Cutting the Ribbon

I know a fair grouping of people who are against a unilateral invasion of Iraq by the US, but not all marched this weekend.

Loren Webster talks about his service in Vietnam and returning home to jeers and cries of “Baby Killer!” from anti-war protestors; the lasting impact of those times that still makes him uncomfortable about participating in a anti-war rally.

When he declined to join an anti-war demonstration in Australia, Jonathon Delacour wrote:

It’s not that I didn’t consider attending the anti-war rally in Sydney today. If it had been a No War on Iraq Without UN Sanction rally, I’d have been there in an instant; but that was not the rally that was planned and advertised nor the rally that was held. There was no space at the table for someone for whom being “against war” makes no more sense than to be “against salt water” or “against sexual attraction.

button.jpgI wrote in comments that if Jonathon had attended the demonstration in Sydney, perhaps he would have found that many attending believed the same thing — no war without UN sanction. I know I did. Saturday, I protested against a US-based unilateral war against Iraq in violation of international law and without UN sanction, but that’s difficult to put on a button, so I wore one saying “Attack Iraq? No!”.

Afterwards, though, I thought about my response, my justification for an anti-war stance; my careful insistence that I’m anti-war except if there’s a right cause, a good reason, a noble effort for war. And it occurred to me that shouldn’t the imperative for justification be on those who promote war rather than those who promote peace?

As “justification” for a righteous war, the kind of war we say we ultimately want to wage in Iraq, we bring up World War II and talk about war with Germany being necessary because a) Germany was aggressively attacking its neighbors, and b) Germany was committing the worst acts of genocide in the history of humanity with the deliberate extermination of the Jews. No one can deny these facts, or the atrocities committed. Once they began, they had to be stopped and the only course open at that time was war.

However, step back further in time: Hitler and the Nazi party would never have gained power in Germany to commit these acts against humanity if the Allies (Britain, France, the US, Italy, and others) had worked effectively as a team after the first World War. But France and England wanted to punish Germany, while the US wanted Peace, and other countries wanted other things, and the process was bungled. This left an embittered, united Germany vulnerable to the rise of a new power that promised them the victory many of the Germans felt cheated out of:

But large sections of the population in Germany did not believe that their country had been honorably defeated on the battlefield. They believed in the rumors sweeping across Germany that the push for victory of their valiant troops on the western front had been sabotaged by traitors and pacifists at home who had spread disaffection and revolution.

This ‘stab in the back’ had prevented the gallant soldiers from securing the victory which was almost in their grasp. Thus a treaty which not only confirmed German defeat, but which, in clause 231, justified its demands for punitive war costs by laying the blame for the outbreak of the war firmly on German shoulders, was bound to provoke fury. Germany was a country which saw itself as having been encircled by France, Russia and Britain in 1914 and provoked into war

Germany’s entry into World War I began with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as he toured Kosovo on the anniversary of a military defeat that was the cause of a great deal of humiliation for Serbs. Ferdinand was warned against this tour but arrogantly continued in spite of the warnings, and his arrogance launched a bloody global conflict.

But the first mistake, the first error, didn’t reside with Ferdinand. The Serbs assassinated him because they feared increased persecution at his hands, fears based on previous events, the history of which stretches back into the dimmest collective memory, a ribbon of related cause and effect that ultimately culminated in six million Jews being murdered; a ribbon that stretches into the future, as the Jewish people, desperate for a safe haven of their own, fight for a homeland. Fight for Israel.

The events leading to a “justified war” roll along an incline tilted by greed and foolishness, smoothed by pride and anger. They give the people who would be gods the open door to obtain the power they crave; they give the fearful the dark shadows in their minds from which to cower and to strike.

We stumble along from one mistake to another until we reach a point of critical no-return. Then we have a war to reset the board, to start over but with different pieces, different game plans. In effect, we’re saying, “We screwed up. Let’s have a war and make it better.”

This same pattern of small event building on small event, of mistake piled on mistake, is so much at the core of our current conflict with Iraq. We supported Saddam Hussein’s ascension to power because the regime at the time was too friendly to the Soviet Union. We supported Iraq in its war against Iran because Iran was a greater perceived threat to the United States. We helped provide Iraq with the training and the means to use the weapons we now seek to remove. We turned a blind eye to the violations of basic human rights in that country because it suited our needs to do so at the time.

Which brings us back here, and now and what is a justified war with Iraq. I have been asked a question: if the UN sanctioned an invasion of Iraq, would I support it? Yesterday, I would have answered yes. That was before this morning when I read once again of the mistakes we’ve made in the past. When I reminded myself of the start of World War I, of World War II, the Civil War, and so on. So many mistakes ‘corrected’ by so many wars.

Even with UN sanctions, I can no longer support this war; not for the reasons we would fight it. I do not believe Saddam Hussein is a strong supporter of terrorists and I do not believe he is an immediate threat to our country or any other country. I can not support war for these reasons because these supposed threats of Saddam Hussein are based on mistakes. Mistakes made primarily by those who seek to fight this war, and fight this war now. The same leaders who have spared little thought about the people of Iraq, except when convenient as a justification of war.

Amnesty International, one of the few organizations who fights for the people of a land, has asked, repeatedly, of the UN: What of the people? If there is a war, what are the plans to help the people, to prevent harm, to stop military reprisal? What are the plans for placing monitors to prevent human abuses? Who will rule this land, and for whose good?

We say we must fight to save the people, and quickly, but how does dropping 800 bombs on a country over 48 hours help the people? How does taking out the water systems on the first day of the war help people? And who is making the decision about leadership once Saddam Hussein is gone? The same people who talk so easily about dropping 800 bombs on a country over 2 days.

If we are going into Iraq to “help the people” then we must, more than ever, take the time to ensure we move carefully, to ensure the safety of the people we seek to help. If we don’t, then our professions of concern for the people are nothing more than a sham, and a lie.

Once we have helped the people of Iraq, then we have a moral obligation to help the other people of this world who live in fear, who are imprisoned, tortured, stoned, and raped. Even though there is no benefit for ourselves; even if there is the possibility of risk to ourselves. We have no choice if what we truly want is to help the people.

Am I anti-war? You damn right I am. There is no just war, no righteous war. There are only wars that erase small mistakes compared to wars that attempt to erase bigger ones.

Tell me your justifications for war and display for me past examples where good triumphed over evil in a necessary war. For every act of righteous war, you bring into the light, I’ll show you a ribbon of folly and greed, arrogance and stupidity stretching back into the darkness behind it.

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