October 1990 – Twelve years ago this month I was at a rally in Olympia, Washington that was called to oppose the upcoming war against Iraq. Back then, we were told by the administration in DC that the reason for that war was to drive Iraq from Kuwait-a country it had recently invaded and occupied. Today-almost twelve years later, the regime in DC is proposing to do the exact same thing to Iraq-invade and occupy it. Why? Well, it depends on which week’s White House press release you read. According to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the axis leaders, it is necessary to make war on Iraq because (and these are just the first four supposed reasons that pop into my head)
a) Saddam’s military is a nuclear threat, b) Saddam’s military used poison gas against the Kurds in northern Iraq and against Iranians in wars where the United States supported Iraq, or the US needs to make war on Iraq because c) (and I love this one) Such a war would liberate Iraq’s women-yeh right, Old GW, the Susan B. Anthony of the 21st century d) He has weapons of mass destruction that threaten the region.
Let’s talk about these: the reasons given by the Bush administration are not only poor reasons to go to war, they are just plain lies. Some of you might be shaking your heads and thinking I’m misinformed and misguided or, even worse, an apologist for Saddam. After all, Saddam might have nuclear weapons and he definitely gassed those people. Heck, maybe he even has other weapons of mass destruction. Without granting legitimacy to these possibilities, let me make a couple things clear-every single international agency that studies nuclear proliferation has stated quite clearly that Iraq does not have nuclear capability and is years away from even beginning to develop such weapons. Hell, even Tony Blair’s dossier said this-probably one of the few truths in that entire piece of hearsay. As for the gas-yes this did happen-what’s left untold in this story is that the US provided the chemicals and lent tacit support to the attacks because at the time Iraq’s war against the Kurds and Iranians were seen as serving US interests. On top of that, the man who ordered some of those attacks, General Nizar Al-Khazraji, is now one of the United States’ top candidates for Saddam’s job if the US is able to defeat the Iraqis and put in a client regime. What about those weapons of mass destruction? I say, what about them? One certain way for them to be used (if they even exist in the physical plane and not just in the minds of Bush and Cheney) is to attack Saddam’s military. Additionally, one can easily argue that it is the US weapons of mass destruction that truly threaten the region, not Iraq’s.
But all these reasons are ultimately irrelevant. The real reason for this attack can be found in a paper Dick Cheney finished writing not too long before that rally I was at twelve years ago-a paper whose composition was funded, by the way, by Gulf Oil, the chemical and munitions industries, and Rockwell International, the defense and aerospace conglomerate. As many of you probably know, the premise of that paper (which is now the primary operating document of the Bush foreign policy team) is that the US has every right to be the only superpower and should use that power to expand and ensure its continued domination. Of course, the language is not usually that blunt. Instead, this plan for world domination is phrased in terms like security and democracy. And freedom. Unfortunately for everyone, it will bring neither, not even for those who champion it. It won’t bring security for Bush and crew because it will only breed greater enmity against them. It won’t bring democracy because, after all, Dubya, Rice, Cheney, et al. don’t have a clue what democracy is. As for freedom, the only freedom guaranteed by world domination is the freedom for the rulers to go wherever they want, take whatever they want, and use what they take however they want. In other words, the freedom to exploit at will.
Not too long ago, when asked by a congressperson if the plan was to colonize Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld answered, “We covet nobody’s land.” You know what, I believe him. I really do. They don’t want the land-they just want the oil that lies underneath it, the strategic position that military bases built on the land would provide, and the potential labor source and markets the people living there represent. No, they don’t covet the land, they just want to suck it dry.
I’m going to ask you all to step outside of yourselves for a minute. Out of whatever room you are in, out of this life, out of this country. Are you there? Now, place yourself in Iraq. If you are a college student here, than now you’re a college student in Iraq. If you are a teacher or a nurse here, than you’re one there. If you work at a clothing store here, than you work at one in Iraq now. And so on. You have a lover or maybe you don’t. You live with your parents or you live with friends. Maybe in the city, let’s say . When you finish your day’s studies or work, you go out for coffee or a beer. You discuss politics or you ignore them completely. For the most part you don’t get too involved in them, though, because they don’t seem to mean much in your daily life.
Now, imagine your sleep interrupted by the sound of 500 pound bombs falling nearby, the smell of fire and smoke, the screams of children piercing your sleep and the sound of sirens blaring as you run down the stairs of your apartment building with only a minimal amount of clothing on. After finding a bomb shelter and hiding there through the night, you finally hear the all-clear siren and you head out into the light. Your world is in ruins. This continues for weeks. Every night you hide in a cellar. School and work are meaningless. You wonder how your friends in the countryside are doing. Then, one day the foreign soldiers arrive, swaggering through the city streets, breaking into houses and stores and dragging men and boys out into the streets where they are pushed around and arrested, hauled off to who knows where. All the while you are just trying to keep your sanity. You help out in a hospital or a food shelf. You cry when you see the children and the old ones as they wonder what happened to their world. Already so many of them have seen their cousins taken ill because of hunger caused by US sanctions and now this. Some of your friends are angry, most are resigned. None are happy.
WAR! The rulers of this country have chosen violence solely because they can use it and get away with it. They have chosen violence because they do not seem to have the intelligence or the will to try something less harmful. They have chosen violence because what the rulers of this country and the money that backs them want is inherently unjust and greedy and can only be obtained through the force of excessive violence. This is the violence of imperial war. This is what I oppose.
I can’t repeat it often enough-this war is about global domination. It is not about freedom for Iraq or a future of peace and justice free of the threat of war. It’s not about when to go to war or whether Saddam should be killed. It is about global domination, starting with Iraq, and those who are calling for it know no shame.
And although the rulers in DC would like to convince and cajole the UN and other of their ilk in other countries of the world to go along with their plan, they don’t really care if they don’t. They would also like to convince those men and women we elect to represent us to go along, too, but they don’t really care if they don’t. Even if they do, that still does not make this war right. It only means that these people have received their thirty pieces of silver. When all is said and done, this war is still primarily about killing, Indeed, it is about killing when several other options exist. This is why this war is still wrong and unjust. The cooperation of Congress and the UN Security Council only means that they too will have the blood of innocents on their hands.
If we fail to prevent this war, then we must work even harder to end it once it begins. Even if the war makers get their man and kill Hussein, this war is wrong. There is no morality in one group of mass murderers killing another mass murderer. Especially when, if the killers in DC are telling the truth, the defeat and occupation of Iraq may be just the beginning of a war without end that would move its savagery and destruction to Iran, Korea, and even China. This isn’t the plan of a sane group of individuals. A boring group of individuals, yes. A drab group of individuals, too. But calling them sane requires a particular definition of the word that allows for planned mass murder in the pursuit of power and money. This is why I consider their plans to be psychopathic madness.
WAIT! There is hope. And that hope lies with those of us who oppose this war. It is essential that everyone who does not want to see this war begin get into the streets in their hometowns and in DC and San Francisco. Go to your classrooms and your churches. Your workplaces. Your hangouts. Get people to think seriously about this horror perpetrated in their names. Get them to join you. If you know folks in the military, talk with them about what they could be doing. Let them know there is a choice. Nobody has to fight. Structures exist to get them to a safe place. Remind them that Dubya never went to any war. Nor did Cheney or Rumsfeld or a good number of the folks who want them to go fight for oil profits. Get people together and, then make as much noise as you can. Be willing to risk arrest, your studies and your job. Whatever you think this effort is worth.
Let me repeat myself. If they start this war despite our protests, it’s even more important to protest. Indeed, we should step our protest up. We can’t do that you say? After all, we need to support our troops. Of course we do. But we need to support them as human beings, not as war machines. We need to support them in their lives as our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and partners, not as killers for the empire. In short we need to bring them home.
Of course, our struggle will not be easy. At times, we will want to quit. At times we will question the point of our resistance. But we must never quit. No! We must raise our level of opposition to a greater level then. Sometimes we will offend some folks, maybe even our family or friends. Sometimes we will be verbally abused or physically assaulted. We must not, no, can not, give in. More than that day twelve years ago, more than the 1960s, in fact, I would endeavor to say more than ever before, the future of the planet depends on us not giving in. Like the great fighter for the liberation of black people in this country from slavery , Frederick Douglas, said, in a manner so eloquent it bears repeating over and over:
If there is no struggle, there is not progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without the thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both mental and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand.
Remember Douglass’ words. Remember them and commit yourself to the struggle we are engaged in. Our children, those who live today and those you will have in the future, are counting on us.
Mr. Ron Jacobs is the author of “The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground” (Verso, 1997).