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Workshop at the Church Center of the United Nations:
“Something to Kill and Die for: The Psychology of War and Terrorism”
Richard A. Koenigsberg
At the invitation of Ambassador DeLuca (photos below), I taught a Workshop at the Church Center of the United Nations, “Something to Kill and Die for.” Please scroll down to read the Workshop announcement. Whereas warfare seemed to be fading from the scene, 1992-2000, there was a return of the repressed on September 11, 2001. Some people, it seemed, did not think life was worth living in the absence of some thing to kill and die for. Could I bring the methodologies I’d developed to illuminate World War I, Hitler and Nazism—analysis of metaphor contained within political rhetoric—to bear upon contemporary forms of collective violence?

One statement made by Bin Laden in his Declaration of War Against the Americans (1996) seemed to crystallize the narrative:

“Your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA, you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty-eight thousands American soldiers into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu, you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you.

“Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge, but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear (underline mine).”

During the years 2002-2008, American Foreign Policy revolved around the desire to prove that America was not weak and impotent; that she would not “withdraw” from combat. Although America has returned to a posture of “avoiding casualties,” we’re still in this mode of being: Politics as proof of masculinity; the quest to demonstrate that America is not impotent. So much for “geopolitics.”
LSS Book ExhibitRichard Koenigsberg (far right) with
Dr. DeLuca (center) at the Austrian
Consulate of the United Nations.
Ambassador Jeenbaev, Ambassador DeLuca,
and Foreign Minister Rosa Otunbaeva—at an Academic Colloquium in New York City.
Dr. DeLuca (2nd from the left) and Dr. Koenigsberg (far right), Austrian Consulate. Ambassador Jeenbaev, Ambassador
DeLuca, and Rosa Otunbaeva.
The Church Center for the United Nations,
site of Koenigsbeg's Workshop.
Uganda House, where Koenigsberg taught on "War, Violence and Conflict Management."

A Workshop with Richard A. Koenigsberg, PhD

The Psychology of War and Terrorism

Location: Church Center for the United Nations
                 777 United Nations Plaza
                 (44th St. & First Avenue—across the street from the United Nations)
                 12th Floor
                 New York, NY 10017

Cost: $70    CE Credits: 3.0

Registration: Please click here for further information. Seating is limited. Please register now.

Sponsored by: INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL FOR MENTAL HEALTH PRACTITIONERS. ISMHP is approved by the American Psychological Association to offer continuing education for psychologists. ISMHP maintains responsibility for the program: His Excellency, Ambassador Anthony DeLuca, Ph.D., Dean ISMHP. Under the auspices of Syrian Orthodox Church in America, associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.

Workshop Description:

What are the causes of collective political violence? What events or motivations bring religious and political leaders—and the people they represent—to give over lives and resources to armed conflict? What justifies the sacrifices made in war and terrorism?

In 1994, Dick Cheney appeared on “Meet the Press” and stated that Haiti was “not worth American lives.” Senator Glenn suggested that the case for intervention could not pass the “Dover Test”—the televised return of body bags. In the twenty years since Viet Nam, only about 400 U. S. soldiers had been killed in action. For a time, it seemed that the grand narrative of warfare had lost its appeal.

Then, the events of September 11th, 2001 changed everything. The United States responded—not only to the actions of the terrorists, but to the taunting words of Bin Laden, who addressed Americans declaring:

“Your most disgraceful case was in Somalia. When tens of your soldiers were killed in minor battles and one American pilot was dragged through in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. The extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear.”

The subsequent American response to Bin Laden’s provocation served to demonstrate—in no uncertain terms—that the United States was not weak; that Americans too possessed ideals and strength of conviction for which they were willing to kill and die. We now find ourselves—again—in the midst of a world of political violence—a world that we seemed to be on the verge of leaving behind.

Were the events of September 11, 2001 responsible for the world-wide struggle in which we now find ourselves? Or is a deeper psychology at work, driving people on all sides of the conflict to seek out “something to kill and die for?”

John Lennon asked people to imagine a world with “nothing to kill or die for.” Post-modernism proposed the “death of grand narratives,” while multiculturalism and globalization articulated the desire to abandon rigid boundaries. Now we seem to have returned to the bipolar, cold-war narrative of a global clash between antagonistic ideologies.

Using case studies from history—as well as contemporary examples—this workshop will explore the dynamics of collective forms of violence such as terrorism and war; the motives that generate killing and dying in the name of religious and national ideals.

Who Should Attend:

Psychologists, Psychoanalysts and Psychiatrists wishing to explore the use of psychological methods and theories to explore the causes and sources of collective forms of political violence.

Learning Objectives: Through presentation and discussion, participants will explore:

  • The nature of attachment to “sacred objects” that transforms violence into a form of virtue.
  • The human tendency to bifurcate the world into categories of "good" and "evil."
  • The need for and symbolic meaning of enemies.
  • The relationship between martyrdom and sacrifice.
  • Why wars are difficult to end.

About the Presenter:

Richard A. Koenigsberg received his PhD in Social Psychology from the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York City. His highly acclaimed books—Hitler’s Ideology, The Psychoanalysis of Racism, Revolution and Nationalism, Symbiosis and Separation: Towards a Psychology of Culture, and Dying for One’s Country: War as Sacrifice—established a method and theory for the psychological analysis of political ideology.

The Church Center for the United Nations is located across the street from United Nations headquarters. Tours are available at the Visitors’ Lobby of the General Assembly seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.

Orion Anderson