100 years after Versailles – what we could have learned

by Karl Müller

100 years after Versailles, the balance is sobering. Many responsible persons, particularly politicians of the West, were and are prepared for a permanent war in which so-called peace agreements are only stages on the way to achieving war goals. Also in Europe, there can be no true peace without truth and justice. We are still far from that.
On the evening of 20 June, the world, according to our media, was only a few minutes away from a war between the USA and Iran including a large-scale fire across the Middle East. What then caused the US President to cancel the attack on Iran is an important question. The US president tweeted that for him the death of 150 people in the planned attack – thus he was informed by his military officials – would not have been the “proportionate” answer to the unmanned drone shot down by Iran … To take human lives into consideration sounds like an honourable motive.

The US and Iran …

Interesting, the statement of former German Undersecretary Willy Wimmer in an interview from 21 June (https://politik.der-privatinvestor.de/der-amerikanische-tiefe-staat-ist-auch-bei-uns-zugange): “The next [US] war, even if it should satisfy the election campaign donors, could be the last war for what we know as the US. In the anti-Iran coalition […] under a President Trump the interests of these states in Iran can only be served if the US puts itself at the disposal. We have already seen this in North Korea and Venezuela. The US is being tested, and I don’t see any real and possible rivals of the US willing to sacrifice Iran.”
And of course it is not an issue how many lives the sanction spiral against Iran, started in the USA and now accelerating further, has already cost and will continue to cost. Karin Leukefeld in an interview with Idriss Jazairy, Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, on the effects of unilateral coercive measures on the human rights of the population of the affected country (https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=52541 of 15 June), once again drew attention to this largely hushed up injustice in Syria.
This example from current global politics is only one example for the claim that in times of international tension we can hardly trust the public statements from our politicians and media and that the actual goals and connections of politics often remain hidden. In this respect, hardly anything has changed in the 100 years since Versailles. What are the consequences?

… and the Treaty of Versailles

28 June marks the 100th anniversary of the German signing of the Treaty of Versailles. There is an enormous amount of literature about this treaty. Here is just a brief quote from Wikipedia: “The German delegation was not allowed to take part in the negotiations [on the treaty], but was only able to achieve a few improvements to the treaty content at the end by means of written submissions. The treaty stated that Germany and its allies were exclusively responsible for the outbreak of World War II and obliged it to assign territories, disarm and pay reparations to the victorious powers. At the ultimate request, on 28 June 1919, Germany signed the treaty in protest in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. After ratification and exchange of documents, it came into force on 10 January 1920. Because of its apparently harsh conditions and the way it was imposed, the majority of Germans felt that the treaty was an illegitimate and humiliating dictate.”
Today, many experts think that the Treaty of Versailles meant an enormous weakening for the democratic forces of the still young German Weimar Republic and did not put an end to the hostilities between the states fighting each other in the First World War – on the contrary. And also that Hitler’s propaganda and the renewed preparation for war remained unchallenged by too many Germans precisely because of the Treaty of Versailles.

Propaganda and interests

However, the propaganda of the victorious powers of the First World War was quite different after 1918. Already during the war there were statements, first from Great Britain, then also from the USA, that the war of the Allies against Germany was “the war to end wars” or “the war to end all wars”, finally the war, “to make the world safe for democracy”. If “German militarism” were defeated once and for all, nothing would stand in the way any longer for peace and democracy in the world.
Today we know that there were also the enormous war loans from major US banks for France, Britain and Russia which most likely would not have been repaid if these powers had been defeated. Also a British interest in decisively weakening the annoying competitor on the mainland, which had been strongly on the rise before 1914. Also a French interest in permanently keeping down the “arch-enemy” across the Rhine. The list could be extended.

Whose interests?

But whose “interests” were these when the price – first in World War I and then in World War II – were millions of deaths and destroyed countries? Definitely not the interests of the peoples. And thus the Treaty of Versailles was not a peace treaty, but a continuation of the war by other means.
After 1945, a lesson from Versailles and its consequences could have been: no peace without justice. To this day, the world has not achieved that. Parts of the Charter of the United Nations were an honest and serious attempt; but here, too, the construction of the Security Council and the victorious powers as veto powers meant a fundamental breach of equality of rights.
The truth belongs to justice as far as it is known and one is willing to accept it. Truth after a war must not be accompanied by a pose of victory and contempt for the defeated – it only fits justice if it really (objectively) does justice to everyone. There must be no top and bottom. To (subjectively) “please” all is not the goal. The desire for revenge because of injustice suffered does not fit justice, neither on the part of the victors, nor on the part of the defeated. Truth is also not real truth if it obstructs the way to reconciliation. That, too, must do justice to everyone. … And it takes a lot more.
To realise all this is very demanding and requires the will and staying power of all participants. We are still far from it – and the effort is obviously on the wane.
Even today, the peoples are told lies when it comes to war and peace. The Treaty of Versailles and its consequences could have taught humanity that this is not how it works. – Great are the tasks of mankind.    •