Eugen Drewermann: How can we regain peace and how can we keep it?
[This speech against war posted on 12/19/2022 is available on the Internet, https://www.pressenza.com/2022/12/eugen-drewermann-how-can-we-regain-peace-and-how-can-we-keep-it/.]
The theologian, psychoanalyst, and author Eugen Drewermann is a radical defender of humanity, love, and peace, and a widely recognized moral authority in Germany. In his usual moving and eloquent speech at the conference “Ohne NATO leben – Ideen zum Frieden” (Living without NATO – Ideas for Peace), he addresses all aspects and connects all points into a whole.
That is why we are publishing his speech on “How to find peace and how to keep it” here with English subtitles and the translated transcript below.
How can we regain peace and how can we keep it?
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of peace.
I am very grateful for the invitation to today’s luncheon, but especially for your interest in a question that is the most important in our days:
How can we regain peace and how can we keep it?
Around the clock, we are deafened, impressed, and drawn into a turn-of-the-century campaign in which we are taught that everything that has been attempted in the direction of peace since 1945 has been a single mistake.
Egon Bahr and Willy Brandt and East-West reconciliation, wrong! Creating peace with less weapons, Helmut Kohl, wrong!
“We did not act robustly enough against Russia” is the lesson we are supposed to adopt now.
And I am giving this lecture to say “No!” to this turnaround program in general because it is nothing more than a salto mortale (deadly jump) into the past. For as long as I can remember, I have been hearing that the Russians are coming and that we need bombs, we need nuclear bombs, we need NATO, and we need to be highly armed militarily. But that is not the way to create peace.
War is contrary to the culture of humanity
On April 3 , ZDF’s late-night program showed the picture of a Ukrainian woman who had lost her son in Butscha, a woman dissolved in tears and bitterness. The boy was 27 years old when he tried to walk about 500m to his place of work and was shot. Now he is lying in that woman’s room. She has spread a carpet over him. And in despair, she cries, “Let them all go where my boy goes, under the ground!” One can more than well understand the distress, the sadness, the anger, the helplessness of this woman.
But what do politics make of it, politics that use the despair and suffering of the people to prolong a senseless war with more and more weapons being delivered? And how does a party calling itself Christian come to drive the government to finally deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine after all, to wage a war of attrition against Russia, to “ruin Russia,” in the words of Ms. Baerbock?
All this does not serve the compassion for the suffering. Only the suffering will become universalized if this war continues. Then there will be innumerable such pictures. They do not decrease! Especially in the name of this mourning Ukrainian, we must demand that there will be no more armament, but that peace negotiations will be initiated. Sympathy for Ukraine does not mean arming Zelensky for a long permanent war under the sponsorship of NATO members. It must be possible to come to an understanding with each other and make peace. After all, it is not only the victims of the war who are to be deplored passively, as relatives of the dead. It is also the soldiers themselves.
We, the Germans, attacked the Soviet Union on June 21, 1941, with 3 million soldiers of the Great German Wehrmacht (armed forces) and left it with 27 million dead. About 30 million were the Nazi plan target, in order to thin out the whole corridor for Germanic population strategies. Apparently, all this has been forgotten.
But on the subject of what it does to 20-25-year-olds, the son of a soldier from that time told me these days: “For forty years my father did not say a word about his life; but then, on his deathbed, he confided in me a secret about how it was. He had been evacuated from Stalingrad on one of the last planes, two legs amputated. His account: ‘In every place, we advanced to, there were no people left. [But] there, all at once a door opens and out comes an old man holding a small child by the hand. My comrade pulls out his rifle and I yell at him: No! But he shoots.’ My father never stopped crying that day. Forty years later, the trauma of having witnessed a murder [remained.]”
We humans are not set up to be soldiers. If we saw what we were ordered to do, we wouldn’t do it. Harold Nash, as a Royal Air Force bomber pilot, participated in the July 1943 raid under Marshal Harris in “Operation Gomorrah” against the Hanseatic city of Hamburg. In a single night in Hammerbrook, more than 40,000 people died, deprived of oxygen in their bunkers by incendiary bombs.
Harold Nash describes his impression this way: “[The city] lay beneath us like a black ribbon of velvet, embroidered with pearls. But we knew that what we were doing down there was worse than Dante’s Inferno. But we only saw fires, we didn’t see people. Otherwise, we couldn’t have done this.”
In a word: what we call war, what we call military, is the undermining of everything that means culture. Erich-Maria Remarque was able to describe exactly that, 12 years after the so-called First World War in his book “Nothing New in the West.”
If that – by which he meant artillery fire, bayonet attacks, hand grenades, poison gas, tank tracks, typhus – if that was possible, everything we have ever called culture from Plato to Schopenhauer was in vain.
The military is the opposite world to the civilian world. Everything you are forbidden to do: lying, killing, plundering, robbing, murdering, is practiced in war as a commanded strategy and forced upon ordinary 18-year-old boys and now even girls.
And the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) here in Berlin advertises with the inscription on the omnibuses: “Do what really counts!”
There was the ‘body-counting‘ every day in 1970 in the Vietnam War under General Westmoreland. Which unit found how many dead in a numerable way? There were bonuses for that. Efficient killing because it counted. How inhumane do you have to be to accept this propaganda? It swings through the streets of Berlin and it deserves every kind of opposition.
Remarque could also tell how one gets to become a soldier:
6 weeks of barracks yard were enough for us to crawl through the mud in front of a former letter carrier, just because he wears the right epaulettes, and kill anyone he orders to kill. We have become beasts, we have become murderers. If your own father came from over there, you would shred him with your hand grenade. That’s what they’ve made of us.
Until today, you can observe how this happens in every textbook of every barracks yard of every state of the earth: The desecration of the body into a mere puppet. “Eyes straight ahead! Left swivel! March!” All this is so senseless that the purpose becomes all the more obvious: The enlisted are not to think. They are to stop having a personal conscience. They are to stop being subjects responsible for their own feelings and decisions. What their mother told them, what their father told them, what their teacher told them, what their pastor told them, what their books told them no longer applies. Now it is what the drill sergeant, the howler monkey in the background commands that is valid, and only that. Good and evil are no longer meaningful categories. You are not responsible for the orders themselves, but only for their execution.
That these are inhumane principles was understood even by the Americans in the war crimes trials of 1947. The Nazi grandees were indicted, and they all answered:
We did what all soldiers do. An order is an order.
At that time, the American prosecutor could say, “That is your real crime. You put on the uniform and stopped being human beings. You put the steel helmet over your head and stopped thinking. You tied the belt over your belly and on it was written: “God with us“. And you have not understood how you blaspheme God when you believe what the Nazis and the Fuehrer, and not God, push into your conscience. The abandonment of personhood is the real crime, the precondition for everything else.
But then we would need people who stand firm and do not let themselves be transformed under orders. This is the true courage that is needed to have peace in this world: to assume one’s personal responsibility and to say “no”.
Hermann Hesse, when the Federal Republic of West Germany was rearming in 1955, was able to answer one of his Letters to the Editor’s questions about what was meant by his novel “Demian” with the following example: “It is possible that they will draft you and tell you: ‘Take the rifle! Take aim! Pull the trigger!’ And you do it. Then the newspapers will say you are a loyal, brave soldier. Then the military priest may bless you for obeying orders. The bourgeois world will agree that you defended them. But it is also possible that a quiet voice inside you is saying: ‘Thou shalt not kill! So you take the rifle and break it over your knees. Then you have them all against you, the press, the priests, public opinion. Then you’re a contrarian, a fantasist, a pacifist. But you have said “no” in order to say “yes” to yourself.”
This is the real confrontation we face today, more than ever. It is not possible to remain a human being and be trained to become a soldier. The two do not go together!
No less a person than Albert Einstein already said this in the 1920s. Only if we eliminate the military, [if we are] without this parallel society, will we not experience again and again the relapse into the stone age, into a killing below what we call historical reason. Civilization can only exist on condition that we say “no” once and for all to the readiness for war, preformed in politics, trained in the barracks yards, industrialized in armaments.
Out of the spiral of fear
Of course, we will be told that this is a fairy tale program that must not be followed. Because then we are defenseless. Then we must be afraid. And that is precisely why – out of fear – we have the military. You can determine all of human history over the course of the last six or ten thousand years on this parameter. Organized associations all the way up to state formations and alliances are afraid of a potential aggressor.
And how do our states respond to that?
Not by overcoming fear. Quite the opposite! By making us, who are afraid, more afraid of any potential attacker. In other words: We already have heinous murderous weapons, but maybe the Russians or the Chinese, somebody, has worse weapons. We don’t know that. But because it could be, we certainly need to invent weapons that are even worse than the enemy’s ever will be. The program is to calm fear by spreading fear. And the means to that end: To systematize and install ever more heinous instruments of murder, a spiral without end.
What we experienced in the Cold War was called peace through mutual deterrence, ‘balance of power’.
And what comes out of this logic of fear?
On August 6, 1945, a bomber group took off from the Marianas with the Enola Gay where Major Tibbets was on board.
According to the weather reports, the bomber group was directed to Hiroshima. And at 8:15 a.m. with a single bomb, more than 100,000 people died in a few seconds. At that time, the world held its breath.
Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, said:
“We must never talk about war again. There can be no more war. [War] is absolutely wrong.
Hiroshima is the end of what has ever been called war.”
What was not suspected: 14 days later, the Americans sent their camera teams into the rubble landscapes of Hiroshima to record everything. Not to document the horror and make it impossible for eternity, no, to find out at what distance the blast wave, the radiation wave, the heat wave had irradiated and destroyed people, in order to be able to do it better, more efficiently, the next time. And so it went on until 1952. A uranium fission bomb has its physical limit, a critical mass, when the neutrons are emitted. You can’t store more of it together. So we have to get the solar energy, the fusion of hydrogen to helium from the sky [and bring it] to the earth; [that is] the hydrogen bomb, [and] it has no physical limit. If we have that, we have the worst weapon, we are then superior to Soviet Russia, so we will have it. It went on this way all the time. When testing the hydrogen bomb, by the way, it was necessary to take 40,000 vertebrates to see exactly the following: When do the eardrums burst, when does the skin burn, in which generation do deformities occur due to genetic changes as a result of radioactive radiation. One tested [all this] out, not to prevent it, but to do it.
So the fear of each other drives to more and more insane paranoid ideas of military armament. And it does not create security, it is the threat to all mankind [posed] by man, by no one else. So we have to get out of this spiral and learn the simplest and most important thing: peace does not come through the strength of weapons, through the superiority of armaments. The Sermon on the Mount is absolutely right, in the words of Jesus:
In this world, I dare to call happy those who have the courage to remain defenseless. Only they prepare the peace. (Mt 5,5-9)
Disarmament instead of rearmament!
Not only fewer weapons, but no more weapons at all!
Immanuel Kant more than 200 years ago could imagine. When one state arms, it frightens the neighboring state and the latter will also arm. And the spiral of violence will continue to escalate. In the end, the cost of armaments will be so high that war will have to be waged to make [armaments] profitable. Even Montesquieu could say, in view of the armament policy of the Prussians, we now have more weapons than food. – Today we have 60 million refugees, internal refugees in Africa alone. But we have to promise 100 billion (N.d.T.: American billion, 9 zeroes) for armaments in the near future, for the next two years. Have you ever heard that we would have had even two billion dollars for refugees, that we would have had one billion dollars for the people who have been sitting as refugees on the [islands of] Lesbos or Samos for five years, every winter unattended? We don’t have the money for that. But we certainly have money for armaments.
How do we break the death cycle of fear?
Simply by stopping being afraid and letting ourselves be mad.
The problem is also located within the peace movement. It has always gained a large following with the argument that we ourselves are at risk. The deployment of the Pershing 2 was already mentioned in the speech before me. At that time in Bonn, there was a huge turnout. There were also thousands in the marketplaces in 1991 during the first Gulf War, because people were afraid. The U.S. Navy had over 400 nuclear bombs in the Persian Gulf. What will happen to the energy supply? Disaster scenarios. Fear should be a motive for peace. But what we are experiencing is quite different. [Fear] is, first of all, a motive to arm and to be ready for war.
And then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they looked at a new enemy for NATO, Islamism. At that time, it was not a problem that Putin started the second Chechen war completely senselessly. It was an action of the anti-terrorist campaign, collectively. It was a crime, no less than the invasion of Ukraine. But it went through because we do the same.
When will we get out of the cycle of fear?
There is no doubt that Mahatma Gandhi is right. Peace does not come from the motivation of fear, on the contrary, only from the strength of one’s own person; through loyalty to oneself, and through the courage to have one’s own conscience. In Indian: Satyagraha (persistent adherence to the truth), “think for yourself” Kant would have said, “remain yourself” Gandhi said. The resistance against the readiness for war and the armament for war lies actually only in not being intimidated any longer. And that would be the campaign at noon today: We would have to declare to those who govern us: We won’t let you scare us any longer with ever new scare scenarios like “The Russians are coming!”, like “The Chinese are coming!”. That you are coming is bad enough! And now we are scaring you up there because we don’t want to be scared anymore. We want to eliminate once and for all the death cycle of constant escalation, who can murder even more efficiently, better and more extensively. Those representing us have the duty to sit down with each other and negotiate their goals, their interests in a compatible way.
When we want to overcome fear, it’s kind of like when you look your own dog in the eye. Your neighbor said he is a calf biter, but you like him and you know that he is merely afraid, so he may bite. You need to calm him down, but don’t whip him. With quadrupeds, we know that. With humans, we don’t seem to need to do the same. Let’s look into the eyes of the one we declare to be the enemy. He is afraid of us because we are afraid of him. And this vicious circle must come to an end.
There was a brilliant occasion in 1973 when Helmut Schmidt talked to Brezhnev about the deployment of the Pershing 2. And Brezhnev said, that scares us. And Schmidt replied, your missiles scare us. What a wonderful situation to say, we’ll stop this. No one has to be afraid of the other, that’s the end of it. Instead, Schmidt pushed through the deployment of the Pershing 2 and kept it to the end as part of his policy of success, not military, but economic: They had broken Russia. That is what we see in the background. If we were only dealing with the reflex of fear, we would be in a psychologically understandable, generally human situation. But what we are witnessing is the abuse of the reflex of fear by a targeted policy that uses fear to impose its own power strategies. And here we are at the problem that is to be addressed thematically today: Get out of NATO!
NATO defends US power, but not peace
Since it was founded, almost simultaneously with the founding of the Federal Republic of West Germany in 1949, we have had a military alliance whose strategic goal was actually defined as early as 1945.
At that time Winston Churchill could declare that the wrong sow had been slaughtered: Adolf Hitler. The war should actually be continued right away, against Stalin, against Moscow. And the Germans are the best soldiers for this. They were already 40 kilometers from Moscow. If we win them and let them march, the weakened Russia will finally be finished after 27 million dead. This is our chance. The Federal Republic was founded with such a program, as a deployment glacis against the Soviet Union.
And NATO accession in ’55 fit exactly into this scheme. What few of you know was the secret war that was illegally carried along. It was to prevent in any case a seizure of power by communist parties in Italy, in Greece, wherever else, by staged civil wars, surveillance and targeted killings. Even Ollenhauer, the SPD (German Social Democratic Party) Chairman, was on the list of threats to U.S. imperial objectives. If he had come to power, his life would have been in danger. The secret army Gladio did underground what officially NATO did anyway.
Already in 1952, under Adenauer, we were about to sign the European Defense Community Treaty. Seven years after the disaster of the Second World War, Germans had to be there again because Americans wanted it. At that time, the French did not want it, [they did not want] Germans in uniform yet again east of the Rhine. Three years later we had what we still have today. We have to be armed against Russia.
In 2001, we were surprised that Germany’s freedom could be defended in the Hindu Kush. I was eleven years old when I heard from the mouth of Konrad Adenauer that we were defending Germany’s freedom in Korea. None of these sayings has lost any of its topicality or even its nonsense. [This attitude] has been increased, made habitual by the repetition of the wrong. And what you have in the form of NATO is not only an endless spiral of armament, but also of propaganda of imperialist assertion of power.
Who is threatening whom, very simply?
The US policy is based on over 750 military stations around the globe.
Russia, if you extrapolate it all the way up, comes in at over 30. America’s military budget is 0 billion, the Russians’ is barely a tenth of that. America alone spends more than the next nine militarily arming states in the series, China, Russia, Germany, France combined. And the program is as obsolete as it can be.
In 1989, for the third time, it was the Russians, this time in the form of Gorbachev, who proposed demilitarization so that there would finally be peace. No more weapons from the Urals to the Atlantic, instead [one would have] the conversion of knowledge, money, industry, [and their] commitment to goals that could humanly alleviate the hardship on this planet. That was on the table and was promised to Gorbachev that NATO would not extend an inch to the east. Today they lie, they say it’s not at all true, but it was written. Genscher (Translator’s note.: a former minister of foreign affairs in Germany) wondered whether the new federal states could be used for military purposes and promised that [they wouldn’t be]. We could have had peace, if only we had been allowed to want it. In 1990, however, the ‘think tanks‘ in the USA were already thinking about how we proclaim a 21st American century. The Soviet Union has collapsed, and we now have to conquer the power vacuum for ourselves.
That is the program of everything that came. War after war in the Middle East. Since 2001, the U.S., not Russia, has bombed 7 Islamic states. But they wanted to appropriate everything that Russia will no longer actively defend. And that’s where we sit today. Afghanistan just failed, but [there are] Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, the southern flank. The Baltics anyway. And now, in addition, two new states, over 1000 km border length to Sweden and Finland: we can put missiles right there. Imagine what would happen if Russia had tried to conjure up a Cuban Missile Crisis a second time, or had set up military bases against the U.S. in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia; we would have exactly the same crisis as we had in Cuba back in 1962. Then, the Strategic Air Command was already in the air with nukes to attack. America first! That cannot be threatened, we are strong, as Mr. Stoltenberg will say as head of NATO. And we will not move back an inch. We prefer to go hundreds of kilometers forward against Russia, but that would not be a threat; it would be a misunderstanding to consider it only as power expansion; rather, it is the answer to Putin’s attempt to restore the Soviet empire.
We must defend ourselves against these official narratives. We are not threatened by Russia. We are being [forced to] hallucinate [, to see] a danger that serves no other purpose than the strategic geopolitics of the USA and its expansion of power. The fact that it is portrayed differently does not prevent it from being so.
There is, especially from the Greens today, an argument beyond fear, inflated will to power, and the claim of imperialism, which is: the world belongs to us and to no one else.
Why? Because we are Americans, because we are ‘the good guys‘, because we are ‘first’ and because we, the Europeans, have to go along.
The war that Putin is waging can be called a crime. It is. But one could also say what became a proverb in France: It is worse than a crime. It is a mistake! Because now Russia gets everything it wanted to prevent with the invasion of Ukraine: missiles in uncounted abundance, close to the border. The military supply of Ukraine is in full swing. Whether it becomes a NATO state or not, the fact has long been initiated. Everything that should be prevented is now there, the entire EU, man by man, heels together. The allegiance to the USA, – it could not come better. “We get him at the nuts!” one would say in American. We managed to do that. By the way, the filthy language of the military is typical. Everything that was once meant for love and tenderness has to be perverted so that you can be a soldier.
But one thing we are taught morally at the same time, the second level of the lie: the so-called responsibility. Out of compassion for human beings, we must refuse war. We must overcome the fear that leads to it through togetherness, in respect for the fear of the other that we breed as enemies in the first place.
This is what we have just said. But one thing will be said to us now: We must launch humanitarian interventions out of responsibility and keep military intervention forces on standby around the world. 20 years in Afghanistan have not changed these thoughts, quite the contrary. In Mali, we continue to be there on the side of the French; we can stay tuned to enumerate [all this]. ‘International responsibility’.
One cannot say it loud enough: we, one of the richest countries in the world, have responsibilities for the world, indeed, but then you have to look at how [these responsibilities] are perceived. We let people who don’t know where to go drown in the Mediterranean, we let Frontex (Translator’s note.: European Border and Coast Guard Agency) approach them in a militarily organized way in order to send them back to the concentration camps in Libya through push-backs, we cut off their escape routes because they are only a nuisance, because they cost money. For political reasons, refugees from Ukraine are now highly welcome to us. They will still be cursing Russia and hating Putin 20 years from now. That is politically correct. People who, as human beings, simply ask for a place where they could live are unwelcome to us and must be kept out. There we would have responsibility for over 50 million people who starve to death every year. Right now, in East Africa, a new drought is looming.
What does our responsibility look like?
It is such that one speculates on hunger in the Chicago Food Exchange; anyone can learn that in business studies. The less a product is thrown on the market, the more expensive it is when it is needed. A drought in East Africa means less food in East Africa. So prices will go up, and [if you are] a real ‘moneymaker‘ you have to grab your chance now, otherwise you will lose it. How can you rake in money from the deaths of millions of starving people? That is capitalism as we have it. Responsibility, as we are preached. Ignoring the real need that we should solve and inventing virtual fears that are completely superfluous. 100 billion for armaments, promised at the drop of a hat; arming the Bundeswehr, fully deployed recently, that’s how we are supposed to go into the future.
In reality, we prevent the humanity of the future by locking away humanity through nonsensical tirades of power.
Therefore, we say out of responsibility: No to rearmament, no to the military and we refuse the military service.
The perversion of morality
And then it actually gets even worse. One would think that morality would be an instrument to prevent inhumanity. Not so when the word ‘war’ is uttered. Then you will witness that morality is already being weaponized in advance. You read the newspaper. Who are we at war with now? Putin. And that is:
a murderer, Mr. Biden says,
a criminal, we shall all say,
a demon, the Bild newspaper will say,
a devil, the absolute evil, which we must fight and destroy absolutely, by all means, for moral reasons.
We have also experienced this here since 1945. No war has been waged by the West except against Hitler. Ho Chi Minh – Hitler, Saddam Hussein – Hitler, Gaddafi – Hitler, Milosevic – Hitler, always we fight absolute evil in advance. The idea is so wrong that you will find in 1520 from the pen of Erasmus of Rotterdam [and] described in a few sentences the debunking of this self-hypnosis of inhumanity.
Which one of the combatants, if there is war, asked Erasmus exactly half a millennium ago, will declare his cause the wrong one? [This is] unknown! Because one cannot agree on good and bad, right and wrong at the negotiating table, one drives oneself into the madness to declare the battlefield as the place of a God-justice, of fate. And then the most efficient murderer, because he has won, will take the right to claim that he has always been in the right. In truth, he has only proved that he is more inhuman than the one he has defeated. Because victory involves the use of the most terrible means of destruction.
And this is what you really have to learn now. In the run-up to every war, you are steered with lies and propaganda statements to hate the potential enemy. He was always bad, it was always the Russian’s fault. In reality, he was never so during the whole twentieth century, but he had to be so because we want to have power over his corridor. Let’s say it more specifically.
Brzezinski could boast, as the mastermind of American foreign policy, that he explained what we had to fear: Not the Russians, but that Western Europe and Russia would combine to form an economic area from Lisbon to Vladivostok. Eurasia as a closed economic area would be the end of the American illusion of world power. That is what we have to fear. That’s why Nordstream 2 must not be built, that’s why we have to land liquefied gas from ‘fracking’ at high cost in special ports that are still being built; [it is] so that America will prevail.
But all this is garnished with moral reasons: Those over there are evil. That’s the way it has to be: If you’re supposed to kill people, you’re not allowed to kill people anymore, but you’re dealing with vermin, pest germs, lice, devils, whatever. And the terrible thing is that concepts which belong to morality, and therefore include precisely every human being, because it is a human being, classify [human beings using] the opposition between the ‘good guys here’ and the ‘bad guys over there’. And of course, we are always the good ones and of course, those on the other side of the borders are the absolute evil. This calculation alone changes everything we could call humanity.
Phil Zimbardo, an American psychologist, has written two books about this: ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment‘ and ‘The Lucifer Effect’ on Abu Ghraib. He just wanted to describe what happens when a group of people set themselves up as ‘the good guys‘ and give themselves the task of having to fight the opposing group as ‘the bad guys‘.
We have just seen with the armaments that we must arm more and more dangerously, more brutally, more terribly. We must now draw the same statement into the moral. We, who are ‘the good guys‘, [being] in a way the archangel Michael in the fight against the devil, will ourselves absorb ‘the evil‘ which we want to fight into our own soul and psychology. We have to be more evil than any conceivable evil could be. We want to send the evil one to hell, but we make the whole world, in the first place ourselves, the domain of the devil. This division of morality corrupts even people who mean well to be able to do the worst things or even to have to do them. This is another spiral we must break at some point.
And again, the Sermon on the Mount would be absolutely right: Do not fight evil, it says. (5th chapter Matthew, verse 39)
For these very reasons, when you fight evil, Isaac Newton is right:
Pressure creates counterpressure. The evil you fight creeps into yourself, into your soul; it improves nothing. The ‘crash’ of two pressures produces itself, squares itself, enlarges itself into something always bigger. Fighting against evil is therefore not possible at all. But then [what can we do]?
Just now, I said we could look into the eyes of your biting dog, better, [of] your supposedly dangerous opponent, and you are interested in his fear. Then you are close to doing what would be the only right thing with moral intentions: You seek to understand the reasons for which the other acts so. If you don’t want to read it from the Sermon on the Mount, you can hear it from the Buddha 500 years earlier: Of course, there is good and evil, but both have their causes.
Then we cannot avoid agreeing with the Pope when he says that the war in Ukraine has its reasons. Those that lie with us. Why in our society do people become angry? Not because they think of it or because they enjoy it. In 2001, you can still see Putin in the German Bundestag (the German federal parliament), where he gives a speech in German and the members of parliament at that time give him a standing ovation. That was in 2001.
In 2005 you see Schröder (former German chancellor), whose name one must not even pronounce as [he is one of] Putin’s friends, standing on the steps of Königsberg’s University in Kaliningrad, opposite the Kant monument [re-erected] by Marion von Dönhof; about 400 meters away from the dugouts, which have been made into a museum in memory of the time when Königsberg still had to be held as a fortress against the onslaught of the Red Army. Commands are exchanged in Russian and German and certain scenes are played.
The reason of Immanuel Kant, the thoughts on eternal peace, confronted with the eternal madness of the dugouts – we must fight! Putin and Schröder together as an invitation to European peace.
It was not to come about. When a year later in Munich at Mr. Ischinger‘s conference on rearmament Putin more or less declared: there is the threat of a cold war if we go on like this, German gazettes could write: Putin: Cold war! He wanted to avoid it! We wanted it, absolutely, through the permanent expansion of NATO. [NATO] had sixteen states in ’89, today it has 30 states, and the day after tomorrow 32 states, Moldova and Georgia are already targeted. This should go on. No reconciliation! Exploiting the weakness of the other! Gaining power! Strategically asserting oneself with all means!
The war in the Middle East alone has claimed over two million lives. Have you ever heard that we have committed a crime doing this?
When Assange takes the pictures that Chelsea Manning passed on about a helicopter attack on civilians in Baghdad, when it is shown with which jargon people are shot to pieces, [in an] unrepentant, unscrupulous [way], and it gets on the internet, it is not the crime of the GI’s that is the crime, but that it is [the fact that it is] communicated on the internet. For that Assange must be locked up for 175 years, must be prosecuted for ten years, [must have] false allegations
[made against him]. [If] he is allowed to stay in London, if at all, [it is] only because he is so sick that he cannot be transferred to the USA, not because we, the Europeans, once said that it must be possible to make the crimes of the military obvious so that they stop?
The lie must come to an end!
What we are witnessing is that the simplest moral reaction to the criminal military must be suppressed by secrecy, and that is the history of the military in general. You are never allowed to know what is being done and what is being planned. After all, you are the citizens who must feel protected by the strong state that wants only the good. Again: Immanuel Kant could say, the moral of the political [world] is quite simple: Act in such a way in public that you could explain your intention publicly. All lies, secret diplomacy, espionage, weapons, which the opponent must not know at all, but which should deter him, would end immediately.
And then there would be something else in addition to morality. We should no longer allow ourselves to be persuaded that the separation of good and evil is legally and ethically inevitable. If someone really does something which, according to moral evaluation, must be called evil, it is not our duty to fight against it; but [it is our duty] to look into the contexts, the intentions, the conditions under which the other person was driven into a corner in such a way that he thought he should act in this way. And these circumstances, for which we ourselves are partly responsible, must be removed.
What about Ukraine?
The war would not have been necessary until the last day, if we had accepted what Russia demanded: military-political neutrality of Ukraine and finally peace in the Donbas and the affiliation of Crimea to Russia.
Instead, the United Kingdom had to undermine the very approach of such a possible negotiation and then back Zelensky with ever-new promises. He must hold out, he is the strong one, he must agitate against the Russians.
I don’t want to comment any longer on the politics behind this in terms of cultural history, but I would like to remind you that Kyiv was once the place of origin of Russian Orthodoxy, around 900, and Russian culture has its roots there. Ukraine has belonged to Russia longer than the United States of America has existed. That Ukrainians were not exactly happy under tsarist rule, and even less so under Stalin, is common knowledge. The Russians also made gigantic mistakes. The granary, Ukraine, with millions of deaths from starvation under Stalin in the thirties, all this is a whole series of crimes that we must not overlook and that can confirm and explain the hatred of some Ukrainians towards Russia. We must also not forget that when the Nazis invaded, whole parts of Ukraine welcomed the Germans as liberators from Stalin. And there are still quite a few Bandera supporters of this way of thinking in the Kiev government today.
Imperialism and capitalism
We should understand all this, and we should answer it by being peaceful and not by armaments – [not by] strengthening the back against the enemy. Reconciliation would have to be a goal, but then we would have to stop pursuing imperial power politics, then we would probably also have to understand that imperialism is not only a political power gesture, but in a way a capitalist necessity. An economic system like ours cannot want peace. It insists on the belief that being better is the enemy of the good, i.e. that we have to compete with each other faster and faster to put the other up against the wall. Faster, bigger, further, richer, more extensive, that is war in the economic space. And there should be no survivors, only the winners. ‘The winner takes it all’. And the runner-up is the worst loser; if he could have run just a little faster, he would have won. Too bad, too bad!
We must no longer accept this world of permanent competition, even if it is already taught to us in school, in kindergarten, and promoted in performance comparisons. What is not promoted is simple humanity, the development of compassion, sensitivity, empathy, the commitment to feelings that we promised each other, the validity of promises that serve peace. We can only reject a politics that systematically denies all this, a permanent press that every day wants to write the opposite into our souls, because what is human in it is consciously falsified.
Make the simplest test with an example. Take the battle of Verdun in 1916. Hundreds of thousands of dead! And what do the newspapers say? How bravely our soldiers hold their ground under the enemy’s fire, how they shoot back and inflict terrible wounds and injuries over there, a victory hymn from the orgy of horror. Never – I maintain – has any newspaper written the truth about what a battlefield is. Tucholsky could. He called [the war from] 1914 to 1918 ‘the great slaughter house. ‘ Worse than the slaughter of pigs is the slaughter of people, but that’s why we call it a battle, that’s why we call it a battlefield. And no newspaper shows us the reality. In the end, you have to wipe away the guilt, the remnant of humanity with trophies, confetti parades and new media accompaniments.
In 1991, in the first Iraq war, when Bush, the elder, [together] with about 50 states, invaded a Third World country and left – one may estimate – about 700,000 dead, it took six months in USA, ‘in God’s own country‘, between Los Angeles and New York City, for the parade of victory for a six weeks war. At last, after Vietnam, America had triumphed and, after the collapse of the Soviet empire, had shown the world who was master of the world. That had to be cheered, and then it went further.
The great opportunity for nonviolence – 2001 – 9/11
At that time, a single person told the truth, which, by the way, I was able to tell here on Sender Freies Berlin, on the same day, in a conversation with my friend Michael Longard: America must be careful not to react with violence. If they understand that, peace would be close at hand. Two days later, in southern Italy, I heard the Dalai Lama respond in a dialogue to a rather horrified American journalist’s question about what had happened on 9/11.
That’s a great chance for non-violence,” the Dalai Lama said, “a great chance for non-violence.
I beg your pardon, sir, a great chance!
Imagine if in 2001 America had asked itself: why do they hate us? What reasons do they have? The colonial policy during centuries, devastating the whole cultural belt in the Middle East, making it dependent, drawing borders, exploiting. There are a hundred reasons why they don’t like us. We must look into this; there is only one thing we must not do: respond to hatred with organized military strikes, in which we turn the whole world into an invisible, but then very concrete battlefield.
And then: drone assassinations! Secrecy again! The German government must not know that in the meantime, only over Ramstein (Translator’s note: Ramstein is an American base in Germany), over 10,000 drone murders, signed by Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize winner, were staged. During his visit in Germany, he also said that no missiles were launched from German soil. This is the usual ‘double-speak’. The missiles are guided from German soil. But we are not allowed to know that, not Mrs. Merkel, not Mr. Steinmeier. Then we would have to refuse America and say, we will stop being your colony. That’s what we were supposed to do in 1949, but now it’s over.
And we’re finally tired of being your foot soldiers in your power games. Now the Europeans are to attack Russia so that you can encircle and attack China in the Pacific according to the containment policy, AUCUS – Australia, Great Britain (UK), USA plus Japan, Taiwan, possibly still India, a belt completely tied around China, the next state we have to demonize and terrorize. We could learn via the Silk Road what economics means: one gives to the other what he does not have, and therefore [one] gets what one does not have. Peace would be trade.
And, from Lisbon to Vladivostok, we could have had it!
But then we would have to say No to the imperial policy of the USA, to NATO! Out of NATO!
With it, no peace is possible, because there must not be peace.
Peace is also not to be because we believe that we can afford war through arms superiority, through military superiority, as the stronger [ones]. We are already the ‘number one‘, and now we have to show that we are and remain, an American 21st century.
We must respond with what we have learned in Europe about humanity, about goodness, from our philosophers, from the New Testament, from the cultural tradition to which belongs the knowledge in Europe that war creates nothing but disaster. For 30 years, from 1618 to 1648, we have seen how to devastate all of Europe, just in power games, under the pretext of religion, of absolute rightness.
We have learned this and you could have learned it in 1863 in your civil war. We could shake hands for peace, across the Atlantic. But if you want to continue as before, we will no longer participate and we say:
Out of NATO!
Responsibility for the world!
No to armament!
Yes to universal humanity! I would like to conclude with a sentence from Mahatma Gandhi. We are constantly thinking about what to do in order to save and preserve peace. It is very simple:
There is no way to peace. Peace itself is the way.
And who does not start with it, cannot arrive at it.
Then you have the whole program of the New Testament: Disarm, unilaterally, that is what Jesus, five days before he will be crucified, exemplifies to mankind – at his entry into Jerusalem. He quotes a word of the prophet Zechariah: If someone really came who could change the world in the name of God, his first measure would be to break the bows, to burn the war chariots. (Zech. 9:9; Mark 11:2.)
That is the program of Jesus. And then Paul is absolutely right when he says, in the first letter to the Corinthians, if you want to look it up, [it is] chapter 2 verse 8: The rulers of this world call the nature of God, His goodness, simply madness. And that is why they killed Jesus.
We have to say, what they call madness up there with reference to God’s goodness just shows the paranoia in which they themselves exist. And we break out of the madhouse of this politics once and for all.
We decide to be free.
And then we are at what Wolfgang Borchert could say in 1947 in Basel on his sickbed, as his legacy to mankind.
“Man at the workbench! If they come again and tell you to make cannon barrels and hand grenades instead of cooking utensils and water pipes – man at the workbench, say NO!
Man in the lab! When they come again and tell you to invent the new death against the old life – man in the lab, say NO!
And mother in Germany, mother in Ukraine! When they come again and tell you to bear children: Boys for the front, girls for the hospitals – Mother in Germany, Mother in Ukraine, say NO!
And pastor in the pulpit! When they come again and tell you to bless the weapons and proclaim war as God’s judgment – pastor in the pulpit – say NO!”
Because if you don’t say NO, this will always go on and always become worse.
Thank you very much for your attention. [Applause.]