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"Non-Humanitarian Catastrophes"

by Daniela Dahn Sunday, Feb. 27, 2005 at 6:27 PM

The problem is that money is spent wrongly, not that money is spent. I wish a peace research group would offer newspapers a daily column titled `What We Can Afford Today'. Two and a half civilian jobs could be financed for every employee in the armament industry.


by Daniela Dahn

[This article originally published in: Ossietsky 25/2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

The change in German values has led to our prosperity becoming dependent on weapons exports. German firms sold twice as many weapons in 2003 compared to 2002 and twice as many in 2004 compared to 2003. Cheers 2005! Export world master Germany gained a large part of this honorary title with equipment for killing. Most goes to the US.

Democracies, it was always said, would not wage any wars against other democracies. The Hague Invasion Act raised to a US law soon after the introduction of the statute of the International Criminal Court authorizes the president of the United States to dispatch armed forces to free US citizens accused by the ICC in the Haag. How should the military attack on the Netherlands be imagined? Will the attack be launched from the air or with ground troops? Will defensive missiles be deployed or anti-terror units with tear gas and sharpshooters? Will the attack on a NATO-partner trigger an alliance case? Will the German army be deployed? Or will the armies be added by the NATO-eastern expansion or by all 139 states that approved the ICC or ratified its statutes? Will the world defend itself against the super-power?

These reflections dissolved when the super-power itself was attacked on September 11, 2001 and the whole world united in solidarity to defend it in an “alliance against terror”. Whatever one may think of the unexplained mysteries of this event, one thing is certain: the US was the greatest profiteer of the attacks that ultimately facilitated

And legitimated its uncontested world hegemony.

What irrational world order confronts us? Must the UN and international law be ignored now? Will we rearm in the future for disarmament wars or de-democratize for democratization wars? Burn oil fields because the reserves become scarcer? Must we veil art to show our readiness for war as happened with Picasso’s Guernica painting in the UN building in New York? Will we try one day to restrict freedom of speech as occurred in the US after September 11 when putting critical actors on black lists, not giving them roles and registering readers of dissident books were urged?

A war without a UN mandate is an offensive war according to binding international law. Adventurous arguments creep in domestically when international law has no external authority any more. The Chief Federal Prosecutor and other lawyers explained why German involvement in the undeclared war against Yugoslavia only helped avert a “humanitarian catastrophe” without violating Article 26 of the constitution. They obviously don’t know what they are saying since humanitarian means philanthropic and charitable. Whatever a humane catastrophe is it would always be better than the non-humanitarian catastrophe of a war. In fact, there was a civil war in Kosovo with a very clear number of victims and refugees and neither genocide nor systematic expulsions. The expulsions and vast numbers of civilian casualties were results of the bombardments that supposedly ended the “humanitarian catastrophe”.

Max van der Stoel, high commissioner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said: “Capital invested in conflict prevention (invested and not merely spent) is sensibly invested capital. Conflict prevention is more cost-effective than peace-keeping measures and peace-keeping measures are more cost-effective than war.” A new house with a swimming pool could have been built for every family in Kosovo for the money spent in the Kosovo war, experts calculated. Neighbors of such houses would have been reconciled – whether Serbs, Croats or Bosnians.

The problem is that money is spent wrongly, not that money is spent. I wish a peace research group would offer newspapers a daily column titled “What We Can Afford Today”. Two and al half civilian jobs could be funded for every employee in the armament industry. The German state has cut is spending for textbooks one-third in the last ten years. At the same time it earmarks over two billion Euro for 60 military aircraft with the innocent name Airbus-transporter. The textbook question would be solved with two less fighter aircraft. How many “airbuses” would it cost to provide medicines free of charge in the future? Instead of purchasing 21 Eurofighters, more people could receive a regular annual salary than the number of inhabitants of Koln, Germany. 110,000 teachers could teach for a year if we cancelled the planned transport-helicopter. All this would be possible with the conversion of the daily military spending of 70 million Euro year after year.

Democracy means interference in internal affairs. How we meddle today will decide how we will live tomorrow.

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