File nietzsche/nietzsche.0910, message 1

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Date: Tue, 6 Oct 2009 15:06:49 -0400
Subject: [Nietzsche] Call for Papers: History, Mass-Murder and Truth

Call for Papers: 
History, Mass-Murder and Truth



Dear Colleague,

LIBRARY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE will publish a book in early 2010 consisting of a
collection of papers developing themes presented in my essay presented
directly below. I would like to hear from you about your own ideas. Please
write to me at  <>

How does one go about ascertaining the truth of a political ideology? Franco
Fornari <>  calls war the
spectacular establishment of a general human situation whereby "death
assumes absolute value." The ideas for which we die must be true, Fornari
says, because death becomes a "demonstrative process."

Islamic terrorists and suicide bombers have helped to bring forth into
consciousness this relationship between death and truth. In the following
passage, Ali Benhadj-a revolutionary Islamist leader from
Algeria-articulates the connection between belief and death-or

If a faith, a belief, is not watered and irrigated by blood, it does not
grow. It does not live. Principles are reinforced by sacrifices, suicide
operations and martyrdom for Allah. Faith is propagated by counting up
deaths every day; by adding up massacres and charnel-houses. It hardly
matters if the person who has been sacrificed is no longer there.

A belief grows, according to Benhadj, to the extent that it is reinforced by
"sacrifices, suicide operations and martyrdom." Faith in the ideology is
propagated by "counting up deaths."

I suggest that Islamic radicals illuminate a fundamental dynamic underlying
the historical process: How slaughter, dismemberment and death function in
the name of conferring truth upon an ideology. We imagine that what we die
and kill for must be real. It is difficult to conceive that the massive
dying and killing that constitute "history" occurred in the name of

In my book Nations Have the Right to
<>  Kill, I have written about the
tens-of-millions of soldiers killed or wounded in the course of the First
World War. Roger
<>  Griffin shows
how this episode of mass slaughter was conceived as "regeneration." Blood
sacrifice functioned to revivify civilization, that is, "nations" such as
France, Britain, Germany and Russia.

One of the clearest statements linking mass slaughter in warfare to cultural
and national regeneration was made by P. H. Pearse-founder of the Irish
revolutionary movement. Observing the carnage occurring on a daily basis in
France during the First World War, Pearse gushed:

The last sixteen months have been the most glorious in the history of
Europe. Heroism has come back to the earth. It is good for the world to be
warmed with the red wine of the battlefield. Such august homage was never
before offered to God as this-the homage of millions of lives given gladly
for love of country.

This declaration at first seems bizarre. However it does not take long to
realize that it is an extreme form of a proposition that lies at the heart
of the historical process-and that many people take for granted: "The
individual must die so that the nation might live." Or: "It is sweet and
fitting to die for one's country" (Horace).

In the Middle-East, the process of dying and killing to prove the truth of
one's belief system or ideology is called "martyrdom." In the West, we call
it sacrifice or "heroism." The difference between Islamic radicals who die
for Allah and Western soldiers who have died for their country is
quantitative: Suicide bombers tend to die one-by-one; whereas Western
soldiers have tended to die en masse.

The apogee of the Western fantasy of regeneration through sacrifice occurred
during the Second World War, brought forth by Adolf Hitler. Hitler declared
in Mein Kampf that in the First World War the most precious blood had
"sacrificed itself joyfully." Thousands of young Germans had stepped forward
with "self-sacrificing resolve" to give their young lives "freely and
joyfully" on the altar of their beloved country. In the Second World War,
Hitler perpetuated and expanded upon the ideology of regeneration through
sacrifice and mass-death.

LIBRARY OF SOCIAL SCIENCE will publish a book in early 2010 consisting of a
collection of papers developing themes presented in this essay. I would like
to hear from you about your own ideas. Please write to me at

To this day, we valorize willingness of people to "die for their country."
In our hearts the dream remains the same-although there is a radical change
in the quantity of human beings that we are willing to sacrifice. Still, we
are barely conscious of the sacrificial mechanism: how dying and killing
function to confer truth or reality upon our sacred ideologies.

In his paper, "Martyrs:
<>  The Building
Block of Nations," Sheikh Abdullah Azzam explains that the life of the
Muslim Ummah is solely dependent on the "ink of its scholars and the blood
of its martyrs." History, he says, does not write its lines "except with the
blood of its martyrs." Glory does not build its lofty edifice "except with

Honor and respect, Azzam declares, cannot be established except on a
foundation of "cripples and corpses." The Muslim Ummah-the divine
ideology-continues to exist in the course of history only by virtue of the
"blood which flows in order to spread and implant this divine ideology into
the real world."

In his statement that the life of the Muslim Ummah is dependent on the "ink
of its scholars and the blood of its martyrs," Azzam identifies the
fundamental dynamic generating political history. Dying and killing are
undertaken by proponents of an ideology in order to prove the truth of this
ideology. We remember ideologies-they are glorified in history-insofar as
large numbers of people have died in their name.

Historians continually write about Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and Mao by
virtue of the prodigious number of people that were killed as they sought to
validate the ideologies they put forth. Those who practice the historical
craft continually "count up deaths" and "add up massacres" (Ali Benhadj).
The "significance" of a war or battle or act of genocide is judged according
to the number of people that died in that war, battle or act of genocide.

In order for history to occur, many human beings have to "die for their
country" and its sacred ideology. But it takes two to tango. Without
historians to record them, these deaths would have no meaning. Historians
function to remember episodes of mass-slaughter. The "greatest" events in
history are those that generated the largest numbers of deaths. We remember
leaders who were responsible for these deaths. History, as Azzam notes, is
built on the "lofty edifice" of skulls.

History books and television documentaries keep alive the memory of leaders
whose actions generated mass-death. Recently, television documentaries focus
on another species of mass-murderer: criminals who slaughter individuals one
by one. Of course, the deaths they have caused are paltry as compared with
the number of deaths brought about by historical figures.

Mass-murderers who have been responsible for the deaths of ten or twenty
people are thought of as instances of severe pathology. Yet those who have
been responsible for the deaths of hundreds-of-thousands of human beings are
conceived as "great personalities" that lie at the heart of the historical

History, Abdullah Azzam observes, does not write its lines "except with
blood." A belief, Ali Benhadj says, must be "watered and irrigated by blood"
if it is to grow. These Islamic radicals are aware of the relationship
<>  between ideology and
blood sacrifice: How ideas and ideologies become true-come to constitute the
historical process-by virtue of acts of slaughter undertaken in the name of
these ideas and ideologies.

In the West, we are less conscious of this causal relationship between
slaughter, history and truth. We imagine that history happens more-or-less
by chance or accident. We do not conceive that human beings intentionally
bring about acts of mass-slaughter in order to create history.
Hundred-of-millions have died as a result of political violence in the
Twentieth Century. Yet, we imagine, all of this has happened against our
will. We are not responsible.

The ideas and actions of Islamic radicals help us to become aware of how
human beings seek to create history by generating acts of slaughter. In
order to awaken from our own nightmare of history, it is necessary to become
conscious of how we ourselves have brought about mass slaughter in the name
of conferring existence upon-verifying the truth of-our sacred ideologies.

With best regards,

Richard Koenigsberg


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