One people, one heap of rubble

Anton Gill writes in his book, ‘An Honorable Defeat,’ that during World War Two numerous underground groups were formed to directly protest Nazi’s Hitler Youth and League of German Girls. As the Allies destroyed more and more sports and youth facilities, and as additional youth were conscripted into the German Army, groups sprang up like the Edelweiss Pirates, Swing Youth, White Rose, and Jazz Youth.

The Edelweiss Pirates and White Rose damaged Nazi property, destroyed supply trains destined to soldiers, and sometimes fought pitched battles with the Hitler Youth. They also distributed anti-war leaflets, desecrated the Nazi flag, and under the cover of darkness scrawled political graffiti on public buildings mocking Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

In the morning when German citizens went to work, they would on occasion see the popular slogan “One People, One State, One Leader” changed to “One People, One Heap of Rubble.” In one incident, the Gestapo arrested and publicly hung thirteen Edelweiss Pirates for writing such anti-imperial slogans and for destroying Nazi property.

Unlike World War Two, in which the U.S. helped liberate the extermination camps and work camps and in which it helped free Europe from Nazi tyranny, it seems lately America’s international role and interventionist military strategies have caused tremendous chaos and destruction. In some ways, “One People, One Heap of Rubble” has become a perpetual axiom for the U.S., especially in the Middle East and certain parts of Asia.

In Pakistan’s Swat Valley, the widening military offensive against the Taliban has produced over 1 million refugees. While artillery barrages and air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians, American political and military officials, who are arming and training Pakistan to “seek and destroy” the enemy, are elated. Relief agencies are warning of a major human catastrophe.

A massive aerial bombing campaign by U.S. forces in Afghanistan recently killed 140 civilians, 95 were children. Over 2,000 Afghan survivors protested in Kabul and chanted “Death to America!” Others displayed broken and decapitated corpses to show the world how NATO and the U.S. was allegedly liberating and bringing democracy to the country.

The slogan “One People, One Heap of Rubble” is also beginning to appear in many parts of the United States. Millions of workers face unemployment, a lack of medical health care, and tent cities are growing. At the same time, politicians and generals continue to fund overseas wars. If Congress approves $96 billion for the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will push the cost of these conflicts past $1 trillion.

With 1.3 million Iraqis still living in refugee camps, and with over 1 million Iraqis killed, due to former President Bush’s pre-emptive war policy, the U.S. might want to re-evaluate its political goals and international strategies. As Afghan President Hamid Karzai demands a complete halt to air strikes in his country, President Barack Obama should too reassess the use of military force and violence and how it often backfires.

Finally, secular and liberal democracies can slowly become unholy and illiberal, even totalitarian-like. Particularly, when a nation becomes obsessed with fear, control and military supremacy, and its aim is to politically and economically dominate the world. (Remember the burning of the Reichstag, Enabling Acts, Nuremburg Laws, and Nazism’s war against Communism and Judaism?)

Americans must be alert to this gradual seizure of inward empowerment and an outer apathy towards civic responsibility. They should also guard against the manipulation of mass media and its selective images, religion, education, history, and patriotic zeal that promotes a permanent mobilization for war and that dehumanizes and tortures others to death.

Otherwise, Americans themselves might someday, if not already in their hearts and minds, be writing on public buildings just “One Heap of Rubble.”

Dallas Darling is the author of The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace, and is a writer for