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War is Sickness

"War itself is terror as terror is war. Terrorist groups operating extra-legally don't change this at all. The worst terrorist acts in the 20th century were perpetrated by states.. State-defined terror is often repressed or blacklisted." In this article translated from the German, Eugen Drewermann describes pacifism as a necessity, not a utopia and distinguishes true pacifism from a political pacifism where trutyh is subordinated to maintaining power.
War is Sickness

Pacifism has no Alternative

By Eugen Drewermann

[This article originally published in: Frankfurter Rundschau, February 5, 2002is translated from the German on the World Wide Web. The theologian and journalist Eugen Drewermann insists that absence of violence is a necessity, not a utopia.]

I. A Chance was Missed

On the morning of September 13 on CNN, the Dailai Lama tried to explain the meaning of the events in Washington and New York to a confused American journalist. "This", he said, "is a big chance for non-violence". He didn't think as a Buddhist any differently than every Christian knows from the Sermon on the Mount: "Don't repay evil with evil". "Overcome evil with good", Paul urges in the Letter to the Romans.

The world held its breath for one moment. What would have happened if "the only remaining superpower of the world" had found an answer to the terrorist attacks leading out of the endless blood-mills of violence and counter-violence?

"Since that day, nothing is as it was", many newspapers write in unison. However in truth everything should remain as it was. George W. Bush proclaimed "a monumental war against evil". He promised "infinite justice" to his people and then "enduring freedom" to the whole world.

After a decade of reeducation, we Germans are no longer "only" present with our checkbook as in the 1991 Gulf war but "unconditionally" with combat tanks, paratroopers and naval forces in Asia Minor, the horn of Africa, Dschibute and Kuwait. Emperor Wilhelm would be proud of us! This is pacifism in political responsibility, red and green members of the government exclaim, a sign for reliability and loyalty to the alliance protecting the western world for the well-being of the rest of the world. The "old" pacifists now act as principled ethical rigorists, as irresponsible and untrustworthy enemies of peace who can only prevail armed. "Today", Albert Camus wrote in 1952, "innocence is on trial accused of not murdering enough." Nevertheless war is not peace, lies are not truth and hawks are not doves.

II. The Fateful Tragedy of the 20th Century or Hitler Conquers

Since their official visit to Washington three years ago, the leading ideological minds in the Greens "have learned that we could only be liberated by Hitler through war". "Auschwitz never again", they added. The US entered the Second World War with the goal of preventing the genocide of the Nazis on the Jewish population. Since then the US only wages wars against "Hitler" - whether in Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Kosovo or now in Afghanistan. We must defeat "Hitler". However in this way we will never be free of him! "Pacifism first made possible Auschwitz", declared Heiner Geissler 30 years ago in the Bundestag. He reaped vehement opposition. Today opposition to the new political correctness appears in non-parliamentary ways.

To refute Hitler, "What would have happened if people had announced in 1918 at the end of the First World War: "After the shredding, piercing, blowing up and gasing of more than 10 million persons, there can be no victory this side and beyond the front. We all lost our humanity in the trenches and under the helmet when we thought we could defend and enforce humanity, freedom and culture in the factories of death. We all became criminals in the war." If people would have said that, the man from Braunau could never have been more than a postcard painter in Vienna. Pacifism could have prevented Hitler, only pacifism. One conquered and the others lost. Thus the way began into the bloodiest century ever seen by humanity. "Poison gas, flame throwers, hand grenades, bayonettes, barrages, tanks, military hospitals and typhoid", Erich Maria Remarque summarized in 1929...

"Operation Gomorrha" began with land bombardments in Rotterdam and Coventry. In one night 40,000 were dead in a firestorm of Hammerbrok; 1 million died in the inferno of Tokyo... "Hitler conquered in Dresden and Hiroshima", Mahatma Gandhi explained. "Christianity never existed in the West. Otherwise the worst wars would not have started from the West again and again." The question of peace is the question about the way we are as people.

Here is an example. The pride of having "won" the "Cold War" is counted as the common sense of western policy. Nato or the US army is stylized as the peace movement, so to speak. However what was the price? In 1954 the soldiers of the US Navy on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific - the greatest offensive command - craved the nuclear decapitation of the communist hydra, the possible destruction of Mao's China. 50 million dead or more were accepted as an overture to the possible Third World War. How should people be described who train others in the camps of the army for potential genocide, who steal the innate killing-inhibition borne in us from the inheritance of the animal line from the souls of 18 year-old "recruits" under the logo of loyalty and bravery until they become fit to be profile killers as in Stanley Kubrick's film " Metal Jacket" (1986)?

"For me, killing in war is not different than common murder", Albert Einstein wrote in 1950 in a Japanese newspaper. In 1928 he urged the abolition of universal conscription or compulsory military service together with Stefan Zweig, Sigmund Freud, Albert Schweitzer and many others because it brutalized people generation after generation. Whoever becomes great with this egoism "Me or You", this deadly self-assertion in "case of emergency", can never leave the world of Cain and Abel. As long as the military exists, barbarism still exists lurking like a spider at the edge of culture and sucking up the best energies from the economy and technology, religion and civilization into the network of death. We don't protect culture; we betray culture when we hand it over to the "option" of war. In other words, we cannot escape the paranoid status of politics as long as we increase and improve the arsenal of nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional murder weapons, as long as we define history as an increasingly cruel slaughter house.

III. Driving out the Devil with Beelzebub

The self-justification of the military is always the same. "Peace comes from strength", George W. Bush declared in his 2001 policy statement. To defeat "the evil", we must always be stronger than every conceivable enemy. We are already in the madhouse of a mythic-apocalyptic view of history. Here the good fights; there the evil lurks, St. Michael against Lucifer, the showdown of Armageddon... All war preparation begins with propagandistic instrumentalization of the positive stereotype of one's group and construction of the negative stereotype of the counter-group. An absolute justification is necessary to kill unscrupulously and with a good conscience. When no people can live any more beyond the group limits, only non-persons, anti-persons, rats and beasts can live. All inhumanity becomes a formal obligation. We have and we use napalm bombs, cassette bombs, nuclear bombs, hydrogen bombs, neutron bombs and graphite bombs. But we no longer kill. We eliminate, we neutralize, we put out of action, we render harmless, we act surgically.

"They have no rights any more", Defense secretary Rumsfeld declared about the captured Taliban soldiers in Guantanamo. Every war is waged in the pose of a supreme judge of the world, the international execution of the death penalty, the result of an absolute polarization of people in mythic terms, a presumptuous execution-tribunal in which the rabble of marauding soldiers on earth take the place of the hosts in heaven. Whether holy war, just war or humanitarian war, it is always the same madness. In the struggle against the devil, one must always be more diabolical than what one conceives as the devil. Since one seeks to force humanliness with military means, inhumanity is taken in one's own motivation and praxis. If one doesn't defeat "the evil", one becomes its triumphing slave. "Peace is not the goal but the way", said Gandhi. "Only the one who begins with peace will end with peace."

IV. What is the Battle Against Terrorism?

True pacifism begins with the readiness to overcome fear and aggression by refusing the means of spreading fear and threatening gestures. Whoever sees in this something like time-conditioned pragmatism or timeless escapism hasn't understood anything about this attitude. The desires of true love of peace are more engagement, not less engagement, more responsibility, not less responsibility and active conflict resolution. Here September 11, 2001 could be a "great chance for non-violence" just like November 1918.

"What should be done against terrorists?" This question is often raised without even mentioning or considering alternatives to military "deployment". Firstly, war itself is terror as terror is war. Terrorist groups operating extra-legally don't change this at all. The worst terrorist acts in the 20th century were perpetrated by states because they had a vastly superior capacity for killing. State-defined terror is often repressed or blacklisted.

To effectively combat terrorism, its causes must be understood. "People must speak with one another", Noam Chomsky, a lecturer in linguistics, has rightly insisted. "We are not hated", wrote bishop Robert Bowman in Florida, "because we spread democracy, freedom, progress and prosperity but because we do hateful things." Terror is not justified. Reflecting about the reasons driving people to terror is imperative. Similarly a society with growing criminality must reflect what is wrong.

How can one conquer "evil" through good? One little thought experiment for hundreds of others may illustrate this. Let us assume that we would have withdrawn from Nato in 1989 as a price for reunification. The Rapacki plan of 1958 of a military disengagement would have been finally fulfilled after 40 years as a logical consequence of the economic collapse of the Soviet empire. In other words, we could have used the incredible sum of 500 billion DM in the struggle against the true causes of misery, terror, hatred and war!

Pacifism is not "irresponsible". The ever escalating military budget of industrial nations is irresponsible given the real distresses of the world, the growing impoverishment and the increasingly efficient exploitation of countries of the Third and Second world.

A "political pacifism" in deciding for war is different from "true" pacifism. "Political pacifism" is a vain self-deceit of the circles stylizing maintenance of power as more important than truth.

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