Author offers to cancel speech in wake of boycott
HEIDELBERG, Germany — A controversial author invited to speak at the Army’s annual professional development symposium in Europe next week has offered to cancel his appearance in the wake of a German boycott of the event.
Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a writer and frequent lecturer on military affairs, is slated to speak at U.S. Army Europe’s three-day Land Combat Expo on the future of warfare.
“I have made an offer to withdraw, if that’s what USAREUR thinks is best. And there will be no hard feelings against USAREUR on my part,” Peters told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.
“The important thing is the expo,” he added. “It’s not me, it’s not the German tanks. It’s the troops.”
A USAREUR spokeswoman confirmed Peters’ offer.
“USAREUR’s invitation to him to participate as a guest speaker at the expo still stands,” said Lt. Col. Jane Crichton.
Officials, however, say they hope the Germans will reconsider.
“We continue to discuss the issue with the German command,” said Crichton.
German officials say they were unaware of Peters’ offer.
“Our commander doesn’t know anything about this,” said Col. Wolfgang Fett, spokesman for Lt. Gen. Axel Bürgener, command of Germany’s land forces.
Fett declined to speculate on whether German leaders would reconsider their decision to boycott the expo should Peters withdraw.
Peters infuriated German officials with a scathing column in the New York Post last month that was critical of the German government, German civilian employees who work for the U.S. military and wide swaths of German society.
“The primary reason why German politicians want American troops to remain is that they’ve been fleecing us for a half century. Some flunky from the German Embassy may respond with bogus claims about how our presence is subsidized, but the truth is that American tax dollars go to lazy, arrogant, corrupt German employees who work on our bases and over whom we have little control,” wrote Peters. “The Germans aren’t worried about global security. They’re worried about their dismal unemployment numbers.”
Peters served in Germany for 10 years while on active duty.
“I saw up close how German farmers filed outrageous claims for ‘maneuver damage,’ how German landlords rented substandard housing to our military families at inflated rates, then exploited the system to renovate slums our soldiers had ‘ruined,’” Peters continued in his column. “Even the German railroads gouged us whenever we had to deploy. It’s time for America to stop subsidizing the welfare state on the Rhine.”
The German authorities responded on Tuesday, telling U.S. Army leaders in Europe that their military would boycott the expo and cancel their participation in the event, which included some five military vehicles and displays.
“We do not want any verbal confrontation between any German soldier and this guest speaker,” Col. Hans Kling, liaison officer between the German and USAREUR said Wednesday, adding “We do not want to provide a platform for the speaker to do this in the presence of German soldiers.”
Peters said the move amounts to a “German effort to pressure USAREUR into canceling my appearance; it’s a thinly disguised effort at censorship. Still, I want to do what’s right for the expo and the troops.”
Despite the uproar, however, Peters makes no apologies for the column.
“This just proves they still have a deep fascist streak,” Peters said. “It’s really a shame that none of my books are in print in Germany, because then they could burn them like they did in the 1930s.”