THE BERLIN WALL—20 YEARS AFTER: WHY NOT A COMPARISON WITH OTHER WALLS? i.e. MEXICO/USA, PALESTINIAN BARRIER WALL, or KOREAN WALLS
BY KEVIN STODA, in exile in Germany
Just as the majority of Americans would like to see investigations of the torture crimes carried out in their names under the Bush-Cheney Administration,
the 20th year anniversary of the end of the Berlin Wall now approaches….
You ask, “Is there a connection between the German/German Wall in 1989 and America in 2009?”
Well, yes. In fact, there is?
Even though the Obama administration fails to comprehend the connection, most Americans–and westerners of the Cold War era–recall that the West had once promoted human rights. The Helsinki accords on human rights had eventually led to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe as society after society determined that human rights, i.e. no torture, were important values to have.
Now, over 5000 people, i.e. immigrants, have died on the USA border since 1995, when major walls in San Diego and El Paso went up.
The Obama government appears to be hell-bent on further militarizing that border between the USA and all of Latin America to the South (as well as militarizing race relations in the USA).
Hillary Clinton, the USA Secretary of State, and America’s new president Obama have both announced in recent weeks efforts to double the militarization of the border in the name of fighting crime and drug trafficking on both sides of the border.
This sort of America that builds walls—leaving many dead in their wake–and tortures with impunity keeps me living outside of the USA.
1989: East Germany, the Wall and torture.
A quick search on the internet, one discovers: “The last person to be shot dead at the Wall was Chris Güffroy, a young East Berliner who decided to try his luck at escaping on 5 February 1989, months before the Wall finally fell. He had wrongly assumed the East German regime had suspended its order to shoot would-be escapers on sight. Yet Chris Güffroy was not the Wall’s final victim. Four weeks later, 33-year-old Winfried Freudenberg died fleeing East Berlin in a gas-filled balloon.”
“The ‘August 13 Working Group’, named for the day the Communist state closed the border in 1961 to halt a mass exodus to the West” has claimed that over 1100 people died trying to cross over from East to West Germany illegally.
On the other hand, other German researchers in Berlin claim that no more than 125 to 130 were killed there.
However, due to the secretiveness of the East German and other communist regimes of the Cold War era, the real numbers of those who hated or feared the totalitarian state enough to flee for their lives (or to give their lives) in fleeing their homeland may never be known.
Most of those captured trying to flee had to spend several years in jail, and on many occasion people were certainly known to have been tortured.
I recall one cold winter night approaching the very Wall between the Reichstag and the Spree River in Berlin in the late 1988, one year before the last escapee, Chris Güffroy, was shot meters from there.
I walked up to the Wall and touched it.
A few seconds later an Eastern German border guard yelled at me to get back.
Apparently, near the Brandenburg Gate, two-meters on the West side of the border there was considered East German property—as was the Wall itself.
Torture has far too often been a historical reality in East European history.
However, even modern German leaders in 2005 considered keeping information gathered through torture: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,391493,00.html
On the other hand, torture is illegal in Germany nowadays.
How about in the USA?
2009: USA-Mexican Wall and USA on Torture
Over the last decade-and-a-half in the USA, torture and wall-building have suddenly caught on among the political elite.
In the USA in April 2009, we find a government unwilling to even investigate its own crimes related to torture. This Obama government is in power and no one knows if it will ever be toppled.
Yet, as though it fears being toppled, Obama and Obama policy makers seem to fear prosecuting tortures and to continue building walls. The border fencing between the USA and Mexico has doubled and tripled in a few short years.
The border fencing between the USA and Mexico has doubled and tripled in a few short years.
Meanwhile, reports are rife that NAFTA will become further militarized under Obama and America’s overpaid national security departments.
Already Americans who try to provide water to refugees and immigrants coming into the USA are being harassed and fined.
KOREAN BORDER FENCES 2009
Well, to be fair to the USA and it rise in torture and border walls, the Koreas have the most well-armed common border on the planet.
Ancient Korea had been known as the Hermit Kingdom, and modern North Korea and South Korea have built the most hermitic wall on earth.
While North Korea and South Korea have been known to torture, North Korea is more of a leader in this area in recent decades.
North Koreans who try to flee are shot or severely punished, i.e. tortured upon their return. Torturing of defectors are no secret in North Korea—in contrast to the way torture used to be covered up in East Germany.
Sadly, on the other hand, disappearances in North Korea are reported by Amnesty International to be far too quite common.
2009: ISRAELI’S APARTHEID WALLS
Similar, in some ways to the USA-Mexican border, the Israeli walls are being put up with great speed and people are dying at them fairly often as occurs at the USA-Mexican border.
Israeli planners studied both the East German Wall design and U.S. border control designs before going the route of constructing their tall cement walls starting in this decade.
Not a week seems to go by when someone isn’t shot or severely injured at one of the Israeli barrier walls.
As in the case of the USA and Mexico border fences, the new wall in Israel is destroying a lot of the ecology on both sides of the borders.
People on both sides of the border are being displaced, but Palestinians and those of Arab descent lose out more often—just as in the USA the militarization of the border and police network in border states people of Latino descent are being illegally profiled and inconvenienced.
Interestingly, Israel is even known to torture with impunity USA citizens.
As with North Korea, government sponsored torture is done with great impunity generally in the case of Israel.
WHY NOT COMPARE MORE BORDERS IN HONOR OF THE END OF THE WALL?
I would like to suggest that readers write in and describe other borders where torture reigns with impunity.
Perhaps, by shining light on other borders and lands hiding their torture tendencies, we world citizens can help fight the impunity that loves the dark—i.e. a world with no investigators of torture crimes and lots of walls, walls, and more walls, to make investigators go around.