In the years following former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's rejection of ex-President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq, it became clear that the two could barely stand each other. Now, Bush's memoirs take aim at Schröder -- a reply to the German leader's own tome four year ago.
Schröder, of course, had a head start. After being ousted from office in 2005 by Angela Merkel, Schröder immediately set to work penning his memoirs, a document called " Decisions: My Life in Politics" which, when it came out in 2006, was not particularly complimentary towards US President George W. Bush.
He said Bush used "almost Biblical semantics" and, in reference to the US president's repeated mentions of his faith, wrote: "The problem begins when the impression is created that political decisions are a result of this conversation with God."
On Tuesday, the day that Bush's own presidential memoirs, "Decision Points," finally hit the shelves, Schröder went even further. "The former American president is not telling the truth," he said on Tuesday in Berlin.
Schröder was referring to a passage in Bush's memoirs in which the former president described a meeting that took place between the two leaders in the White House on Jan. 31, 2002. Bush writes that, when he told Schröder that he would pursue diplomacy against Iraq but would use military force should the need arise, the German leader responded, "'What is true of Afghanistan is true of Iraq. Nations that sponsor terror must face consequences. If you make it fast and make it decisive, I will be with you.'"
Bush continued: "I took that as a statement of support. But when the German election arrived later that year, Schröder had a different take. He denounced the possibility of force against Iraq."
On Tuesday, Schröder offered his version of that meeting. "Just as I did during my subsequent meetings with the American president, I made it clear that, should Iraq ... prove to have provided protection and hospitality to al-Qaida fighters, Germany would reliably stand beside the US," the former German chancellor said. "This connection, however, as it became clear during 2002, was false and constructed."
Gerhard Schröder's opposition to Bush's aggressive Iraq policy was ultimately the deciding factor in his re-election in the autumn of 2002. Indeed, Germany joined Russia and France as the three most significant opponents to the US invasion. The ex-German chancellor has always insisted that his critical stance was not merely a campaign ploy. "How else could I have survived this campaign without exhibiting a clear position on this issue that meant so much to people," he wrote in his memoirs.
To be sure, Schröder's insistence of innocence is perhaps no less self-serving than Bush's own analysis of the run-up to the Iraq war. Schröder was the consummate politician and immediately recognized the political capital being handed to him by the German public's overwhelming rejection of the US course on Iraq.
Bush's memoirs, however, make it clear that he felt misled by Schröder. "I continued to work with Gerhard Schröder on areas of mutual interest," he writes in "Decision Points." "But as someone who valued personal diplomacy, I put a high premium on trust. Once that trust was violated, it was hard to have a constructive relationship again."