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This time I would like to tell you about a new project as well as send last night's
ZNet Sustainer commentary on a remarkable historical moment in War's Practice,
included at the end of this message, from ZNet Commentator Andrea Noll. To find out
more about theZNet Sustainer Commentary Program, as always, check
The project we want to introduce you to with this message, however, is called The
NewStandard. It was initially conceived by Brian Dominick and Jessica Azulay, both of
whom are ZNet Commentators and of course Brian has been involved with ZNet doing all
kinds of work since ZNet's inception.
The New Standard aims to provide daily diverse news reporting from around the world
plus tools to interactactively relate to the on-site content and to other users.
Really, the only way to assess the effort is to look at the project online...and that
is easy enough. Just go to http://newstandardnews.net/ and look around. Like any new
project, they need your eyes, and your support, in order to fulfill their promise. So
give them a chance -- visit and explore -- we think you will like what you find.
Class war / Christmas Truce
Germans to the front! We're at it again: 3 340 'Bundeswehr' soldiers stationed in
Kosovo (Nato-KFOR), 1 330 in Bosnia-Herzegowina (Nato-SFOR, (in 2004 EU-command?)), a
few dozen in Macedonia (EU operation 'Concordia' and Nato HQ Skopje), more than 2 000
in Kabulistan and Kunduz (UN/Nato operation ISAF). 200 German troops in support of
ISAF in Usbekistan. Several hundred Germans as part of operation "Enduring Freedom" at
the Horn of Africa, in the Gulf of Oman, and in Kenya. And finally 230 Germans in the
Eastern Mediterrian (Nato's "Active Endeavor").
The newly established Nato Response Force (NRF) - decided November 2002 at the Nato
Summit in Prague for "humanitarian crisis intervention" worldwide - has already 9 000
troops under command. Germany is to contribute one of the biggest single contingents -
1/4 of all troops. The buildup is to be completed till autumn 2006 (21 000 soldiers).
So, while Germany, as other European countries, officially abstains from the war in
Iraq we're part of America's wars "against terror" in many places all over the world -
under the command of EU, Nato (or UN/Nato, as in Kabulistan and surrounding warlord
countries, formerly known as Afghanistan).
Meanwhile Bigger EU is busy creating "Nato independent military structures" and again
we Germans ("Germany is to be defended at the Hindukusch", says German Defense
Minister Wolfgang Struck) play an important part. In 2004 the European Union will
establish its own massive Rapid Reaction Force - "for rescue and humanitarian
intervention". It's supposed to operate independent from Nato and its centers of
command. In December 2003 the EU Summit rubber-stamped ESS, the European Union's new
security strategy paper, or 'Solana Doctrine' (no, not the Bush-Wolfowitz-Doctrine,
but there are resemblances).
André Brie, member of the EU Parliament (for the German leftist party PDS) noted:
"The new "security strategy" was officially confirmed in Brussels. It's not about
crisis prevention or efficient development aid nor is it about a stabilizing
diplomacy. It's merely about rebuilding Europe ... into a military power capable of
"robust" intervention worldwide, and this explicitly not against Nato and the US but
with them - in order to enact American world interests" ('Freitag', December 19,
And there's the planned European Satellite Navigation System Galileo, supposed to
render Europe independent from American GPS. Will it open the (military) stargates to
us? Is it an important step forward for two-paced Europe? Will we eventually become
independent from Nato and adventurous U.S. (and, yes, there's ESA's blind hound dog
(Beagle 2) on Mars - the Roman God of War)?
Mainstream media want to sell us Galileo and EU's socalled "independent military
structures" as our splendid way to (military) self determination. "Emancipation" and
"independence" are terms favouritely used to sweeten to us the bitter pill of immense
costs for 'Secure Europe in a Better World' (rather Insecure Europe in an ever more
Endangered Imperialistic-Globalised World) (1).
But don't let yourself be fooled. André Brie's perfectly right. EU's new military
forces will be but auxiliary armies for the U.S. - to be quickly integrated in Nato
structures in case of need. And Galileo? Better read the smallprint of our proud
starraker's project. The US Administration has already worked out a deal with EU, that
in case of military necessity America is to close down our (civil) stargate Galileo
whenever it chooses - which would leave more than one European driver or rescue team
in the dark. The U.S. is in high command - no matter, what Europeans decide.
"Behind the maze of field trenches, in which working men and employees shot down each
other while their bosses made good profits by it..."(2)
Europe's military buildup is class warfare. It's a war against Europe's working people
who pay the price - and not only in Euro or Pound. The ever growing costs for the
buildup of a military infrastructure on a supranational EU-level, and for transforming
our (defensive) national armies into (aggressive) reaction forces will swallow our
European welfare states.
And it's "lower class" soldiers from Germany, France, Italy or Britain to return in
the bodybags - not Defense Ministers or EU strategic planners like Mr. Solana. It's
the young 'Zeitsoldat' to step on a landmine in Kosovo, it's Gefreiter Schmidt or
Müller who gets killed in an ambush in Kabul.
It's ordinary people of the Jessica Lynch type that pay the price for our Governments'
wargames - as it's ordinary Afghans or Iraqis who pay the price of war, not the
warlords. Ordinary people in Europe - as the people of the U.S., of Russia or Israel -
must understand, and understand quick: No matter who the officially declared enemy,
they will be among the victims. So, instead of playing 'universal soldier' we must
join in an 'universal peace camp' and overrun our warmongers.
In Israel the Refusenik movement and the rebelling elite troops are an encouraging
sign. In the U.S. and allied countries doubts about the "war on terror" seem to rise.
And Russians have learned in a bloody lesson that their war on Czechenia has opened
Pandora's box. People in the EU have yet to learn: The new militaristic buildup won't
make their continent any securer or more independent, but it sure will make us all
poorer - and not only morally.
Christmas Truce 1914
"O German mother dreaming by the fire, While you are knitting socks to send your son
His face is trotten deeper in the mud".(3)
World War I 1914 on the Western Front. It's the first year of war. On both sides
soldiers live in trenches - trenches, inch-high filled with freezing water. Fleas and
lice and attacking rats, a ceaseless, penetrating rain from above. "Poor soldiers
never die, they just fade away", as Woody Guthrie once sang. Rations for normal
soldiers are lousy, the troops - the German occupiers of Belgium and Northern France
on one side, and Belgian, British and French defenders on the other all share the same
conditions: cold, hunger, 'black feet', pneumonia, and officers that force them to
suicidal attacks across the fenced 'Nomansland' between the trenches.
Christmas Eve 1914 saw a strange phenomenon in many parts of the Western Front
(stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border). It often started with the singing
of German Christmas carols. "More, more", shouted the deadly foe across Nomansland.
"Encore, encore!" or "Well, done, Fritzens!" Sometimes, British, more rarely, French
or Belgian, troops joined in the chorus from the other side. Suddenly lights flared up
on top of the trenches on the German side - like a string of pearls. Was it a cheap
trick of the "huns"? It was "like the footlights of a theatre" one British soldier
wrote home. "We not shoot, you not shoot!" shouted the Germans, or held up signs. And
they meant it. Not a single shot fell.
So started what later became renown as the Christmas Truce or Little Truce.
It was a big one though, the decision of many, many hundred thousand, mostly ordinary
rank and file, soldiers to rebel peacefully against war. Though it was a spontaneous,
unorganised act, it spread quickly. Various sectors of the Western Front saw the same
phenomenon. Soldiers getting up from behind their save trenches - cautiously, with
hands held up, to show they were unarmed.
When the other side, with whom they had exchanged deadly fire for so many months,
didn't shoot, they started moving ahead towards Nomansland. In some cases the impulse
came from German soldiers carrying little Christmas trees (a custom unknown in other
countries then) with lamps shining from them. When the first Christmas day dawned
soldiers on both sides of the divide came out of the trenches on a massive scale and
joined their fellow enemies in Nomansland. Their first duty was to bury the dead of
this senseless 'Stellungskrieg' (static warfare) (4) sometimes lying there unburied
In some cases befoed soldiers buried the bodies together and not all of the dead were
Christians. On the British side many Common Wealth Soldiers - as they were called -
fought for a British Empire that held their own countries occupied. Colourful ribbons
of dead Indish soldiers' turbans blew in the chilling wind. December 25th saw a cold,
clear day on the Western Front. After having buried their dead, the young men -
enemies - communicated, using hands and feet, exchanged what little food they had,
pipes, cigarettes, helmets, in some cases even played soccer.
Ypern saw a real soccer match between German Saxons and a Scottish Highlanders team.
That they had more in common with those sick, hungry, frustrated guys on the other
side of Nomansland than with their own commanders in safe, warm Qatar Headquarter
(pardon, just a slip of tongue) was a lesson they all had learned during those weeks
and months in the trenches. So, they made war on war. For their commanders and
monarchs the Christmas Truce was a nightmare of peace (emperors always think of peace
as a nightmare and that hasn't changed).
The reaction of their officers, the local commanders in the trenches, varied. Since
fearing open rebellion by their hungry and frustrated troops they often accepted
fraternisation for a day or two, hoping it would ease tensions. But often they were
simply overrun by the spontaneous development of events. In some cases they used the
opportunity for espionage. Sometimes officers threatened to shoot their own soldiers
if they tried to go across. In some cases they even did. But all in all the Christmas
Truce was an overwhelming success. Soldiers' fotographs published in the British press
are impressive proof of this strange armistice (in France, Belgium and Germany footage
and reports of the event were censured) (5).
Just a sentimental story? An act of chivalry? A Christmas carol? A Lili-Marlen- Story?
Far more than that. It was the start of a peaceful mutiny of ordinary soldiers against
war. It was a spontaneous campaign of thousands and thousands of 'Refuseniks', many of
them having realized instinctively that they were shooting at the wrong enemy.
They were 'cannon fodder' - those poor guys on both sides of the divide. Threatened
with diciplinary action, or even death, most soldiers returned to the trenches after
Christmas. But, the fact that at least in one region the truce held till late February
- a truce of ordinary soldiers fighting in a regular army, mind you - shows, they
really meant it. If the Christmas Truce of 1914 had lasted, if it had spread and ended
the war it would have saved the lives of 9 Million men, women and children, dying from
January 1915 till the end of war in late 1918.
The end of World War I saw the end of four monarchies: Russia, German Kaiserreich,
Austria-Hungary and the Osman Empire. People were fed up with those antidemocratic
"The ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame, and on each end of the
rifle we're the same" ('Christmas in the Trenches', a ballad by John McCutcheon).
In Germany World War I had been widely greeted with enthusiasm. Even the
Socialdemocrats joined in the patriotism and signed the Kaiser's war credits. Sound
judgement was reserved to the far left. Rosa Luxemburg, the German Socialist and
ardent pacifist murdered by right-wing soldiers in 1919, was sentenced in 1914 to one
year in prison for her pacifist call-ups. Passionately, she had warned German men, the
real enemy was not their French counterparts but the Kaiser who planned to misuse them
as cannon fodder.
No matter if you wore British khaki or German 'feldgrau', if you had the Prussian
'Pickelhaube' or the Tommy cap on your head, if your name was Jean or Fritz or John
you were on the wrong side of Nomansland, bound to shoot your brothers -
fellow-workers, -employees, fellow-farmers, fellow- students.
"I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who
want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will
have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls", wrote British artist Paul
Nash in a letter home to his wife (1917).
Every war has its winners. Big weapons' producers/sellers and other multinationals
always profit from war - no matter who the final victor. Governments profit from war -
using it as a smokescreen to distract from domestic problems, and its costs as a
pretext for economically dispossessing their own people. War is a game in which the
loser is known beforehand: ordinary people. Ordinary people in Israel, paying the
price for Sharon's wars against the Palestinians/Arabs (Israel being one of the
biggest military powers on earth while its economy is in tatters). Ordinary people in
the U.S. who pay for Bush's wars with drastic cutbacks in public spending, and with
being the object of hate all over the world. It's the "underclass" Allied soldier,
dying in Bagdad's trenches for a cause which he/she doesn't understand.
It's people all over this planet trodden down by imperialistic boots.
"I am the enemy you killed, my friend. I knew you in this dark: for so you frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed. I parried; but my hands were loath and
cold. Let us sleep now..."
These are words from the trenches of WWI, written by Private Wilfred Owen, a British
soldier who fell only weeks before the end of war, in November 1918. On the other side
of the trench lay his German counterpart, Gefreiter Gerrit Engelke, known as "the
first genius of literature to emerge from the proletariat":
"On body-eating Somme I lay opposite to you...", he wrote, "but you didn't know! Enemy
to enemy. Human to human, body to body, warm and cramped."
Engelke died around the same time as Owen.
Today's high-tech soldiers will have to make a decision. Do they want to be but
remote-controlled robot Terminators - or humans with a clear sense of when it's time
to lay off the uniform?
Remember: If those Christmas Truce soldiers had been sticking to it, they could have
saved the lives of 9 Million people! And I'm sure, if they had known what lay ahead of
them they wouldn't have returned to the trenches, no matter what. How many lives can
today's soldiers save if they leave their "trenches"?
(1) You may read Solana's doctrine 'A Secure Europe in a Better World' under:
(2) 'Der bewachte Kriegsschauplatz', Kurt Tucholsky's famous WWI essay
(3) Highly decorated British "hero" of World War I Siegfried Sassoon wrote these
lines. Because of his war criticism he was tested for psychological disorder
(4) For more on the horrors of the 'Stellungskrieg' on the Western Front read Erich
Maria Remarque's classic: 'All Quiet on the Western Front'
(5) Due to this censorship, the 'Christmas Truce' has remained widely unknown in
Germany (unlike Britain, where in the last 89 years many books were written on the
subject). In 2003 'Der kleine Frieden im Großen Krieg' was published - the first book
(to my knowledge) on the German perspective. Its author, Michael Jürgs, was
interviewed on CNN - Christmas Eve 2003, primetime - on the subject.
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