War Among the Innocents

by Ben G. Price bengprice@aol.com

People who oppose an unprovoked American military invasion of Iraq have been attacked from behind the cover of Christian fundamentalism and the camouflage of real politick almost daily. From theological condescension to political slander, opinions promoting war have suggested that public dissent would better be categorized a crime of indecency.

For others, opposing a popularly promoted war should, as in past eras, be punished with social ostracism and the villainization of pacifists as "un-American." But a more effective way to dismiss opposition to the Bush administration's war plans has recently been adopted by some editorial writers. The politically correct way, the kinder, gentler way, and the compassionate conservative way to make a cipher of conscience when war is preferred is to tar it with the moniker "naive."

It is time to ask the hard questions and see if the promoters of war are right. How can they claim that its opponents are naive? Is it possible for them to be honest despite the personal investment they've made in the idea of military conflict as public policy?

Are the arguments for war really so much more pragmatic, mature, and reasoned in contrast to the "idealism" and naiveté of those who say first-strike military invasions are misguided?

We can question the "facts" used in the argument for invasion. I turn your attention (if facts interest you) to the falsehoods being used to promote the image of Saddam Hussein as a beast who would gas his own people. Moderates who have been marginalized along with liberals seem to be the targeted audience for disinformation claiming that civilians in the north of Iraq were murdered by the thousands under Saddam Hussein. A humanitarian war of liberation would be found more palatable than a war of conquest for oil by those still guided by conscience. But this often repeated "justification" for deposing the Iraqi ruler is disinformation founded on a lie.

Stephen Pelletiere, a personal acquaintance and retired CIA lead analyst specializing in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, debunked the Bush administration's claims on this count in October 2002 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania during the "Mirror of Truth" tour of Voices in the Wilderness sponsored by my organization, the Carlisle Peace College, and again in an Op-ed article in the New York Times Jan. 28. [ http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/31/opinion/31PELL.html ]

The tall tale of thousands of Kurds being genocidally gassed by Saddam Hussein back in 1988 is, frankly, nothing more than domestic propaganda. To believe it without evidence demonstrates profound naiveté. To continue to believe it in the face of factual refutation exhibits contempt for the truth. To hand over war powers to the president based on this kind of pap is legislative misrepresentation of the most irresponsible sort, a crime against democracy if not against humanity.

We should not be fooled by the studied manufacture of consent to war that is the chief policy initiative of the Bush administration. Indeed it seems naive to think a "coalition of the willing" made up of bribed client states and alliance-starved members of the dismantled Warsaw Pact amounts to anything like real international support.

Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, signed a letter of solidarity with Washington one day before he resigned. The Czech government has since announced that it is a matter of the ex-president's personal point of view and not national sentiment.

The Spanish prime minister who signed the letter is being publicly challenged by the president of Spain about why he would add his name to such a letter when polls show 74.2 percent of the Spanish populace in opposition to an American invasion of Iraq under any circumstances. The prime minister of Portugal failed to notify the president of that country that he was going to sign the letter.

A Gallup poll conducted across Europe and released in Brussels showed that weeks before the invasion 82 percent of the people in 30 European countries oppose the participation of their countries in a war led by the United States against Iraq. That number has gone up.

Supposed staunch ally Britain, like other "allies" in this bunch, is an alliance of one: Tony Blair. The Daily Mirror newspaper published a Gallup poll prior to the invasion showing 84 percent of British people oppose war against Iraq without specific authorization from the U.N. Security Council, and 43 percent oppose war under any conditions.

Nations able to abstain from co-option are doing so, and their skepticism about American intentions in Iraq should not be considered an irrelevancy. The Islamic nations in the Gulf region resisting co-option, including presumed allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are bellwethers of problems ahead after the United States invasion of Iraq is sealed with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the military occupation of the new American colony. Is it naive to notice these facts, or rather is it naive to ignore them?

We must question the language of war and its psychological effects. Is it really more sophisticated to speak of "collateral damage" instead of specific people and families to be disemboweled and buried under the rubble of cruise missile attacks? Is it really weak-minded and naive to prefer to talk honestly about the real consequences for people?

Were those who promote war realists, they could stand on fact alone to demonstrate the superiority of their argument. No truth would be hidden; no deceit would be used; no avoidance of public debate would be tolerated if reality supported the argument that war is necessary.

But just the opposite is the case. We find that questioning the reasons for a war is unwelcomed "meddling." We learn that the evidence supporting the publicly promulgated reasons for an invasion are classified and not for public consumption.

During a congressional campaign in which I ran as the Green Party's candidate for the PA 19th district, my opponent, U.S. Rep. Todd Platts, ran a campaign defending his support for war on the assurance that he was privy to classified information that he could not legally share with constituents. The war is no longer looming large in our future: it is upon us! And the official justifications for it are still secret. Who is being naive?

To promote an invasion of Iraq and to gain public support for such a military policy, the Bush administration has put the purported facts off limits. Even the U.N. arms inspectors have not been given the supposed proof held by the Bush administration that Iraq is in cahoots with terrorists and planning to use lethal weapons against other nations.

If they have them, the Iraqis haven't used chemical or biological agents against the American invaders as of this writing (March 28, 2003). And the forged documents used by Mr. Bush to sell the lie of an Iraqi nuclear weapons program have been repudiated soundly. [ t r u t h o u t - U.N. Official: Fake Iraq Nuke Papers Were Crude ] Unless the US global policeman plants a "smoking gun" at the scene of its war crimes, the purported justification for invading Iraq will smell a bit oily to the more civilized world.

Unconvincing photos of "mobile" weapons laboratories not withstanding, and despite the dossiers on Iraq offered by the British prime minister and the American secretary of state, the case for invading Iraq has failed. And it could not have been made without clear proof that the United States or its allies are in imminent danger of being attacked by Iraq. Nothing less than such a demonstrated threat could stand up to the burden of honesty demanded before a nation commits itself to preemptive war. The Bush administration, claiming to represent the people of the United States, failed miserably on both counts.

Arguments of sovereignty that apply to all other nations are brushed aside without explanation in the case of Iraq. The numbness of thought that is becoming America's general mindset is no accident. Obliviousness to the truth is being nurtured as the official American State of Mind. It has been all so easy for the administration to presume the support of a plurality.

"You're either with me or against me" is the kind of schoolyard diplomacy we are expected to embrace without question. But if we do, are we being pragmatic, sophisticated, and mature? Or are we exhibiting the ultimate form of naiveté?

American traditions that continue to be upheld by the nation's people, if not by its current leaders, include the premise that this nation will not instigate wars, and that even enemy warriors will be afforded the benefits of justice. The invasion of Iraq and the revocation of judicial rights for prisoners in the fake "War on Terror" prove the regime at the American helm has no right to claim a lineage with American traditions. And despite the constant propaganda to the contrary, there is no superior sophistication in the overthrow of these traditions. There is no naiveté in their preservation.

Ben Price is vice president of the Pennsylvania Citizen Action Network, organizer for the Carlisle Peace College, and Green Party U.S. Congressional Candidate for the 19th District in 2002.