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Peacework has been published monthly since 1972, intended to serve as a source of dependable information to those who strive for peace and justice and are committed to furthering the nonviolent social change necessary to achieve them. Rooted in Quaker values and informed by AFSC experience and initiatives, Peacework offers a forum for organizers, fostering coalition-building and teaching the methods and strategies that work in the global and local community. Peacework seeks to serve as an incubator for social transformation, introducing a younger generation to a deeper analysis of problems and issues, reminding and re-inspiring long-term activists, encouraging the generations to listen to each other, and creating space for the voices of the disenfranchised.
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The Pied Piper of War
David Morse is a freelance journalist based in Connecticut and a member of Storrs (CT) Friends Meeting. He writes on environmental and global affairs.© copyright, David Morse
Why is it that women and people of color seem better equipped than white men, to smell the rat in George W.'s obsession with Saddam Hussein?
Congress, still overwhelmingly a white man's club, is showing itself incapable of resisting the pied piper of war. Democrats have mustered no more resistance to the melody than have Republicans. Among presidential hopefuls, Joe Lieberman is as eager as Bush. Tom Daschle, after putting up a token show of independence, has fallen into step. Al Gore waited so long to announce his opposition that the Congressional parade has marched without him. The couple of dozen Congressional holdouts against the melody of war who see Bush's ambitions in Iraq as dangerously misguided, are asking their colleagues in the House and Senate to stop and examine the consequences before plunging into the abyss before us. The holdouts--who include California Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein--are disproportionately female, black, and urban. They represent those constituencies most likely to suffer the consequences of war directly: young men of color who are twenty times more likely to face combat than their white counterparts; urban poor who will experience the cuts in social services; mothers and wives. Ethnically, and by gender, they more accurately reflect the nation than does the rich man's club to which they belong.
In truth, our very different experiences of America tend to determine our readiness to follow the pipers of war. Because women and minorities are historically on the receiving end of an oppression that is mostly blind (and to which we white males are mostly blind, being its chief beneficiaries), they tend to develop a nose for such things. So they are more likely to perceive that Bush's obsession with "taking out" Saddam has the unmistakable odor of white male fantasy.
Saddam is, to be sure, a murderous thug, a menace to his own people and perhaps to his neighbors. But it is also true that we helped arm him when it served our interests, and that we support many murderous thugs like Saddam who serve our interests elsewhere in the world. So how do we explain Bush's obsession with Saddam?
Some suspect it is the effort by a privileged and protected son--one who was shielded from war by serving a desultory hitch in the Texas National Guard, and whose presidential campaign was bankrolled early on by the likes of "Kenny Boy" Lay--to avenge his father's impotence with respect to Saddam.
Others may see Bush's fixation on war as more cynical, driven by his own political constituency--American oil companies, interested in Iraq's huge proven oil reserves, estimated 112 billion barrels of crude oil--the largest outside of Saudi Arabia. European and Asian oil companies now seeking to develop Iraqi oil would lose out to American companies, in the event of an American invasion.
Still others may view Bush's war-mongering as cynical on a different front, as did German justice minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelinra--another woman with a nose for such shenanigans--who reportedly called it a Hitler-like effort to divert attention from this country's domestic problems.
And still others may see it as a vain attempt to gain stature and legitimacy, on the part of a president intellectually ill-equipped to deal with the more complex demands of peacemaking. Bush seems to be a man who needs war, in order to feel secure. History is full of such men. His earlier attempt to brand North Korea part of the "Axis of Evil" fortunately fell on deaf ears. The Koreans want to be reunited. They are now clearing minefields separating North and South. How much better for America's perceived role in the world if Bush had fostered peace, rather than enmity.
Whatever Bush's motives, his actions bespeak a worldview based on the exercise of unilateral power, on white colonial privilege, and an unfortunately masculine readiness to resort to force. Bush's proposed war is a fantasy, because it ignores key political realities--our relationship with the Arab world, the repercussions of our perceived anti-Arab intentions on radical Islam, and our ability to shape a successor to Saddam--to name only a few.
Bush clearly lacks the imagination and the patience for fostering peace. Readiness to resort to war is his character flaw. Saddam Hussein is his Monica Lewinsky.
No one questions whether a war in Iraq is technically winnable, in the short term--insofar as any war is winnable. We have the military might. War may distract from the economy and stifle criticism at home. It's an easy out. But what will be the cost in human life--not next year, but ten years and twenty years from now, as the tragedy continues to unfold? What about the lost alternatives--the leadership role we might have played, now, while we are the only remaining super power, in moving the world toward peace? And what about the damage to democracy at home, as civil liberties are suspended and dissidents jailed?
Whatever accounts for George Bush's Saddam mania, let us
hope that the American people can prod their elected representatives
to act in their interests and the interests of global humanity--and
not in the narrow interests of privilege. It's time to
wake up and smell the rat.