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DIARY: 2003
7 entries (# 104-110)

Section Index

  1. It's the Domination, Stupid
  2. Breaking Up the Union
  3. Conflicting Views, Same Tactics
  4. Schröder's Kamikaze Game
  5. Questions on Iraq
  6. Leni Riefenstahl Is Dead
  7. Recapitulation and Free at Last

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Entry # 104: January 29th - It's the Domination, Stupid

It's amazing how quickly international relations between America and European states have deteriorated during the recent weeks and months. Why do they not agree with American demands and positions? Don't they like America? Why does the Rumsfeldian "old Europe", consisting of France and Germany, trouble America with petty demands that would only lead to obstructing an already very costly military buildup in the Persian Gulf region? Haven't they understood that America is determined to battle the fiend Saddam Hussein no matter what they say, no matter what the cost for the civilian population would be? That they need to create "shock and awe" in order to make every present or future evildoer think twice before doing whatever they are not supposed to be doing? That Saddam may, at some point, possibly even when he was a key US ally, even have had contact with another past US ally, Usama Bin Laden or other terrorists; doesn't that show that he's evil? He even had weapons of mass destruction, provided to him by the US and Europe, and he did use them against his own population, at a time where he was still our ally. He could even mobilize criticism against continuing Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and destruction of Palestinian lives. Also, he is a ruthless anti-democratic dictator, like the US-sponsored regimes in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Would you want such a man to keep control of a country like Iraq?

Of course nobody, apart from Saddam, wants him there. Not even the "Arab world". The point is, however, what is there to be done? He may or may not be dangerous, heck, now that he's been so demonized by the West, he may even have a grudge against the West, big surprise. He's a danger to "his" people, but so is Robert Mugabe, so is Kim Yong-Il, so is Putin (unless you don't consider the Chechen population his people), so are countless little dictators in the former Soviet Union and in Africa and Asia, and don't forget Cuba and Viet Nam. So now, do we intervene everywhere? Do we intervene when it's not some new-found friend and ally, whom we choose not to bother about human rights violations, like Russia and China, or someone actually possessing nuclear weapons, like North Korea? Why Iraq? War on terrorism? Come on. That wasn't even true for Afghanistan, that was a clean-up operation to remove the Taliban, rightly guessed yet another former ally of ours gone bad. If you wanted to attack regimes sponsoring Al-Qaida, start with Saudi Arabia. No, don't, please. Just rhetorically. Or probably, look for the two key conflicts arousing negative feelings against the West within the Arab world, Palestinian occupation and the Western-sponsored decadent dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

The West should actually be doing what they are preaching. Compassion, freedom, democracy, justice for all; have all of those become empty terms? How do you promote democracy and freedom? By fostering thug regimes? By killing starving people? By supporting apartheid? By turning your eyes away from the bad deeds of your allies, and focusing on those you define as evil?

If the result of a war against Iraq would be the creation of a free, democratic, strong and prospering Iraq, bring it on. But war means killing people, not "just" the "guilty" ones, but also innocent civilians, not only through military action, but also through the destruction of food and water infrastructure. Is the removal of a dictator worth the deaths of hundreds and thousands of innocents? Can we actually be that cynical? Well, actually, we are, and we always have been, but at some point we ought to stop.

The "others" don't hate our ideals of democracy, freedom and justice. They hate a cynical power play politics which, in effect, sees them dominated by a global empire at whose center are the United States and Europe. It's not "us" they criticize, it's our domination. Yet another war against Iraq would only prove they're right not to trust us.

What's the proof against Iraq up until now? It's miniscule. He may have something. So then, continue inspections, and in turn, lift sanctions, let the country and its civil society rebuild itself, help them, don't give them yet another reason to hate us. Same with Cuba, by the way. There's no other option. Very probably, in the course of a war, we will end up with hundreds of dead soldiers and billions of dollars wasted, they will end up with thousands of dead civilians and soldiers, probably an escaped Saddam hiding somewhere safe, and a distroyed infrastructure, and thousands of new resons to hate us. Is that worth it? Is that what civilization is about? Is it really just domination, no matter at what cost, physically and ethically? Haven't we learned anything?

January 29th, 2003

Entry # 105: February 5th - Breaking Up the Union

Maybe there's indeed something to the entire Iraq issue, judging from how determined the Bush JR administration appears. It sure seems worth dividing the entire world for this little power spectacle. The first victim has been Europe. The German government has been bashed for a long time for not agreeing on the necessity for war, stubbornly insisting on their position that a war against Iraq would not be justified, that Germany wouldn't participate in any way. What's so atrocious about this position? It wouldn't back JR's position? Germany is an ally, not a vassal, last time I checked. Is it just the government? Didn't the opposition say something else? But wait, no, it's the German population that opposes war, and a democratic government should respect the wishes of those it represents in matters as grave as this one, at least in the common understanding of democracy. So actually, it's not just the government, it's the people.

But other European states agree on the hawk position, right? Well, the governments do. France dared join Schröder's call for peace, but that may have several reasons, Chirac and Schröder cannot really be said to be on the same wave length. Rumsfeld decided to declare Germany and France part of the "old Europe" that was supposed to be overcome by the new, who stand loyally behind current American policies. Blair then couldn't be any quicker in his "initiative" to join hands with Aznar and our beloved Berlusconi, with Portugal and Denmark, plus some recently NATO-fied eager to join the EU, Poland, Chech republic and Hungary; all of those together declaring loyalty to Bush JR and his politics of power and disintegration.

Still, if that's the will of the people? Not really. There's a growing disparity between the will of the voters and the will of the governments, the latter governed by politics of necessity, by being pressured into following the lead, the people, however, growing more and more skeptical of a war that lacks sufficient justification. Put more bluntly, the goverments have outright betrayed the will of their people, with the exception of Schröder's and, hopefully, Chirac's.

The current administration's obsession with Iraq leaves America herself at a strange crossroads. How is she perceived in the world right now? As the champion of peace and democracy? Hardly. The Bush government has done all it can to make America herself appear as the aggressor, a unilateral bully who doesn't care what her allies think, who, if push comes to shove, would rather act alone, no matter how many casualties, diplomatic and physical, such policies would demand.

The Bush government has recently raised the defense budget while neglecting health care, social security and the environment, providing tax relief to the wealthy, aggressively continuing what Clinton had been doing as well. There are more severe problems for American politics right at home, there's no need for manifacturing a war for no apparent reason. Saddam may be a thug. But he poses no danger to the US, nor to her allies. Neither is there a link to Al-Qaida, but that has been clear all along. Bush JR is trying to use the cover of the so-called war on terrorism to finish off Iraq for reasons he isn't telling his people. The union itself is suffering severely by the hands of a government that chooses not to respect international law and institutions, that prefers leading war to bettering the worsening situation at home.

February 5th, 2003

Entry # 106: February 9th - Conflicting Views, Same Tactics

The German goverment righteously fights the good fight for peace, at least according to their self-definition. The American government righteously fights the good fight against terrorism and evil regimes, at least according to their self-definition. Maybe the two are the same. Maybe they are just tough talk to appease the voters, telling them what they want to hear: The Germans want no more war, well, who wants war. The Americans want to see something done after 9/11, well, who doesn't. Those are just catchy phrases and loose concepts, not even interests.

A government governs. It uses everything in its power to serve the self-interest of the state it directly represents. Alliances hold as long as the self-interests of different governments are more or less identical, or at least convergent. The allied forces were able to go together during World War Two to counter German aggression. France pushed the European Union project to tie Germany with the rest of Western Europe, to not once again let it slip away, like it did after Versailles. NATO was able to pull on one string during the Cold War to withstand the Communist threat. There was an unmistakable common interest visible in each case. But Iraq?

The Iraq doesn't cooperate with the weapons inspectors as well as they should. They may indeed have some weapons of mass destruction, and they for sure are looking to get some. The German goverment lies to its people when it bluntly states that there is no threat. The German secret service has even more information regarding volatile materials than Powell presented last Wednesday. The German government doesn't deny that, they just don't cry it out loud. That kind of secrecy isn't really a mastery of honesty. Yet, contrary to the American position, the threat may not be imminent. It might be defused by ongoing inspections.

The current stand-off (well, Germany against the rest of the world, the way Germany likes it) is only possible because the situation in Iraq is so fuzzy. No one, starting with the Iraqi population, the surrounding states, and the rest of the world, with the exception of the Saddam junta itself, wants Saddam to stay and continue to have that kind of power combined with a certain drive for regional hegemony. But what's to do about it? Outright war risks the lives of not only the invading soldiers (mostly Americans, as Europeans like to fight for their interests to the last American) but of civilians and Iraqi soldiers.

It is not in the American interest to really go forward with the war. They want to coerce Saddam, yet they will do it by force if there's no other way. They would like to do it with the rest of the world, meaning the UN, but they'd also do it on their own. A government wants to govern. In essence, every government has to be unilateral. Germany follows the same road tactically: They are even more unilateral than the Americans, they even risk the integrity of the European Union for their interests, well, what good is the EU for if it doesn't go along with Germany like it usually does?

Chancellor Schröder, as much as he wants to deny it, had only one chance to win the federal election back then. His opponent Stoiber may not have been utterly strong, but Schröder had been weak, his politics have been nothing but a grand failure, and it's getting worse as we speak. But as the Christian-Democratic opposition didn't (and still doesn't) have a clue about what to do else, there was a stalemate. Schröder's only chance of winning was to get the votes of the former Communists, the PDS, and to increase votes for the Greens. By raising the Iraq issue first, and declaring he wouldn't agree to war (which is always good), he ensured his votes by a very thin margin close to a recount. Had he not pursued that strategy, he would have lost, clearly, no doubt about it. He chose to strengthen that position to win two state elections, which he lost last week. Now could be the time to leave that strategy. As much as war is a bad thing, and the Iraq case is pretty much a tough one to decide upon, his position of no compromise does weaken the European Union, and it does weaken NATO.

Those critical of the American position, namely Germany, France and Russia, happen to have manifest economic interests in Iraq. That can be no coincidence. In the past, Germany counted among the top weapons sellers to Iraq. Maybe there's an answer to the German position right here? Germany has always been very adept in obscuring manifest interests behind ideologically blurred arguments. The EU provides Germany with a huge market for economical expansion, while Germany struggles hard to protect its own economy from outside takeovers, and its population from mingling with too many immigrants. If Germany criticizes the American position for hypocrisy (claiming the war would only be fought so that Bush would get the Iraqi oil, a terribly short-sighted but immensely productive argument ideologically), the German position can as well be shown to be hypocritical, obscuring real-life interest behind a foggy declaration of peace and love.

The media play along in both cases, in America blowing the Iraqi threat up to apocalyptical proportions, in Germany playing it down and negating it in order to portray the Americans as war-crazed fanatics ready to take over the world. There's not much of a difference here in tactics, maybe there's not even a difference in positions, only in interests that need to be protected, at no matter what costs.

February 9th, 2003

Entry # 107: February 11th - Schröder's Kamikaze Game

Forget all the fuss about how shameful an American government comprised of Bush jr., Rumsfeld and Ashcroft is, there's always a guy who's able to top it all: German Chancellor Schröder seems to have lost all contact with reality. He sees himself as part of a "pacifist" coalition consisting of three France, Russia and Germany, leading a crusade against the hawkish US. Those three countries have serious business interests in Iraq, and Germany has been a top weapons seller to Saddam himself. France has always been an unwilling NATO partner, and Russia, well, no comment. Schröder allying himself with the likes of Putin, who is still fighting his private little war in Chechnya, rather than with the US, that's top-notch.

There's not an ounce of credibility left with the Schröder government. They propose a pretty much unrealistic UN mission as an "alternative" to an "invasion", in union with France, only that France doesn't know about it. Together with France and Belgium, they intend to block preemptive protection of Turkey, a NATO partner bordering Iraq and endangered in any case. First he sets himself outside the UN, by declaring he'd never agree to aid a war against Saddam no matter what the Security Council would agree upon, then outside the EU, unwilling to agree upon a common position and instead forming a bond with France, forcing Blair to make a counter-move, and finally, defying NATO. All this he's doing while not even denying the factual basis of the accusations against Iraq.

His minister Däumler-Gmelin got knocked out for having accused Bush of using foreign politics to divert attention from domestic politics. Schröder does nothing else: unemployment is at a record high, all his attempts to counter it have failed miserably, health care, education and the safety of pension funds are deteriorating as well, his party's lost half of its voting base, his approval ratings are not even worth mentioning. Foreign minister Fischer is the only member of government still respected, but his reputation suffers under Schröder's course of self-destruction. Däumler-Gmelin was ostracized for making a comparison between such politics and a certain German politician.

I do not like the idea of a war against Iraq. I fear for the lives of the civilians as much as for the lives of the soldiers. Yet the case is more complicated than just crying out loud for peace. If there's proof that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, that he seeks more of them, that he intends to use them once he's ready, that he continues to mislead and hamper inspections? The sanctions regime gives Saddam the possibility to feed and care for his people. He doesn't. People are dying and suffering in Iraq not just in the case of war, but also in times of "peace". The situation has to be faced. A UN resolution exists that offers a way to go, it's 1441 and none else. You cannot just deny the problem. Sure, it doesn't help if the case is presented by a smug-faced Bush with an idiotic smile, or a cynical and defamatory Rumsfeld, both undiplomatic to the extreme. Still. Schröder doesn't present a solution. He only contributes to being a problem, for Germany, and for the UN, and for the people of Iraq. Furthermore, the methods employed by Mr. Schröder can only lead to discredit any kind of justified criticism of an impending war, his actions don't contribute to help peace, they only create distrust within the West and render the German position and the part of it that still contains legitimate criticism of a war against Iraq irrelevant.

February 11th, 2003

Entry # 108: February 15th - Questions on Iraq

I always try to navigate a course of an equidistance to any position of political interest, setting myself apart from what I believe to be decisions made out of certain practical reasons of power, then communicated as ideas stemming from rational or emotional sentiment; I try to be as objective as possible, I refuse to "take sides" with any political party movement; in parties or interest groups, there are no sides, there's no right and wrong, there's only interest. Why side with that.

If I try to approach the Iraq issue objectively, there remain some questions yet unanswered:

  • Why the sudden interest in Iraq? Why need we confuse the rhetoric of the "war on terrorism" with resisting a secular dictator hated by any kind of fundamentalist terrorist movement? Where's the connection? Is there more than the very, very thin argument Powell presented on February 5th, that there'd have been one El-Quaida operative in the non-Saddam controled Kurdish territories, and one of Saddam's agents present there also? Is that all? Is that a valid connection?

  • Doesn't the Bin Laden tape aired earlier this week confirm that there is no active connection with El-Qaida?

  • Is the "proof" presented by Powell all there is? If so, doesn't this all look very circumstantial, and at so tangible that you could just let these things be dealt with by the weapons inspectors?

  • Hasn't Saddam complied more than ever? Aren't inspectors pressing for more time themselves? If things were so clear that Saddam would be a threat, why would the inspectors themselves insist on more time? What have they found? What haven't they found? If there's nothing to find, doesn't that eliminate any reason for war?

  • How does Saddam get his materials for alleged weapons of mass destructions? Wouldn't you just need to control the entry paths? Don't we have spy satellites? Why not enforce inspections much more strongly?

  • Is there any concrete plan of how to avoid civilian and military casualties? Are we really willing to risk the lives of the population of Baghdad just to hopefully get Saddam?

  • Is the current state of "peace" one that lets people in Iraq live under humane conditions, or is the dictatorship itself a threat? Is that threat bigger to the people than a war?

  • Do we want to make a precedence out of it? How much more countries would we have to invade? Can the UN, or the US if the UN doesn't follow through, actually assume this role and not be perceived as a terrorist state itself? What does this mean in the terms of international war?

I haven't heard any convincing answers to such questions from either side, should we really just let it happen and be over with it? Isn't war at the current state the one answer that, amongst all others, is utterly and definitely wrong?

February 15th, 2003

Entry # 109: September 10th - Leni Riefenstahl Is Dead

Leni Riefenstahl is dead. It needs no platitudes to express her artistic achievements, those have been enormous. Sadly, they will always stay in connection with her relation with Hitler and his regime. Is that an unjust accusation? Is it not quite easy to make such statements now, in due distance, with everything being much clearer and simpler in hindsight? Yes, it is. No, it isn't. Yes, because nowadays, there is no mortal danger in trying to distance yourself from a murderous and criminal regime. No, because art does not take place in an empty space, nor is there any such thing as an author-less work. An artist can indeed become complicit in the thing he or she intends to portray; when you depict something that can very obviously be read as problematic, if not malign, not commenting on that either constitutes an act of ignorance or complicity.

You could read the related work of Riefenstahl's as a sharp observation and depiction of Nazi propaganda, as a mere commentary on totality and power. But that's just one aspect of the story. There still remains Riefenstahl's close connection and even reverence for Hitler, and her imagery is far from allowing the assumption of critical objectivity and distance. Twist it as you may, she was no fool, she knew what she was doing. She let herself be blinded by power, which she understood as beauty, with utmost despicable Social Darwinist undertones. Look at the imagery, and look at the ideology, it's the visual language of totalitarianism and "the new man", of fascism and communism, reflecting what people like Hitler and Stalin were out to achieve, in utmost disregard of the ideas that stood at the beginning of their falsifying ideology. The ideas of the fathers of nationalism, Darwinism, socialism and industrial progress were violated by the regimes exploiting them, alluding to them. At the basis for that exploitation was ideology, a triumph over the will of human beings. Look at the combined remainders of totalitarian statues and architecture; there's a strange union of thought, be they of Nazi or Soviet origin: an irreverence for the weak, the ordinary, the common, the victim, the flawed, the human; and on the contrary, a preference for what is understood as strong, extraordinary, heroic, active, perfect, god-like; the greatest possible hubris. The hubris is in the beginning, it is in the thoughts, it is in the imagery invoked. Riefenstahl did next to nothing to clarify her position as something more critical, on the contrary, she denied, explained, never revoked or apologized believably. Till the end, she saw herself as a victim. She may have been a victim in that she believed in the wrong things, but she acted not as a victim but as a perpetrator of Nazi ideology. She did not kill people, but she was complicit in killing the minds and hearts of people. She allied and aligned herself with a regime that has brought nothing but death and destruction; in that, also her art is complicit, and her artistic merits will always be shunned for what they are: blind, wilful propaganda for evil.

September 10th, 2003

Entry # 110: December 31st - Recapitulation and Free at Last

OK, I'm cheating here a bit. I'm writing this diary entry in 2004 already, let that be a sign, sort of. Something that had happened towards the end of 2000 (as can be guessed from the respective entries) still leaves me lacking for words in sort of objective or objectified prose. A lot of the original impetus behind this web site (and the whole site, somehow, is looking more and more like a diary of its own, this here just being the more conspicuous part of it) was lost, and I struggled with politics and "big stuff". Personal shocks always cause ripples, and mine are waves of depression tall as those towers that came tumbling down in September 2001. A lot of what has been happening since then politically has been puzzling to me as well. You see, the most dangerous poison you can get your hands on is the one that tells you to choose sides, and then to stick to it.

Well, I don't stick to things, and the least I like to stick to ideology. I had my Michael Moore phase. It's over now, and boy, am I embarrassed. I also had my Heribert Illig phase before, as I did have my post-structuralist phase. The greatest embarrassment of them all, yet. No, "organized" religion would still top that. I started tumbling down. In flight, I suffered some damages. I also got freed from religious dogma, something I had been struggling with anyway, but sometimes you need a gentle push. The one thing I really can thank her for. Are you surprised? Of course it's been about a girl. It's always about love when something happens. But that's as personal as I shall get. After all, this is not a private diary.

So, when I now, finally, belatedly, say my good-byes to 2003, yet another year of horror, I hope the transitory ritual of changing the number of the year will help me see a difference. Not that 2003 was worse than 2002. Or that 2004 may be better in that respect. I've learned some important lessons. Be utterly treacherous towards any kind of ideology (or its ugly step-child going by the name of religion). Value truth and its true seekers, like science. The discovery of The Dawkins has been my salvation of sorts, and this time, it won't be a phase, but a wake-up call. All due to the terrific read that is Jared Diamond and a meeting with Lionel Tiger, a name I just had to use in Demons. Battled some personal and intellectual demons this year, and it seems now I'm not entirely on the losing side. Why? Once you've shed all hollow prescribers, you can finally access truth and life unbiased, unfiltered, and I tell you, you don't need such bondages of both the heart and the mind. There's more awe in a world where you don't have to crawl back to the idea of god all the time than in one that constantly restricts your wants and insults your intelligence. And a third. Don't give a crap what other people think of you. Those who truly love you will love you the more for being honest. Others may hate you for what you think and say, or rather, for what you are free, for what you have freed yourselves to say. Some are just too afraid to leave their prisons. But they may respect you more for your audacity, and for your honesty. Live and let live. But do it openly. This web site has been my outlet and my salvation for so long, thanks, dear diary. And regarding hope? Let me quote my favourite scene from the Buffster, of course from "The Wish".

You trusting fool! How do you know the other world is any better than this?
Because it has to be.

Any time I see it, I cry. And I'm proud of it. See you next year.

December 31st, 2003 / January 1st, 2004

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