Donít Get Mad, Get Going!
Will there be war in Iraq? Wrong question. There has been war against the people of Iraq since 1991. This war never stopped; it is a war fought by the "civilized" world with gentle, civilized weapons such as malnutrition, water contamination, prevention of medical services, etc. The better question is: will the war in Iraq be escalated to a ground invasion?
It seems almost inevitable, but there is still room for reading the tea leaves. Dealing rationally with the arguments put forth by the White House in favor of war is difficult. They are ridiculous. It must be particularly tough for corporate journalists committed to not insulting the administration. What can you say, beyond rolling your eyes, when Bush recently warned of Iraqi plans for transatlantic remote-controlled aircrafts attacking American cities? Can you perhaps mention Saddam is also building photon torpedoes? How can you argue with "secret evidence" of Iraqi nuclear capability which the administration refuses even to hand over to the weapons inspectors? Can Cheney at least tip Hans Blix about the whereabouts of Iraq's alleged secret sites with "warm, warm, warmer, cold again, warm, warmer"?
In despair, some even try to peer into Bush's soul, maybe by gazing into his deep, anxious eyes. Is Bush a cowboy, a frat boy, an all-American boy, or just a mentally-challenged boy? What does it mean for America that Bush used to torture frogs when he was young? Is he a dry drunk? Does he share the belief of some of his fundamentalist fans in the soon-upon-us Rapture, Armageddon, Apocalypse now? If he does, does he believe himself to be one of the horsemen? Will he be inclined to hasten the end of the world? These and many other questions will be resolved in the next episode of "The Empire."
Dwelling too much on these questions is not recommended. First, gazing into Bush's soul can be hazardous to your health. You might be sucked in by the vacuum. But the more important reason is that it serves little purpose. At best, one is led to ponder the deep dysfunctionality of American politics that allows someone like Bush to rule the world. But it is too late for that.
The goal of understanding what goes on behind the scenes in Washington should not be to reinforce our status as powerless spectators of a magnificent drama. Unfortunately, most of the analysis in the media is exactly that. The really crucial question isn't, "will there be war," but "how can we prevent war."
The administration is quite unified about the right of the U.S. government to exercise unlimited power over the whole world. But there are different currents behind this unified facade. Here's what I understand is going on:
First, there is the axis-of-pure-evil, Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Perle & Co. This is the War Party. Their song is bomb Iraq though the justification keeps changing monthly. The War Party was all for bombing Iraq already before the war in Afghanistan (in fact, before the 2000 elections). It engaged in a sustained effort to launch an attack around November, which was frustrated by Bush's decision to go through the Security Council. The War Party did another attempt to launch the war by defining Iraq's anti-aircraft fire at American and British jets as a "material breach" of the inspection resolution. That did not work either.
The War Party is still looking for excuses to launch the invasion. The next date is January 27 when the inspectors' report is due. If, as it is quite likely, the inspectors find nothing, there might be attempts to invent or inflate findings. Or we might even be treated to another blood libel, just like the false baby incubator story that preceded the war in 1991. Who knows? Perhaps there'll be a "shocking discovery" that the Iraqi officers' cantina is making soup stock from baby bones.
Then there is the axis-of-banal-evil, Rove-Card-Bush & Co. That is the Bush Re-election Party, obsessed with avoiding a replay of the first Bush one-term presidency. The Bush Re-election Party supports the war, but is weary of overspending political capital. In the face of international pressure and lukewarm domestic support, the Bush Re-election Party is seeking to outmaneuver the opposition to the war by co-opting fence-sitters. Before attacking, it seeks to "market" the war: domestically with outlandish lies and internationally with cash promises and arm twisting.
Finally, there is the axis-of-evil-with-a-disarming-smile, mostly Powell & Co. -- the I'm a Player Too Party. Powell favors the more traditional foreign policy style of Papa Bush and Clinton. He is eager to show how much the U.S. can gain by hardball diplomacy alone. But his only leverage is his ability to save Bush precious political capital. At worse, he can be the Republican ambassador to MTV.
The differences between the above three parties are minimal but crucial -- they refer only to what each party sees as its highest priority.
Within the War Party, there are two distinct wings: the "Pentagon uber Alles" wing of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Rice, and the "Israel uber Alles" wing of Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, Faith & Co. The Pentagon wing wants Power with a capital P: unlimited and unchecked, over the whole world -- they call it now "full spectrum dominance." Domestically, to make such foreign policy possible, the Pentagon wing wants to return to the good old days of the Korean war and the early Vietnam war, when the government was secret and unaccountable, and the public much more docile and naive than today.
Members of the second wing share this vision, but emotionally, they seem to be motivated by something else: they believe that an aggressive U.S. empire is necessary for the "survival" of Israel, for which they have an inordinate and unseemly attachment that appears to trump all other considerations. The remarkable resemblance between the advice they give Bush today and the wildest dreams of Israel's most extreme hawks is not a coincidence, and neither is the fact that the Sharon government in Israel is the only other government in the world that is positively salivating about the prospects of war.
The Pentagon wing, Cheney and Rumsfeld, control the brawn, but it is the second wing, the committed Zionists, that provide most of the strategic brain of the War Party.
The War Party seems to be the administration's motor; no doubt it has set the agenda regarding Iraq. But Powell succeeded in forcing the U.S. to seek a Security Council resolution and renewed arms inspection instead of striking unilaterally. This has delayed the war by a few months. The delay cannot be credited to Powell's influence, which is minimal. It must be credited to the rise of an anti-war sentiment and the fear that a unilateral war would not be approved by a majority of Americans. The party that makes the final decision is still the Bush Re-election Party, not the War Party.
This is our opportunity. We can hope to stop the war by raising the amount of political capital Bush must spend. The War Party needs to start the war within the next two months. After that, in the summer, the cost of logistics and the advancing elections timetable might make war impractical. So, it might be now or never. This is the time for action, not speculation.
There will be a march in Washington D.C. on January 18th. The last march was big with about 100,000 people showing up. This one has to be big, too, preferably huge. We need to be there. We need to send a message to the White House that there is a large anti-war movement already. We need to make Karl Rove understand that this movement will grow even bigger if the war is escalated, that it will expose the price Americans will pay for the war, and that it will eventually cost Bush the election. We must make Karl Rove make Bush worry that his presidency doesn't end up like Johnson's or Nixon's.
The march is organized by the International Answer coalition. It and various other groups organize transportation and many will also organize a nightover if required. Many other groups will participate with their own banners. The weeks ahead are marked for sustained anti-war actions all over the world, so there will be plenty of opportunities for people who cannot travel to Washington to participate in expressing their objections to the war.
The anti-war movement is a coalition, not a party. There is no abiding ideology and no required readings. Opposition to the prospect of this U.S. aggression unites a broad spectrum of Americans of different and even opposing political stripes: socialists, anarchists, liberals, feminists, Quakers and members of almost every other American faith, army veterans, minorities' rights activists, libertarians, conservatives, environmentalists, isolationists, etc. There are also many, many people who are just citizens who smell something fishy.
You don't have to agree with International Answer or with me in order to join the anti-war demonstration. All you have to agree with is that you have an opportunity and a duty to stop the coming slaughter.
Here are a few other reasons to participate:
* The war will devastate Iraq (again), kill tens of thousands of innocent people, and an unknown number of American GIs, mostly from minority groups and from working class backgrounds (none of the white hawks in the current White House has ever been near enemy fire. They all had the opportunity and chose not to. Dying in uniforms is a privilege almost totally reserved for minorities and poor whites.)
* The war will be a naked act of aggression against a country that hasn't attacked the U.S., that has no plans to attack the U.S. and no capabilities of attacking the U.S.
* The war will be a boon to terrorist organizations recruiting people willing to kill Americans.
* The war will hasten the scraping of the Bill of Rights and the suspension of American democracy.
* The ten commandments say murder is wrong. So is stealing. Killing Iraqis in order to steal their oil is a double offense.
* The war will train more young Americans in murder and dehumanization, a training that quite a few of them -- such as Timothy McVeigh, the D.C. sniper and many other less remarkable victims of militarization -- will later turn against their spouses, children and neighbors.
* The war will cost hundreds of billions in direct costs and potentially trillions in the likely economic disruption that will result. That means lower standards of living for everyone.
* The war will suck the air out of what's left of America's social services, and will therefore contribute to misery, insecurity and crime all over America.
* The war will damage U.S. international standing and relations with friendly countries. It will make American foreign policy more expensive and more difficult.
* By making peaceful diplomacy difficult, it will make war even more attractive; hence, the war will engender more wars.
* The war risks bringing chaos to the Middle East, boosts the rise of militant Islam as the only alternative to American colonialism, and plunges the Middle East into a new century of bloodshed.
The war, or everything that will go wrong with it, will be soon blamed on "the Jews," thanks to the good work of Perle, Wolfowitz & Co.
War is hell. We don't need a reason to resist it. We need an excellent reason to support it. So far, nobody has offered any serious one.
So make plans to be in Washington Saturday the 18th. Better yet, spread the news to friends, family and neighbors. Bring your own big party to Washington and earn points towards the real peace prize.
This is our chance to save tens of thousands of lives. We don't get such chances every day.
Of course, there is much more one can do instead or beyond going to one demonstration. To start with, here is a list of websites with information on other anti-war groups:
If you find every other group too liberal, too radical, too religious, too secular, too anything else for your taste, then why not start your own?
Gabriel Ash was born in Romania and grew up in Israel. He is an unabashed "opssimist." He writes his columns because the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword - and sometimes not. This article first appeared at Yellow Times.org. Gabriel encourages your comments: gash@YellowTimes.org †