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March 19, 2003

Mourning War Thoughts

As the world waits with apparent resignation for the U.S. to begin killing Iraqis and pulverizing Iraq (and losing who knows how many of our own troops), some of us continue to ask: Why this war? Why now? Yesterday's "Oprah" asked, Why do so many hate the U.S.? I was impressed with the show, despite the fact that Oprah was so clearly enamored with Thomas Friedman's "we're going to war so we better do it right" position. As far as pro-war stances go, Friedman's is not bad. He suggests that one of the U.S.'s current problems is that we've stopped asking people to share our positive and optimistic vision of the future, and instead we're lining up targets to destroy. Friedman argues that we have to change course and extend a helping hand to the world instead of dropping bombs and brandishing guns. Of course, he still supports attacking Iraq, which makes his position seem a bit inconsistent, but perhaps that's what you get from a 35-40 minute television program. [1]

Yesterday also brought an email from one of my students containing a link to It's Not About Oil or Iraq -- an article that argues that the Bush/Blair war frenzy is an attempt to prevent the Euro from displacing the dollar as the world's default oil trading currency. If you haven't heard about this angle, I highly recommend the article. Not only does it explain why Bush has so obsessively pursued a completely indefensible war, but it also provides another reason the U.S. will benefit from demonizing France (and why France and other European nations find it easy and useful to oppose this war). Are we really going to kill thousands of Iraqis to save U.S. hegemony? What's certain is that we are definitely going to kill many Iraqis, at least some number of American troops, and injure and anger countless people around the world. Whether we're doing this for oil, dollar supremacy, or some other completely insane reason is impossible to say.

I don't have any radically new arguments to offer against the war (it's hard to say anything new about a war that looks so disturbingly like a replay of history), so I find myself in a state of near-paralysis as the hours count down to "the deadline." Everything I should be doing seems obscene in the face of the fact that the military I support with my tax dollars is about to kill hundreds or thousands of people, supposedly for my sake. How can I teach classes, investigate law schools (I'm still trying to decide where to go), or grade papers when tomorrow thousands of innocent people could be dead? Yesterday Ari Fliescher said, "the President hopes that people will continue with their normal lives." Of course he does. We're not supposed to think about what's really going on, we're supposed to go about our "business," proud of the fact that we live in such a "strong" country. We're supposed to "support our troops," which seems to be code for "cease all criticism of anything other than the evildoers and what they've done." It's easier for our troops to kill people when Americans are acting like it's just another day in the best of all possible worlds.

In Monday's "address to the nation," President Bush said:

The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage. It has uniformly defied Security Council resolutions demanding full disarmament. Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged, and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraqi regime have failed again and again -- because we are not dealing with peaceful men.

This from the man who has said "You can't talk your way to a solution to a problem." Think about that when you think about the failure of diplomacy. You might also consider how the U.S. uses the same tactics it accuses Saddam of using -- it was the U.S., not Saddam who was recently spying on U.N. delegates to better manipulate their votes. (Other info here and here, all topped by the original memo.) This was front-page news in Europe and Russia, but we hardly heard a peep about it here in the U.S. Gee, I wonder why the Security Council seemed so opposed to American proposals. It couldn't be because we were spying on them, could it?

The point is: This war was never inevitable until Bush made it inevitable. None of the reasons I've heard for going to war have been even slightly convincing, and I'm sick with the thought of U.S. citizens shopping in malls and going to movies and watching war porn while people die in our names. Why can't people remember that, despite all Bush Administration claims to the contrary, Iraq had nothing to do with September 11?

Excuse me please. I must go sleepwalking now -- er, I mean, "continue my normal life..."

[1] "Oprah" features more commercials than any other show I think I've ever watched.
I thought it was rather ironic to see Oxi-Clean and Wal-Mart ads interrupt a program that was arguing that the people of the U.S. are in denial about the horrors the U.S. government has perpetrated in the world over the last 50 years. The Wal-Mart ad was particularly offensive; it focused on the public service work Wal-Mart employees do -- teaching kids to read, coaching little league, etc. -- and that work is great, but of course the ad doesn't mention that most Wal-Mart employees must hold 2-3 jobs to pay the rent and their medical bills because most of them don't get benefits. The ad also doesn't mention the thousands of small businesses that Wal-Mart has destroyed over the past 20 years in communities across the U.S., or that those small businesses probably did ten times more public service work than overworked and underpaid Wal-Mart employees could ever hope to do. Isn't it ironic? Don'tchathink?

Posted March 19, 2003 07:32 AM | general politics

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