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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Envoy's Race Charges Rile German Leaders

BERLIN -- When U.S. diplomat Doug Jones offered his candid views last week on Germany's problems with foreigners -- i.e. the German propensity to beat them up, spit on them and otherwise make them feel unwelcome -- it was tough talk for a diplomat. Some might even say it was a breath of fresh air in a realm better known for finesse and double-talk.


"If Germany is not a racist society," Jones asked rhetorically, "why is its nationality law, which was written in 1913, predicated upon race?"


Nor did Jones flinch from criticizing the German government. He said Chancellor Helmut Kohl unintentionally gave comfort to skinheads and neo-Nazis by saying, "Germany is not a country of immigration."


"If I were a skinhead," Jones said, "that would signal to me that the nearly 7 million foreigners who live here legally do not belong here, and that I am justified wanting them out."


Jones, however, was not just railing indiscriminately against the Germans. He also said much that was complimentary and his criticism came across as the blunt advice of a concerned friend. As principal officer for the U.S. Embassy's Berlin office, he also stressed that he was speaking only for himself.


But he was tough. Too tough as it turned out. Within 48 hours of his speech last Thursday, Jones' bosses in Bonn and Washington were disavowing his remarks as the inappropriate views of a man with one foot in his mouth and the other out the door. An official statement from the Embassy announced that his views "do not represent the views of the Embassy, the Ambassador or the United States Government. They were not cleared with the Embassy in advance.


"Even though Mr. Jones noted at the outset of his speech that he was expressing his own views it was inappropriate for him to make remarks so at variance with U.S. policy while working as a U.S. official. Mr. Jones had previously informed the State Department he will be retiring from the Foreign Service in 1994."


It was not made clear where in his speech Jones parted from U.S. policy. Perhaps it was when he said, "A democratic social system ought to be flexible enough to accommodate difference and diversity -- and to benefit from them." Or perhaps it was when he admonished Germans for self-pity and a tendency toward almost constant self-analysis.


"I have some news for you," he said. "This is one of the luckiest countries on the face of the earth. It is a country to take pride in. It is prosperous, beautiful, at peace with its neighbors, generous in meeting its commitments, a creative force in achieving European integration and the aims and ideals of the United Nations."


More likely he strayed by addressing the issue of foreigners at all during a German election season. Kohl, who has hit it off well with President Bill Clinton, is running behind in the polls to challenger Rudolf Scharping, and one of Kohl's few remaining advantages is the perception that he would get along better with the United States. In short, it was not a good time for a U.S. official to be criticizing Kohl's government, for whatever reason.