As horrifying as the prospect of the United States launching a pre-emptive strike war against Iraq is to millions of people, one has to wonder if we’re not all falling into precisely the trap that Bush and Company are laying for us.
This war is being conjured up out of thin air, timed during a major economic downturn, with “debate” and Congressional approval of the war conveniently scheduled a month before mid-term elections. People are hurting financially all over the country. Under these circumstances, Bush’s war talk appears to be a cynical attempt to divert attention from domestic problems, in hopes of gaining a short-term political advantage. The chance to diminish the United Nations, flex unilateral US military dominance, and increase world oil supplies are gravy. The pretext of making the world “safe” from Iraq is at best laughable.
If the only ripple effect of Bush’s war strategy was securing Republican control of the Congress, perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. Whether Congress is controlled by Republicans or Democrats is essentially irrelevant since both stand for the same earth destroying, worker exploiting, world dominating policies.
But the ripples haven’t been limited to the mainstream political reality. In the US and around the world, people involved in popular movements that had been starting to challenge the economic assumptions of the ruling order — generally known as the anti-globalization movement — have shifted their time and energy to opposing the approaching war. Time that could have been used for positive action has been consumed on reaction — playing defense, not offense.
If those in power are able to divert activism that would have been directed against their economic domination into defensive single-issue activism narrowly focused against war, the war will pay much greater dividends than mere control over vast oil resources.
For our part, it’s crucial that we don’t lose sight of the real war while we’re opposing Bush’s manufactured war against Iraq.
The real war is waged every day, receives little media coverage, and isn’t the subject of countless marches and rallies by well-meaning liberals: its the war of the powerful against the weak, the north against the south, industrialism against the earth, cold economic rationalism against life and freedom.
This daily war systematically causes far more destruction, human misery, death and environmental destruction than Bush’s contemplated war against Iraq will. Bush’s war may kill a million Iraqis, a terrible, unacceptable, horrendous cost.
But how many people are dying day in and day out because of this capitalist/industrial system? How many are living lives as walking dead, their spirits crushed, serving a machine? How many live without food, clean water, a dry place to sleep, any hope or future? Between 1 and 2 billion people worldwide live below the subsistence threshold. Even in Western industrialized countries, millions live hopeless, powerless lives.
As terrible as war against Iraq would be, and as vigorously as we must oppose, disrupt, and if possible prevent the Iraq war, the everyday war must not be permitted to continue. If the war on Iraq can be prevented, it won’t be time to sit back in satisfaction and declare that everything is now “A-okay.” The day before a war on Iraq begins, and the day after it ends, the daily war will continue.
The daily war concentrates the power and weapons of mass destruction in the hands of the United States that makes a war on Iraq possible. Only when the daily war is ended once and for all will the need to oppose this and that military adventure off into the future finally cease.
Fortunately, opposing the war against Iraq and opposing the daily war against the earth and its people are not totally incompatible. While its certainly possible to oppose the war against Iraq in such a narrow way that the everyday war is not simultaneously opposed, there are numerous opportunities to use the struggle against the Iraq war to promote understanding of the struggle against the everyday war.
The horror, the waste and the brutality of war can focus attention on the gap between the rhetoric of our rulers, and the reality of this system. People who believe in the system — who believe that the US is a kind nation which promotes democracy and peace — are ripe to be radicalized when they see how the system operates in practice. In September and October, polls showed a majority of citizens opposed a preemptive attack against Iraq in the face of international opposition. Folks wrote thousands of letters, lobbied their representatives, and got nothing. Now they sit, opposing the US regime, feeling increasingly alienated from the system.
Our opposition to the Iraq war can promote greater awareness of the everyday war by emphasizing the failure of liberal methods and assumptions. The approval of congressional resolutions in favor of the war shows that the system doesn’t care what citizens think. The whole affair demonstrates that the United States government relies, not on the promotion of democracy and peace, but on naked military superiority in international relations.
People who turned out by the thousands to anti-war demonstrations have been confronted with the reality of the corporate media — these demonstrations were largely ignored.
From the liberal perspective, war against Iraq seems an aberration — a violation of the liberal conception of the United States’ role in the world. This is an opportunity to point out that the war isn’t an aberration — its an honest expression of a society that promotes power, violence and domination over self-determination, cooperation and human life. In short, the war unmasks the death culture that is the capitalist / industrial system.
Each speech given by Bush demonstrated the gap between rhetoric and reality: Bush and the US government are guilty of most of the “evils” that Bush charged against Iraq:
- The US attacks and threatens to attack its neighbors without provocation.
- The US is the world’s leader in weapons of mass destruction.
- Bush emphasizes the danger of Iraq acquiring nuclear weapons, when the US already has thousands of them. The US is the only nation to ever use nuclear weapons in war, and its war plans contemplate their use again, including preemptively.
If these actions are evil for Iraq, how are they good for the United States? Nothing distinguishes the US’s military domination of the world scene from Iraq’s much weaker attempted military domination of their local scene.
The task of the radical community goes far beyond working to publicly oppose the war against Iraq. It’s crucial to prevent Bush & Co. from using the war to distract the world from a critique of economic domination. Moreover, it’s up to us to use our struggle to oppose the war in a positive way — to build a movement against the everyday economic war all around us.