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Entries into the War Diary

Entries into the War diary

Hochhuth based one of his plays on the last entry in the diary of a young soldier who died on the battle fields of First World War because it ended with “…and I could have prevented the war”.

hf  Athens 23.9.2004



Amerika, Mon Amour

by Sam Hamill


The fascist in the White House can’t hear,

can’t see the faces of the suffering he authors,

nor can his brother, Saddam the Tyrant,

who remains in hiding, his finger still pulling a trigger.

All the little Caesars build their evil empires

of blood and castles made of sand. But empires

crumble, while the misery continues. Tyrants rise

and fall, and poets tell their stories.


In America, they’ve named a new poet laureate.

Caesars love their clowns, their little amusements.

But the poet from Baghdad continues in exile,

in Paris, and for twenty years couldn’t call home

to his mother, and in Piacenza sings, “Baghdad, Mon Amour,”

and his voice never trembles. Even a little truth

can prove deadly. Nevertheless he’ll one day

return to his home again, and the sweetness of his song,

more beautiful than silence, will lift me in its arms

because I will join him in Baghdad, mon amour,

because poets and people are brothers, sisters in the skin,

and because fascists can’t live forever.


Salah al Hamdani, your name and your song

is my prayer. It’s true, blood flows like oil

and burns like oil, and it’s the children who perish

for your tyrant and for mine. All the Caesars hunger

after money and power. All their empires

fall. Salah al Hamdani, I invoke your name

and kiss your cheek here in Piazza Duomo

because the dead have no names in Amerika,

the dead in Baghdad, the dead in Kabul.

The dead, the dead and the dying.

And those who merely survive.


Our Italian nights are full of wine and talk

and love. We have nothing but our songs

to stand against Caesar’s throne and his call

for blood. Old men should fight the wars. But

it’s always the innocent we send to annihilate

the innocent, filling their heads with lies.


The fascist in the White House sleeps well

most nights, guards at every door. Saddam is in

his castle or his cave, his guards guarding too.

The White House poet sleeps. Salah, what

can we tell them, what can we do to disturb these

sleeping giants? Italy is a world from ours, and ours

a world the Caesars and their jesters never knew.


Salaam, Salah al Hamdani. I invoke

your name to name the nameless, I invoke

your song to bring us all back home.



Brendan Kennelly

Brendan Kennelly’s selection from the “Cromwell” poems for this edition reflect not merely on a Holy War and other gruesome things which are really hard to take when conveyed by means of his emotional and direct poetry, but also a need to find an answer to war. He expressed already in his essay “Poetry and Violence” that this gruesome phenomenon exists throughout the centuries. Until recently mankind had not really the time to think about peace. People seem to grow up permanently with war as threat or even worse as a daily lived reality. But then in side glances you see another war continuing unabated: the war going on inside of people, against themselves and without any answer to when especially the innocent, the children, hat hit by nails from bombs tearing their bodies apart. The onslaught upon humanity is in reality a nonsensical, but steady spiral of self defeats and self deceits while still claiming to be a political feat.

The poems are included in the collection of Poetry Connection with the permission of the author.

HF 5.6.2004


A holy War

‘We suffered the little children to be cut out of women

“Their bellys were rippitt upp”

This was a holy war, a just rebellion

And little lords in the womb must not escape

Their due. Certain women not great with child

Were stripped and made to dig a hole

Big enough to contain them all.

We buried these women alive

And covered them with rubbish, earth and stones.

Some who were not properly smothered

Yet could not rise

(They tried hard) got for their pains

Our pykes in their breast. People hard

(Or said they heard) the ground make women’s cries.’



The Catholic bombed the Protestant’s home

The Protestant bombed the Catholic’s home

The Protestant castrated the Catholic

The Catholic castrated the Protestant

The Protestant set fire to the Catholic Recreation Centre

The Catholic set fire to the Protestant Recreation Centre

The Catholic cut the tail of the Protestant dog

The Protestant cut the tail of the Catholic dog


The Protestant hanged the Catholic

The Catholic hanged the Protestant

As they dangled like dolls from the freshly-painted

Protestant and Catholic gibbets

They held hands in mid-air and sang

With spiritual gusto, ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers!’



The soldiers had strong ropes and electric cord.

Each prisoner’s hands were tied

Behind his back. His arms were tied above the elbows

To those of the man on either side.

Their feet were bound together above the ankles.

Their legs were bound together above the knees.

A rope was passed around the nine.


The soldiers moved away.

The prisoners’ backs were to the mine.

When it exploded, the sudden hole in the road

Said nothing of our loss

And instead of singing in the dawn

Birds pecked the flesh off the trees

At Ballyseedy Cross.

Yet one prisoner escaped. He said ‘Goodbye, lads’ as the mine

Exploded, then he was on his hands and knees

In the road. Finding he was a wholeman,

Free though burnt, he ran for the ditch, through trees,

Across the side of a hill, over a river, ran

Till he came to a sheltering house.

There was a girl. While he lay, she picked gravel

Out of his body.

He has gravel in him to this day.


For months then he stole from house to house

Sleeping in dugouts, hearing the midnight rain,

Waiting for bullets in the back and head.

They never came. He kept moving though,

Stayed clear of his own place for a long time.

He went home in the end. They took him in.



I believe my eyes, I’m in a distant country,

I have lost my brothers and sisters

I am hiding, I must tell my story:

Last evening, soldiers drove the catechists

Out of the forest into the village,

I saw my brother, fingernails and toenails gone,

Black stumps for feet, all his friends the same,

The soldiers covered them with petrol

Set fire to them

I saw my brother become flame

Frame become cries

I watched

I have a story for someone

I can tell it with my eyes.


Rebecca Hill

Half-hanging is the rage in Kildare

It is the rebels’ will

So died Jonas Wheeler William Dandy James Benn

Rebecca Hill


Rebecall Hill was fifteen years

Half-hanged then taken down

As comely a girl as ever walked

Through Kildare town


Taken half-hanged from an oak-tree

She seemed to recover her wits

The rebels saw her flutter alive

Then buried her quick


Leaves of the oak-tree still

Flutter like Rebecca Hill.


The Stare

He stared at her. The stare invaded her eyes

Doing a demolition job on her brain

That had housed her delicate privacies

Years out of mind. The stare strutted own

Into her mouth, dipped, played with her tongue,

Licked into some spittle, swallowed it,

Pronounced it good if a little thin, nothing wrong

With that, might improve, the stare settled down to bite

The inside of her lip, the outside of her neck,

Nipples (naturally) and the sweet meant of each breast

Rising like the cost of loving to the play.

The stare knocked at her sanctum, waited, stuck

Its head in, turned into words fluent as lust

Ripping her up OK stare rules OK.


A Bad Time

Having butchered everyone in the church

The soldiers explore the vaults underneath

Where the choicest ladies are hidden

Hoping to cheat the general death.

One of these, a most handsome virgin,

Kneels down to Thomas a Wood, with prayers

And tears, that he may spare her life.

Sudden pity; he takes her in his arms

Out of the church, intending her escape.

A soldier sees this and pikes her through.

A Wood, seeing her gasping, takes her money

And jewels, flings her down over the works.

Massacre flows for five days in succession.

A bad time for virgins, local people say.


To think They All Become Silence

To think they all become silence –

Drogheda cries

Eyes of hanged women


Burnt houses’ trapped people

Churches of excrement

Mockery on the moon’s lips

Statesmen’s explanatory rant.


To think the silence can erupt

And battles spill again in a quiet street

And the swelling smell of blood guzzle the air

And the earth drink all, trying to forget

Bu failing and being forced to stand in the dock

Accused, found guilty, sentenced again to suffer, suffer.



The black van exploded

Fifty yards from the hotel entrance.

Two men, one black-haired, the other red,

Had parked it there as though for a few moments

While they walked around the corner

Not noticing, it seemed, the children

In single file behind their perky leader,

And certainly not seeing the van

Explode into the children’s bodies.

Nails, nine inches long, lodged

In chest, ankle, thigh, buttock, shoulder, face.

The quickly gathered crowd was outraged and shocked.

Some children were whole, others bits and pieces.

These blasted cruxifixions are commonplace.



by Katerina Anghelaki Rooke


13th Day

or Now on land!

The heavenly battles descend on the soil

and death returns to earth:

its place of origin.

High flashes accompany it;

it is the only luxury left to the corpses.

Indeed, how did evil change direction!

From below, its immediate action would start:

from mud, hoofs of animals

boots, swamps and it would rise

up to the black clouds and the innocent souls.

Now the desert,

as I imagine it with countless pink shades

sand breasts

breathing in the desert wind

a secret body

with its dark oases hidden under

impartial spectator of disaster

conquered by parachutes.

From above downwards now

the evolution of bleeding flesh;

heaven a past in flames

will be forgotten

and the good will be thrust in the earth

buried deep, very deep in memory.

14th Day

or the abolition of inner space

I am a speck of sand

taken in by black waters.

The place is flooded and the boundaries

separating the two spaces lost:

the inner one where memories grow

together with weed-fears, grass-hopes

and the outside one choking in the dirty scourge

of the latest news.

When was the boundary destroyed?

Lava, sewers, waste

pour into my inside self unimpeded

- my inner life has been abolished.

I am thinking of getting hold of a little branch of tenderness

to remember your birthday

years ago in a snow-covered landscape.

But your body weighs on me

like all those dead ones

and those eyes of yours

–their color that of a shuddering reptile–

were narrated to me

by inconsolable mothers

painted for me by crying girls

and wounded boys.

How was I so plundered

without ever stepping out of my room

and the private garden

of my sorrow when I saw you leaving

became a collective tomb?

How is it that I,

who was so involved with the skirmishes

between the visible and the invisible

ended up a fanatic viewer

of the most recent broadcasted horror?


15th Day

Or the lesson

For Pedro Mateo

We said we would have our lesson again today

As if nothing…as if nothing…

All of us humans without “power”

“popular mandate”

Or some “sacred duty” calling us.

Language we said

Language the eternal joker!

What does “mascara” mean?

The additional face! Funny, eh?

Words, tiny surprises

With their simple meaning,

Their complex function….

Abruptly we stopped laughing;

We thought that even language

Sounds insane these days…

Night fell, we switched the light on

And saw how dark our glance was.

Reality gives us the most thorough teachings

And this knowledge is first a heavy could

That crushes you

Before becoming a light sheet

That covers you.


16th Day

Or the End of the person

I was going towards sleep

With my head full

Of smoke from the burned earth,

And my heart squeezed

By invisible pincers.

And while every night

I imagine the end of my person

As others pray

I found tonight on my pillow

A gift given to me by war:

The insignificance of my death.


17th Day

Or One more Elegy

All quiet on the front today

The only thing they didn’t tell us was how many

Scorched ones they pushed into the sand.

I wondered if the desert

Rejects alien bodies

As our poor body does…

Night is falling; I am reading letters

From between the Wars: they correspond

And kiss through words

Without knowing if they will ever meet

Tsvetaeva, Pasternak, Rilke.


18th Day

Or The new order of things

I dreamed

That I was in the old love nest

But everything was changed:

Walls had collapsed

New rooms had appeared

Whiter than lilies

With nurses all in white

Inviting me in.

“You know, I used to come here years ago…”

I said as if I were apologizing

While with my eyes I licked the corner

Where the mattress used to be.

It looked now like something rubbed out

In a child’s copy book

Or like the snout of a wild-boar

Sunk in the green mould

Covering an ancient stone.

A sweetish smell sprang from the spot

Which did not remind

The old supine one

Of anything anymore

“The new order of things”

I whispered waking up.


19th Day

Of What we know about sleep

“We do not know where

The knowledge of sleep rests”

Said the professor on Television

-         between two assaults in the Gulf –

and added that the more minute

the animal is, the less it sleeps.

Look at the bird

That hangs from a high branch;

It knows

That if it falls asleep

Intoxicated by the divine blue

It’ll lean downwards

The branch will break

And who knows in what abysmal

Dead man’s arms it’ll fall

If it deeply sleeps

If it deeply dreams of heaven.


20th Day

Or The little phrase

The sun is like a mirror today

With brown spots appearing on the surface

And the reflection of an uncertain shape

Standing instead of an image.

The life-giving content of vegetation

The expressions of passion

And the beautiful decorations of decay

Everything is tedious this hour

That motionless resembles an animal

When it sniffs its last moment

Even if it doesn’t know

How the divine can smell!

And suddenly in this soup of existence

A little phrase comes up to the surface

From deep down, from the bog of dreams.

Unexpected, forgotten, playful, childish

With its sounds unmolested by time

A little phrase, a gold-fly

Flew in from the open window:

“Coming, ready or not!”

Days Later


The moral is always in prose

I re-read the War poems. I observe how the despair of the others

became my own myth. My inner life has just come back and its

suitcases are full of impressions. But why was I in such a hurry to

write down my reactions to all these frightful but so remote events

of the time?

It is because my hidden person has topped telling stories to my

visible one. Like bodiless heads all my stories float in a colourless

substance that is not even memory.

Who went where and fate was spoiled? Who unbuttoned his shirt?

Who locked the door? How is it possible that I cannot narrate all

The visits of death?

I got involved in foreign wars because in my heart the traces of my

last passionate campaign have disappeared.


Katherina Anghelaki-Rooke




By Pedro Mateo


Marte domina en el firmamento,

Se han apagado las estrellas.

De la angustia, del dolor

Hemos oído lo que nos cuentan

Deportaciones, huidas en toda regla,

Estruendos de bombas y misiles,

Las sirenas de la feria…

Los pactos firmados se ejecutan,

Hay nueva guerra de fronteras.


!Salvaje Norteaemérica!

! Impudica Europa!


Corre sangre bañada en fuego

Por las cuentas sin moneda.

Ojo por ojo, ésa es la Ley.

Ojo por ojo – dice el tuerto –

Contra las leyes de la naturaleza.

!Urania maldición os caiga

Sobre las horribles cabezas!


Para la siembra de recuerdos,

Para los frutos de la vida

Mejor la memoria del corazón

Antes que números y fechas...

Turbios sonidos sordos, humos,

Edificios y sombras de cabezas

No dejan heridas, sólo odios.


!Vomitan veneno los campos!

! Vomitan veneno los ríos!

! Vomitan de asco las piedras!


Día tras día, noche tras noche

Los mirlos espantados se despiertan.


Pedro Mateo

Mayo del 99



Poetry Connection – Poets and the Olympic Truce


Some thoughts about the war against Terrorism

By Hatto Fischer

Athens 13.9.2001 or two days after 911

Given the events in America serious thoughts are needed to reformulate what defines survival on this globe. This has to be understood as a response to what rules of the game have not been observed for a long time by now. As a matter of fact, if rules for the game are defined by but one power, others feel being constantly outplayed. Their reaction will be revenge. Thus the events that have unfolded in New York and Washington and called by CNN as ‘horrific’ should be taken as a matter of critical self-evaluation.

Critical thought has to draw attention as to where, but fore mostly why 'criminal energy' is being released in the name of different causes. For instance, the ability to transform a person into a suicidal bomb indicates how manipulation, psychological intimation and breakage of all human values must have incurred in the life of that person. It goes beyond ordinary military training to transform people into willing instruments for just stupid acts. What they do is not heroic. What they manage to do should not be upgraded by anything.

By naming those who did this attack on America on Tuesday, September 11 as 'terrorists', they are upgraded from criminals to some people with a political cause. That is wrong. They are just criminals and have nothing to do with politics.

Politics has used the term 'terrorist' to justify many things. After Tuesday it is time to name things as they are and not to perceive things out of ideological convenience. There is a need to name what produces such hatred and ideological fanaticism for otherwise no solution will be found.

The American administration comes under special pressure in these tragic moments but political request should be made that the old scheme should not be evoked as if this is only an American matter along the line ‘we are right, they are wrong and lets get them’. As one Viet Nam veteran stated to a CNN reporter, “Bush ought to get out there and bomb them, bomb them, bomb them”. If that option would be taken, then only more people end up being convinced they do something right and just if they hijack a plane and use it as a flying bomb against innocent people if this would serve the purpose to attack America.

Fortunately even CNN shows during its constant broadcasts after the events in New York and Washington also common people suffering in Iraq after years of sanctions to explain why there prevails in the world so much anger and hatred against America. The hands-off attitude by the Bush administration with regards to the Palestine-Israel conflict has not helped alter that mood especially in the Arabic and Islam dominated countries.

Before the event took place, and the New York Times commentary on Thursday, 13.9 divides by now the 'before' from the 'after', the presidency of Bush was being criticized already for many reasons. One of the most crucial points was the worry about all the unilateral withdrawals of the United States from many international obligations.

Any USA presidency is target of lunatics and other people willing to go beyond any limit to cause harm. The tragic end of J.F. Kennedy but also the attempt on the life of Reagan are but examples of the easiness by which presidents can become easily objects of extreme hatred. As former president Clinton reflected, despite these constant threats the USA can consider itself until this September as extremely lucky of having been spared of any serious attacks. If such luck is interpreted that democratic legitimacy protects also the presidency, and that means the trust of people in its government, then indeed the freedom of such representative to decide in accordance with all responsibilities bestowed upon such office is all the more a most sacred value.

Serious is therefore the kind of attacks the Conservatives staged against President Clinton and what took place during the election in the year 2000. That diminished the moral legitimacy of the entire government. In the wake of these attempts to wrest power from the Democrats, it should be remembered that President Bush was elected by means that cast doubt whether or not that was really a democratic election victory. Especially the things that went on in Florida raised questions how votes were counted with obvious discrepancies between poor and rich districts when it came to vote with punching machines. That reminds on how the United States implemented its constitution by giving the Southern state in Congress a power of representation according to their population sizes that included the Blacks, but who had then in reality no rights to vote since treated only as slaves.

A New York Times report about the federal election shows that the general attorney of Florida used one computer to solicit overseas votes and then destroyed all files thereafter. Criminal energies? Republicans rushed into those poll booths wishing to recount the vote’s cast by hand since the punching cards were not working sufficiently. They bullied those counting into giving up. Power was sought and gained by intimation.

Had it not been for such slim difference between Gore and Bush, the possibility of election fraud may have not come under scrutiny by the media and been potentially exposed. Normally election victories by a larger difference would have taken that as a tolerable deviation from the norm. But what did surface to public light casts doubts on the democratic legitimacy of this presidency right from the beginning. Oddly enough Florida is again in the news now that questions about the hijackers arise after the horrible events. Some traces have led to Florida due to flight schools there having trained most likely the pilots who flew the jets into the World Trade towers. Florida is known for the anti Castro Cubans so that the state harbours a dangerous blend of ideological groups. It is the state where the brother of president Bush is the governor in charge.

All that should be remembered as to what kind of presidency this new administration was presenting before the tragic events of this Tuesday. There is now the added risk that the wrong political conclusions shall be drawn. Despite an understandable solidarity with America it should not lead to such measures that even less democracy will replace any working order in which people can set their beliefs, trust and hope.

To avoid the drawing of the wrong consequences and not to decide on measures of revenge there is needed a new set of restraints to avoid triggering off still another round of further violence. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a model of there being no resolve to the basic issues if military thinking based on revenge has its way alone. It is to be welcomed that the Nato resolution expressing automatic solidarity with America took into consideration the recommendations of the Belgium Parliament altering the expression ‘act of war’ into ‘barbarous action’. Indeed, it serves no purpose to upgrade criminals into agents of war with the capacity to destroy any peace only existing if there is a true democratic life possible.

Certainly Bush's sharp rhetoric and non-conciliatory position towards foreign affairs has contributed to a spread of insecurity throughout the world. The cancellation of the Kyoto treaty about the environment was taken as one of the many signals that the logic of this administration is ‘business first’ as if no other considerations matter in how to define survival on this globe. The permission to start drilling for oil in Alaska is another case in point. Clearly the one sided approach to the need to cancel the ABM treaty to make way for a missile shield had already many other governments worried as to what this administration intends to do in the name of security for America alone. The hijacking of the planes and all consequences thereafter clearly show that not a missile shield is needed to make ‘business as usual’ possible, but quite another scale of human intelligence if this very different threat is to be dealt with under human conditions of survival. As the lax security for domestic flights indicates, the attack hit at the so-called soft belly. It could not have been prevented by any technology.

In future not technology driven solutions are needed but a city life respecting the human scale of things. The business drive towards ever bigger planes, higher buildings, greater profits has nothing to do with a development needed that respects human proportions and the need especially for informal controls. For no police or intelligence service can replace the trust people can give to one another. That in turn depends upon them being able to talk to each other and to have the time and means to get to know one another. Human community is the best medicine against fanaticism and other kinds of extreme tendencies.

One source of anger and hatred is the real loss of such communities for those individuals no longer knowing how to survive. The numerous disruptions of normal life experienced by many since Second World War can be considered as breeding grounds for ‘criminal energies’. Alone the fear what will happen to all those scientists capable of constructing nuclear bombs once the Soviet Union broke up prompted at least the United States government to finance research institutes in order to prevent them from selling their know-how on the black market. That indicates a life in dignity is connected with the possibility of earning a living under decent conditions. Self-respect goes in conjunction with the aims of a human community.

Clearly the increase in corruption, violence and terror challenges also the civil society. It has to come to terms with those who aim to make business work by criminal means regardless of the impact upon human society. That includes all those producing and selling weapons.

Yet the modern economy building on cement and meaningless streets of consumption invokes even greater alienation by interrupting the interplay between the small and the large. The ever greater mega projects produce anonymity by not caring for people other than that they add to the profits if willing to come in such quantitative terms that a critical mass is reached: 5000 people in one cinema palace, more than 350 people in a Jumbo jet.

Already Lewis Mumford stated that city managers using merely quantitative criteria of success as basis for their decisions are not letting cities to develop in a way that would be still within human proportions. Absurd is that car producers never understand the world’s environmental condition but continue to measure the value of their shares whether or not sales records of the previous year have been surpassed.

Revealing is also the language of violence used in the telecommunication world. For example, WEB sites are evaluated for their success merely in quantitative terms insofar as the first question is about ‘how many hits they experience’.

Altogether a frightening political naïve thinking dominates discussions. It prevents the search for qualitative solutions based on a differentiated, equally friendly attitude towards the world. There are so many who paint America only black and find satisfaction if that giant suffers. Once news about the tragic events in New York and Washington spread, there were not only people in Palestine or Iraq that went into the streets to celebrate with a joy called in German ‘Schadenfreude’: a kind of relief that the other suffers also something similar. Even rich Greeks celebrated in a restaurant of Kolonaki, the district close to the Greek parliament in Athens, when they heard about the attacks. They said finally America is experiencing on its own soil what others have to suffer all the time when American missiles strike. Such statements lend support to such criminal attacks and are irresponsible. It is the outcome of naive political or rather apolitical thinking with people taking sides out of feeling of hatred and weakness. They do so due to a game being played in which they feel that they have absolutely no chance of ever winning.

Words like 'these bastards' meaning Americans are commonly used especially after Kosovo. It leads to the kind of fanaticism that has become a weapon of many Islamists against the West. Here Chomeiny took the lead and it has not stopped with Islamists sending children in the Iran-Iraq war ahead to act as mine sweepers. Already then every family coerced the one selected into becoming a human sacrifice so that his brothers and sisters could escape poverty and get into university not on account of their own merits but what their brother did for them. The brother is to them now a hero but who shall never come back from the war front to tell his story and to question in his own words the absurdity of such human sacrifice.

The religious leaders who went to the families to break the news that their son had become a martyr confirm what de Volney had written already immediately after the French Revolution about the reasons why former great empires break down. He attributed the main reason to religion seeking proof of it being true in people willing to give their lives for such a religion. What other proof is needed if people are ready to die for a cause, these religious leaders say and never do they doubt that this is but a fallacy.

Equally the use of the word ‘mission’ indicates something when Americans speak about business plans and going about their business. They base this on a kind of religious belief in their country for which its soldiers are willing to die. Indeed any willingness to sacrifice one’s life for the country does show a kind of fanaticism. It can become easily a state ideology but reproduces itself as one kind of the most dangerous ideologies because it tends to justify all kinds of inequalities. This is based on the wish to belief in one’s own superiority over others. As such it leaves the assumption unquestioned as ‘to our people being different from all others’. Such fallacy prevailed already by the Ancient Greeks. They differentiated themselves from the Barbarians. All inequality in terms of use of resources but also who can sit at the table when food is being served was according to de Volney at the root of destruction and self-destruction.

When reading the Herald Tribune of Sept. 13, 2001, some commentators wondered why the innocence of street life in New York could be smashed so easily. They ask themselves where they went wrong in this assumption that hatred is but a blinding force leading to but erratic bursts of energies but not to a cold blooded execution of a plan for massive destruction of human lives in order to send a highly symbolic signal around the world. They could not conceive that hatred or rather revenge can be transformed into such a cold bloodied act as the smashing of the planes into the towers demonstrated. One American witnessing the impact just commented this with 'Holy Shit'. The inconceivable makes someone search for words and he just says this in disbelief.

Many around the world know someone who worked in the World Trade Centre. They may have had their office up there on the 36th or 58th floor. Most of their work is linked to the stock market and the regulation of financial flows throughout the world. Decisions taken there have repercussions around the world: global power in two towers assembled. Some of the offices entail huge rooms with over 500 computers within one office space. From the platform one floor up higher it is possible to have an overview of this immense power of intelligence governing the financial world. It is difficult to grasp the repercussions now on the world economy. But as New York is still very personal and resolute the reconstruction of the city’s financial district will be possible, but how the loss of trust in a kind innocent and trusting business relationship with the world shall be overcome, that remains to be seen.

The real concern should not be about revenge as a higher law than any other consideration for human lives. Unfortunately the Koran speaks about revenge being the highest law and by which balance can be regained if lost: eye for an eye. It is something Israel and Palestine have been demonstrating in their endless crisis. Always the one or the other is afraid to appear weak. The same fear may drive the current American administration into a frenzy of overreaction just to appear again strong when in fact the political legitimacy and the crisis of the Bush administration has just started to be criticized more openly by the American press with the New York Times taking a lead in its carefully worded editorials. There has been growing concern on how the Bush rhetoric shall be taken by the world.

In New York things going on in the world are perceived differently as to what is claimed in Washington. There will also have to be asked the question what was not dealt with during the long absence of Bush from Washington. Throughout August he stayed in Texas. There had been a growing concern that the ideological approach taken to rule the world by the Bush administration means a growing contradiction as to what the economy and international relationships require. The growing doubts about Powell just underscored that growing scepticism about this administration not in tune with the danger of still further revenge and political inclinations to merely retaliate.

Revenge has to be understood in all its components. The crisis in Yugoslavia showed already that someone just feeling insulted could trigger off revenge. Ethnic cleansing is but one example of such negative outcomes. This readiness to separate people into ‘ours’ and ‘them’ can only explode once artificial feelings of belonging created by excluding others although also human beings have been insulted. The ‘nation state building project’ pursued by the United States goes directly against multiculturalism, that is against any effort to bring about such new state philosophy so that many different people can live together without feeling threatened if not one of their own kind is in government.

Brendan Kennelly said it already so well in his epic poem 'JUDAS': "learned hatred is the most difficult to unlearn", why, because the root of it is a conversion of prejudices into convictions that once challenged the person holding them will feel insulted. The rapid escalation of feeling insulted into violent retaliations is amazing and it underlines why the rule of revenge is dangerously in place to dominate world governance, that is the readiness in the world to use violence no matter what was the cause.

Hollywood films have certainly contributed to that kind of media logic in a world that conceives violence’s as the only method to get your way. In that projection as to what is possible in the world, there is as much a political conjecture as to what is not possible. Many think the world is unjust and they have nothing to say in it. Perhaps the lack of responsiveness of politics to really differentiated human concerns is at fault. It underlines discrepancies in justices with American life’s being sacred, other life’s not or an act by a Palestinian street demonstrator terrorism, but Jewish settlers flinging stones at Arabic families in Hebron not. Just before the events in America the world media carried pictures of angry Protestants throwing stones and words of abuse at Catholic parents bringing their children to their first day of school through a corridor past a Protestant area. That kind of hatred ready to scar the life of these children is just as horrific. Here we need to remember equally the assassination of Rabin by religious fanatics not of the Arabic, but Israeli side in the belief he had violated the highest religious law.

The extremists’ anger, hatred and wish to revenge on both sides not wishing to comprehend the secular world is what signals a breakdown in communication. This world is in danger to forget what matters in the eyes of people and more so in the eyes of all children, namely justice and accountability in terms of reliability based on trust and the ability to learn out of failures. The modern politics of only success no matter the price has made it almost impossible for the human voice to be heard and for reason to govern. Things are not really accountable when there is no transparency of information and nothing done in terms of avoiding conflicts of interest between business and politics. We have seen an escalation since Seattle and many predicted even worse things shall come especially after Genoa with already Berlusconi, the media power holder, in power. The possibility of him passing laws that frees him from judicial charges against him while or with Kohl in Germany walking away from 16 years of personal control of power through illegal use of funds, all that indicates that world leaders have grown completely insensitive to what are crucial issues in the world.

In the streets of all cities, fear of survival has become the dominant theme. Crucial is that the fear of people indicates that the linkage between business and kind of politics being practised does not leave them with any chance and even worse people grow afraid what is still to come when seeing that this bad practice of modern governance continues without responding to the warning signals send by still those meaning well but hardly understood by those in power. They are too much trapped in artificial hierarchies and jealous disputes about their own franchises that they end up mobbing anyone daring to utter some critical thoughts rather than confirm to the self-servicing survival interest within such hierarchies.

There have been many, too many cases of violating human reason. The lessons we should have drawn out of World War I and II has not really taken place. The real prejudice in our system is seeking the military or criminal solution before any human voice is heard and recognised as being reasonable. ‘Terrorism’ is but a false term legitimising an ever greater spiral of violence and revenge. It was M. Foucault who said "we speak only then with the other if no victory is necessary".

Hatto Fischer                              Athens 13.9.2001


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