Tuesday, December 17, 2002

If I was asked to react to the prospect of war with Iraq, what would I say? Possibly that I hope it will work. Saddam is, I have been told, one of the world’s horrible dictators and I would like to see him go. I would like to see democracy flourish in Iraq. I would like the women there to be free.
Yet, I am skeptical about the war. I bring a bias. I protested the First Bush’s war. In fact, I wrote a statement of conscientious objection and filed it with the church I grew up in, just in case the war grew. I supposed then that I was not some spoiled college kid, and that there was a way to peace without war. I can’t quite remember how we were to get peace for Kuwait, but I am sure I had it clear back then.
So why am I voicing what could be construed as support for the second Bush’s war? If anything, this one seems even more questionable: it is seemingly unprovoked (at least no more provoked than the previous decade), and the war drums started beating during the election cycle – just when it would seem that the Dems had a good opportunity to beat the populist drums of corporate reform and possibly greater tax equity. In September a friend just back from the state fair said he had shook Paul Wellstone’s hand and asked him about the war. Apparently Wellstone replied to the effect that “I hate to be cynical, but I’m afraid it’s a diversionary tactic for the elections.”
And that is not to mention Bush’s (and Cheney’s and …) oil-industry connections.
And that is not to mention the “military industrial complex.”
However, I purposefully do not mention the litany of past US foreign policy offenses, such as our past alliances with Saddam. Politics and policy sometimes demands strange and unsavory bedfellows. And anyway, that was then, this is now.
I also did not mention that North Korea actually has nukes. Foreign policy does demand some general rules, but even moreso it demands each particular case be dealt with on its own merits.
I also don’t think the fact that the US has nukes (and is considered by some itself an “evil empire”) is good grounds for an anti-war mentality. Whatever our foibles, I think a Saddam with nukes is far scarier than a US with ‘em.
I am even cautious about any complaints that may be leveled about the inappropriateness of targeting a nation’s leader for death. It sets a bad precedent in some ways (who gets to legitimately decide?), but in others… well, wouldn’t it have been great if Hitler was assassinated?
But, as I said, I’m troubled by many aspects of the coming war, including the timing (Are we finished in Afghanistan? How’s Isreal? What’s the current depth of our alliances in the middle-east?) . And the administration’s general tone and approach (What about developing security through alternative fuels? What about fostering global cooperation – read Kyoto – instead of trying to strong-arm it when we want it?). I suppose that Bush did win the election, but he did not win the popular vote, and the administration’s secretive, strong-arm, and overwhelmingly supply-side approach to everything is troubling. Deeply.
We could end u p in a world of pain as a result of this war. We could end up entangled in a morass in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The war could strengthen Al Quieda’s recruiting, and spawn more terrorism in the US and against the US abroad. Not to mention a more unified front against Israel – pulling us into even more war games, and an even greater morass.
But, given that we are trapped in this historical moment, what else can we do? I would be very happy to find a convincing answer to the question. The best I have come up with is to sit back a little and let the UN do its job. But, it is true that the UN, like any assembly, needs its membership to push for things. The line between adequate pushing and complete and total US domination is admittedly less than clear, however, and I have no way of disentangling proper roles from my perch in middle America.
I guess my best conclusions are fairly weak. Support the protesters – they represent the best traditions of our democracy, and will serve as a check against at least some war crimes. Pray that some force for good overthrows Saddam from within Iraq. And cross your fingers for the best from Bush’s war. People will die, but fewer than was once the case, and perhaps fewer than if Saddam’s regime is not taken out.
May the people of Iraq be free, may democracy sprout there like a flower, and may peace visit the middle-east once again this Christmas.

OK. Forgive me for that momentary lapse. It shows how powerful the mainstream media is. Things that aren’t inevitable seem to become so. Maybe some are inevitable – but even those deserve scrutiny and protest. In the case of the Administration’s war on Iraq, well, this thing keeps getting more ridiculous. Now Bush wants to reserve the right to nuke!?! Forget it. Just as we should expect members of the UN to push that body to action, we should expect citizens of our nation to suggest its course. I’ve read a little about the ‘Win Without War’ coalition (see David Corn’s 12/10 Capital Games posting http://www.thenation.com/capitalgames/ ), and it makes a lot of sense to me. Let the weapon’s inspectors do their work, and resort to war only as the last option – and it must be a multilateral one. I can no longer claim to be a pacifist, and nuanced arguments lack panache, but that is my thinking. I don’t know precisely what Ellie Weisel thinks on this matter, but I keep thinking about his experiences…