The Kids and the War on Terror

By Sarah Whalen

What can you say about the kids who despised the war on terror?

They painted ‘Freedom’ in giant letters on walls. They tied a scarf around the eyes of the ‘Justice’ courthouse statue. They flung black tar on national flags.

Kid stuff.

But then, they wrote four little essays, made copies, and mailed them to addresses pulled randomly from phonebooks. They wrote anonymously, but threateningly: “We shall not be silent.”

Who were they? “We,” wrote the kids, “are your bad conscience.” 

Like college kids everywhere, they quoted Lao Tzu and Aristotle, babbled a bit, but  complained that the war on terror was unwinnable and causing countless, “meaningless” deaths. They called upon grownups to defend democracy and end the war quickly.

“Why,” they screeched, “do you allow these men who are in power to rob you, step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks?”
How could they defeat “the enemy,” they asked, if their own democracy perished? And was not “the enemy” also a human being? Did defending democracy require human beings to be tortured, abused, and even “annihilated” on the basis of religion or politics? 

The president was fighting a holy war, the kids agreed, but not alongside the angels. The conservative Christian groups who’d smoothed his way to power had been duped. “When he says peace, he means war, and when he blasphemously uses the name of the Almighty, he means the power of evil, the fallen angel, Satan,” they wrote. “Whoever today still doubts the reality, the existence of demonic powers, has failed by a wide margin to understand the metaphysical background of this war.”

Most significantly, the kids demanded that “this clique of criminals” – from the ultimate decider to the most hapless flunky – be punished: “For the sake of future generations, an example must be set after the war, so that no one will ever have the slightest desire to try anything like this ever again. Do not forget the minor scoundrels of this system; note their names, so that no one may escape.”   

The kids originally supported the president, believing he’d lead the country “back to greatness, happiness and security. He would see to it that everyone had a job to go to and enough to eat.” Many were patriotic soldiers who’d seen combat. Did they love their country?

“We most certainly did,” one kid (now a doctor) confirmed. But the war’s atrocities repulsed them.  They saw invaded cities “partially destroyed by bombing and artillery fire…in total disregard of the Geneva Convention.”  Soldiers “would shoot for pleasure anyone looking out of a window.”  “We felt a profound compassion,” recalled the doctor, “for and outrage on behalf of those suffering under this ruthless oppression.” 

Who were they?

“This is our bus,” Cindy Sheehan’s driver told me in August, 2005, at the height of America’s Iraq War protest. They’d parked, defiantly, near then-President George W. Bush’s ranch. Above the visor was a photo of the kids—Christoph Probst and Sophie and Hans Scholl. Peter and Hans look down, almost escaping notice. Sophie faces forward, her deeply furrowed brow betraying the enormity of their undertakings.

“That’s the White Rose!” I exclaimed. Sheehan’s driver nodded: “They are our inspiration.”

These kids, who despoiled swastikas and urged Germans to not support “our troops,” infuriated Hitler’s administration. Caught tossing leaflets from a balustrade at their Munich campus on February 18, 1943, they were interrogated, tried for treason, and ruthlessly guillotined on February 22. Within hours, the rest of the White Rose was destroyed.   

But less than two years later, allied planes papered German cities with White Rose leaflets. Stand up, “before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield for the hubris of a sub-human!” “Do not forget,” the kids’ words resounded, “that every people deserve the regime it is willing to endure.”

America’s hobbled democracy still functions sufficiently so that last month, Bush and Dick Cheney finally left Washington, D.C. – Cheney by wheelchair and Bush by helicopter – as people thronged, just to make sure they truly departed. But will America’s new president, Barak Obama, bring change? Although he pledged to end the war on terror, Obama’s now redirecting American troops (and high-priced Homeland Security “contractors”) to Afghanistan. Incomprehensibly, he’s reaffirmed Bush’s notorious State Secrets Privilege, barring the production of evidence in trials challenging extraordinary rendition, kidnapping, torture and warrantless domestic surveillance.
Do not forget that every people deserve the regime it is willing to endure.

Then, kindly take this column and do the only act the White Rose kids ever asked of others: “Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them.” Thank you.

– Sarah Whalen contributed this article to Visit her website:

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