ENDING THE SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE

By Ulrich Duchrow

[This address at the wreath-laying memorial for victims of western wars before the US and Nato-headquarters in Heidelberg on 1/26/2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, . Ulrich Duchrow is a professor and liberation theologian in Heidelberg.]


Dear Friends,

We meet here in the course of the anti-war weeks initiated by the US peace movement. Our main goal is to lay wreaths in remembrance of the victims of western wars, especially of the continuing war in Afghanistan. When the 3000 persons died through the horrible attack on the World Trade Center, our newspapers, journals and television broadcasts were full of pictures of mourners. We heard about many heroic and tragic individual fates. As we grieved over the killed persons at that time, we now mourn over the persons killed by bombs and massacres in Afghanistan. In the wars against Iraq, Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, very few media report about civilian casualties. One of the exceptions is the Monitor station. The Monitor reported recently that a brave US researcher collected all the information about civilian casualties in Afghanistan. In the lowest estimate, there were 4,000 but the number was probably more than 5,000. The Hamburg peace researcher Dieter Lutz says there were over 10,000. Monitor showed pictures of gravely wounded children and adult civilians. More are added when the mines of American fragmentation bombs explode.

In the war against Iraq, there were 100,000 direct casualties. At least 500,000 children died as a result of the sanctions alone. When these statistics were made known, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at that time was asked to comment. She said: “This was a hard choice…but we think the price is worth it.” She kept her job and was not hauled before a war crimes tribunal. In the Kosovo war, the military spoke of collateral damage when Nato bombs hit trains, buses or embassy buildings. This word was the nonsense word of 1999. This morning there was an obituary to this word “collateral damage” in the SWR 2 journal. In the Afghanistan war, the US military no longer spoke about the deaths of civilians. They simply pretended the vast number of deaths never happened. The language of mega-bombs that a single 1km2 changes land into a lunar landscape and the language of fragmentation bombs that shredded the limbs of children, women and men are scandals.

The US breaks international law again by allowing its allies in the Northern Alliance to massacre Taliban and al-Qaida fighters with impunity or suffocate them in containers. In their own authority, they refuse the status of prisoners of war to the prisoners, lock them in animal cages and thereby violate the Geneva Convention. They deny their human nature and make them into monsters. They have forgotten that many of these persons – line Bin Laden himself – were engaged by the US secret service CIA to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan. Now they violate human rights in the name of human rights.

This inversion of human rights in the name of human rights destroys human rights. We Europeans invented this inversion, not the US. The European history of modern human rights is the history of their inversion. America’s Spanish conquest was justified through the accusation of human sacrifices of the cultures there. North America’s later conquest was also justified through human rights violations by indigenous people. Africa’s conquest was represented as the struggle against cannibalism; India’s conquest was directed against the burning of widows. China’s Opium war was also waged in the name of human rights allegedly violated in China. The Occident conquered, colonized, enslaved, humiliated and destroyed whole cultures and civilizations and carried out a never-seen genocide. It always did everything in the name of protection of human rights.

I quote from the message of the General secretary of the World Council of Churches, Konrad Raiser, to all religious communities, especially to Muslims after September 11:

“Every act through which life is destroyed whether through terror or war violates God’s will… A world in which more and more persons and even whole nations are held in the most extreme poverty while others pile up immense riches cannot be stable. The tendency to force others against their will – even with violence – manifest in the policy of powerful states evokes resentment in weaker states. The language of threat and the logic of war are the breeding grounds of violence. Terrorism cannot be overcome as long as the cries are not heard or noticed, the cries of those degraded by ceaseless injustice, by the systematic withholding of their rights as persons and by the arrogance of a power based on military strength. The only way out of this dilemma consists in making up for this injustice fomenting the violence between states and within states.”

With the mechanism of globalized casino capitalism serving the increased wealth of capital owners and not the concrete life of people in harmony with nature, we kill as many people annually as the victims in the whole 2nd World War, 40 million. To recognize, confess and compensate this “terror of the economy,” we in the West need a truth- and reconciliation commission as existed in South Africa apartheid. We must allow the victims to speak. They demand justice and are also ready for reconciliation. Let us hear the voices of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez whose son Greg was killed under the debris of the New York towers of capitalism:

“We read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son’s death. Not in our son’s name.”

“Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.”

Therefore we assure all victims of the violence of terror and war of our solidarity. With the initiators of this wreath ceremony, we urge from the US and our (German) government:

· Exodus from the spiral of ever-new violence and a serious combating of the causes of conflict;
· Immediate end of all war actions in Afghanistan;
· No expansion of war to other countries like Somalia, Yemen or Iraq;
· Ending the Iraq embargo that constantly murders more people;
· No foreign deployments of the German army.

The spiral of violence should not be promoted in our name.