Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3, Number 1               February 2 - 8, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

Join the Bulatlat.com mailing list!

Powered by groups.yahoo.com

No beginning or end to war

By GŁnter Grass
The Guardian

Back to Alternative Reader Index 

War is looming. Once again war looms. Or is war only being threatened so as to stop war coming? Does the limiting word "only" mean that this is just a mock threat, this staged build-up of US and British
troops and ships on the Arabian peninsula and in the Red sea, with its supply of pictures to the media of overwhelming military might? As soon as one of the world's two dozen dictators has crumbled into
exile or preferably is dead, will this all turn out to be a show of force which brought peace and can vanish away again?

Hardly. This looming war is a wanted war. It is already going on in the heads of the planners, in the world's stock exchanges, and in what seem to be forward-dated TV programmes. The enemy target is in the sights. He has been named and - along with other enemies on the stocks who will be targeted and named next - he fits the bill for those who want to conjure a danger so grim that it undermines careful reflection.

We know how people create enemies where none exists. We know, and have plenty of pictures to illustrate it, what happens in war when the target is not quite hit. We are familiar with the words for damage and casualties which we are told to accept as inevitable. We are used to the relatively small number of its own dead that the world's number one ruling power has to count and mourn while the mass of enemy dead, including women and children, go uncounted and are not worth mourning.

So now we wait for the new war and the old repetitions. This time new missile systems will be even more accurate. We can be confident about the choice of pictures from this looming war. The flow of images will
be sanitised of every detail of horror. Familiar TV channels will be there to give us a new instalment of war as soap opera, interrupted only by ads for consumers who are living happily in peace.

The only issue for discussion is whether people approach this coming, already happening war as loudmouthed or half-hearted allies, or the sort who may only make a small contribution on the sidelines like the Germans, whose time for making war is over by now, or should be.

Who is the target of this war which is only being threatened? A fearful dictator. But Saddam Hussein, like other dictators, was once a brother-in-arms to the democratic world power and its allies. On their behalf, and heavily armed by the west, he waged war for eight years against his neighbour Iran, because at that time the dictator who ruled there was enemy number one.

But, the argument goes on, Saddam Hussein is in possession of of weapons of mass destruction (which has not yet been proved). We are also promised that after this dictator is defeated democracy will be installed in Iraq. But this dictator's neighbours, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which are western allies and serve as launchpads for invading Iraq, are also dictatorships. Are they the next targets for wars to bring democracy?

I know these are idle questions. The world power's arrogance has an answer for all of them. But everyone knows or assumes that it is all about oil. To be accurate, that it's all about oil again. The spectre of hypocrisy which the last remaining superpower and its chorus of allies use to cover their true interests has become so threadbare that the drive for dominance shows right through. It stands there in its hubris, unashamed and dangerous to the rest of the world. The current US president is the perfect expression of this common danger we face.

I don't know if the United Nations will be resolute enough to resist the US's clenched drive for power. My experience tells me this wanted war will be followed by other wars with the same drive behind them. I hope my country's citizens and government will give convincing proof that we Germans have learned the lesson of the wars we have caused and will say no to the oncoming madness, called war.

"What should I do if in fretful sleep the ghosts of the slaughtered were to appear, bloody, pale, and wan, and weep in front of me, what should I do?"

That's the question the 18th century writer, Matthias Claudius asks in his poem, Warsong. Looking back on our wars and the people we have slaughtered, this is the question we have still not answered completely.

That distant, looming war which is already under way and which never stops, poses his same question yet again.

"Alas, it is war, and I don't wish to carry the guilt for it."

(GŁnter Grass won the Nobel prize for literature in 1999. His new novel, Crabwalk, will be published by Faber in April.)
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

January 29, 2003


We want to know what you think of this article.