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The TUI Connection

The federal government’s historic Corona rescue package of May aims to protect people and businesses from the effects of the pandemic, with more than 1.1 trillion euros, “especially … large companies”. TUI AG, the world’s largest tourism group, also receives billions in state aid and cuts thousands of jobs as a thank you. Before 2002, the current TUI Group was still called Preussag and, as a German industrial veteran, produced shrapnel bombs for the Nazis – and built up Iraq’s poison gas capacities in the 1980s. Do we really want to save a company in 2020 that is complicit in Saddam’s murderous poison gas genocide in Iraqi Kurdistan 30 years ago?

At the end of May, the federal government presented its corona rescue package to the public, “the largest aid package in the history of the Federal Republic,” according to the pages of the Federal Ministry of Finance. In total, the “budget – effective measures” amount to 353.3 billion euros as well as a further 819.7 billion euros in guarantees-1.173 trillion euros to save employees, the self-employed and companies. “The federal government is making decisive, powerful and targeted progress to protect Germany,” it said. New loans amounting to around 156 billion euros are being taken out to finance the project – the holy grail called Black Zero is passé.

Empty words of the Federal government

The historic package of measures included packages to support families, hospitals, doctors, cultural workers, and a 50 billion emergency aid package for small businesses, the self-employed, and freelancers. But the lion’s share of the historic rescue package is hidden in the second part of the program, that for rescuing companies, “especially … large companies”: 100 billion euros in direct loans for distressed companies were loosened, another 100 billion for investments in KfW programs and another 400 billion more for corporate guarantees. As a result of the state company rescues, critics have already warned against too much – or any – state interference in company policy, while voices with a particular focus on the market have even seen the threat of “further slipping into planned economic structures”, including “further restrictions … such as were inherent in the former socialist planned economies”.

Although Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) had initially threatened that the state would take over some or all of the companies if necessary, as expected, the state’s influence on rescued companies remained manageable. For example, after a long back and forth with the Lufthansa rescue and a proud rescue package of nine billion euros, Germany’s largest Airline was only able to pull off a few take-off and landing times in Frankfurt and Munich in order to distribute them to competitors - hardly more than a “fig leaf intervention”. It would be presumptuous to claim that the Merkel government has even a tentative interest in linking the rescue of companies whose business models are known to be based on the destruction of the environment, for example, to environmental policy or even labour law requirements. As a thank you for the taxpayer bailout, Lufthansa will reduce its workforce by up to 20 percent and slash the salaries of the remaining employees by up to 45 percent. At the beginning of July we saw thousands of pilots and flight attendants in the snack bar at the Brandenburg Gate Pass by us loudly at the UFO Demo-but they were not listened to.

Profits are privatized, losses are socialized

In the following, We are interested in the rescue of TUI AG – the largest tourism group in the world with a workforce of around 70,000 employees, 10,000 of them in Germany, and annual sales of around 19 billion euros (fiscal year 2018/2019). As a result of the corona-related lockdown, TUI and more or less the entire tourism industry worldwide lost revenue and the group received its first government bailout of 1.8 billion euros in April. Despite this financial injection, the Executive Board announced shortly afterwards that 8,000 jobs would be cut worldwide, and large parts of the workforce were sent into short-time work in Germany. Then, in mid-August, the announcement that another 1.2 billion euros in state aid will flow, which adds up to a staggering three billion. However, the situation of the workforce remains bleak: the 8,000 jobs will still be cut, and some TUIfly sites will also be closed, threatening to cut another 900 full-time jobs.

Criticism of the TUI board is entirely justified by the trade unions. While TUI refrained from creating sufficient reserves in anticipation of the next crisis during the Boom years, juicy dividends were distributed to shareholders every year: a total of 1.71 billion euros in the last four years alone (calculated by the Author according to the annual financial statements 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). As the old bearded man from Trier knew, we at TUI once again experience the classic motif of capitalism in its purest form: profits are privatized, losses are socialized.

But I want to get to something else here. Because TUI came into my sights years ago when researching a completely different topic.

Saddam’s poison gas genocide in Kurdistan

Between 1980 and 1988, the first Gulf War raged between Iraq and Iran – the most sacrificial war between two developing countries of all time, with several hundred thousand to well over a Million dead, about three-quarters of them on the Iranian side. Saddam used the war to simultaneously crush the Rebellion of the Kurds in northern Iraq. This war against its own population, classified as genocide, culminated in the murderous Al-Anfal campaign in 1987/88, in which up to 100,000 people were killed, according to Human Rights Watch, while Kurdish authorities cite the figure of 182,000 victims. In the course of the “Arabization of Kurdistan,” Saddam wiped 90 percent of all Kurdish villages off the map, 4,000 in number, and often used internationally ostracized poison gas in his ethnic cleansing. On 16. On March 22, 1988, Saddam’s army carried out the most devastating poison gas massacre of civilians in history in Halabja on the Iraqi-Iranian border: up to 5,000 people died directly from the Gas, up to 10,000 were injured, three-quarters of the victims were women and children, thousands more died of secondary diseases, newborns suffered the most serious deformities.

Although the Iraqi economy under Saddam was arguably the most advanced in the Arab world, there was also a lack of technical know-how for the independent production of the poison gases used. In 1975, Baghdad commissioned the American Chemical Engineering Company Pfaudler Inc. with the establishment of an advanced pesticide plant to boost food production in the “biblical Garden of Eden”, according to the Iraqi narrative at the time. Pfaudler provided the blueprints for the planned plant, but the subsequent specifications demanded by the Iraqi chemists aroused great scepticism among the engineers: the plant was to be designed in such a way that a total of 1,200 tons of four extremely potent “pesticides” could be produced, including the nerve agent Amiton, which is about as deadly as Sarin and which is the precursor to two much more potent warfare agents: the British VX and the Russian Novichok. Things got too hot for the Pfaudler representatives and they blew up the business, as did the British Imperial Chemical Industries and an unnamed Italian company a year later.

Unlike the German chemical industry with its long and deadly poison gas experience – with the moats in the first World War and the Nazi chambers in the Second World War as the most barbaric cornerstones of its history. No, German industry never had any scruples.

German companies build Saddam’s chemical weapons

The Iraqi chemical weapons program was nicknamed “Project 922” and began large-scale industrial production in the early 1980s in a 150-square-kilometer desert area 60 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. Until 1981 mustard gas was first produced, then from 1984 also nerve poisons such as Tabun and Sarin and from 1986 the extremely deadly VX. In 2004, the CIA declassified a report on Project 922, which stated: “West German companies controlled the construction of what was then the most modern and best-designed chemical weapons facility in the world with the help of East German blueprints.” Saddam, like the German companies, always declared the plants as pesticide factories, but the CIA Report unequivocally states that their" sole purpose was the safe, efficient mass production of chemical-biological weapons."

In order to avoid the threat of U.S. and British raids, the Iraqi government published a comprehensive report in 2002 in which it disclosed all information about its former chemical weapons program. The shameful 12,000-page report mentions a total of 150 foreign companies that were involved in building Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction from 1975 onwards. Among them are some Swiss companies, Chinese, Singaporean, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, ten French and 24 US-American – but with 86 companies Germany is “undisputed number one of the arms suppliers”, as Der Spiegel wrote at the time. Some globally renowned German companies that were thus involved in building up Iraq’s poison gas capacities include Hoechst (now part of Sanofi-Aventis), Schott Glas and the steel producer Klöckner. But it was mainly three German companies that put Saddam’s poison gas factories in the Iraqi desert: the construction company Heberger, the laboratory equipment supplier Karl Kolb GmbH and the conglomerate Preussag AG.

In 2018, 30 years after the Halabja massacre, survivors-represented by an international legal team led by the US law firm MM~Law LLC – filed a lawsuit with the civil court in Halabja. The complaint is not about the political leaders, but about the responsibility of the corporations and their leadership, above all that of the German corporations – and above all Preussag, against which the allegations are meticulously listed in the 84-page document. In addition to planning and setting up the laboratories and supplying important basic chemicals for many years, Preussag is said to have employed the legal head of Saddam’s chemical weapons programme as its own legal advisor. After the federal government, under pressure from the United States, regulated chemical-industrial exports to Iraq in 1984, Preussag is alleged to have continued to be guilty of active conspiracy with the Saddam Regime by building up a Europe-wide supply network of straw companies to circumvent export regulations or systematically frisking export documents: for example, behind a supply of “fire extinguishers” bomb sleeves for filling with mustard or nerve gas.

The most disturbing aspect of the Halabja indictment is that the two companies Heberger and Karl Kolb are alleged to have set up two so-called “inhalation chambers” in the Samarra Research Centre, where “poison gas was first tested on dogs, then donkeys and finally on Iranian prisoners of war”. And Preussag is said to have provided the appropriate incinerators, “for animal carcasses up to the size of a donkey,” it said. Gas chambers and incinerators for animal carcasses in a pesticide factory so-the federal government and the heads of German industry were foolish and did not want to have known about anything, while in 1992 der SPIEGEL quoted the German engineer Fritz-Willi Dörflein, who was on site at the Muthanna factory in 1983: “everyone knew what it was about.“When asked what would be produced in the factory, according to Dörflein, an Iraqi worker answered: “we produce means against vermin – bugs, fleas, locusts, Persians, Israelis.”

TUI and the poison gas

The traditional group Preussag – the German spearhead in the establishment of Saddam’s chemical weapons program-was founded in the 1920s and engaged in a wide variety of industries, such as oil drilling, shipbuilding, steel, uranium mining or even with fragmentation bombs and shell casings for the Nazis. According to the company profile, Preussag was one of the three largest metal companies in the world in the early 1990s and the third largest German group ever. But at the end of the 1990s Preussag changed its corporate orientation and swallowed a large number of European tourism companies such as Hapag Lloyd or the British Thomson Travel Group and thus became the largest tourism group in Europe, later in the world. In 2002, the dissolution of the traditional name followed and the renaming to one of the acquired finds. You guessed it: TUI.

A rogue, who wanted to construct a connection, that the removal of the old and the renaming to the new 2002 took place just in the year, when the raid on Iraq announced itself and the whole TUI-Saddam Connection threatened to fly around the ears of the group. For example, the Halabja survivors in their above-mentioned lawsuit at the Halabja civil court consistently speak of TUI, not Preussag, in order to leave no doubt about the continuity of the group structures.

Within a few years, Preussag became the world’s largest tourism group, from the industrial giant that made bombs for the Nazis and poison gas for Saddam. From the” heavy industrial Arm of the Nazi apparatus”, as the allies called Preussag, to the travel company with the red Smiley Logo-and the company with its bloodstained past is saved from Ruin today with three billion euros of taxpayers ' money. Some stories are so absurd that only completely morality-free capitalism can write them.

The sources for the article can be found here.