This Is No Time For War

by Angana Chatterji

Dissident Voice
February 4, 2003



I write this to echo a million voices resolutely calling for peace. I write this in dismay as the United States prepares for another racist and futile war. Why is this administration so eager to bomb Iraq? Is it the insatiable, unsustainable hunger for oil? Is it its misguided attempt to eradicate terrorism through enhanced state violence? Is North Korea next? Iran? Where does it end? If President Bush scorns the United Nations, ignores international criticism, and acts unilaterally in Iraq, we will bear testimony to the continued desecration of democratic process in the 21st century. In the current global order the United States is failing to act for justice, peace and real economic improvement. Democracy is a hollow phrase in these times, bankrupt of meaning for those without privilege.


The United States is a magnificent land, of courage, freedom, resilience, and enormous genius. It is as well an imperial democracy; a state built on genocide and slavery, sustained through inequity and dominance. It is a society divided by history, race, class, religion, gender, and isolationism. Freedom here is made up of increasingly private dreams that remain distant for so many. Freedom is a condition to which they aspire, with their bodies, imaginations, hopes. This nation relies on their labour, often forgetting its promises to them.


The present government in the United States makes peace and justice increasingly vulnerable. It has elected to assail civil rights and affirmative action and remain inattentive to the suffering of Native nations within its borders. The United States, 4.6 percent of the world’s population, houses 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. 37.6 percent of those incarcerated are African-American males, even as African-Americans are just 13 percent of the population. More than 300,000 women are raped each year. This government has supported the campaign for a right-wing judiciary, and the privatisation of healthcare and social security. It has exhibited contempt for environmental sustainability and safeguards, remained silent on affordable housing, and shown support for anti-abortion. This government has blurred the lines between “safety” and “freedom”. The ethnic profiling of Muslims, registration programs, searches and detentions without charge or due process threaten the civil liberties of all. Such disfigurement of human rights. This administration has participated in the collapse of the economy, offered tax breaks to the rich and inadequately addressed corporate crimes. In the last two months the economy has lost 189, 000 jobs. There is a dramatic increase in homelessness. 41.2 million remain without healthcare. The country’s foreign debt totals $2.5 trillion. The world's most affluent nation is the largest defaulter to the United Nations owing more than a billion dollars. Is war this administration’s strategy to divert public attention from domestic ills?


Amidst the staggering magnitude of internal disarray, the United States struggles to create support for its war with Iraq. Stories of imminent danger circulate freely. Yet, the dominant “truths” that American actions are beyond reproach, driven only by good intentions, are frayed. The people are fatigued. Discontent reigns. The health of the union is falling apart. In response, the administration advocates irresponsible corporate and military globalisation that persists through class wars, fomenting the very conditions that breed despicable acts of terrorism.


“Shock and Awe”? 800 cruise missiles in two days to asphyxiate Baghdad? The United Sates is bankrolling international support. Turkey, a critical ally whose citizens are vigorously opposed to the war, was offered a $16 billion loan through the International Monetary Fund and a $4 billion grant. The United States is preparing to attack Iraq not because there is substantial evidence of Iraq’s immediate danger to the “free world,” or because UN inspections inscribe it. Neither can this war be a pretext for avenging the horror of September 11. No convincing evidence links Iraq to al Qaeda. The reason offered is that Iraq poses a long-term threat. Yes, Saddam Hussein is contemptible. Yes, that regime must turn. But does the Unites States reserve the right to bomb Iraq? Will the United States sanction all states that attack each other based on potential threat? What about other “evil” regimes whose power the United Sates is committed to enhancing? What about states whose foreign or military policies the United States does not support? Such arrogance of empire.


If there is a war, what of the aftermath? As the military withdraws while innocent bodies are shovelled into mass graves, the living will face new wars of poverty, disease and rage. Is the United States able to honour its promises for a better tomorrow to those whose lands it invades? Let us ask this of the women in Afghanistan today. What about self-determination for the dispossessed in Iraq? Will the United States uphold the demands of the Kurdish people for a separate state in northern Iraq? Turkey would not approve. Let us remember how the Kurdish people were abandoned to the slaughterhouse when the first Bush administration retracted its support for the Kurds after encouraging their revolt in Baghdad.


What will President Bush’s war get America – more hatred? Is violation the only intervention that nations can dream? Destruction and brutalisation the only pathways to “justice”? The Progressive Caucus, co-chaired by Democrats Barbara Lee and Dennis Kucinich, deserves America’s support in its efforts to halt the government’s plans to play war without the consent of its people. Can the United States uphold democracy elsewhere if it is incapable of practising it within its borders? 


Hundreds of thousands march in protest across the United States. Even the corporate media is increasingly critical of Bush’s plan. There is no support for terrorism and little support for state terror. Broad based coalitions for peace are emerging in strength. “Code Pink” is leading a women’s delegation to Iraq. Even those frightened of the wrath of their government refuse to let fear stifle protest. There is a movement, growing, reverberating, louder and louder. Dissent, palpable and enduring. This is no time for complicity. This is no time for war.


Angana Chatterji is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.