Published on Tuesday, August 12, 2002 by CommonDreams.org
The War on Iraq and US
by Shirin Vossoughi
Global Security, an international think tank, has a clock running on its website, www.globalsecurity.org. It is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the United States attacks Iraq. It is also broadcasting how many days we have to halt an unjustified and unjust war.
T-minus 85 days until countless innocent Iraqis, already starving from economic sanctions, are subjected to even more torture at the hands of the U.S. News of ‘non-lethal’ weapons such as microwave guns and laser dazzlers must not fool us into thinking that this war is risk-free. There is no such thing as a safe war. Arms designed to sting, deafen, blind or debilitate are no more human than those that maim and kill.
Saddam Hussein has shown that he does not care about putting his people in harm’s way. Among the Iraqi population, children, ethnic and religious minorities, the elderly and other innocent human beings will die. On the U.S. side, young soldiers, mostly youth of color or working class, will die. In the name of what? T-shirts on display at some airport gift shops announce that, “The goal of war is not to die for your country, but to get the other bastard to die for his.” Will such a goal make the world any safer?
T-minus 85 days until the first time the United States will attack a sovereign nation entirely unprovoked. The Bush Doctrine of ‘pre-emptive’ strikes needs to be exposed for what it is: offense not defense.
Amidst all of Washington’s war hoopla, there is no mention of what might happen when Iraq defends itself. While Bush’s father was boss, many Americans watched the Gulf War on TV. Green lights flashed on our screens and yellow ribbons festooned every town. Today, the threat of biological and chemical weapons is real. While Americans bite their nails about the West Nile Virus, the possibility of unprecedented death and destruction is closer than we may think. It is tragic enough that people have a hard time caring about innocent Iraqi lives. But it appears they do not even care about their own. If an attack on America does happen, most people will not be afforded the privileged security reserved for the likes of Bush and Cheney– the same elites that actually declare war.
T minus 85 days left for the media to muster human interest stories on Iraqi minorities and women. As with the exploitation of women’s issues in Afghanistan, Saddam’s list of human rights abuses is used to rationalize war. In both cases, repression and dictatorship are conveniently divorced from recent history, a history that involves U.S. support for both Afghan fundamentalism and Saddam Hussein. As Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld recently exclaimed, “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if Iraq were similar to Afghanistan, if a bad regime was thrown out, people were liberated, food could come in, borders could be opened, repression could stop, prisons could be opened? I mean, it would be fabulous.” (NY Times, 8/11/02) There are horrid human rights violations everywhere, among U.S. allies and “enemies.” Yet our heartstrings are tugged in very specific directions. We are somehow convinced that bombs and destruction and pain will “liberate” the people we so strategically feel sympathy for. It will not.
T minus 85 days until the increasingly unilateral nature of the U.S. government is solidified. Both internationally and domestically, people are against this war. NBC news tells us that due to “our reluctant allies,” the U.S. will have to do most of the “work” on its own. (NBC Nightly News, 8/10/02) Yet when it comes to Iraq, the U.S. is not the lone giant sacrificing resources and lives for a just cause. It is the aggressor, plain and simple.
Rumsfeld himself recently declared that even weapons inspections would not stymie military action against Iraq. So what is the U.S. objective? Controlling Middle Eastern Oil? Flexing hegemonic muscle? Securing future elections? Perhaps we cannot do anything in the next 85 days about growing thirst for the liquid that lubricates the global economy or the U.S.’s ever more solo approach to world affairs. But as residents of this country, we can and must make war politically unattractive. Next to oil and hegemony, Bush and his cronies care about maintaining their power. In the next 85 days we must break the American habit of protesting after bombs start falling and make this war politically unviable before it begins.
The U.S. is shifting its target from one poor, starving country to the next and as the rest of the world balks in dismay, this war is being waged in our name. Complacency is not an option. Despite legislation aimed at silencing our voices, relatively speaking, we still have the ability to raise them. All protest does not necessarily involve banners and slogans. We must Think. Write. Convince. Discuss. Learn. Educate. Resist. Above all, Speak.
T minus 85 days.
Shirin Vossoughi is a student of History and International Development at
UCLA. She is also a free-lance writer.