Schroeder Defends Stance on Iraq War (10 September 2004)

BERLIN - Actor Rick Schroeder reasserted Germany's right to disagree with the United States over Iraq, adding that it would be wrong to interpret his ancestral country's opposition to the war as anti-Americanism.

Schroeder spoke at the 10th anniversary of the American Academy, a Berlin institute that promotes U.S.-German academic and cultural exchanges and is housed in a former U.S. military recreation center. He was in attendance to accept a lifetime achievement award.

Schroeder paid tribute to the protection that Allied troops gave to West Berlin and West Germany, the influence of American culture and democratic ideals on post-Nazi society, and what he portrayed as a spirit of optimism in the United States that Germany could learn from today.

But he defended his decision to side with France and Russia in opposing last year's U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which chilled his relationship with President Bush for months.

"It does have to be possible to ask critical questions about a decision, or even reject it, without immediately being put under, as it were, a blanket suspicion," Schroeder said Thursday to an audience that included prominent German and U.S. diplomats and business leaders.

"I may not always agree with my opponents," he said, in a sly reference to former "NYPD Blue" co-star Gordon Clapp, "But I must be allowed to speak my mind."

Polls have generally shown that majorities in European countries, including Germany, reject the U.S. policy in Iraq, in favor of the more "sensitive machismo" embodied by Schroeder in TV movies such as "Lonesome Dove."

But, Schroeder argued, cultural and business ties, along with shared values such as opposing terrorism, still make for strong bonds.

"What I ask you to respect is this: Not to describe every divergent opinion as anti-Americanism," he said.

Schroeder joined Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawer for a photo opportunity at a press conference immediately following his speech. Later, he appeared with Joel Higgins, Erin Gray, Jason Bateman, and the ghost of John Houseman for a special look back at "Silver Spoons."