War Starts, Action Needed More Than Ever
The Damn War Has Started,
We Need to Keep Hope Alive
From the "Anti-War Demonstration"
New York on March 22, 2003.
(Photo: Bircan ÜNVER)
20, 2003) As promised, George W. Bush started his
war in Iraq last night. He did so despite the fact that
the majority of the world's people oppose it, despite
the fact that his administration had their heads handed
to them when they tried to get authorization for war in
the UN Security Council, and despite the fact that many
Americans are supporting the war under false
Eric Alterman has noted in presentations on his tour for
his new book, What Liberal Media? roughly 44% of Americans
think Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks and over
half of Americans think Iraqi citizens were among the
9/11 hijackers. There were no Iraqi hijackers, but there
were 15 Saudi citizens - but other than
wackos to the right of Richard Perle, no one among the
American political elite is suggesting that we overthrow
the House of Saud.
can be forgiven if, like me, you were a bit depressed
to hear that the war had started (haven't we been down
this road before?).
But this is no time to go into a funk. It's time to sustain and build the peace movement, and engage
in a full-throated debate about the meaning of this war
in Iraq. Otherwise, as Michael Klare has noted
in essays on Alternet.org,
in The Nation, and elsewhere, this could be the first
of many resource-driven wars for regime change.
a panel discussion I attended earlier this week, Stanley
Crouch, a syndicated columnist and cultural critic, suggested
that a major problem facing the anti-war movement is that
"the war might not last more than a few weeks." Therefore, how can people expect to build
the kind of opposition that was built during Vietnam,
which dragged on for years and years?
Crouch's analogy is clever, but he misses the larger
point. To be effective, the anti-war movement cannot (and it will
not) limit itself to being against the war with Iraq -
it must be against the "war without end" doctrine
of military first strikes, nuclear saber rattling, and
aggressive unilateralism of which the war in Iraq is just
the opening act.
chances of stopping George W. Bush - a true believer in
the cleansing powers of military force if there ever was
one - from going to war with Iraq were always small.
But look what the global anti-war movement accomplished--
we forced the Bush administration to take the issue to
the UN; we turned out millions of people in what are arguably the largest coordinated anti-war demonstrations
in history; we helped embolden swing states like Guinea,
Cameroon, Mexico, Chile, Angola and Pakistan to resist
U.S. bullying and bribery and refuse to endorse this "preventive"
war against Iraq; we put the future of entire governments
at risk (in Turkey, in the UK, and elsewhere) when they
attempted to side with the United States against the will
of their own people.
doesn't sound to me like a peace movement that is "losing." That sounds to me like a peace movement
that may have lost the first skirmish, but is poised to
win the larger struggle to put the doctrine of aggressive
unilateralism back in the trash bin of history, where
the next few weeks, anti-war voices may be muted in the
mainstream media as our loyal press corps covers the Iraq
war as if it were a sporting event (or a presidential
election for that matter), focusing solely on tactical
issues and "who's winning," not on whether it
was necessary to go to war to disarm Iraq in the first
I noted in an op-ed that I published in New York Newsday
last Friday, another option was available that would have
allowed the Bush administration to save face and back
off from the war.
As chief UN inspector Hans Blix had pointed out,
even if Saddam Hussein had bent over backwards and turned
cartwheels to cooperate in disarmament, it would have
taken a minimum of two to three months to accomplish that.
The Bush folks could have pressed a resolution for Iraq
to disarm within three months or face "serious consequences."
The resolution could have included concrete benchmarks
for disarmament to be achieved along the way - not the
kind of phony benchmarks that the Blair government was
promoting at the last minute, but practical, achievable
ones that would have given a rhythm and focus to the disarmament
process. Three months later,
we would either have had a disarmed Saddam Hussein, or
a Bush administration with a much broader coalition for
Bush administration decided not to take this route because,
for them, this war has never been about disarming Saddam
Hussein. It has been about projecting U.S. power into the Persian Gulf
in a way that administration true believers think will
BOTH enhance U.S. political, military, and economic interests
AND create a safer, and ultimately more democratic,
Middle East. Why
we should trust the crowd that can't even abide democracy
in Florida to bring democracy to Baghdad, Riyadh, and
Teheran is one of those great unanswered questions that
you are not likely to hear on "The O'Reilly Factor,"
or CNN, or anywhere outside perhaps "The Daily Show
with Jon Stewart."
what do we do now?
First and foremost, we don't give up.
We maintain all of the energy and creativity that
has resulted in the mass mobilizations, the vigils, the
mass faxes and phone calls to Congress, the growing civil
disobedience against the war, the campus teach-ins, and
the whole rich festival of democratic activity that has
gotten us this
far. While "General Chung" and "General
Woodruff" (my friend Lee's nicknames for CNN's Connie
Chung and Judy Woodruff when they're in full-metal war-coverage
mode) ooh and aah over the smart bombs while ignoring
the dumb policies that made the dropping of the bombs
come to pass, we are allowed to change the subject. We can ask some of the questions that
the media is afraid to bring front and center (not that
are NEVER asked, just that they don't get the time and
attention they deserve).
if everything goes perfectly in Iraq from President Bush's
point of view - a quick, "clean" war in which
Saddam Hussein is deposed and disarmed - do we have any
reason to believe that America or the world will be any
safer the day after the war ends?
Will we be less vulnerable to terrorist attacks? Will it be less likely that some tin-pot dictator will get
hold of a nuclear arsenal?
Will the poverty, ignorance, and ideological fervor
that are fueling war and terrorism be diminished?
short answer to these questions is no, no, and no. We're not going to build a safer world by pushing aggressive
unilateralist policies at the expense of diplomatic, economic,
and security cooperation.
We're not going to be in a better position to "roll
up" Al Qaeda networks after a war with Iraq.
We're not going to be in a better position to recruit
systematic allied cooperation to thwart the nuclear weapons
programs of North Korea and Iraq.
We're not going to be in a position to revive the
U.S. and global economies and replace the visions of strife
and victimhood that pervade so much of our global polity
with visions of hope and prosperity.
next "regime change" that needs to happen after
the one in Baghdad should not happen in Teheran or Pyongyang
- it should happen in Washington. It won't come through force of arms, it
will come through what one recent documentary called "a
force more powerful" - non-violent, democratic activism.
those folks who want to say the peace movement has "lost,"
I say, get back to me in December 2004, or January 2005
(depending upon whether we need another "recount" this
time around). I'm
going to be busy for
the next twenty months trying to take my country
back from the prophets of war.
New York City, March 22, 2003
Resources for Hope and Action
The United Nations has pulled out of Iraq. Most U.S. journalists
have left. The Human Shields are gone. But, did you know
there are 26 international citizens and two journalists
who are part of the Iraq Peace Team. They are nurses and
writers, students and teachers, farmers and activists.
They are from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Ireland and
South Korea. And they are not leaving. According to their
statement, they will remain in Iraq in the event of an
attack, with the intentions of:
the Iraqi people during any aggression directed at them,
continued economic sanctions.
Using our presence and non-violent actions to witness,
understand and expose
the situation of both the civilian population of Iraq
the importance of facilities such as water purification
are critical to daily life.
Reporting on our experiences in Iraq through this website,
teams, and all who will listen.
far, they are all still alive. Visit their website and
read their statements and diary entries. I know six of
them personally, and I worry about them constantly now
that the bombs are dropping on Baghdad. But we should
all know that they are there and that they are risking
their lives to provide protection and solidarity to the
Iraq Peace Team
Iraq Peace Team member Bettejo Passalaqua wrote on the
website that after the first bombs fell in Baghdad she
and another team member went to the nearby hospital, "But
even this silence was eclipsed by the scene I encountered
when I walked into the hospital. The corridor was lined
with empty beds (at least 20 beds on either side) awaiting
spoke with a nurse on the vacant ward and she said she
had worked all night in the emergency room of a regular
hospital. There were many elders brought in with heart
problems, most of which were a response to the stress
of the situation.
you all for all you are doing to stop the atrocity of
this war before more lives are claimed. I don't know how
many people died in today's bombing. But it is too late
to save them. I don't know how many people have died in
wars past. But I know it is too late to save them. I don't
know how many people will die in the days coming from
this war, but
I know it isn't too late to save them."
Paul Chan, who was in Baghdad a few months ago with the
Iraq Peace Team, took pictures of daily life in Iraq.
He has posted them on the web as a way of introducing
Americans to the people who are suppose to be our enemies.
In New York City, the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew are
printing out the 39 photos and putting them up around
the city with tape or wheatpaste. People are doing this
throughout the world.
So far, the group has gotten emails from over 50
cities nationally and internationally that have participated--
Tokyo, Warsaw, Madrid, and the Yukon.
out the pictures at http://nationalphilistine.com, and
get started. You should know putting a human face on Iraq
has possible consequences. In NYC two people were arrested
and charged with criminal misdemeanors for taping the
posters to poles.
in touch with the Baghdad Snapshot Action Crew at email@example.com
3. Creative Actions Around the Country
for Peace and Justice" are having a "Funeral
for Democracy" at the Utah State Capital in Salt
Lake City on Saturday. Participants will dress in black
and mourn the death of the Constitution of the United
States, the United Nations, International Law, democracy,
civil liberties, social programs and war victims. They
will also "wash the flag,"
saying, "our President has desecrated the flag and
we will symbolically clean it by washing it in a respectful
Against the War in NYC have come up with the idea of a
"Stroller March" as a way of dramatizing that
the war on Iraq will hit babies and children hardest.
During the March 22 protest march, they will parade through
the streets with empty children's strollers, as well as
strollers with children in them.
empty strollers will have posters attached that say, "Thou
Shall Not Kill (Children)" and "Almost 50% of
Iraq's population is under 15 years old." The same
message will be pinned on to the clothing of children
seated in the strollers, and a grand horizontal banner
bearing the identical message will precede our strollers
through the streets.
information on joining the Stroller March in NYC and how
to make your own in your own community, visit http://www.artistsnetwork.org/news9/news373.html
for more information:
brand new online news project was launched by veteran
antiwar campaigners Voices in the Wilderness (founded
1996) and respected Middle East supplementary news publishers,
the Electronic Intifada (founded 2001).
Electronic Iraq online magazine offers News & Analysis,
Iraq Diaries, International Law, Aid & Development,
Sheets, and Action & Activism. The Iraq Diaries section
offers eyewitness reports from Iraq, and Electronic Iraq's
intention is to publish diary accounts from on the ground
during any hostilities.
To learn about anti-war activities in your town or city,
For what is happening around the world, read this article
in today's Agence
France Presse, "Anti-War Protests Sweep Globe Following
Launch of Strikes
in Iraq," March 20th, 2003. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0320-02.htm
Civil disobedience is no longer a completely marginalized
activity. Last week the former head of the Pacific Stock
Exchange and more than 50 other people were arrested after
blocking an intersection in San Francisco's commercial
and financial heart. Traffic was tied up for hours. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0315-01.htm
Prize winner Máiread Corrigan Maguire and 43 others
(including yours truly) were arrested after blocking the
steps of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations on St.
Patrick's Day. We held loaves of bread and bombs and asked
our representatives at the UN to make a choice. For photos
of this action, visit
I am the one getting arrested in the sixth picture down.
Don't I look pleased?
learn more about nonviolent civil disobedience, visit
invaluable compendium of progressive news and views brings
together articles from mainstream publications, self published
commentaries, reports, analysis and activist press release.
Our friend David Isenberg, an arms analyst at BASIC, wrote
a great article called "Meanwhile, the Business of
War Continues," for the Asia Times It
few years ago, Deep Space Nine, a spin-off television
series of Star Trek was popular. Among other things, it
featured a race of beings called the Ferengi, who were
ruthless profit-seekers. To that end they codified a list
of principles known as the Rules of Acquisition. Rules
34 and 35 stated that war is good for business and that
peace is good for business, respectively.
rules come to mind now that the United States has launched
its long-anticipated invasion of Iraq, at the same time
that the biennial International Defense Exhibition (IDEX)
2003, the Middle East's largest military show, is taking
place in Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates of the United
Arab Emirates. Ironically, the five-day event was due
to end on Thursday, the day that the US began its attack
the rest at: http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC21Ak05.html
Arms Trade Resource Center was established in 1993 to
engage in public education
and policy advocacy aimed at promoting restraint in the
international arms trade.
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