The extent of organizing against the war has taken on an almost surreal quality in its brief history. In the face of the arrogance of the administration, the occasionally interrupted oblivion of the mainstream press and the absence of any meaningful support from the opposition party, the movement has found its own electronic greenhouse, incubating a mindgoogling number of events, collaborations, coalitions and calls to action. From the more mainstream to the more radical, this activity is supporting a welcome if stealth sea change in how ordinary people view the war, their hopes and their relationships to power. The Lysistrata Project involves almost 1000 simultaneous readings of the classic Greek play about stopping war in 60 countries around the globe. Moveon.org has led an impressive array of grassroots initiatives involving hundreds of thousands of people, from the surprise appeal for funds that started out as print ad and turned into the nationwide 'Daisy' campaign, to the Virtual March on Washington. And the February 15th worldwide marches, even with their tens of millions of citizens in the streets, represent only a shadow of the potential unleashed by this unprecedented people power.
In some ways it is reminiscent of the efforts of locked out immigrants and other marginalized groups. Spurned in their bid for a seat at the table, time and again these dismissed losers have formed their own self-contained societies, CYO sports teams, Negro leagues, associations and leadership. The mainstream remains blissfully oblivious to these developments, confident of their hold on power right up until the day the beloved home team gets their asses kicked at State.
And kick their asses we just might. Howard Zinn has written an insightful and stern warning for those who expect a repetition of the historical pattern of a docile populace who snaps to attention once the bombs start falling-a warning our own Pygmy President* and his coterie of corporate hacks and vultures would do well to heed. Support for this insane adventure relies almost exclusively on passive stupidity reinforced by planted fear: polls consistently show an that an enormous segment of those disposed to war still mistakenly believe administration lies about Hussein's connection to Al Qaeda, or worse, that Iraq was somehow instrumental in the September 11 attacks. This is a weak and unstable bloc, and no self-respecting politician would try to run for dogcatcher at its head with any assurance of victory. The opposition, by contrast, presents a far different picture. Focused, self-assured, angry, loud, well informed and disciplined, we are not likely to be deterred by the usual redbaiting, charges of unamericanism and other McCarthyite drivel which feeds the reactionary PR machine.
This is not to suggest that 'the people' are on the verge of taking power for the first time in human history or that the revolution is at hand. I am glad, however, that the movement is moving past the timid contradiction of narrowing its focus in order to broaden its appeal. "Let the Inspections Work," one of the more mainstream slogans, has given way to more strident opposition-a welcome if belated change. Diplomatic cables are flooding in from embassies overseas with an increasingly blunt message: Bush has become the enemy. There are those who insist that an appeal to Americans raised on a diet of cheap oil and pictures of J-Lo's ass must be based on a sense of national pride and self-interest. The time is ripe, then, to remind our fellow citizens of the funeral pyre being readied in their honor. Hey-if it's an appeal to self-interest you want, fact-based fearmongering is just as useful as the lies the warmongers make up.
Moreover, momentum is building for a broader appeal to Americans beyond their own obvious self-interest, toward a broader opposition to the destructive policies of a government gone off the deep end. The fact is that the 'short war' promised by Rumsfeld is no less creepy and murderous-something Americans can and should be made to understand. An attack on Iraq will result in the deaths of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, mass murder by any reasonable standard. Aside from the sheer inhumanity of such an act, Americans need to make opposition to this horrific disregard for human life a centerpiece of the opposition campaign. The main lesson of Vietnam for the war complex seems to be that keeping American casualties low gives a green light for action. The result has been an enormous increase in the disproportionality of deaths in later conflicts bordering on madness.
Even on the home front we have minimized the true effects of warfare. No draft is necessary (for now) and few leader's children will suffer the inevitable consequences of war. In this vein it was perfectly correct for Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem) to insist on debating the draft, as his constituents have always borne a disproportionate burden in the so-called 'volunteer army.' If we do not resist loudly and forcefully specifically on the basis that the value of other human life is equal to that of Americans, we risk facing a hatred and a distrust engendered by other maniacal regimes in history. This is no idle threat. Even mainstream politicians like Clinton have pointed out that the Indian and Chinese economies will zoom past ours in a few decades by mere demographic force. It is wise to point out that bullies who can't keep ahead (an economic and demographic certainty in our future) get beat up in the long run.
Bush's response to Iraq's obvious attempts to comply is as chilling as it is telling. Besides, UN resolution 1441, which justifies the inspections, was itself the result of a blackmail agreement to keep the U.S. warhawks at bay. Most human rights organizations seem to agree that the U.S. and British obsession with Iraq is just that--an obsession. The sanctions regime muscled through the UN by the U.S. (not to mention the no-fly zones not recognized by the international community) is a humanitarian disaster comparable to genocide (words actually used by UN officials).
Basing world policy on one well-contained potential prolifieration hotspot is not 'doing something for world peace' any more than attacking affirmative action is 'doing something about race relations' or than giving tax breaks to rich friends is 'doing something about the economy,' or than rounding up muslims is 'doing something about terrorism.' Such charades are pure, s uperficial cynicism, guided by the ugly and brazen self-interest of a small cabal who benefits from them. The transparency of their thinly disguised motives would be laughable if they weren't so dangerous. The administration itself barely tries to hide its lust for Iraq's oil and political and military control over the entire region. If one were truly concerned about world peace, proliferation itself is the enemy, coupled with the rapid advance of killing technology embraced by these same warmongers. Global disarmament-the obvious and only true path to peace, starts with the truly insane WMD stockpiles of the U.S. and former USSR. Move on, alphabetically or however you choose, through the other nuclear state powers: China, Israel, France, Britain, India and Pakistan. Picking on an enemy you can easily beat neither solves the problem nor wins any friends.
This is not a difficult point to argue; nor are its component facts inaccessible to any American who cares to take time out from filling up the SUV and seek out the truth from sources beyond the nightly TV news. Anyone who claims to care can Google any of the organizations, articles, phrases or keywords mentioned here and gain access to more truth in a few nanoseconds than in watching all of CNN for a month. It may take a small dose of sanity and common sense--but hardly genius--to suggest that maybe five percent of the world's population cannot sustain its consumption of more than a third of the world's resources. Grabbing for more oil to feed the great beast takes none of these.
We are rapidly becoming an international pariah, and our leaders aren't listening. Why would they? Not only were they not elected in the first place, but more and more Americans are beginning to see that they are ouf of their gourds. These are the guys preparing for Rapture by raising the scriptural Red Heiffer to sacrifice on the Temple Mount, priming the pump for the End Times. Iraq to many of them is Babylon, its destruction also foretold in scripture. They are fundamentalist loons, an American Taliban who has seized control of government and policy making apparatus-for whom fighting a holy war against condom use is actually a serious part of government policy. Who in his right mind would spend thousands of dollars to cover up the statue of Lady Justice. I guess John Ashcroft thought Justice needed to be more modest-and if that's not a scary metaphor, I don't know what is.
Believe it or not, this is neither exaggeration nor hyperbole. From Ashcroft to the Moonie in charge of VISTA, the holy warriors pervade this administration like none other in history, and they have the president's ear. These are zealots for whom science is an inconvenience whose conclusions can be scrubbed from government websites when they are politically inexpedient, and for whom dissent can be attacked as treason. Karl Rove and the other henchmen surrounding George Bush have no concern for their mandate. How do you deal with a crowd whose hubris extends even to the belief that God Needs A Push. A friend of mine once provided an insight I have inscribed permanently in my Notes To Self: "Never elect a president who thinks Armageddon is a good thing." These men were content to do whatever it took to gain power, and only the most blind among us can ignore the obvious fact that they will do anything to keep power. Dirty tricks are the only true science of this crowd, and in opposing them we can ill afford to tread lightly. It is no exaggeration to say that the future of the world depends on it.
Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. This piece has also been aired on KFJC Los Altos California. Others interested in airing the audio version (electronic recording available) please contact the author. Welch speaks several languages and is available for recordings in French, German, Russian and Spanish pending a reliable translation, or, alternatively, telephone interviews in the target language. He has also sung and recited at antiwar events and is available (free) for a limited number of engagements as scheduling permits.Other articles, stickers for upcoming protests and other 'stuff' can be found at fringefolk.com/RFVD.html