The shame of the West

Speech at the peace demonstration in Munich on 1 September 2021

by Jürgen Rose*

Dear friends assembled here, dear friends of peace!

The day before yesterday, the world witnessed the last Western occupying soldier finally leave Afghanistan – hastily, almost exactly twenty years after the US empire of barbarism and its loyal NATO vassals unleashed a war of aggression against the country in the Hindu Kush and its people in violation of international law. In the last twenty years, thousands and thousands of Afghan men, women, children and old people have fallen victim to this crime of human rights and international law – murdered, mutilated, raped, tortured – and in many cases by those who were sent by supposedly civilised, democratic nations with the mission to bring human rights, democracy, freedom and prosperity to Afghanistan.

False legitimacy attempts

The military invasion into the country in the Hindu Kush was legitimised as self-defence against an act that Helmut Schmidt had described as a terrorist “mammoth crime” – whereby it apparently did not play the slightest role that not a single Afghan was involved in the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on 11 September 2001. But even then, there were millions of people around the world who did not want to accept this arbitrary act of war by US President George W. Bush and his henchmen in NATO and stood up to raise their voices against war and terror in favour of a non-military solution to the conflict. This included the many thousands of citizens concerned about peace who had gathered in Stuttgart on 13 October 2001 to demonstrate against the US invasion of Afghanistan, which had started a few days earlier. As an active soldier in the Bundeswehr at the time, I had been asked to contribute to this rally. I justified my refusal to agree to the act of barbarism staged in the Hindu Kush, let alone to participate in it, among others with the following words:

Peace speech of 13 October 2001: Doubts about the NATO war even then

“Of course, murderous terrorism must be contained and eliminated; nor am I a supporter of fundamental pacifist views. Nevertheless, I have serious doubts about the usefulness of combating terrorism through the use of military force in the form we are currently experiencing. After all, killing terrorists, fundamentalists, Islamists or other enemies of civilised peoples and destroying their rather poor infrastructure, which in any case can be quickly replaced, is merely a cure for symptoms. It does not change the slightest thing about the causes for the emergence of templates of thinking and patterns of action with which fundamentalist martyrs go into their holy war against a world that is perceived as godless and deeply unjust.
  But instead of pausing to rethink the consequences of the USA’s previous world policy and, if necessary, to fundamentally change it, the American president announces a ‘crusade against terrorism’, speaks of ‘hunting’ and ‘smoking out’, swears revenge and retribution, demands in Wild West style the extradition of the main suspect Osama bin Ladens ‘dead or alive’. The American Congress gives him carte blanche to go to war, only one congresswoman found the courage to vote against it. And governments around the world join in the war rhetoric, to the initial applause of almost the entire media landscape.

On 11 September 2001, too, 40,000 children died as a result of misery, hunger, disease and war

Yet on that day as the silver towers of the World Trade Center shone in the light of the rising sun, forty thousand children died in the Third World as a result of misery, hunger, disease and war. Forty thousand – that is almost ten times as many victims as there were after the New York attack. But has anyone ever heard of the Wall Street stock exchange opening its trading with a minute’s silence for these quietly dying children in the Third World? Of course, horror, anger and grief over one’s own dead are always the greatest, but can one therefore simply ignore the deaths of others?

US military spending at astronomical levels

This year, US military spending will reach the astronomical sum of about 700 billion DM (the then German currency) – more than fifteen times the German defense budget. This outrageous waste of resources is absolutely obscene. Not only because the most formidable military machinery in world history has failed grandly, indeed had to fail, in the face of the ice-cold rationality, the barely surpassable criminal energy, the barbaric determination and the suicidal fearlessness of the perpetrators. But above all because the causes and not only the symptoms of terrorist violence could be fought with a fraction of the resources spent for military purposes. Instead, the American Congress is making more than 80 billion DM available for a nonsensical terrorist hunt with military means. Imagine the indignation of the same MPs if they had been asked to provide the same amount of money for development aid. It is obvious that in a country like Afghanistan, where civil war has been raging for decades, bombs and missiles are the last thing that can contribute to peacemaking. Robert Bowman, who himself sent death and destruction from the skies as a fighter pilot for the American forces during the Vietnam War and now serves as Bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne Beach, Florida, castigates his government's war policy with these words: ‘Instead of sending our sons around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil that lies under their sand, we should send them to repair their infrastructure, provide pure water and feed starving children’. And he goes on to say: ‘In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth that the American people and the world need to hear.’

Not war can bring peace, but justice alone

It is not war that can bring peace, but only justice. In a modification of the well-known Roman motto, the motto must therefore be: If you want peace, serve peace! This struggle for peace must be waged for the souls and hearts of the people in the Islamic countries – but it is inconceivable that bombs and missiles could lead to success in this. Every bomb on Afghanistan increases hatred and resentment against the USA in the Muslim world immeasurably. Every missile strike serves to stabilise governments in the Middle East that are thoroughly corrupt, inhuman and anything but democratic. But all this apparently counts for nothing when former rogues are needed as allies today. The nations of the world calling themselves civilised should not fall into the jargon of terror and counter-terror. In view of the horrific catastrophe in New York and Washington and the now looming, at least as horrific famine and refugee catastrophe in Afghanistan, they should instead devote all their energies to improving the intolerable political, economic and social conditions in that region of the world.
  I have seen with my own eyes Afghan refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan, the misery in the Palestinian camps of southern Lebanon and the indescribable poverty of the people in Sudan. At least one thought results from those images, namely that these are the hells in which those angry young men are born who are animated by only one desire: to turn their hell into our hell.
  At the same time, in the course of many journeys through the Near and Middle East, I have met countless people – men and women, children and the elderly – who have welcomed me, as a ‘rich Aleman’, with great cordiality and overwhelming hospitality dozens of times, despite their own poverty. It is time to give something of these experiences back, even if it is only a little solidarity and the certainty that this war is not my war!”

Germany served the “sole superpower” with “full solidarity”

Regardless of this, a Red-Green bellicose mishmash, led by Gerd Schröder, Joschka Fischer and Peter Struck, assured Germany’s “sole superpower” of “full solidarity” in the context of the globalisation wars that were coming under the title “Global War on Terror”.
  The acid test for my then openly announced refusal to actively support the war against Afghanistan and its people came in March 2007, when I received the official order to provide logistical support for the deployment of Tornado weapon systems of the German Air Force in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, which had been approved by the German Bundestag with democratic dignity. Thereupon I reported to my disciplinary superior in an official “Diensterklärung” (official declaration) that I could not reconcile it with my conscience to support the deployment of these weapon systems in Afghanistan in any form, since in my view it could not be ruled out that I thereby contributed by virtue of my own active action to a Bundeswehr deployment against which there were serious reservations under constitutional law, international law, criminal law and international criminal law. At the same time, I requested to be relieved of all further orders concerning “Operation Enduring Freedom" – this mission was Mr Bush’s private war against terrorism in violation of international law – in general and with the deployment of the Tornado weapon systems to Afghanistan in particular. My decision at the time was based on several considerations:

German Tornados were searching targets for US bombs in a war that was illegal under international law

The deployment of the Bundeswehr Tornados in Afghanistan necessarily meant Germany’s participation in military actions that were illegal under international law and not in accordance with the NATO Treaty, because the reconnaissance results obtained by those weapon systems were also forwarded to the American high command for the purposes of “Operation Enduring Freedom” – the German air force planes reconnoitred those targets that were subsequently bombed by the Allies.
  The warfare of the USA within the framework of OEF was illegal under several aspects, namely:

  • It could no longer be justified as self-defence and was not based on a Security Council mandate;
  • it exceeded even the authorisation of the Karzai government of Afghanistan in the manner in which it was carried out, particularly with regard to the impact on the civilian population
  • it was inconsistent with the rules of international law for the protection of civilians with regard to the so-called collateral damage to the civilian population that was accepted; and
  • it violated fundamental human rights principles with regard to the treatment of prisoners.

By deciding to deploy the Tornado weapon systems in Afghanistan, the German government actively participated in a war mission conducted on the basis of a military strategy that was incompatible with the fundamental principles of the UN Charter and the NATO Treaty, and implicated the German armed forces in this.

The bitter result of the war of a megalomaniac US empire

The development that the war in Afghanistan – orchestrated by a megalomaniac US empire – has taken in the course of the last twenty years was inevitable and fully confirms both my assessment and my corresponding action. For the outcome after all these years of war can only be described in one word: devastating. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans deliberately murdered or booked as so-called civilian “collateral damage”, tens of thousands of foreign invaders euphemistically lied about as “killed in action”, countless wounded in body and soul on both sides, excessive war and human rights crimes committed against the Afghan population, an immense suicide rate, especially among the US warriors of aggression, of thousands of villages and cities, Land poisoned by depleted uranium ammunition, drug cultivation and trafficking on a global scale, trillions of US dollars and billions of euros of wasted taxpayers’ money, from which the arms industry, logistics companies and mercenary firms of the West have profited first and foremost, state structures in Afghanistan completely disrupted by pervasive corruption, a NATO unmasked as an incompetent paper tiger, and a West that can only reveal its moral bankruptcy. In this respect, it may only be a side note that the nomenklatura of the Soviet Union had understood after ten years of war that such a war could not be won in Afghanistan, while the ignoramuses and morons in the government offices of the West needed twice as long to come to this basically a priori obvious realisation. As a Taliban commander once remarked in this regard “You in the West have the clocks, but we have the time.” Quod erat demonstrandum!

What remains to be done in the end?

What remains to be done in the end? Quite simple: show generous and, above all, unselfish solidarity with the Afghan people and provide all the support that is so indispensably necessary for the peaceful reconstruction of the country – and this paired with the insight: never again human rights imperialism, never again war! •

(Translation Current Concerns)

* Jürgen Rose was a Lieutenant colonel in the German Armed Forces and is chairman of Darmstädter Signal support group.

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