1st draft August 1, 2003
THE MEANING OF VIOLENCE TO MEANING
Andre Gunder Frank
There is No Civilization, Much less are there CivilizationS
Saving Civilization, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush
keep claiming to be doing, is an oxymoron. To begin with, what they really mean is WESTERN
civilization. Of that, Gandhi already said a half century ago, that its mere existence
would be a good idea. Only a few years before that, Hitler claimed that his invasion of
Russia was to save Western Civilization. That cost the Russians 40 million lives and the
Jews 6 million. Today, as in Vietnam a generation ago, the government of the United States
and its allies' effort to ''save" civilization is DESTROYING it, or at least its most
precious legacy: The body of International Law that grew up over the centuries and the
International Institutions like the United Nations that were created after the Second
World War to prevent repetition of it and other indiscriminate slaughter of man by man
[much less by women!]. Yet in the past decades, at any one time there have been at least
ten - mostly civil - wars going on at any one time around the world.
And the United States has already started the Third World War. Former CIA Director James
Woolsey, in a recent speech in Los Angeles, said: "The Iraq campaign is really just
the start of the Third World War and one that may well last for decades."[ http://www.americanfreepress.net/06_29_03/Global_War_L
ooms_/global_war_looms]. But he is a decade behind the times. In 1991, I pointed out
that the FIRST US war Against Iraq was already the beginning of the THIRD WORLD WAR, of
which the present and two intermediate ones are only the continuation and escalation.
Third World War in two senses, one in that it follows the first and second, and another in
that it is directed AGAINST AND FOUGHT IN THE THIRD WORLD [ http://rrojasdatabank.info/agfrank/nato_kosovo/msg00080.h
It is the refusal both in theory and in practice - and of both in language - to accept the
fact of our common social life that can then find expression in '' we are God's chosen
people,'' '' this land is mine and has been so since forever, and ''ethnic cleansing.''
*Hitler declared in MEIN KAMPF "I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our
Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work." *Soldiers of the
Wehrmacht wore belt buckles inscribed with the following: "Gott mit uns" (God is
with us). *Jesus prayers became mandatory in all schools under [Hitler's] administration.
Sound familiar? It should, because according to the new Palestinain Prime Minister Abbas,
Bush told him : "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he
instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the
problem in the Middle East." [http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/images/0.gif].
In the meantime, the Israelis are working full time, with continued Washington support, on
their own ''final solution,'' first the WALL to separate the Palestinians out, and then to
STARVE and THIRST [by denying them their water supply] them out, and finally to THROW them
out altogether - ETHNIC CLEANSING to the n-th degree, all in the name of being GOD'S
CHOSEN PEOPLE with THE LAND ALLOCATED TO THEM - by the BIBLE!
We are indeed living in confusing and dangerous times. Two buzz words go around the world
these days. One is GLOBALIZATION - as though that only started a few years ago. That
widespread opinion leads to equally widespread confusion and misguided political practice.
The second and related widely used term is that of ''civilization'' or worse distinct
"''civilizations" and ''cultures'' or ''ethnicities," which allegedly are
age-old or even God given. For instance, the UN declared 2001 as the Year of Dialogue of
Civilizations and the United Nations University organized a major international conference
in Tokyo, which I attended. My thesis was that there are and never have been NO distinct
and even less pristine civilizations [plural]. These terms are also confusing and even
dangerous, particularly since the events of September 11, 2001.'Civilization'' [singular]
came into use to distinguish it from ''barbarism" and the social evolution . The
notion of distinct major "civilizations" has become popular especially since the
nineteenth century, to distinguish one from another, and especially ''The West" from
''The Rest" - to use Samuel Huntington's terms in his widely successful THE CLASH OF
CIVILIZATIONS [1993, 1999]. Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain never tires of declaring
that he and US President Bush , who has also used the same term, are defending
''civilization" [singular and a barely disguises reference to WESTERN civilization]
through the use of advanced technology airplanes and bombs, but also depleted uranium and
cluster bombs, dropped on the poor, and the accompanying Big Brother ''WAR IS PEACE"
propaganda and obfuscation, indeed downright lies. One, as important as it is hardly
noted, is the abrogation of one of the greatest achievements of civilization:
international law and its codification and institutionalization a half century ago at the
Nuremberg Trials, the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations et al - be it noted ALL
brought into being by the very big powers who are now destroying them. Those who do not
command these military and world media weapons, have recourse instead instead to 'poor
man's weapons'' of car bombs, suicide bombers, machetes, and ''ethnic cleansing." Now
- but by the major powers already also for decades - the dialogue seems to be the use of
the former by the rich against the poor in Vietnam and countless other instances.
To claim that different civilizations did and still do exist is not only historically and
scientifically confusing but also dangerous. The call, attempt, and claim to compare
civilizations is misguided and therefore misleading. Even if it were possible to identify
and compare civilizations, which it is not because they do not exist, the very attempt to
do so only evades and confuses the issue. For instance former Soviet Premier Mikhail
Gorbachev in his address to the UN already in 1988 called for ''unity in diversity.''
Apparently, the UN did not listen very well, since instead it is still today going on
about non-existing separate civilizations. Alas, this problem with comparisons and applies
not only to non-existent civilizations, but also to societies, cultures, ethnicities and
especially races. Apart from the tendency and danger of attributing and comparing
characteristics that they do not in fact have, the very comparative method must lead to
misleading results when it is applied to units or entities that are supposed to have
always been or be separate. In reality however, all have been and still are so related to
each other that some of their supposedly separate characteristics in fact RESULT FROM
THEIR RELATION itself and/or from some influence that is common to them both or all. All
social life is characterized by such relations, connections, and commonalities throughout
world history. Moreover, before we can useful ly distinguish differences, let alone
understand which differences really make a difference, we need to identify the connections
and commonalities from which to distinguish any differences.
Everywhere in the world today, ethnic politics is increasingly replacing or at least
masking ideological, class, and even international politics. Those who invoke an alleged
ethnic, cultural or civilizational difference and uniqueness - and often superiority - to
support their political practice, and even populist politics, mostly do so in defense of
their own narrow interests against those of much more widespread popular ones. The
evocation of ethnicity, culture and civilization as the proper basis of politics not only
flies in the face of all world and even ''national'' historical reality. It is itself, as
the plague of post-modernism also is, the result of the global reality and forces whose
existence and legitimacy it seeks to deny. That can easily be demonstrated by a
materialist analysis of WHY these ideational forces are now so widespread. Others and I
have done so elsewhere.
The Meaning of Violence
If there is any civilization, surely one of its most important and precious fruits and
legacies are the norms against wantonly killing each other. Cannibalism has mostly but not
entirely disappeared, but man killing man continues both privately and socially, and the
means for doing so are even multiplied manifold and technically refined: from atomic to
hydrogen bombs - and now the US project to develop battlefield nuclear weapons; implosion
bombs that suck out all oxygen; depleted uranium munitions that spread nuclear poison and
contaminate the land for generations to come; one ton daisy cutters and cluster bombs that
spread shrapnel over wide areas and also remain for children to pick up later; and on and
on. Yet all of these have been declared illegal under international law, and we would be a
step ahead if it were respected and invoked. But it is not. The US and NATO in particular
wantonly violate these laws. World War I was fought ''to end all wars, " and the
League of Nations was founded to make that come true. After the League of Nations failed
to prevent World War II, the United Nations and its Security Council were established - by
the allied victors ! - to prevent recurrence again. Since that time there have been
hundreds of wars, mostly in the Third World South and many of them sponsored by the North.
Now the North, and most particularly the United States, is systematically violating
international law and deliberately destroying the United Nations. In the war against
Yugoslavia, NATO led by the United States deliberately by-passed the entire United Nations
Organization and set aside the consultative procedures it, and especially its Security
Council, offers for the discussion and settlement of international disputes in particular
those that may threaten the peace. However, even if the NATO states had 'consulted' the
Security Council, as Secretary General Kofi Annan belatedly requested, any Security
Council 'sanction' of member state bombing would still have been in abject violation of
numerous articles [2, 3, 27, 41, 42, 51] of the UN Charter, as was the bombing of Iraq in
1991 and again in 1999, when the Security Council was not even consulted.
In addition to that, this NATO action is in direct violation of the precedent and
decisions for international law established by
- the still valid Kellog Briand Pact against war of 1928
- the Nuremberg Tribunal of 1945-8
- Helsinki Agreement establishing- OSCE and its deliberations - UN definition and
prohibition of 'aggression' against a sovereign [member] state
-Vienna convention of 1979 declaring illegal all treaties and agreements signed under
[military] duress -several of the Geneva Conventions of 1948 and 1949 on -- human rights
-- genocide -- unnecessary targeting of civilians and their infrastructure - the US
Constitution - the German Constitution - other NATO countries' constitutions and laws and
on and on ---
Without trying to be exhaustive, it may be illuminating to take a brief look at least at
some of the relevant Nuremberg principles and Geneva conventions:
The U.N. Geneva Convention on Genocide of 1948 states the following in its Article 2:
"In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with
intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as
such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to
members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing
measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children
of the group to another group.
At Nuremberg, of all crimes, that of starting a war was judged to be the worst.
"Three categories of offenses were regarded as punishable crimes under international
law: (a) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: (i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of war of
aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances; (ii)
Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts
mentioned under (i). (b) WAR CRIMES: Violation of the laws or customs of war, which
include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or
for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or
ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of
public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or
devastation not justified by military necessity. - (c) CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: -Murder,
extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian
population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are
done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime
against peace or any war crime." [from Richard A. Falk, A Global Approach to National
Policy. Harvard University Press, 1975, p. 149].
Moreover the Nuremberg Tribunal established clearly that the responsibility for these
crimes is PERSONAL:
"Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and
only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international
law be enforced.Hitler could not make aggressive war by himself. He had to have the
cooperation of statesmen, military leaders, diplomats and businessmen.When they, with
knowledge of his aims, gave him their cooperation, they made themselves parties to the
plan he had initiated. They are not to be deemed innocent because Hitler made use of them,
if they knew what they were doing"
Accordingly, all of NATO political leaders [heads of government, foreign and 'defense'
ministers] and its chief military personnel were accused of war crimes by several groups
of jurists from Canada, Greece, UK, Norway, and the US itself. They filed detailed legal
briefs with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICT-Y] in The
Hague accusing more than 60 people by name of long lists of specific war crimes and other
crimes against humanity. These Jurists have asked that the ICT-Y indict not only Yugoslavs
but also NATO leaders of war crimes, and some have traveled to the Hague and have had
personal interviews about the same with the ICT-Y Chief Prosecutor Arbour. She said she
would look into the matter. Her successor Xx said there was nothing to look into!
However. the aggressive NATO war against Yugoslavia was in total violation even of its own
principles as a purely DEFENSIVE alliance with a NATO Charter that reads in part:
The Parties undertake, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, to settle any
international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner
that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in
their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent
with the purposes of the United Nations.
Therefore, this first time ever quite unprovoked NATO aggression sets very important and
dangerous precedents in that - it violated the above cited NATO and UN Charters, Nuremberg
principles, Geneva Conventions, etc. - it was against a sovereign state - it was 'out of
area' of the NATO alliance itself
All of these statutes were again violated in the US War against Afghanistan and against
Iraq, and of course the United Nations was again circumvented.
The Violence to Meaning
In other words, the Orwellian WAR IS PEACE policy ''saves'' civilization by destroying its
most valuable fruits. And NewSpeak has reached dimensions that Orawell could not even
imagine for 1984. Since this book is also about the meaning of violence, it may be
appropriate to point out some violence that is now being done to meaning.
Orwellian Newspeak Made Easy to keep on top of current events as reported by Washington.
Here is a handy list of key terms, translated into plain English.
Liberation - Invasion and military Occupation and Rule Coalition - The U.S. and British
invaders, plus some troops from rent-a-nations like Romania and Poland, which used to be
Dictator - A ruler you don't like, or who does not cooperate. Statesman - A cooperative
Stability - when things go the way Uncle Sam likes, ie., the status quo. Instability -
when things don't go the way Uncle Sam wants, Iraq reconstruction - a process whereby big
firms that contribute to the president's re-election campaign obtain contracts to rebuild
the damage caused by U.S. bombing.
Mideast democracy - regimes that hold rigged elections and obey Washington's orders.
Free trade - pouring goods and services into the newly "liberated" country, and
buying up its key industrial assets at fire-sale prices. It used to be called
Terrorism - violent acts by dangerous fanatics and malcontents who refuse to accept the
downtrodden status assigned to them by Washington.
Anti-terrorism - State terrorism.
Iraq Administrator - A pro-consul or gaulieter, disguised as a minor suburban bureaucrat.
Vans of death - Claimed by Washington to be Iraqi mobile germ warfare laboratories, but
turn out, on inspection, to be British-supplied trucks for inflating weather balloons.
Weapons of Mass Destruction - Nasty weapons, existing or non-existing, that the other side
has. When your side has them, they become invisible.
Torture - a foul act committed by your enemies. When your side does it, it's called
intensive interrogation in Guantanamo.
Homeland security - bolting the barn door after the horse has escaped by rounding up
Muslims and denying them due process of law.
French - Insubordinate ingrates
Germans - Untrustworthy.
Canadians - A bunch of pot-smoking, pinko, wimp nancy boys who refuse to obey [a very few]
orders from the Great White Father in Washington.
Islam - An evil faith that promotes violence and hatred, as proven by the Rev. Jimmy
Swaggart, who learned about the agents of the devil while encountering them in motel
Fox News - The Ministry of Truth.
Al-Jazeera News - All the bad news we don't want to hear. See Fox News. Die-hards and
Saddam loyalists - Any Iraqis opposing the invasion of their country.
Traitors and friends of Saddam - Journalists who questioned the Bush Administration's
lurid claims over Iraq's purported threat.
Moderate - A Mideastern ruler who toes the line and makes nice to Israel.
Peacekeepers - Troops from browbeaten or bribed vassal states sent to perform garrison
duty in U.S.-occupied nations that the Pentagon wants to avoid, or lacks the troops to
New Iraqi government - An august body that leaps to its feet when a U.S. soldier enters
the room, and has total authority over garbage collection and sewers.
Saddam Hussein - A former close American ally who got too big for his britches.
[adapted from By ERIC MARGOLIS -- Contributing Foreign Editor http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/margolis_jul27.html
The Meaning of the New World Order of Violence
All this and much more NewSpeak of course does violence to accustomed meaning, but it
seems to be an essential component of the NEW WORLD ORDER. President George Bush father
coined the term a in 1991 as a name for what he was trying to do with his War Against
Iraq. Was it historical amnesia that failed to recall who used the very self-same term to
describe an earlier geo-political ambition? - Adolf Hitler! The Clinton Doctrine continued
to work on the same American project, notably with the NATO War Against Yugoslavia. It was
mis-called the Kosovo war, especially inasmuch as it was militarily directed against
Yugoslavia and politically against Russia and was accompanied by the US sponsored
expansion of NATO eastward: New, ex-Warsaw Pact members were ushered into NATO, and for
the first time and in contravention with its own Charter NATO undertook both offensive
military action and did so out of area. NATO extended its power and military action
south-eastward toward the sources of oil and the existing and potential pipe-lines to
carry it. [One of the latter happens to be the valley that runs parallel to the
Kosovo/Macedonia border, through which a line would be run from the Black to the Adreatic
Sea]. An additional related effect, if not purpose, of the NATO War was to help foreclose
European independence from the US and to maintain and extend US geo-political power in
Europe and world-wide.
President George Bush son is now working over time to continue to build up and extend the
NEW WORLD ORDER that his father started to construct in 1991. But Bush the younger is
extending this order not only geographically but also programatically through a
combination of complete unilateralism [never mind the allies and even NATO, literally not
to mention the UN] and you're either with us or against us plain English blackmail. The
words are the same as the ones John Foster Dulles used in the early Cold War. But then
those against us were left under the umbrellas of the Soviet Union and China. Now against
us INCLUDES Russia and China among those subjected to US political economic blackmail -
and, along with a half a dozen other rouge states, American nuclear threat as per Pentagon
planning recently publicized by the press. At home in the meantime, the people are
encouraged to show pride to be an American while, as Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich
(D-Ohio) wrote, the Bill of Rights is being abrogated and the Constitution dismantled.
A critical analysis of this NEW WORLD ORDER under construction is offered in the opening
chapters of EMPIRE by Hardt & Negri, published by Harvard University Press in 2000,
which argues that the entire world is now imperial per se in which the US occupies a
position of priviledge, which includes that of re-defining the ethical and legal standards
of good and evil to be imposed on one and all. More significantly still is the formation
of an active group of rigth wing policy makers and opinion leaders [the usual suspects
from the most dangerous wing of the Reagan and Bush administrations plus some younger
converts] in Washington DC who argue that the United States is de facto THE IMPERIALIST
POWER in the world today, so that it should accept that fact, make proud of the label and
carry out its imperial/ist responsibilities to the full extent of its abilities, which are
and should be far greater still than those of the only "hesitant" Bush doctrine.
So far, the most visible international part of this NEW WORLD ORDER has been the US Wars
Against Afghanistan and then Iraq. Its real purpose and pursuit should have come as no
surprise. The Clinton administration had already taken many important steps to extend
American influence and power through the Caspian Sea and Central Asian region under the
Orwellian NewSpeak A Partnership for Peace. US planning, both political and military, for
a War Against Afghanistan was well under way long before the events of September 11, 2001
offered legitimation for the same. Under cover of this war, the US established new
military positions and political alliances not only in Afghanistan itself, but also in a
half dozen neighboring states in Central Asia in which the US has brokered an at least
temporary agreement to share power with Russia B and to encircle China now also from the
West, as still in the East, including newly again in the Philippines and elsewhere.
The same goes for the Second War Against Iraq, which the Policy for a New American Century
under the spiritual guidance of Paul Wolfowitz of Arabia [now Nr. Two in the Pentagon]
Began to plan no sooner was the First War Against Iraq finished. Actually, it never
finished; since the self-established ''No Fly Zones" continued to be bombed by UK and
US planes; and the embargo killed about 1 million innocent people, mostly children In Iraq
since then. When it had so far killed only half a million, the then US Secretary of State
said publicly that it ''it was worth it."
So, the NEW WORLD ORDER is the name of the game on its world-wide scale if we are to
accept its baptism by President Bush father. In Central and Inner Asia, it is to pursue
the same BIG GAME twenty-first-century style that then Great Britain and Russia already
fought over the Eurasian heartland MacKinder.and Huntington already identified it as the
region from which to dominate the world and its Pulse as the measure of global
geo-politics a century ago. In his 1997 book on the Global Chessboard, Zigniew Brezinski
did so again for the present and future. [http://www.cfr.org/public/resource.cgi?pers!1446].
Suitable pretexts came to hand or were made up easily a century ago as they are again now
to legitimize such policy - so long as they are not examined for more than a minute. In
1991 the pretext was violation of sovereignty; in 1999 protection of human rights; and in
2001-2 combating terrorism. No matter that on the record, it has been and continues to be
US policy and praxis more than anyone elses to violate sovereignty [what else the
Yugoslavia policy?] and human rights and to support terrorism around the world [against
Palestinians by Israel, Kurds by Turkey, Arabs by Saudi Arabia, by all the new US
supported governments in Central Asia, not to mention by US allied and puppet regimes
around the world during the past half century and longer]. World-wide condemnation of
present US policy is manifest in countless resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly
and increasingly by critiques of even the closest US allies in Europe. In the United
States, to name only two former public personalities, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark
[and even Henry Kissinger ], and former President Jimmy Carter has oft been publicly
critical of US foreign policy and publicly opposed the War Against Yugoslavia.. An
important statement in that regard by President Carter is posted on my web page
csf.colorado.edu/agfrank/ New World Order section.