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

imperialism & war | legacies | political theory

Responsibility in Times of War

"War is not a natural law. People have always sought to outlaw war and `civilize' war.. 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 w/o human decisions is a distortion.."

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.


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.


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.


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.

homepage: homepage: http://www.mbtranslations.com
address: address: http://www.commondreams.org

zeit-frage fur zeitgeist 04.Jun.2004 12:21

theresa mitchell

Let's crack the zeitgeist and turn it around.

Robbie Conal subverted the media mind control machine by producing (maybe still) color posters, about 3' x 4', which were wheat-pasted in prominent locations by volunteer activists. These posters were portraits of prominent politicians with perhaps one word posted over them. They served as psychic reinforcement for concepts people were already familiar with-concepts that people need help retaining in a mind-control culture.

For example, in emulating this, one might produce a poster with a photo of Bush looking stupid as he usually does, perhaps with that fratboy smirk on his face, with the single word 'liar' underneath, or on his forehead.

Or Ashcroft, with the word "OBEY."

Or Cheney, with the word "Corrupt."

ad (hopefully) nauseam.....

This is NOT a war 04.Jun.2004 13:24


The Iraq situation is not a war and has never a war in the conventional and proper sense of the word. It was never declared. Call it a conflict, a preemptive strike, an occupation, a debacle . . . but not a war.

And, by the way, you can no more declare a war on a concept, like "terror", than you can declare on a war on "drugs", "communism", or anything of a similar nebulous nature. All such "wars" in the past have failed, taking millions of dollars with them. The descriptors of a conventional "war" suppose that there is a clearly consolidated enemy that can be beaten; an enemy that at least has an elected representative that can surrender and acknowledge defeat.

Semantics. Exactly 04.Jun.2004 16:46


"War on Terror" - That's what "they" call it, the official, or merely officious supporters of the invasions/occupations. It's not even a 'War on Terrorism', it's a war on the emotion of terror. It seems somehow counter-intuitive to expect that a war on terror would do anything but produce more intense and widespread terror.Maybe I'm just dense.

Even the concept of a war on terrorism has its problems.Assuming that it refers only to the terrorism of the weak, and not the state terrorism of the strong, does it make sense to launch a war against a tactic of guerrillas and resistance movements rather than attempting to ameliorate the conditions which may be the root causes of the terrorism. It seems to me that the "humble" foreign policies Bush promised Americans back in 2000 would take the latter course. But I forget, 9-11 changed everything, now we are in cou-cou land.

War on Terrorism 05.Jun.2004 00:15


Even as I am serving in the military.. I agree to the following statement.

""War on Terror" - That's what "they" call it, the official, or merely officious supporters of the invasions/occupations. It's not even a 'War on Terrorism', it's a war on the emotion of terror. It seems somehow counter-intuitive to expect that a war on terror would do anything but produce more intense and widespread terror.Maybe I'm just dense."

War on Terrorism or Terror is like the Cold War moniker that existed after WW II to the end of the USSR. It was a Press term and NOT a actual declaration of war. Terroists are NOT protected under a government umbrella and are actually individuals.. NOT governments.

Anyone remember that other "War on Terrorism" 05.Jun.2004 01:06

70 years ago

Within four weeks of the terrorist attack, the nation's now-popular leader had pushed through legislation, in the name of combating terrorism and fighting the philosophy he said spawned it, that suspended constitutional guarantees of free speech, privacy, and habeas corpus. Police could now intercept mail and wiretap phones; suspected terrorists could be imprisoned without specific charges and without access to their lawyers; police could sneak into people's homes without warrants if the cases involved terrorism.

Within the first months after that terrorist attack, at the suggestion of a political advisor, he brought a formerly obscure word into common usage... Our land was "the" homeland, citizens thought: all others were simply foreign lands.

Within a year of the terrorist attack, his advisors determined that the various local police and federal agencies around the nation were lacking the clear communication and overall coordinated administration necessary to deal with the terrorist threat facing the nation, including those citizens who were of Middle Eastern ancestry and thus probably terrorist sympathizers.


Question: Is this excerpt about Bush or Hitler?


"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
- Albert Einstein

Whether or not to call a conflict "war" is a silly argument 06.Jun.2004 18:18

look it up

Though I agree with the sentiment about "War on Drugs", etc., by "Semantics", it is kinda ridiculous to argue about what kinds of conflict to call a "war". Any conflict is by definition a war, look it up (referring to definition 2):

(from www.m-w.com)

Main Entry: war
Pronunciation: 'wor
Function: noun
Usage: often attributive
Etymology: Middle English werre, from Old North French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German werra strife; akin to Old High German werran to confuse
1 a (1) : a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2) : a period of such armed conflict (3) : STATE OF WAR b : the art or science of warfare c (1) obsolete : weapons and equipment for war (2) archaic : soldiers armed and equipped for war
2 a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism b : a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end <a class war> <a war against disease> c : VARIANCE, ODDS 3
- war·less /-l&s/ adjective