Nations Have the Right to Kill

"Richard Koenigsberg's ideas on human violence and destructiveness are startling all the more for being self-evident once they have been absorbed. His ideas cut through conventional notions about culture and war, enabling us to understand human institutions in utterly new ways." —Professor Ruth Stein, New York University, author of For the Love of the Father

Table of Contents Introduction


Lectures and Presentations by Richard Koenigsberg

Political Violence and Psychopathology

20th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Philosophy and Psychiatry, Washington, DC on "Political Extremism and Psychopathology," May 3-4, 2008: WARFARE AS COLLECTIVE PSYCHOPATHOLOGY.

"Former Secretary-of-State Zbigniew Brzezinski suggests that the 20th Century was dominated by the 'politics of organized insanity.' Yet nowhere does one find a systematic concept of psychopathology to characterize these monumentally destructive political events. Why do people find it easy to speak the language of psychopathology in relationship to individuals, yet so difficult to apply this language to political and social movements—however bizarre and destructive they may be?"

Terroristic Violence

Plenary Talk at The Human Condition Series 2nd Annual International Conference, Laurentian University of Georgian College, May 2-3, 2008: DEATH TO THE NON-BELIEVER: AS I HAVE BEEN TERRORIZIED, SO SHALL YOU BE TERRORIZED.

"Terroristic violence is initiated in order to punish people whom—the believer imagines—do not worship the sacred object that the believer worships. Terroristic violence seeks to demonstrate the power of the sacred object worshipped by one's group by crushing or squelching members of nonbelieving groups. Acts of violence give witness to the greatness of one's god, nation or ideology."

The Destructiveness of Civilization

Keynote Address at Symposium on "Roots of Evil: Continued Challenges for the Denial of Mass Human Rights Violation," April 4, 2008 at Fordham University, Lincoln Center. NATIONS KILL A LOT OF PEOPLE: DENIAL OF THE DESTRUCTIVENESS OF CIVILIZATION.

"Nearly 200 million people were slaughtered in the 20th century as a result of violent acts undertaken by nation-states. Do we truly grasp the reality of destruction that societies have leveled against their own people? Dr. Koenigsberg examines the concept of genocide-denial within the framework of a broader form of denial: our refusal to look at the destruction wrought by our own nations—and by civilization itself."

Dying and Killing for Love

Lecture co-sponsored by the National Psychological Association for Psychoanalysis (NPAP) and the Philosophy Department of the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research, January 11, 2008: DYING AND KILLING FOR LOVE.

"What is the nature of the human attraction to warfare? What psychological processes transform killing, destruction and the maiming of human bodies into a good thing? War is conceived as a good thing because people die and kill in the name a beloved object, one's nation."

Dying for One's Country

Columbia University Seminar on Death, December 12th, 2007: DYING FOR ONE'S COUNTRY: The Soldier and Sacrificial Death.

"Ordinarily, death is conceived as a bad thing. The death of a soldier in battle is a bad thing, but also a good thing. People revere the soldier for the death that he has suffered on our behalf."

Warfare and Devotion to the Sacred Ideal

Colloquium at Peace Education Center of Teachers College, Columbia University, April 18, 2007: WARFARE AND DEVOTION TO THE SACRED IDEAL.

"If warfare and other forms of collective violence were viewed solely as a bad thing, achieving peace would not be difficult. But warfare often is conceived as a grand and noble enterprise. This colloquium explores the relationship between violence and a group's attachment to its sacred ideals."

Hitler and the Holocaust

Plenary talk at Annual Holocaust Conference at Millersville University, March 26, 2007: THE LOGIC OF MASS MURDER: HITLER, THE HOLOCAUST AND WAR.

"Death in warfare is surrounded with an aura of nobility and beauty. Yet no one views the death of Jews in gas-chambers as noble and beautiful. The Holocaust depicted the abject, degrading fate of a body that has been given over to—taken over by-the nation-state, sacrificial death stripped of words like honor, heroism and glory."

Why People Love War

Keynote Address at the Annual Conference of the United World College of the American West, February 2, 2007: IF ONE ASPIRES TO ACHIEVE PEACE, ONE NEEDS TO KNOW WHY PEOPLE LOVE WAR.

"People assume that war arises out of conflicts between societies and that if differences can be resolved in more reasonable ways, human beings might be able to achieve peace. But what if warfare is an activity that some human beings desire? What if people obtain gratification when their societies perform violent political actions?" Link to photos.

"Something to Kill and Die For"

Workshop at the Church Center of the United Nations sponsored by the Int'l. School for Mental Health Practitioners, November 9, 2006: SOMETHING TO KILL AND DIE FOR: The Psychology of War and Terrorism. Link to complete workshop description.

The Logic of Mass-Murder

Lecture at Bowling Green State University, October 16, 2006: THE LOGIC OF MASS-MURDER: Hitler, the Holocaust and War. Link to review.

Civilization and Self-Destruction

Lecture at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, March 10, 2005: CIVILIZATION AND SELF-DESTRUCTION: THE PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR AND GENOCIDE.

"Koenigsberg's lecture showed how war is destruction undertaken in the name of that which we love. Killing and dying in warfare is the 'pledge of allegiance' in its most radical form. In waging war, nation-states require that soldiers give over their bodies and souls in the name of defending the sacred ideal."

The Logic of the Holocaust

Keynote talk, Holocaust Education Week, Beth Jacob V'Anshei Drildz Congregation, Toronto, Canada, Tuesday November 2, 2004: THE LOGIC OF THE HOLOCAUST: WHY THE NAZIS KILLED.

Political Psychology of War, Genocide and Terrorism

Address at Western Social Science Association's Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, April 22, 2004: POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY OF WAR, GENOCIDE AND TERRORISM.

"Why didn't Saddam Hussein let inspectors do their work? Why did he not make a greater effort to avoid the outbreak of a hopeless war and to prevent attacks that destroyed his palaces and his kingdom, killed his sons, and caused him to end up in a hole in the ground? In the buildup to war and even now, we barely pose much less attempt to answer these questions. Why are psychological concepts absent in our analysis of political conflicts that endanger the future of the human race?"