A War against the World - A World against the War

[A politically committed composer with considerable experience of the Arab mentality, Klaus Huber embodies the openness of contemporary Swiss art music. He is currently working on a setting of Ariel Dorfmann's poem "Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell from the other side of death" for bass-baritone and cello-mandolin.
The Swiss composer Klaus Huber (*1924) did not opt for the easy way out when we asked him to take a position on the war in Iraq. And just as one would expect little musical conciliatoriness from the creator of the oratorio "Erniedrigt-Geknechtet-Verlassen-Verachtet..." and the Mandelstam opera "Schwarzerde", so politically uncompromising is his present text.]


In a Now in which the more sensitive of our contemporaries hear the sand running through the hourglass of World Time towards the moment when a certain self-styled Christian known as George W. is ready to declare a war that will alter the course of the third Christian (!) millennium more substantially than we are ready to imagine... this Now, we poor, powerless human beings of the present are managing - probably owing to a monumental anxiety neurosis - to quarrel among ourselves about the pros and cons of a pre-emptive war defiant of international law, instead of doing our utmost to stand together for peace, to fast and pray, as a Polish pope who will surely not go down in history as a champion of Communism admonishes us.
20 March. Not only my pen trembles, but my language, my ear, my brain. The trembling rises from this small, defenceless human heart.

[Where Language Fails]
How shall I get my message across at this watershed in history, as super-smart weapons systems begin shrieking, trying to intimidate such human reason as still exists, and to refute it with the absolute claim to truth that accompanies total superiority?

[Attempts at Mental Blackmail]

They resort to blackmail. Want us to concede: the World Spirit, the zeitgeist, is on the retreat, almost in flight. In flight from the hubris of an ever more arrogant power potential - economic, military, but first and foremost ideological, unmistakable in the neoliberal pensiero unico and long looming on the horizon. Why have we been so unwilling to understand, not to say deaf to what we might have heard? - The Pentagon, which, on that fateful day, suffered a profound (and still enigmatic) [1] wound to one of its five sides, that same Pentagon uses its ever more "highly" developed, super-smart weapons systems in Iraq and says, loud enough for the world to hear, that their genuine destructive potential can only be determined with certainty in a genuine war against a human enemy. This is, after all, the first war of the Information Age...
First reports from the theatre of war indicate that the competence of this concentrated artificial intelligence occasionally seems to lie somewhat below a normal human IQ. That constitutes at least a small glimmer of hope, but is not intended as a reflection on the IQ of a certain George W.

[The hubris of being everything]
Epochal crises, the decline of empires, large and small, do not result from concrete conditions alone, for buried at their core lie well-hidden, coded initial ideas born of the hubristic human desire for omnipotence. Hölderlin calls this "the terrible striving to be everything".

[Empire on Clay Stilts]

In his recent book Après L'Empire: Essai Sur La Decomposition Du Systeme Americain, [2] Emmanuel Todd analyses a superpower in decline and why it is, for this very reason, becoming so dangerous to the future of the world.
"For half a century the United States stood for political and economic freedom, but today it seems increasingly to be a factor in international disorder, and where it can, it fosters instability and conflicts." He succeeds in proving that present American policies are founded, not on strength, but on weakness. The USA has become economically and politically dependent on the rest of the world. One need only think of its daily trade deficit of an almost inconceivable one billion dollars!

[The Freedom of Slaves]

America consumes and the world pays its tribute (by way of the international financial markets), as has been the rule in all historical world empires. The actual freedom that can be exported in this way is not much more than the freedom of slaves.[3] "The sole superpower", writes Todd, "is lacking above all two 'imperial' resources: its military and economic means of applying force do not suffice to sustain the present level of exploitation of the planet. And its universalist world-view is on the wane. People and peoples have long ceased to be treated as equals. The desire to bring the gift of freedom and prosperity on the one hand, while exploiting [the world] on the other, is failing more and more."

[The Reflection of Suffering]

I tremble as I write these lines, for the great slaughter of the innocents lies ahead. Three days ago commentators declared that, if there were no other way, Baghdad, the world's oldest surviving city and as big as Berlin, might be struck by a firestorm; that between one and three thousand of the smartest missiles might hit the city in an imploding period of time.[4] This has not happened yet.
Piero Sansonetti comments (22 March, Unità): "Yesterday was the first Muslim Friday of the war, and all day there was great uncertainty in Baghdad as to the direction the coalition air offensive would take. The impression was that the Americans did not want a massive bombardment, that they would exercise a degree of caution, concerned (worried?) about the huge wave of international opposition that inundates their war daily these days, as has never happened with any other war to date. And that they wanted to avoid bombing too hard, carpet bombing with the risk of collateral damage, in other words civilian victims."
Il manifesto ran the headline: "A war against the world, a world against the war", and began the paper from the front and the back: news on the war in Iraq starting on page one, news and reflections on international opposition to it on the last page, retrograde inverse, from back to front. These are the structural semantics that can talk! Resistance. - And what about all the defeatism and resignation? What has it all been good for? The Pope's appeal? The world-wide prayers for peace? The war is here anyway ... etc., etc. This defeatism will prove unfounded, or so I hope with all my remaining strength.

[Loss of Perspectives]
[A New Force: World Public Opinion]

When and where could the following have been read before? From now on there are two superpowers. On the one hand the USA, of course. On the other hand, world public opinion. That is absolutely new in the history of the world. And even this counterpower owes a debt to the development of the New Media and their enormous possibilities.
It is my firm conviction that: if military computer-superintelligence is capable of crushing a small, weakened enemy underfoot, how much more capable must international public opinion - supported by the Internet, e-mail, etc. - be of making itself heard so loud and clear that even the apparently impervious deafness of the superpowerful who think they determine the fate of the planet will be penetrated and, that even they, with their feeble senses, will be unable to ignore the roar of the world-wide wave of resistance.

If the feeble-mindedness (in the literal sense!) so powerfully propagated by the media becomes the world's accepted lowest common (social) denominator, the perspectives for our future are lost.

[The Earthly Life of the Human Race]
[The Sense to be Found in Suffering]

The survival of humankind must now begin in the World Soul, in broad, all-encompassing human reason.
Human temporality is - not only ultimately - its mortality. Heiner Müller says that the memory of humankind is preserved in the arts. "But memory presupposes the survival of the species" (in "Bautzen oder Babylon"). Let us heed the memory of humankind. It tells us again and again: a different world is possible - a world of human beings who have no need for neo-imperialistic, pre-emptive wars.
So many splinters traversing my senses and penetrating my soul... It is impossible for me to arrange them in any transparent order.
Inflicting suffering and enduring suffering have been linked throughout millions of years of evolution.
We need to contemplate the effects of suffering and the inner strength begotten by empathy. On 18 March I came across an Iraqi voice in an Italian newspaper (Il Manifesto, of all places) that bewails the suffering and blood sacrifices of the civilian population in the impending bombings.
Fr. Solomon Warduni, Vicar General of the Patriarchs of the Chaldeans in Baghdad, in other words, an Eastern-rite Christian, says: "If we go to heaven, we will pray for you all. If we stay alive, we will thank all the people who demonstrated for peace. And if the Lord wants to turn us into a holocaust for the world, we will accept it. His will be done. But this we implore you: have pity for the Iraqi children, have pity for the Iraqi youths, the aged, the women, who are in deep despair."

[Christ's Blood Sacrifice]

Christ's blood sacrifice on the Cross at Golgotha is becoming human reality in countless lives sacrificed for the world. Is this capacity for suffering born of original Christian faith? [5] Warduni's words affect me deeply. I sense a tremulous glimmer of hope on the horizon of the human race. In an age where the human being is increasingly becoming an object, a process that has accelerated exponentially since the turn of the millennium, all the religions of the world have, for the first time in history, come together in their resounding "no" to war. The Lord of Hosts (Bible) is disarming himself. Hope for humankind blossoms even as Erwin Chargaff's cry of "disgust with the history of the world"6 rings in my ears... 

Klaus Huber, Panicale, Umbria, 23 March 2003

Translated from the German by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart.
Originally published in the Basler Zeitung, 25. 3. 2003, pp. 33-34  – © National Zeitung und Basler Nachrichten AG


1. Das entstandene Durchschlagsloch war so klein, dass nur ein flügelloser Flugkörper es geschlagen haben kann.Wer oder was konnte einen solchen intelligent genug gelenkt haben? Und der konnte doch sicher nicht aus Übersee kommen... Siehe Thierry Meyssan: 11 septembre 2001. L'effroyable imposture. Editions Carnot, Chatou 2002

2. erschienen im Verlag Piper, München/Zürich 2003.

3. siehe hierzu auch Tilo Bode: Die Demokratie verrät ihre Kinder, DVA/Manesse, 2002.

4. siehe Ariel Dorfman: Slaughter of Innocents, Pablo Picasso has words for Colin Powell from the other side of death.

5. Vielleicht könnte man voraussagen, dass die Leidensfähigkeit des Menschengeschlechts, in den kommenden Jahrzehnten auf schwerste Proben gestellt, wesentlich darüber mitentscheiden wird, auf welche Seite die Waage sich senkt. – Ich weiss, damit lehne ich mich zu weit aus unserem kleinen Zeitfenster hinaus.

6. Titel eines seiner letzten Bücher (Clett-Cotta, 2002)