Thursday, March 20, 2003
It looks like the bombs will finally start falling, this week or next. Children sleeping as this issue goes to press may be dead in a matter of days. There is nothing we can do now to prevent history from taking this turn toward a more violent future. Very soon, we will be living in a bloodier world, and we will have to live with the knowledge that it is our nation wreaking the havoc.
It would be difficult enough to face that fact if this war were necessary and just--if it appeared to chart "a course toward safety," as the president promised Monday night. But the citizens and leaders of most of the world, including 60 percent of Californians, fear that this war will lead to nothing good.
George Bush doesn''t care what we or the rest of the world think. He failed in his effort to bully the United Nations--insulting the world''s leaders by telling them "you''re either with us or with the terrorists." And so our president now simply denies the UN''s authority. In so doing, he has not only undermined the cooperative project of the UN, he has divided Europe dangerously and poisoned relations with our European allies.
In belligerently ignoring the concerns of domestic opponents to his aggressive policies, the president has broken a promise, made when he was running for office, to be a bi-partisan leader who would bring disparate groups toward consensus. Now the president stands aloof, telling us that he knows what''s best for us and the world.
President Bush said Monday that he has the "sovereign authority" to wage this offensive war--in contradiction the UN Security Council and in violation of guidelines that have governed US military actions since the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Judging from the rhetoric he has employed since he launched this offensive over a year ago, George Bush believes he alone is thus empowered because he is guided by no less than the hand of God.
This arrogant righteousness is not a wholly new thing in America''s view of its place in the world, but it has never before led our nation to start a war. Our nation''s military history is nowhere near spotless, but every US president for almost 100 years--including George Bush''s father--has respected principles of restraint and multinationalism to some degree. These principles are the first victims of this new kind of war.
George Bush tells us this is the first battle in the war against terrorism. But Iraq is not responsible for the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC. President Bush has been asked, repeatedly, to provide evidence that Saddam Hussein is linked to Al Qaeda. He has been asked by the UN Security Council, by Congress and by our allies. If such evidence existed, our allies would have joined us in battle. There is also no evidence that Saddam has stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. This war is not the logical next step in the fight against terrorism.
President Bush says that the world is different now, and that this campaign is "the first war of the 21st century." Presumably, according to the Bush policy of pre-emptive warfare, North Korea is next; then Iran; and then whoever else is determined to be in need of a whipping by the Bush Crusade.
There are profound immediate and long-term hazards associated with the president''s war plans. Thousands of Iraqis--soldiers and innocents--could die needlessly; in the first Gulf War, as many as 100,000 soldiers and 13,000 civilians were killed in six weeks. This war could be worse.
The war plan is complex, and even though our technology is the most sophisticated and our troops the best-trained, there are grave risks. It''s anticipated that our Marines will have to march more than 300 miles to advance on Baghdad. This is, as The New York Times has pointed out, the longest Marine land attack since 1805. There will be casualties among our young men and women. Biological or chemical agents will almost certainly be released against our troops--backed into a corner, what does Saddam have to lose?
If the war goes as well as Bush hopes, Saddam''s brutal regime will have been ended, but we will have stirred a hornets'' nest.
Right off the bat, it will be the US''s responsibility to undertake the rebuilding of Iraq. This will be much greater in scope than the rebuilding of Afghanistan, which is far from complete. It''s expected that, at minimum, our troops and support teams will be in Iraq for two years for a "transition" that will cost billions of tax dollars.
If this war was necessary or just, then those consequences would be worth facing. There are times when military action is justified to stop a reckless tyrant. Because of his cruel mistreatment of his own people as well as his potential threat to the world, Saddam Hussein may even need to be stopped dead in his tracks. But unleashing the full might of the US arsenal against the nation or Iraq, at this volatile moment, is foolishly wrong-headed.
It may in fact be too late to stop this war, but that does not leave us powerless. We can and should continue to speak out against this imperialism. We should march, write letters and attend vigils. We should encourage our city councils to pass resolutions in opposition to the war. We must teach our children that there''s a better way.
We must also continue to resist this war in our hearts. Even as we are surrounded with the news of its horrific glory, we must refuse it. Even as we resist, we should turn to face our families and our communities, and continue to work to build a world of peace.