroeder Says Bush's Religious Talk Worried Him
by Erik Kirschbaum
 

BERLIN - Ex-German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has written in a new book that George W. Bush's frequent references to God in their meetings before the Iraq war had made him wary of the U.S. president's political decisions.

Schroeder wrote in an advance excerpt of his memoirs that Germany had stood by its vow of "unlimited solidarity" after the September 11 attacks in 2001. But Germany stayed out of Iraq, causing a breach in U.S.-German ties.

He said in "Decisions: My Life in Politics", published on Sunday in Der Spiegel magazine, he was alarmed by Bush's talk of God, which made him fear religion influenced decisions.

"What worried me, despite a relaxed atmosphere to our talks, and to a certain degree what made me sceptical was how much it came through that this president saw himself as 'God-fearing' and saw that as the highest authority," Schroeder wrote.

Schroeder, a Social Democrat who left politics after his party lost a 2005 election to end his seven years in power, said he had no qualms with Bush's Christian faith but could not escape a fear religion was a driving force behind his decisions.

"I can well understand if someone is devout and strives for a dialogue with God, in this case prayer. The problem that I have with that starts when the impression arises that political decisions are the result of a dialogue with God."

Schroeder said the problem with decisions made in "dialogue with God" is they cannot be modified or negotiated. Bush broke off ties with Schroeder for a while after he publicly questioned the wisdom of invading Iraq as part of his war on terrorism.

Even though Schroeder said he wept when the United States was attacked on 9/11, his anti-war stance on Iraq a year later helped him win re-election just months before the U.S. invasion.

"Anyone who tries to legitimize political decisions that way (in dialogue with God) simply cannot allow these decisions to be changed through criticism or an exchange of ideas. Because if you do, you then breach the mission from God," Schroeder wrote.

"This absoluteness I saw in the American president in 2002, not only in our private talks but also in his public comments, reinforced my political skepticism -- even though I personally like America and its president."

Germany had sent nearly 4,000 troops to support the U.S.-led war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Africa before that in 2001.

Schroeder wrote he believes in the separation between church and state.

"Quite rightly we criticize that in most Islamic states the role of religion in society and the secular character of the legal system are not clearly separated. But we haven't taken note as readily of the U.S. Christian fundamentalists and their interpretation of the bible that show similar tendencies.

"There is thus little scope for peaceful resolutions if both sides claim to have a monopoly on the only truth."

© Copyright 2006 Reuters Ltd

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