PEACE IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
By Ibrahim Ramey
The government of the United States is at war with Iraq. Despite the heroic efforts of the UN Security Council and the overwhelming evidence of a desire for peace displayed by, literally of millions of anti-war protesters in over 60 countries, President Bush and his junior partner in crime, Tony Blair, have deployed military forces and launched a ferocious attack against Saddam Hussein and, more importantly, the people of Iraq.
As the cruise missiles and bombs fall on Basrah and Baghdad, some cynics and skeptics are pronouncing the death of the peace movement (along with the virtual demise of the UN as a relevant institution). They-the war hawks, the unilateralists, and the supporters of Mr. Bush, say that we have failed.
Here are a few reasons why we have not:
1. The sheer magnitude of the ongoing demonstrations against this war signify the emergence of a new "global majority" against war. Millions-perhaps tens of millions- of demonstrators -from Melbourne to Miami, from New York to New Zealand, from the developing world to the metropoles of Europe and North America-have rejected the rush to war and affirmed the legitimacy of international law and itís primary global proponent, the United Nations. The world has, quite literally, not seen this powerful a consensus for peace since the protests against the U.S. in Viet Nam in the 60's and 70's.
2. The consensus against military action is far bigger than just the "peace movement" and the "Left". True, much of the energy to mobilize demonstrations, civil disobedience, and other forms of dissent came from the traditional anti-war and left-of-center formations that traditionally criticize US foreign policy and the war system.
But hundreds of nonviolent actions against he rush to war also came from ordinary, non-political organizations and individuals in more located in the political "center", and especially from those who had no history of radical organizing or taking part in protest politics. It showed that vast numbers of people-across the entire political spectrum-were outraged over the plan ( now operational) to invade and conquer Iraq.
3. The movement against war clearly articulated that it was not a movement to support the regime of Saddam Hussein. Unlike the Vietnam-era activists, who were often mis-characterized as ideological tools of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese, the anti-Iraq war movement demonstrated, overwhelmingly, a clear moral position against both US government and Iraqi government policies. Opposition to the war against the Iraqi people was never confused with support for the dictatorship that oppresses them-and the pro-war "Right" was never able to (falsely) portray the anti-war movement as apologists for Saddam.
4. This time, the religious communities and organized labor were largely with us-and they were with us early on. Faith communities and unions came out against the Bush administration war plans in large numbers, despite the retreat and collapse of the traditional Democratic Party "opposition" that was too cowed by the false pro-war consensus presented by the "Right". Itís significant to also note that numerous mainstream religious leaders-including Pope John Paul II-were unwavering in their pronouncements of the immorality of the military attack on Iraq.
5. The drive to war exposed major divisions and contradictions within the US military and the foreign policy establishment. The cabal of Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and other cold-war hawks might have won the battle to initiate the war, but they did so with significant (and public) opposition from figures like Generals Norman Schwartzkopf and Anthony Zinni- respected, high-visibility figures in the military establishment who publicly criticized the pro-war hype and constantly asserted the position that Iraq-even in light of Iraqís possible possession of banned weapons-did not constitute a threat to the security of the United States.
6. The racist nature of the war against the Iraqi people has been exposed. A broad cross-section of Third World communities and leaders from multiple social sectors (labor, religion, elected officials, women's organizations, youth) has been a vigorous and growing component of the anti-war movement both in the USA and internationally. Black leaders and activists alike have vehemently denounced the twisted budget priorities that siphon hundreds of billions of dollars from vital human needs to the war machine. In fact, according to national news polls, only 35% of the African-American public supports the war- significantly less than the reported majority of whites.
So members, don't get weary.
War against Iraq may have begun, and war is always a tragedy. But in times of crisis, we should remember that war is a system, not an event, and that challenging a system as immense as the war system involves a protracted struggle that will take decades to win. And even while war rages on, we can-and must-continue to pressure the U.S. government to both limit (and end) the military aggression and assume it's moral responsibility to the Iraqi victims of the violence. And we should not forget our responsibility to the thousands of US service personnel who will return from this conflict-possibly disillusioned and traumatized, or seriously ill from exposure to Depleted Uranium (now in use) and other "mysterious" ailments sure to emerge in the aftermath of Gulf War II.
We are not defeated at all. If anything, this movement against war in Iraq had demonstrated power of a broad, democratic human community opposed to war, and the immense gulf between this majority community and the minority circles of the government, the Pentagon, and the corporate profiteers that promote the war system to the detriment of the rest of us.
One more thing. Waging war is, ultimately, a political act that requires state political power. Bush and his friends may have it now. But they are not guaranteed to have it forever.
We should continue to declare that this war is not in our name and it will not be fought with our consent. It is immoral, illegal, and illegitimate.
And 2004 is only a year away.