With this echo of the words of John F Kennedy, Ich bin ein Berliner, President Clinton this week made a historic effort to capture the hearts and minds of Germans on the first presidential visit to Berlin since Ronald Reagan last went to Hamburg and said, some think unwisely: 'Ich bin ein Hamburger'.
This time Clinton was greeted with scarcely disguised cries of: 'Wer is dieser Kerl?' ('Here we have a worthy successor to the late President Kennedy indeed]') and was thus encouraged to go on and say: 'Die besondere Verbindung ist kaput] Jetzt sind wir Freunde nur mit den Deutschen]'
'Was sagt er eigentlich?' muttered the German bystanders. Nobody seemed to know what Clinton meant, except one old man who was lucky enough to possess a copy of Dictionary of German as Spoken by visiting Statesmen and Politicians, with a shining endorsement by Neville Chamberlain ('I have found this dictionary invaluable in my dealings with Herr Hitler, a man with whom I think we can do business . . .') and was turning its pages as fast as he could.
'Ah, here we are,' he said. 'The President is saying: 'The special relationship is all washed up. The Germans and the Yanks are top of the league now.' '
The Germans stared at each other. 'What special relationship? What's he talking about?'
'Hold on,' said the man with the dictionary. 'There's a note on the 'special relationship'. It says: 'Historical bond between Britain and America. Under it, Britain does everything it can to ingratiate itself to America, whereas America totally ignores Britain except in major wars, when it comes and rescues Britain just as Britain is on the verge of losing against the Germans.'
'So President Clinton says that is all over now, does he?' said a second man.
'And does that mean next time we fight the British, the Americans will come and fight on our side?' said a third.
'Must do,' said a fourth.
There was cheering, and as the news spread that America had now promised to fight on Germany's side in the next war, there were outbreaks of clapping. Clinton, flushed and pleased, said that America and Germany would lead the world in any moral crusade. There was enormous cheering at this, especially when a new rumour ran through the crowd to the effect that there would soon be a joint American-German invasion of Bulgaria in reprisal for the humiliating German defeat in the World Cup.
Meanwhile, in a secret room in Whitehall, there was great pleasure at how things were going. It was the monthly get-together of the British Policy Club, a small group of people so powerful that not even the Prime Minister knew of their existence. They had decided some time previously that if there was anything that ever held a country back, it was having the support of the Americans.
For instance, it was generally agreed that the only reason the Suez offensive had failed in 1956 was because of the Americans. The Americans, as their allies, were able to pull the plug on the whole operation and scupper the French and British. If they had been their enemies, they would not have been able to do that. With the Americans as the allies of the Egyptians, we would have been all right. If the Americans had been the Russians' allies, the Hungarian revolution would probably have succeeded.
It was certainly true that Britain had suffered only harm in the EC from her American friendship because every gesture by Britain had looked like an effort to placate the US. So the step had now been taken to persuade the Americans to transfer the special relationship to the Germans and get it in trouble instead. 'And don't forget,' said the leader of the Policy Club, 'that any world leader who gets the support of America is also doomed. Think of the Shah . . . Marcos . . . Sadat . . . and now Helmut Kohl is for the chop. It's all going according to plan.'
'Perfidious Albion,' muttered a member of the Policy Club, who was actually a German spy and who now stole away to report back to his masters.Reuse content