Close Air Base Ramstein

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Church of Reconciliation, Kaiserslautern, Germany – September 8, 2017

Ann Wright 01:32 – Eugen Drewermann 17:07 – Daniele Ganser 55:18

Transcript and my rough translation into English of Eugen Drewermann’s speech:

Close US Air Base Ramstein!

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends of peace,

I would like to sincerely thank the organizers of the peace movement for this evening, and to all of you, here in the Church of Reconciliation in Kaiserslautern, for the great commitment to forcefully and lastingly say NO to the US Air Base in Ramstein. It does not belong on German soil, and we are no longer obliged to keep a center of international murders – illegal and usually secret – for our transatlantic friends.

The drone murders, which began under George W. Bush and were extended under Barack Obama, are of course cheaper than “Boots on the Ground”. It was said that Langley and the CIA have now won the argument with the Pentagon on this question. More drone pilots are being trained than bomber pilots, because drone attacks are cheaper and not as spectacular as air raids.

But this brings the peace movement into a strange situation. The issue of war and peace – disarmament, de-escalation, dismantling of the military presence globally – plays hardly any role the election campaign for the German parliament (Bundestag) – with the exception of the efforts of the Left Party, which is in an arduous condition.

The situation of the opponents of the war can be compared with the situation of the Greek Cassandra of Troy. She had been punished by Apoll, because she refused to love him, having to see and to announce everything, without ever being heard or followed. We, the peace movement, see the march from one war to the next, we explain what the end of this disaster will be, but the politicians seem to be deaf when we point out to them all that which serves neither peace nor justice, nor the comming together of peoples.

On this day, we witness how the Hurricane Irma moves across the Caribbean and devastates island after island. We see how an earthquake of magnitude 8 causes misery and suffering in Mexico. For months, we have witnessed how twenty million Africans, fleeing from hunger and misery, are begging the UN to get the four billion US dollars needed to at least survive. It is not possible for the UN to give four billion dollars for 20 million people to survive, but it is possible to agree with Mr Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, who demanded that European NATO members comply with the demand to increase military spending to 2 percent of GDP. For this fraud all the money on earth seems to be well spent and rightly so. However, it is not.

Military spending alone is a lateral slaughter of the most needy people, and we in Germany are preparing to increase the 35 billion euros for armaments rapidly to over 70 billion. This is a senseless waste – even Mr. Kissinger says that by now. We have wasted a lot of time and passed condemnations to many foreign states – instead of having dialogs and starting peace talks.

I hear that NATO is worried about Russia. Russia is spending around 80 billion dollars a year for armaments – that’s all too much. But it is not a tenth of the military spending of “God’s own Coutry”, the US, that together with the remaining NATO states spends more than 900 billion a year on armaments (see http: //www.luftpost-kl.de/luftpost-archiv/LP_16/LP02616_230216.pdf). The West, therefore, spends nearly half of all global military expenditures to project its power on the whole globe, and we should be unable to resist it – against a population that wants to sit it out and oversleep it, just because we have a chancellor who avoids any discussion and prevents the last opportunity to speak about it in parliament?

The Americans have about 600 military bases worldwide (see http://www.luftpost-kl.de/en/luftpost-archiv/LP_16/LP14817_120917.pdf), Russia has a single one – in Syria. Who has reason to be afraid of whom? In 1989, Michael Gorbachev made an honest offer to James Baker, the US representative (see https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Baker): after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and by dissolving NATO, Europe could be demilitarized from the Urals to the Atlantic coast.

Imagine that in the last 25 years we would have been able to convert the enormous efforts for armaments, to solve the real problems of this world – hunger, misery, the destruction of nature, illiteracy, epidemics, disease, whatever you want. The UN needs at least 4 billion as a permanent item for immediate disaster relief. Not even this item is available. Instead, the population is asked to personally help the disaster victims in Mexico, Haiti or elsewhere in the next 6 weeks or 2 months. People in an earthquake area need help immediately and not in 6 weeks, because then they are dead. Not even that is possible.

We hear that we must lead a global war against terror. Nelson Mandela has already said that for every terrorist killed 10 new terrorists will emerge, and that is true. In 2001, we had around 1,000 Al-Qaida members in Afghanistan, the IS now recruits up to 30,000 terrorists. And compare the deeds. When the IS has killed 10,000 people, that is a terrible number. But the Americans are responsible for over 2 million dead in the Middle East – since 1991 and then in 2003 in two long wars. Regarding the proportions the following sentence is correct: Terror is the war of the weak, but war is the terror of the strong, and this we must overcome.

Instead of listening to Gorbachev, Bush the Elder was pursuing the plan to extend NATO to the East and make the US a global hegemon. Since then, we have had one war after another: 1991 in Iraq, 1992 in Somalia, 1995 against Belgrade, 2001 in Afghanistan, 2003 in Iraq again, and then came Libya, Syria, and Mali – and we Germans were always somehow a part of it, approaching the reality of war bit by bit, under the header that we must take care of Africa, because we have an international responsibility. Indeed, Mrs Merkel and Mrs von der Leyen, we would have an international responsibility – in the fight against hunger and misery, but not with bombs and shells.

We are lied into one war after another (see http://www.luftpost-kl.de/luftpostarchiv/LP_16/LP14517_090917.pdf) and the killings of human beings are called “humanitarian interventions.” No humanitarian values can be defended by means of war. War is the negation of all values, and war destroys itself by its moral claim – through the use of means which are not acceptable in any civil context. What kind of logic is that?

Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote in the “Lamentation of Peace” in 1520: But when war comes, neither of the combating parties considers their own cause to be unjust. But then they fight each other to find out on the battlefield, like in a judgement of God, who is the stronger. And the owner of the worst murder weapons, because he was victorious in the slaughter of men, is to be the legal authority, which now announces, that his claim has always been right. This is absurd. Erasmus of Rotterdam said that half a millenium ago. When will we finally understand that war does not solve any problem, but can only increase all existing problems.

Instead of waging war, we should talk to each other. The idea of Gorbachev is really very old, and we should have followed only someone whom we did not want to believe at that time. One of the chief designers of the so-called Cold War since 1945 was Sir Winston Churchill. On May 10, 1953, Winston Churchill said in a moving speech, looking back on his whole time of office, shortly before his own death, that the Cold War must be ended. It is a tremendous waste of human, economic, military, cultural and political resources. It must be stopped so that we can win the future. The cold war is disastrous. This came from the man who was co-responsible for the Cold War that lasted more than 50 years.

We Germans, however, have been taught that we have to rearm – two years later, in 1955, so that we can learn all the terrible things, in order to maintain the “Balance of Power”, the mutual threat, and in order to never having to do what soldiers are supposed to do. We could avoid the killing of people, by forcefully threatening to kill people so that no one would dare to attack us. This moral construct was the initiation of the German lie to the Bundeswehr West.

One can seriously threaten only if one is willing to put the threat into practice if necessary. And we were, our rulers were. They considered atomic warfare to be feasible. They were ready to press the button in the Cuba Crisis of 1962. Several times it was close to disaster. And now we hear again that the 15,000 nuclear bombs of the Americans must be modernized so that they could be even better deployed, tactically more clever, and more precise (see http://www.luftpost-kl.de/luftpost-archiv/LP_16) /LP01016_220116.pdf), and they are to be stored in Buechel on German soil. This can only be answered with the highest disagreement. And we demand that the federal government itself finally takes up our voice of resistance. Mr Westerwelle as Foreign Minister was willing and able to ensure that Buechel was closed. Mrs. Merkel was not. In Atlantic loyality she had to follow the Americans into war. Who actually stops Mrs. Merkel?

Now even mainstream media like the Sueddeutsche Zeitung write that one must talk with North Korea. I ask you in which world we are, that hydrogen bombs have to be ignited, so that the mighty will be ready to talk to each other. It is Putin, who has proposed to the Americans that they and the South Koreans should cancel their military maneuvers and then demand that North Korea stops its development of nuclear weapons. Both would be equally important, and it even were North Korea’s secret intention to do just that.

Who still has an idea of how North Korea was burned under napalm from 1950 – in one of the most terrible, man-eating wars we had throughout the 20th century. There is a huge debt to be settled, but it is mostly silenced – apparently because we do not have to live with it.

The fact that we are installing missiles in the Baltics shows the madness of which our rulers are still afflicted. What happened in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, could have changed human consciousness once and for all: never more Hiroshima, never more Nagasaki! Instead, we turned the continuous threat of nuclear war into normality. We must stop being frightened by those in government.

We can say that we understand Cassandra of Troy. We are talking about all this, but who really listens to us, and what can we do personally? The next elections will pass, and we will see that everything will silently be consolidated behind the scenes and then go on.

As individuals we can do a lot, in our own environment and responsibility, among our friends, in conversations, in our own families, to consciously and firmly boycott Defense Minister von der Leyen’s program to put the Bundeswehr into the middle of society. She now sends her army officers to the schools to teach 16- and 18-year-old boys and girls that being a soldier is a profession. Former chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said that being a soldier was not a profession – he was right. Then he added that it was a duty; since he was fond of referring to Immanuel Kant, he should have been told that being a soldier is never a duty, it is always forbidden, because morality must always determine political action, but politics never morality.

200 years ago, Immanuel Kant already formulated clearly that, as long as more armes were produced, war was being prepared and that already the costs of the war were criminal, considering the resulting injustice and suffering. It is absurd to want to make peace in this way, for where the one documents his war readiness by means of armaments, the neighboring state or the targeted potential enemy will do just the same. And he will have to arm himself even more than the other, because only the superior power will survive on the battlefield.

War will continue to escalate. The Prussian military strategist Clausewitz was right: A war has in itself the tendency to go to infinity, if it is not inhibited by external factors. We are here to inhibit already the preparation of war, as long as we can talk and think. We say, stop it – stop armements, stop the preparation of war and stop to produce readiness for war in the minds of 16 and 18 year-olds.

And so we say Mrs. von der Leyen: Being a soldier is not a profession like any other. It is possible that you do not worry about the slaughtering conditions in the slaughterhouses on the outskirts of the big cities when buying a sausage. It is also possible that the population is dulled in such a way that it finally believes that security comes from far-away measures, which it hardly sees and should not notice, but which are bloodthirsty enough and unacceptable, if one could see them. And we are here, to make as conscious as possible what it means to be a soldier.

It is the opposite of what a citizen should be. It is the born schizophrenia, because war does not defend culture, it contradicts it in everything. Everything that is stigmatized as prohibited and criminal in civil life is, in the war, the trained execution of given orders, which should lead to victory. In the year 220 in North Afrika bishop Cyprian writes: Uncover the roofs of the houses of this world, and you see the world dripping with blood, for if an individual murders another individual, then it is a crime, but if someone murders hundreds on the order of the state, then it is commendable, and he is honored for it. This is what it means to be a soldier: protected by the collective space, having to do things which under normal conditions could not originate in any private will.

A return to the Stone Age – that’s the meaning of becoming a soldier, and that is why the training on the barracks yard is necessary. In Stanley Kubrick’s film “Full Metal Jacket”, this is clearly analyzed. The drill-sergeant must crush the personal conscience and cry it down. From now on, he is the authority – not a pastor, not a pope, no own father, no one. He commands. “That’s an order!” And there is no discussion about the rightness of the command, the soldier’s only responsibility is the correct execution of the command. “Well, if I tell you, you’re going to kill everyone on the hill, then you will kill them. We’ll make you professional killers.” Watch Stanley Kubrick’s movie “Full Metal Jacket”, the first half hour, the preparation for the Vietnam War. Permanently dehumanised people, who only move like humans. They are ready to kill, and this readiness can be called upon at any time. The civilized behavior was extinguished by the drill on the barracks yard. This is called obedience.

In 1947, the Americans themselves have criminalized this blind obedience in the Nuremberg trial. All the Nazi grandees had the excuse, that they were only following orders. And the American prosecutors have correctly held against it: This does not settle your guilt. You have abandoned your conscience, your personality; entering the Valhalla of your history you have exchanged it for the steel helmet. You have only thought what was ordered. What kind of human beings were you, that you voluntarily dehumanized yourself? The Americans, however, have never applied the Nuerenberg principles, which they had created, to themselves.

In 1995, Guenter Jauch asked the bomber pilot Charles Sweeney (who had dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki) in his television broadcast: “Mister Sweeney, you were barely 20 years old and have killed more than 100,000 people, more than anyone else before, except for your mate Major Eatherly three days earlier. What happened within you? ” Sweeney’s casual reply is unforgettable: “Command is command, every soldier of the world would have done the same.” And in this respect Sweeney was right.

There is something else: our own cause is in principle always the good one. Why does America have to dig herself into the vacuum countries of the old Soviet Union with the eastern expansion of NATO? Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, now also Georgia, the military exercises in the Baltics and so on. Ukraine really was occupied by the color revolution, in preparation is the separation of Belarus and its capital Minsk from the Russian Federation. It shall never stop. This does not serve peace, it only increases the suffering of the inhabitants of these regions.

As Europeans, we can only say that the Americans should stop expanding their power game on our backs, at our expense, on our skin and our bones. In addition there is an absolutely simplified world view: We are the good ones and those on the other side are evil. In order to be able to kill people in series, they should no longer be human beings. The BILD newspaper describes them as monsters, beasts, vermin, madmen, or something similar, and that they are to be “abolished”. According to the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama “they understand only the language of violence”. Anyone who seriously believes this can only kill. The less of the evil survive, the better the world seems to be. But by doing this we ourselves are becoming more and more evil, and we must resist such a development and protect our children.

Philip Zimbardo has written a book “The Lucifer Effect”. This is exactly what it means. We are trying to drive the devil out of the earth and bomb him back into hell. But the result is the reverse, we turn the whole earth into hell and ourselves into devils. For we teach people that it is right to execute orders which are directed against our enemies. But our enemies would not be our enemies, if we would talk to them and try to understand them. For every man and every woman is the normal way of reconciliation, why should this not be possible between states?

Erich Maria Remarque wrote in his book All Quiet on the Western Front that six weeks of military drills were enough that we were ready to crawl in the mud for every former postman, and to do everything he said. We are no longer human beings, we are wild beasts, we have become murderers.

Anyone who quotes Tucholsky and says “Soldiers are murderers” can be accused as an enemy of the constitution, because the Bundeswehr (German army) is a constitutional body. Our demand is to finally dissolve the army. It is completely superfluous. We would have no natural enemies if we were to use the entire military budget to serve the interests that people actually have when they want to live. However, as long as we sponsor the war for the armaments industry – as a battering ram of an inhuman economic order, for the expansion of capitalism and to get access to raw materials and trade routes, for a policy of regime change, which installs presidents in Third World countries – this is all a mixture of cynical brutality and an expansion of power that does not deserve the name of humanity at all. It does not save the future, but only repeats the past. It brings the Stone Age into the present and prevents everything that represents our hope for the future.

I recall a lecture titled “Why Greek?”, which was sponsored by Mrs. von der Leyen via the professional association of classical scholars in Lower Saxony. She sat in the front row, and I took the opportunity to present the usefulness of ancient Greek in the context of our topic. Read Euripides. In the Peloponnesian War, which took place in the last third of the fifth century (BC), Athens and Sparta lost their historical role. The murdering raged for thirty years. And many are still inspired by the heroes whom Homer extols: Agamemnon, Odysseus and Achill as great examples. Alexander the Great slept with Homer’s Iliad under his pillow.

It is Euripides, who in the midst of the madness in his tragedy “The Trojans” merely changes the perspective. He looks at the war not from the perspective of the heroes but from the perspective of the victims, the women and children. Astyanax, the little son of Andromache is crushed against the city wall, so that from the house of the Trojan king Priamos no successor can come that could threaten the Greeks. Polyxena (daughter of Priamos)) is slaughtered, so that her blood may soothe the evil spirit of Achilles. Andromache herself is taken away into slavery. Kassandra, the seeing and knowing, the heroine of Agamemnon, is carried along to Mycenae.

All the horror, the suffering of the children, the suffering of the women, is it ever seen when there is talk about war? Three quarters of all victims are children, women, and old people. And then they want to celebrate the victory – with parades, which go from New York to Los Angeles through the whole country and last longer than the whole war “Desert Storm” (against Iraq) in 1991. After the war the conscience of the murderers has to be cleaned and they must be taken back into the lap of the applauding population. The public’s behaviour is schizophrenic as well. It has not won, it has betrayed everything that people could consider as a victory. It walked over dead bodies for a goal which became ever more unattainable, if it had ever been peace, humanity, and justice.

In our digital education campaign, Euripides is unlikely to be read. Therefore, I recommend that in German lessons we remember an author of whom the literary critic Reich-Ranicki said that he was no relevant any more. In fact, he is more relevant than ever – because of the reopening of the so-called Cold War, because of the renewed preparations for a nuclear war, because of the transformation of the whole world into a battlefield. In 1947 Wolfgang Borchert dies in Basel, author of the play “The Man Outside”, a man who sees the world only through the glasses of his gas mask of the Second World War. And he does not understand what has been done to him and how he will continue, and that the generals are already successful again, and that the war profiteers already loll in their comfortable chairs. The lung-sick Wolfgang Borchert left us a testament. He can really only speak to us, through the voice we give him – imploring, pleading, appealing: Mother in Ukraine, mother in Germany, when they come back and tell you to give birth to children, boys for the trenches , girls for hospitals, mothers in Ukraine, mothers in Germany, say NO! Man at the workbench, when they come back and tell you to produce guns and hand-grenades instead of cookware and water-pipes, man at workbench, say NO! And researchers in the lab, when they come back and tell you, you should discover the new death for the old life, man in the lab, say NO!

And because we are in a church of reconciliation, and we know that we still have military pastors who want to teach us that the responsibility of the Germans is the (renewed) readiness to lead international wars, then we answer those with the last sentence from Borchert’s testament : Pastors in the pulpit, when they come back, and tell you to bless the weapons and to speak the sacred, the man in the pulpit say NO, for if you do not say NO, we will go all worse than ever. And we must prevent this together!

Because we are here in a church of reconciliation, and we know that there are still military chaplains who want to teach us that it is the responsibility of the Germans to be again ready to go to war, therefore we answer with the last sentence of Borchert’s testament: Pastors at the pulpit, when they come back and tell you to bless the weapons and to sanctify war, man at the pulpit say NO, for if you do not say NO, everything will go on worse than ever. And we must prevent this together!

[long applause]

I wanted to make a political, humane speech, but with so much applause in a church I dare to express what I wanted to say fundamentally. The man from Nazareth is absolutely right with his message: peace does not come by the superiority of the stronger, that would be peace as capitulation, as the world gives it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “When I enter Jerusalem, I will not give you your peace as the world gives it.” As the first measure, peace requires unilateral disarmement. Entering Jerusalem, Jesus speaks the for me most beautiful words on our subject. It is at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount: “Fortunate, I dare to call the people who undertake to remain defenseless in the midst of this world, for only they have the means to prepare peace.” To be read in Matthew 5 and valid for all time.

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