sponsored by Citizens Against War, Pentacrest, January 29th, 2003
Speaking as a private citizen and member of the Green Party, I wish to thank the organizers of this rally for inviting us to affirm our unqualified opposition to a war of aggression against Iraq.
Despite massive U. S. pressure, most members of the UN are opposed to this war. Security Council members are irritated that the U.S. misrepresented their earlier Iraqi arms declaration. Only a heavily edited version was made available to the ten elected members, which excluded all references to U.S. and allied corporations involved in supporting Iraq's ‘weapons of mass destruction’- programs in the past. And even if evidence of a weapons program were to be found, there is no basis for war.
The North Korea “nuclear crisis” offers yet more evidence that this war against Iraq is not about such‘weapons of mass destruction’ but about dominence of the mideast and its oil reserves.
The commanders of the Army and the Marine Corps have . . . warned that war with Iraq will not be an easy conquest, and that U.S. soldiers will pay a brutal price. The UN predicts that a U.S. war in Iraq would result in a crippled nation and UN humanitarian agencies have estimated that 500,000 Iraqis would be injured in the early stages of a U.S. war, that up to 9.5 million Iraqis would immediately become dependent on aid agencies for basic food, and that about 3 million will face "dire malnutrition."
In the Green Party’s own assessment of the grim “state of the Union,” Natalie Johnson Lee, a Green councillor in Minneapolis remarked yesterday that:
The President claims the inspections have failed. He is wrong. In fact, his attempts to drum up a war fever are what has failed. The lives of millions of innocent Iraqi civilians are not worth a drop of Bush’s oil.
Such brutally cynical exercises of power are hardly new in the English-speaking world. In 1823 Jonathan Dymond, a 27 year old English linen draper, framed a cogent analysis of war and its causes:
When the profligacy [waste] of a minister, or the unpopularity of his measures, has excited public discontent, he can perhaps find no other way of escaping the resentment of the people, than thus making them forget it. He therefore discovers a pretext for denouncing war on some convenient country, in order to divert the indignation of the public from himself to their new-made enemies. . . . A monstrous profligacy or ferocity that must be, which, for the sole purpose of individual interest, . . . coolly fabricates pretences for slaughter; that quietly contrives the exasperation of the public hatred and then flings the lighted brands of war amongst the devoted and startling people.
In the late nineteenth century, William Morris, a poet, artist, socialist and principled opponent of an another empire’s “National Vain-Glory,” wrote that
false patriotism . . . breeds injustice in us in the present that we may be unjustly dealt with in the future: . . . it prates of the interests of our country, while it is laying the trail of events which will ruin the fortunes, and break the hearts of the citizens. . . it would have nothing to do with foreign nations except for their ruin and ours: its great office is for ever to cry out for war without knowing what war means: all other nations, it deems, pay the price of war; but we never do, and never can pay it, and never shall.
In my own voice, I would like to express the simple conviction that ‘we’ now have no more right to attack another country, in defense of our ‘national security’ and access to Iraqi oil, than the Japanese government had to bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941, in the alleged interests of its “greater east-Asian co-prosperity sphere.”
I would also like to express a fear—a rational fear we all feel--that the war Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are prepared to unleash may not only kill a few thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraquis. It may also unleash endless reverberations of further violence and hate, which may continue for decades, past the margins of our power to imagine our descendants’ futures (if we have descendants who have futures).
More personally, I want to mourn a deterioration I believe our civil society has experienced since my student days near the end of the Vietnam war—a period many of us then considered a nadir in the history of our country. For that deterioration has furthered the ‘arrogance of power,’ and helped bring us to this impasse.
Thirty years after the Vietnam war, we have little or no opposition in the Congress or Senate to rampant abuse of power and abrogation of tenuous civil liberties.
Thirty years later, in a country whose secretary of state once conceived the Marshall Plan, we have a ‘moderate’ secretary of state who works diligently to habituate us to the ‘just’-war-niceties of the “preemptive strike.”
Thirty years later, we have a government that works more and more brazenly in public as well as behind the scenes to nullify treaties, pollute the environment, preserve landmines, defy world courts, suborn ‘allied’ governments and break the opposition of the United Nations, which it correctly sees as a partial and imperfect check on our efforts to dominate the world.
We have, in short, met the world’s most powerful ‘rogue state.’ It is us. We live in it.
Let me close with some words of A. J. Muste and Denise Levertov--a lifelong pacifist, and a poetic opponent of the the American imperialist wars of her time:
‘THERE IS ONLY AS MUCH PEACE AS THERE ARE PEACEFUL PEOPLE’ . . .
. . . nothing we do has the quickness, the sureness,
the deep intelligence living at peace would have. . . .
Too long have we used the excuse:
‘I believe in peace, but that other man does not--when he lays down his arms, then I will follow.’
Which of us deserves to wait to be the last good man on earth; how long will we wait if all of us wait?
Let each man begin a one-man revolution of peace and mutual aid--so that there is at least that much peace. . . a beginning; . . .
(“Life at War,” “Staying Alive”)