Marion Schneider

Total War

Over many hundreds of years, the peoples and cultures of the world have laboriously developed laws governing common behaviour and rights, establishing numerous binding rules which the peoples hold in common. One of the most important laws guarantees an accused person the right to a hearing and to be judged by an independent judge or court adhering to predetermined rules.
Nowadays, the majority of nations are agreed that a sentence cannot be passed without a hearing, and that the accused has the possibility to appeal against the judgment.
But now leaders of some of our leading democratic nations have seen fit to depart from the common way of law in the name of justice. They call it combating terrorism. It is simply killing without a court and without laws, for it is done by the military.
As the battle spreads, it has become almost coincidental, a matter of luck or fate, whether the combination of circumstances dictates that someone who may be under suspicion of being a terrorist loses his or her life in the battle zone.
Battle zones are those places where terrorists are presumed to be hiding; places not con-trolled by those combating terrorism. The logical conclusion appears at present to be to take control of all of the zones were terrorists are said to be.
In the course of the past months, we have become accustomed to the word and the thought of war. War puts an end to communication. But war is not necessarily the end of justice. It depends upon those who enter into war, what their aims are, and what they are seeking to achieve.
We are told that the war is being fought to end terrorism and that the liquidation of the enemy will solve the problem. But how about the feelings and memories of the people, families, regions and nations where terrorists are said to be?
Even if one were to accept the notion that liquidating terrorists combats terrorism, one must still consider the reasons which lead to terrorism. Why does terrorism exist? And one can only do that by speaking to terrorists, their families and supporters in order to understand their motives. It is not just a problem we have today, but a problem we need to solve for our common future. It is about our collective future, the future of all of the people in the world, not only of those who believe themselves to be in the right and happen to be in power. Killing is not a solution, and responding to killing with more killing leads to more death.
Total war has now been declared, which means total destruction. This method is exactly the one that Hitler employed, and no one can say they do not know this. Those in positions of responsibility who make use of terms with this tradition must step down because they do not do justice to their responsibilities. The propagation of such concepts is inexcusable.
Politicians run the danger of not being able to keep nationalist feelings under control, of not being able to stop the war machinery. An answer is communication: communication with the enemy. Communication leads to comprehension, and thus to the readiness to come to an understanding. Difficulties in communication and comprehension require mediators—several of them, if necessary—who are able to understand both parties. These mediators need to be invested with authority. International law is such an authority. It must be established and implemented as soon as possible so that crimes of international dimensions can be judged before international courts and old enemies find new levels of communication.