RESPONSIBILITY IN TIMES OF WAR
By Karl Mueller, Germany
[This article originally published in: Zeit-Fragen Nr. 20, May 24, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_117c/TO6.HTM or http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/ARCHIV/ZF_117c/T06.HTM.]
Peter Scholl-Latour's book "World Power in Quicksand. Bush against the Ayatollas" [Berlin 2004] impressed me very much. A personality with more than fifty years of journalist experience focuses on the actors, culprits, victims and historical, social and intellectual driving forces of current world events and comments independently.
The conclusion of his analysis is alarming. Western politics with the United States of America leading the way has no understanding for the dynamic and power of the social and religious movements in the Middle East, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Quite the contrary! With its narrow-minded "imperial plutocracy" that is only covered up in a stopgap way as a "war against terrorism", the US weakens the traditional moderate forces of Islam. More and more the US provokes a movement that will flow into a radical, revolutionary "clash of the cultures" if there are no objections or counter-measures.
The many pictures and reports about the tortures in Iraq and elsewhere, the numerous reports about connections and backgrounds, the sudden distancing from the policy of the US government heard from the mouths of politicians who supported US policy unreservedly a few months ago and now loudly complain about processes that everyone could have long known and are now approvingly accepted have all made counter-measures much more difficult. The appeals to politics to stop and take another course don't seem fruitful. The course was positioned over years. Everything that we experience is a human work. What makes things more complicated is the fact that most reports seek to confirm this course.
MANIPULATIVE YES-BUT STRATEGY
The Yes-but strategy is one of the current manipulation strategies. Politicians command this strategy. First as much as necessary is admitted so the reader or hearer becomes convinced that responsible politicians finally understand the problems. Then the politicians' response becomes a solution that only mirrors past policy. The most recent example was an address by the retiring president of Germany, Johannes Rau. Rau warned politicians of a deep crisis of confidence. He spoke of "alarming expressions of disappointment and rage" among the citizens. A "silent withdrawal and private cynicism" of people who don't expect anything from politics any more is manifest. Rau blamed politics and politicians themselves for this development, a politics that hardly includes future projects and values any more and is reduced to struggles for power. In addition the "egoism, greed and claimant mentality in parts of the so-called elites" were denounced. Then Rau insisted that the "dreadful failure" of politics was not typical but an "isolate3d case that could be repaired". Things are painted too black. The media with its "fatal enjoyment of pessimism and cliché-ridden exaggeration" promoted the estrangement of citizens and the state.
What is the current state of our confrontation with war? Can a fundamental change of policy be expected since many things may now be reported? Doesn't its significance go far beyond the borders of the US in a time of election- and power-struggles? Is a turning away from war planned? Hardly. The worldwide militarization and rearmament oppose any rethinking.
WAR IS NOT A NATURAL LAW
The pictures of war look alike. For centuries, humanity has known the meaning of war. However war is not a natural law. People have always sought to outlaw war and "civilize" war when war occurs, for example through humanitarian international law.
Wars are works of man. The contempt of international law is also a human work. Speaking of a self-dynamic of war as though wars can lead lives of their own without human decisions is a dangerous distortion.
The American government announced a world war that could last decades. The American president spoke of an "axis of evil". Peter Scholl-Latour points out that this is more than rhetoric. This slogan is an expression of a Manichean worldview that divides the world into good and evil. The end as the destruction of evil justifies all means.
RESPONSIBILITY IN WAR
People are responsible for wars and for what happens in wars. During a journey through Italy, I saw the colorful peace flag nearly everywhere. The peace flag hangs on public plazas, public buildings and from windows and balconies. Peace groups exist even in little villages. Children mould peace doves out of clay and offer them to passersby. "Peace and Cooperation of all People in this World" is woven on little homemade tablecloths. People of different nationalities distinguish themselves in how they extend their hands. This is also true for children. While peace has not arrived, something is sown here that can have a long-term effect.
What does it mean to assume responsibility in times of war? Assuming responsibility includes becoming an independent personality, working on one's own peaceableness, not being corrupted by war and its ideological and material engines, seeing reality incorruptibly, strengthening other persons in their will of peace and giving something to children and young persons through examples, honest opinions and guidance, something different than what was long ingrained.