portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

imperialism & war | legacies | political theory

Keeping Quiet is Deadly. Anti-War Day, Sept 1, 2003

"The US wages a pure imperial war of conquest with the admitted lies that its own country and the world had to be preventively defended against the threat of weapons of mass destruction...Everyone defended the front of silence toward an unwilling but brainwashed population.. A great international solidarity is necessary.. in that country where the `egomaniac' national security strategy was worked out." Trans fr German
Keeping Quiet is Deadly
On Anti-War Day, September 1, 2003

A Lesson of the War against Iraq: The "Alternative International Community" must move the Power Elites of the World to Peace

By Horst-Eberhard Richter

[This address by the psychoanalyst Horst-Eberhard Richter at the Anti-War day in Frankfurt originally published in Frankfurter Rundschau online September 3, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.fr-aktuell.de/_inc/_globals/print.php?client=fr&cnt=291394.]

Two politicians, US president George W. Bush and Great Britain's premier Tony Blair, devised and carried out the Iraq war against the will of many governments and countless people. To wage this war, psychoanalyst Horst-Eberhard Richter says, the public had to be deceived about the danger of Saddam Hussein. The "alternative international community" described by Richter as the peace-loving part of the world's population must ensure that such a war is not repeated.

The US wages a pure imperial war of conquest with the admitted lies that its own country and the world had to be preventively defended against the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Some governments joined in the war because they wanted to show their agreeableness out of opportunism, not because they were gullible or in good faith. Subsequently this war proved to be a misguided adventure that brought additional misery to the attacked country and represents a setback in civilization for our culture. The ex-General Secretary of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali, speaks of a colonial war on the level of the 19th century.

After the horror of the two world wars, the international community took an important step to advance our civilization. This was the creation of the United Nations with a charter protecting weaker nations in the future from the violence of a stronger nation. (... ) The UN could not prevent the Cold War. However the end of the Cold War justifies the hope that civilized reason is mightier than the imperial spirit of conquest. (... ) This brief historical retrospect underscores the extent of the de-civilization shown to us by the Iraq war. The Iraq war is a scandalous criminal case that is not seen as a criminal case because it has an oversized format and the culprits are in the highest positions. (... ) A president and prime minister deceived the world public. One announced in a solemn stfate of the union address that the world enemy could launch its weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. This was the apex of the deceitful fraud or wilful deceit. The international public trembling for years with the specter of a nuclear war was shocked and manipulated.

The authority of the UN and international law was pushed aside like a triviality or nullity. The states that didn't join in the Security Council were reprimanded as stubborn and pigheaded. To only look forward and be glad that Americans are stubborn and no longer angry at Germans is a shameless demand. The damage in undermining the international legal and moral order is deep. If the giant scandal is not properly worked out, a sudden continuation is unavoidable. More preventive or preemptive defensive wars as a result of pure arbitrary power will be the rule.

The Kelly Case

A scientist had to commit suicide to focus attention on the official dummification mechanisms making people toe the line for an illegitimate war. A few words about this lesson would be helpful. For seven years the microbiologist David Kelly did inspection work in Iraq as a bio-weapons expert. He listened to the suffering of the population there. This sensitivity made an untrue report unbearable. His premier Tony Blair and president Bush appeared in public with this report in January 2003.

Kelly knew that no knowledge of the development or presence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction existed at that moment. However he heard Blair and Bush proclaim loudly that Saddam Hussein could operationalize these weapons within 45 minutes. For four months, the honest researcher Kelly was silent about the propaganda lies with their momentous psychological consequences. Then he confided in a journalist.

His loyalty as a government official for years was subject to his higher sense of responsibility for the general public. His incorruptible sense of truth sharpened the world's perception of the manipulation strategy of the British government. That made him the accused before a parliamentary committee. At the same time he was a victim of the BBC who gave his name as an informant. Driven into a corner, David Kelly with his suicide paid the price of being the first to risk focusing world attention on the greatest conceivable war lies of the political leaders of Great Britain and the US. The lying continues.

The crucial dossier to which Blair and Bush referred was only an exaggeration of the facts. Exaggeration would be a correct term if the Iraqi time frame for deploying weapons of mass destruction were reduced from one or two days to 45 minutes. Instead the weapons didn't even exist. Thus it wasn't an exaggeration but a creartion of facts out of nothing. Error or mistake is also a minimizing term for cunning dishonest seduction out of base motives. Removing psychological resistance against an offensive war violarting international law with lying methods is a base motive.

The Kelly case and its treatment should convince us that a secret front line runs between the plane of the power machine and the citizenry. An insider bringing information from the power camp enabling the population to discuss political processes of fundamental importance was stigmatized as a traitor. Democratic governments with their secret services and communication-propaganda agencies are closed fortress-like systems above the heads of parliamentarians and citizens. Surely enough alert minds within this fortress knew that the UN weapons inspectors found or could find nothng prohibited in over 500 searches. But everyone defended the front of silence toward an unwilling but sysrtedmatically brainwashed population. Critical questions and doubts were dismissed as products of resentment or of awkward leftwingers. Events of the peace movement were stylized as traditional rituals and exhibitionist self-satisfactioon of the usual suspects. (... )

Tasks of the Peace Movement

Back to the situation on the other side of the front. What must be the future focus of the enlightening peace movement? What can the peace movement do to break the front of silence and resist the incapacitation of the population?

Concerning enlightenment, the self-dynamic of turbo-capitalism in the neoliberal system and its permanent war preparation should be emphasized. This system fixated on power egoism leads globalization to widen the gulf between poor and rich. This dynamic multiplies tensions promoting war.

Transnafional corporations have a mammoth direct and indirect influence on politics and mass consciousness through the media under their control. This system has hardened since the totalitarian deformations of socialism in the East collapsed. However neoliberalism doesn't run like an automatic machine. An ideology is planted in neoliberalism that approaches a critical point. This is the belief that victory in the power competition promises a glorious independence from all narrowing bonds and leaves the losers behiind like a waste dump.

The strongest power as the sole ruler is allowed to ignore community obligations as it likes. The US now does this by evading the Kyoto climate convention. The International Criminal Court in the Haage can punish all war crimes and crimes against human rights exept those perpetrated by Americans. These two examples, Kyoto and the Haage, demonstrate the logical flaw or mistake in reasoning. In the long-term, the highhandedness strikes back on the author.

Everyone including the US 'will painfully feel the neglect of environmental- and peaced protection in the long run. September 11 showed that the most expensive weapons of power cannot change its own vulnerability. The richest country cannot gain the independence about which it dreams. This country remains eternally vulnerable and even offers itself as a target when it wounds others through egoistic arbitrary power. Wounded countries remain permanently connected through an absolutely necessary mutual dependence. The American political scientist Benjamin Barber wrote that memorable sentence to his president after September 11: "Terrorism is only the negative and distorted form of mutual dependence that we are not ready to recognize in its positive and useful form." (... )

Bush's Worldview

The evil or pernicious spirit (hidden in neoliberalism) appears openly in the form of a president rarifying power egoism in a religious way. That Bush believed he was chosen by God to wage war against Iraq as a kind of world rescue could be regarded as Bush's private affair. However he proclaims the blessing of this war with the same self-righteousness as the aircraft with the Hiroshima bombs was Christianly consecrated before its takeoff. The religious transfiguration of nationalist pride is an endemic characteristic of a certain American nature: God is with us on the way to the Americanization of all cultures of the globe. The world must recover or get well in our values.

A critical point is necessarily bound with this self-transfiguration. Whoever only wants to be good needs the evil to be stabilized. This is even more complicated: Something is always there that one cannot forgive. The evil is sought outside and must be wiped out. One doesn't have to seek long for this something with George Bush since he speaks about this.

"You know", he once told representatives of the most important confessions, "I was a heavy drinker. I should really be in a Texas bar, not in the Oval Office. There is only one reason why I am in the Oval Office and not in a bar: I have found faith. I have found God."

Bush shows where his secret self-condemnation lies by fighting with a scapegoat mechanism. If this assumption is true, we must be anxious that conquering new Bin Ladens or Saddam Husseins doesn't become a question of his inner balance. As long as the Iraqi ruler was seen as a super-enemy bristling with weapons, many Americans were completely agreed with the moral conventions of war. Great doubt begins now that it turns out he was a militarily toothless adversary and people were made into fools by a lying PR-campaign. (... )

I discussed this aspect in detail because it appears important for the question about the future way of the peace movement. The moral crisis of Americans should be understood while avoiding an uncritical anti-Americanism. In this way, a defensive patriotic attitude could be stabilized. Remember that people took to the streets on February 15 in nearly all US metropolitan areas as in Europe, Asia, Austrialia and New Zealand. The American branch of the peace movement has a long history. We must emphasize these efforts more than before and constantly recall that radical advances in peace on a world scale cannot be realized without a change of consciousness within the US.

We need a grassroots transatlantic peace alliance in contrast to the well-publicized efforts to promote Europe's cohesion by building a European military force. February 15 shouldn't be a nostalgic satisfaction in our minds. Rather this unique transcontinental mass demonstration represents a unique chance and obligation for us. (... )

"Alternative international community" describes the community of majorities that opposed the Iraq war though their will did not prevail. An enormous potential waits here to influenced official policy from an awareness that is clearly ahead of the mentality of the political power elite. I presume that the peaceful course of our massive demonstrations is essentially connected with the consciousness of our own moral superiority. A higher and more developed sense of responsibility was manifest in the rejection of war than in the stereotype-bating of the war-mongerers.

"Alternative International Community"

How can this "alternative international community" be more politifcally effective?

1) Firstly, through better iinternational interconnection. Connections must still be improved although unions, Attac, professional groups like physicians and lawyers and church groups have made good contacts.
2) The media has enormous power in our media age. We must flood the newspapers and broadcast stations with readers' letters, meetings with editors and our own articles. That the media communicate from top to bottom and give the impression that the hundreds of thousands of the peace movement were only a herd protesting with their feet with a handful of moderating functionaries is an absurdity. The television stations kept in line by the parties implied that support of war and rejection of war were balanced in Germany... The Americanists dominated on several talkshows. Protagonists of the peace movement were rarely seen. From the German media, no visitor from abroad could have realized an over-80-percent rejection of war. The media was worse in the Kosovo war. An extensive Swedish study concluded that the media had acted as a fourth arms agency. In any case, we must urgently improve our media. Traditional press conferences are not enough. We must visit the editorial offices and write more and more letters. Several things can be done with engagement to perforate the screening.
3) If one only criticizes one's representatives for practicing party obedience and only entering discussions with constituents in the election campaigns, one doesn't fulfill the purpose of the constitution that all state authority issues from the people. That parliamentary machinations become increasingly inscrutable for citizens or parliamentarians or are merely seen as a media theater is a disastrous development. CDU (German party of the middle led by Helmut Kohl for 18 years) parliamentarians are hardly alarmed that the majority of their voters reject war. The delegates in the Bundestag form a part of the common power front over against civil society. Like other NGOs, the peace movement must do more lobby work.
4) Our great demonstrations even apart from February 15 have shown better cooperation and coordination than ever before. Political groups, unions, human rights-, eco-, women's-, church and vocational groups altogether offer a picture of a resolute will. Attac contributed mightily as an integrating force. An impressive stream comes from the youth, especially the 16-20 age group. These contacts should be cultivated intensively. Power rivalries to confiscate or dominate the peace movement are hardly helpful. (... )

In conclusion as a representative of the medical peace movement, I am very glad to have been invited by the unions. The union movement from the beginning has followed a central principle of the peace movement, namely to force an equal partnership in a society threatened by the misuse of power of a ruling class. This principle must guide the peace movement to defend the equal rights and equality of people against the danger of a world disorder under the autocracy of the hegemonial power. The new official "National Security Strategy of the United States" says clearly that force or war is threatened against all states competitively endangering the superiority of its nuclear potential. This would mean falling to the level of nuclear exrtortion, this time onesided rather than twosided. This would be the surest way of kindling a terrorism of unsuspected extent and a new secret arms race. A great international solidarity is necessary in resistance with the help of the forces of peace in that country where the egomaniac "national security strategy" was worked out. Let me end with the title of this address: Keeping quiet is deadly.

homepage: homepage: http://www.commondreams.org