by Daniel Patrick Welch
Among recent media awareness of the burgeoning
antiwar movement across the country, several items stick out.
Moveon.org has released an antiwar ad to be shown on TV stations
across the country, part of a grassroots campaign gone overboard.
The group asked for enough money from supporters to launch a modest
print ad, and wound up with enough for a nationwide TV campaign.
Based on the 'Daisy' ad which has now become a classic in political
advertising circles, the new ad warns against the inherent unpredictability
of conflict, and the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons.
It is an impressive grassroots achievement, and a compelling visual
and emotional statement.
I am glad, however, that the movement
is beginning to move past the timid contradiction of narrowing
its focus in order to broaden its appeal. "Let the Inspections
Work," the main thrust of this campaign, is a simple, direct
slogan aimed at mainstream support. And the threat of nuclear
escalation is indeed a scary one. But ironically, though this
particular ad fears this threat coming from 'extremists taking
over countries with nuclear weapons,' most of the world already
sees this as a fact: the extremists being the Bush administration
and their nuclear first strike policy. In short, although poor
Pogo must be sick of being paraphrased, they have met the
enemy, and he is us. 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 even if it does 'end
quickly,' (the best case scenario alluded to in the ads) an attack
on Iraq will result in the deaths of tens 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.
This is not only because it is wrong, which would be enough, but
as a measure of self-interest as well. 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. If we feel we must adopt a
nationalist perspective to appeal to Americans as Americans, 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
Focusing too narrowly on inspections in
Iraq may miss a broader opportunity that, many of us feel, is
really there. It goes without saying (except in the U.S.) that
'letting the inspections work' (the emphasis of the ads) is the
correct course, because that is the course agreed on by the world
community. Opposition along the lines I state here is simple logic
and common sense, easily grasped even by most self-interested
observers. 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,
superficial 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.
True danger can only be averted by global
disarmament, starting with the truly insane WMD stockpiles of
the U.S. and former USSR. Nuclear threats abound where there really
are already functioning warheads--among 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.
The sad and graphic fact is that, as ordinary
Americans, our hands are already covered in blood, and getting
bloodier by the minute. This is not a difficult point to argue;
nor are its component facts inaccessible to any American who cares
to seek out the truth from sources beyond the nightly TV news.
The time is right to raise the bar and oppose with greater stridency.
We are rapidly becoming an international pariah, and our leaders
aren't listening. Why would they? Americans who care are waking
up to the fact that these are just not a particularly sane group
of people. They can hardly be called 'conservatives', nor even
radicals for that matter. 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. It is just not normal to
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.
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. They 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
Daniel Welch lives and writes in Salem,
Massachusetts with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together
they run The Greenhouse School.