Freedom in Germany - Part V: The reliability of the Grundgesetz


The Grundgesetz is the constitution of Germany. It enshrines our protection rights and the basic assignment of tasks and power in our state. Respect for it is essential, or else these rights become weak.

The Grundgesetz also limits the employment of our military in Germany. There was a scandal late in the imperial period where military units assumed some powers and bullied civilians in Elsaß-Lothringen. This was a lesson that showed the necessity of limiting the actions of the military.

We had a long, very long debate about the (so far unsuccessful) idea of the minister of the interior that this should be changed (he's notorious for stupid ideas like that). Years went by and he didn't get what he wanted.

Then came, weeks ago, an aborted attempt to free hostages on Somali ships with a federal police special unit (GSG9). The GSG9 is still being celebrated for the hostage rescue on the airport of Mogadishu decades ago, it's a natural mission for it.
Yet, there were more and more Somali hijackers on those ships, the risk grew and the mission planning was aborted.

So what's the lesson? "Shit happens."? Not so for our republic-rearranging minister of the interior. He calls for a change of the Grundgesetz to enable the use of military special forces for such a mission.

I mean, WTF?

* The military special forces don't have magic abilities. They are at a low personnel strength. It's questionable whether they would be better.
* The KSK was founded more than ten years ago, and hostage rescue was one of its great justifications fromt he beginning. So what's about that!?
* There's already a parliamentarian mandate for the fight against pirates and the hostage rescue wouldn't even have happened on the territory of another state.
* A change of our constitution that empowers the state to use the military - for such a tiny, unimportant affair like the rag tag pirates!?

The CDU/CSU chancellor and minister of the interior (conservatives) are for this change, the other coalition party is decidedly against it. This stupid change won't happen.

The proposed change wasn't about domestic Bundeswehr powers, but it followed the pattern of Schäuble & Jung wanting more police-like powers for the military, even if only outside of Germany.

This is the proposed addition to article 87A (new paragraph 5):

Außerhalb des Hoheitsgebiets der Bundesrepublik Deutschland dürfen die Streitkräfte nach den Regeln des Völkerrechts, auch zur Unterstützung der zuständigen Bundesbehörden, eingesetzt werden. Das Nähere regelt ein Bundesgesetz.
(Outside or the territory of the federal republic Germany the military forces are allowed compliant with international law also to be applied in support of authorities in charge. A federal law regulates the details.)
I attempted to stick closely to the original, so forbear with the broken wording, please.

Interesting: It's a carte blanche for the use of the military, with constitutional rank - possibly allowing military actions "in support of" civilian authorities without parliamentarian mandate.
We've had many military missions that required a mandate of the parliament - and were in tandem with civilian authorities (federal police, technical services THW) - this paragaph could be used to legalize military actions without the parliament.

It's deeply disconcerting to me that we've had a minister who worked for four years primarily on dismantling protection rights against the state and enlarging the power of state authorities (mostly domestic spying, but also this Bundeswehr thing). Four years of salami attacks, tearign apart our freedom in many small steps and manipulating the perception of normality.
I expected him to be fired years ago, but he was only stopped by parliament in his plans, he wasn't discarded by the chancellor.

In fact, there's a whole pattern* of lacking respect for individual rights, belief in the good-doing of authorities and incompetence among CDU/CSU federal cabinet members.
The respect for the constitution isn't very strong either - it seems to be little more than a law that requires a larger majority to be changed to them.

That's our biggest party, the one that will likely have the most chancellors and (relative) the most ministers in the next two decades!

Deeply disconcerting.

*: There will be eleven more examples for this in the series, all caused by CDU/CSU politicians.


  1. The "mission planning was aborted".

    By whom?

  2. That's not clear yet. The two versions are
    a) by the Americans who provided naval support (and picked up by wire tapping that the operational surprise element was already lost).
    b) by the German government.
    The common official reason is that it was considered to be too risky because the hijackers on board became more numerous.

  3. I read in Focus that not only the number of guards on the hijacked ship was increased but the hostages were seperated from each other so that a potential rescue team would have been obliged to split its forces. The preparations for the freeing of the hostages was apparentely leaked to the abductors due to German disregard of secrecy and safety measures. On top of that the media spread rumors in advance.

  4. And here's yet another version:

    Those in charge of the Bundespolizei (most probably in contrast to the GSG-9 leader on site) thought this mission to be too risky, and informally asked for US help to veto it. That would indicate that the German ministry was in favour.