Will the Bush regime "prevail" and go to war? Or will it listen to citizens - and quite a few governments - around the world and think?
Could it be that President Bush is projecting his own subconscious and fears when he tells Saddam that "the game is over"? Could it be that he and the apparently desperate people around him are beginning to feel that their bullying and vision-less game - not with the world but against it - could spell the end of their regime and the U.S. empire?
The Bush regime is politically fundamentalist: we are right, they are wrong. It's based on the flawed assumption that policies can be based on a) dictating to friends and foes alike that they are either with us/U.S. or against us/U.S., and b) ignoring every type of listening, consulting and consensus-building policies with rightfully concerned parties, including its closest friends.
So, regrettable as it is, it's the Bush regime's policies, not Saddam Hussein's, that have split the West and now shake institutions such as the United Nations, the EU and NATO.
We are not talking about events and statements made the last few weeks. Citizens in virtually all Western democracies, in the Arab world and elsewhere, as well as a growing number of governments, have accumulated their anger and fears over several years.
The overwhelming protests by millions of citizens all over our common world on February 15 draws upon a deep-seated resentment and a sense of having been humiliated by those in power. They feel that they have had enough after years of the Bush regime's insensitivity, arrogance and bellicosity.
The destructiveness of the Bush regime
Here are some of the unilaterally destructive results of the Bush regime's activities.
1. Mistaking the criminal act on September 11 for a war. Then building up a world-wide war on terror that is out of proportion with the problem and will cause more, not less, terrorism. (In the year 2000, about 400 people were killed world wide in terrorism - many lives, yes, but not exactly the largest problem in the world).
2. Ignoring civil rights in the U.S. and elsewhere (Guantanamo) in the struggle against this terrorism. More Orwellian legislation is being prepared by Attorney General John Ashcroft: Patriot Act II.
3. Undermining international law by withdrawing from important treaties, fundamental principles and norms of the UN Charter and refusing to participate in summits where the common problems of humankind are being discussed (often problems caused predominantly by the American lifestyle and consumption patterns). These policies are associated with fundamentally important issues such as the Kyoto treaty, The International Criminal Court, ICC, the Johannesburg World Summit and the decision to stop funding the UN Population Fund as well as with outmaneouvring heads or international organisations and missions.
4. Forgetting to consult, after September 11, with the sincerely sympathetic Europeans, ignoring NATO - that evoked its Article 5 - and attacking Afghanistan virtually alone.
5. Devastating Afghanistan and killing 5,000-10,000 innocent people in this country with a population of about one-tenth that of the U.S. In short, retaliating completely out of proportion to the harm done on September 11 (and they're still bombing).
6. Bombing Afghanistan and contributing far too little to minimum humanitarian and economic aid. And then rushing on to Iraq and Korea (and Saudi-Arabia, Iran, and...?)
7. Talking about the "Axis of Evil" which is based on a simplified and paranoid worldview that provides the U.S. a role similar to that of the Messiah and the Chosen People - chosen to cleanse the world from that Evil.
8. Antagonising the Koreans, north and south, dismissing the "sunshine policy" and ignoring the commitments made in the 1994 agreement with North Korea.
9. Promoting the expansion of NATO and then undermining it because the Allies will not blindly and obediently accept that a member state is used in a U.S. attack. Turkey, against the will of 90 per cent of its citizens, is being blackmailed to serve a military springboard for attacking Iraq and thereby could draw the whole alliance into the disaster.
10. Antagonising both Russia, India and China on a variety of issues and thereby potentially moving towards a new Cold War.
11. Introducing a nuclear posture, a Ballistic Missile Defence and a pre-emptive war-fighting strategy. The Bush regime refuses to see that this amounts to blatant violations of international law and common norms laboriously built up and solidified over five decades. These strategies also effectively prevents the United States from providing moral leadership towards a more peaceful world.
12. In the process, creating jitters throughout the world economy and causing the dollar to decline steadily, while oil prices are going the other way. Just imagine what much higher oil prices will mean for millions of people in poor oil-importing countries.
13. Putting thousands of American lives at risk: a) by sending soldiers into combat and b) by steadily increasing the risk of future, retaliative terror attacks on the U.S.
14. Planning a nuclear war on the Iraqis, something only a callous and irresponsible person would do to further his own interests. In addition, ignoring completely that, according to UN Security Council Resolution 687 of 1991, the Middle East shall be a zone free of Weapons of Mass Destruction and that, therefore, Israel is obliged to be inspected, comply, co-operate and be disarmed like Iraq.
15. Undermining the United Nations and creating the conditions for a deep split in its Security Council by exclusively imposing its own will on the world organisation .
16. For all practical purposes conducting a political war on "old" Europe and the European Union (which admittedly has made a joke of its idea about a common EU foreign and security policy). The U.S. will punish Germany in particular for its "treachery" (See the Guardian)
17. Creating a huge democratic deficit within the West: a) George W. Bush, the world's most powerful leader, was not elected, he was selected. b) according to opinion polls the majority of citizens world-wide are against a war while a number of "democratic" governments support the war. The Bush regime has been so amateurish that it has never thought of a political exit strategy, should the war option turn out to be unacceptable or infeasible
18. Developing an empire that is not built on vision, benevolence or economic strength but on military power (half of the world's military expenditures), economic exploitation of millions around the world, megalomania, arrogance and plain contempt of virtually everybody else who are not "with us."
There is nothing constructive about the Bush regime; it's a political and civilisational destroyer. When did you last meet someone who thought George W. Bush was a man with a rational policy or an attractive vision of the future world? Many felt that about, say, Kennedy, Carter, or Reagan. Today people around the world shake their heads in resignation or feel that George W. Bush, his clique and attitudes, begin to look like a serious danger to the world. This is not anti-Americanism. But it is anti-Bushism. And we do need non-violent confrontation.
Intellectual and moral power versus military might - a deadly imbalance
Never has the gap between intellectual and moral power, and technological and military power been so deep. There is nothing to laugh about anymore, if there ever was.
Extrapolate the kinds of thinking, policies and trends above into the future - 2, 5, 10 years. Do you think it can go well? How long will it take before the international community, as we know it, breaks down in chaos and, perhaps, world wide warfare? How much longer can the real problems of humankind wait for solutions while the Bush regime wastes the world's resources, derails our attention and consumes our energies on foolish struggles against imagined and self-contrived enemies?
Mr. Bush' game must come to an end before we all slide into incurable decay. He is far more dangerous to the international community than Saddam Hussein. They are both political fundamentalists but only Bush seems to have the mind-set, the (weak) intellect and the mighty military power to plunge the world into uncharted territories of utter chaos and destruction.
Perhaps the best we can hope for at this juncture is some kind of damage limitation. What is needed, however, in a world order perspective is free, non-commercial and internationally monitored elections leading to peaceful regime change in Washington.
Given the extent of the American empire in today's world, we must also begin to think imaginatively about ways in which citizens around the world, not only the American people, can influence the election of future U.S. leaders and the course of its global policies. February 15 may be one indicator of something new: those influenced by U.S. power voice their democratic opinion to influence U.S. policies.
Global democratisation should go through non-violent confrontation with the Bush regime and co-operation with every American who is half as scared as the rest of us are. February 15, 2003, was the largest ever global, pre-war protest and it was a great sign of hope for humanity and decency.
Masters of (Nuclear) War are hardly deterred by a few million marchers...
But we must not be content now. The struggle for a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi and other threatening conflicts, not to mention the abolition of war as an accepted social institution, requires a sustained peace debate and activism in the weeks, months and years to come. We should not take for granted that Masters of War who do not seem afraid to shake the fate of the earth with their nuclear weapons, would be deterred to the point of backing down just because a few million people protest.
Jan Oberg is the Director of the Transnational Foundation For Peace and Future Research in Sweden (http://www.transnational.org). © Copyright Jan Oberg and TFF 2003