THE WAR ON IRAQ
Brian O'Leary, April 17, 2003
This war has blown many circuits in my mind and emotions. In my mind, my sense of logic, morality and decency has been invaded. My feelings vacillate between depression and righteous indignation and a few precious moments of benign detachment to recuperate. I have procrastinated and resisted writing this essay in an unprecedented case of writer's cramp combined with a sense of grumpiness reserved for those of us approaching seniorhood. Only my spirit prevails in the midst of the unfolding drama, and I pray for everyone involved that we can pull in the reigns of violence we have unleashed--now
Unlike most of my fellow Americans, I have had the benefit of a special unfolding education on this war. First, I had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of Europeans and Asians in India during the formative weeks of the war, between January and March 2003. Nobody in my audiences supported the war. Needless to say, it felt very strange to be an American while I was doing the teaching, perhaps just as a German teacher abroad might have felt during the late 1930s.
Secondly, I've been intent on downloading from the Internet the larger story of the war, a story about which many Americans are wholly ignorant. I watched only a little of CNN and the networks, discovering a multitude of lies and deceptions about what was really going on in this war, with such a limited view coming from tongue-tied "embedded" reporters dependent on the edicts of both their military and civilian bosses for their salaries. Meanwhile, I witnessed a totally different war on the internet: the maiming of children, the civilian casualties, the pillaging of hospitals and museums, the staged media events showing a "liberated" Iraqi population, and the potential oil booty anxiously sought after by the invading ideologues.
I strongly recommend visits to truthout.org and zmag.org that show a collection of incisive unembedded eyewitness accounts and editorials coming from high quality newspapers from all over the world-The Guardian, The Independent, Reuters, La Monde, the New York Times and many other sources. Then go back to CNN and the networks. It becomes soon obvious that we are watching a lopsided sporting event, such as might have happened to the Christians in the Roman Coliseum. We have been brainwashed!
Somehow, the American media have sold out and become part of the cabal itself. I myself have been accused as a "conspiracy theorist" to harbor such views. Conspiracy in high places is a possibility, but that's not the point. Reality, truth, is what we seek here. Its distortion is very troubling to me, much more so than during the previous Gulf War and the Vietnam War, which I endured on the protest side of the fence.
I can honestly state from the perspective of my more than fifty years in many capacities in this nation, none of those earlier wars holds a candle to this one regarding the misguided rationales, unprovoked aggression and the suppression of dissent. As a result of my counter-cultural views, my access to the media has been virtually cut off. Of course, those of you on the other side of the fence would celebrate the removal of such dissent.
The bottom line is that, through the lack of the proper exercise of the responsibility of "we the people" to govern, granted to us and our elected representatives under the Constitution, we in America have allowed a band of tyrants to rule the nation and perhaps the world. Combining its unprecedented economic might with military power, this cabal distracts us from the truth, distorts the truth, and creates an imperialistic world view I don't want any part of.
The U.S. Congress has abrogated its responsibilities and has rolled over in the face of the executive abuse of power. It has given into the same special interests which rule the nation, the planet. We are all victims of the Bush administration's "weapons of mass distraction", in Michael Moore's words. The war on Iraq is the visible tip of an iceberg whose underbelly reaches to the deep bunkers of our unconscious minds, the corruption of raw power blocking the pressing need to find other ways of achieving domestic stability, world peace, justice and sustainability.
Martin Luther King said: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
The title of a recent essay by Saul Landau says it all: "Shop, Go to Church, Support Bush's War and Wait for Armageddon" (www.zmag.org, April 17, 03). America has fallen asleep at the wheel of democracy, and risks inviting the most drastic reprisals. What was supposed to be an appropriate reaction to the horrors of September 11, finding the perpetrators and bringing them to justice under international auspices, the Bush administration has instead used the 9-11 attacks as a pretext for the unprovoked, illegal and preventative form of warfare on a virtually defenseless people, a terrorist attack of the most brutal kind, using some of the most devastating weapons ever devised by man.
Rather than cooperating with the world community to administer justice to the perpetrators, the Bush administration has stirred the hornet's nest within the Arab world in a display of misdirected military power, political arrogance and unilateralism which only some cloistered Americans, a limited Tony Blair entourage and fearful Israelis seem to support. During the next terrorist attack on America, which is more likely than ever, we may not get the support of the world community we had gotten from 9-11, and we might need it. Our leaders have already spent our political and economic capital, through threats and bribes. Let's get them out of there!
We were the good guys in World War II. Even after September 11, we had the sympathies of the world. All that is gone now. In its place is a climate of fear, of homicide, ecocide and suspension of our rights. We have given away our power and need to get it back. Soon.
It won't be easy. While we can get support for restoring a just international climate from virtually all our friends abroad, we are a nation divided. The division cuts deeply into the social fabric, even within the closest of families and friends, including mine. All this threatens to undo us all. Most tragically, we are missing a historic opportunity to change things.
We are all missing our opportunity to stop our dependence on fossil fuels, for example, whose burning has resulted in the deaths of over 200 million people from foul air worldwide this past century, and promises to plunge us into an era of more deaths from climate change. A moderate public investment in many kinds of feasible, cost-effective, clean and renewable energy could end all that dependence on Middle East oil and will clean up our air and stabilize the climate; and yet we are not doing that. Why not? Because we have given our power away to the oil interests, intersecting government and industry.
We are all missing our opportunity to cut back on military spending, promised after the Cold War. Instead the Bush administration goes full bore ahead spending more money on the military than is being spent by the entire rest of the world, the other 95% of people. Last century, another 200 million people have died at the hands of assault weapons. Do we trust the warmongers running our country to exercise restraint in future military encounters, with such massive machines of death and a nuclear, chemical, biological and space-based arsenal sufficient to kill us over many times? Why? Because we have given our power away to weapons interests, intersecting government and industry.
We must stop this juggernaut, in the interest of peace and sustainability.
Yet the fossil fuel industry and weapons industry are collecting from us billions of dollars each day and are running the country, with our leaders dividing the spoils with the large companies who helped elect or select them. This is crazy-making, the product of a greedy and maniacal consciousness!
Through this insidious collaboration within the military-industrial complex, so eloquently warned about by Dwight Eisenhower and other U.S. presidents, we await the next round of death and destruction either perpetrated by us or imposed upon us. Unless we reverse our policies immediately and dramatically.
Lincoln once said, "To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." We seem to have forgotten that true patriotism in a democracy includes a responsibility to speak out, to disagree with governmental policies if necessary. To drape ourselves in flags in blind obedience to an aggressive Pax Americana is a pseudo-patriotism which is leading us towards eventual collapse. Empires are a function of the egos of those at the top and inevitably become overextended, because emperors tend to forget to mind the store. They tend to fiddle while their own home, this time our precious planet, burns.
Several U.S. presidents have given warnings about the ominous influence of corporations, and since World War II, the American military:
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of monied corporations, which dare already challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." - Thomas Jefferson
"Corporations are the tools and tyrants of government." - James Madison
"There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains." - Theodore Roosevelt
"We must establish practical controls over blind economic forces and blindly selfish men. Without such controls, technology would be a ruthless master of mankind...The truth is that liberty is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than that of their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is Fascism." - Franklin D. Roosevelt
"In the councils of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together." - Dwight D. Eisenhower
"Is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights - the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation - the right to breathe air as nature provided it - the right of future generations to a healthy existence? While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests. And the elimination of war and arms is clearly in the interest of both...the United States, as the world knows, will never start a war. We do not want a war...we will do our part to build a world of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just." - John F. Kennedy
We have a big job to do: not only to undo this juggernaut, but to replace it with sensible policies waiting in the wings to ensure a lasting period of justice, peace and sustainability. The sad part of this is that, as a superpower, America could be leading the way but we're not. The hopeful part is that we still could. But we must act quickly. A massive conversion of resources away from fossil energy and the production of weapons and armies will be necessary - at the very time our leaders continue to arm to the teeth and further expand our use of polluting energy.
Some people have dismissed my strong reaction to this war and to the policies of the Bush administration as extreme. After all, we have "liberated" Iraq from the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. After all, wars will be wars; they've happened throughout history. But what is unprecedented is that we are looking down a nuclear/CBW/space weapons gun barrel and we are rapidly destroying Earth's biosphere. This is therefore a call to action. We must change our ways, in obvious ways, to replace the forces of greed and violence with a sensible future for humanity.
So what's next? What new adventure awaits us in the reckless roller-coaster ride led by the Bush administration? To use a phrase familiar to our warmongering leaders, we need to wage a "preemptive" or preventative war in just the opposite direction. We can present the other side of the coin to the people. To paraphrase a colleague, "Let's have a positive terra-ist attack and planet together." This silly, stupid war is the antithesis to what we really need to do.
Or maybe this all is a dream. Maybe it's karma unfolding, beyond our control, the balancing of deeper things which are imposed on us, just as Bush's war is seemingly beyond our control or votes. Perhaps once the karma is balanced, we can then move into a Golden Age. My instinct is, yeah, that's possible, but why must we be lemmings about to go to our own deaths, hoping for the best, ignorant of the consequences of our actions? How sentient are we, really? Do we really deserve to re-inherit the Earth, to do something to reinforce our blessings rather than squander them?
May the present anti-war movement blossom into one which insists that we publicly develop a whole new agenda. May we realize that peace is not only about the absence of war, but is a pro-active inner and outer process leading to a whole new paradigm, free of the shackles of our decaying culture. We need new ideas, mostly about how to implement things, we need courage, we need a lasting peace and a sustainable and just planet. We need to overcome greed and arrogance to steward our one and only precious planet, before it's too late.
We need new leadership to make that happen. Soon.
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