Not saying stop is not the same as saying go

In some ways I regret my Peaceblog no more writing, not because I don’t believe what I wrote — I do. And not because I feel like I’m selling out — I’m not. It seems to me this issue is on the minds of other people who marched and worked for peace. And it’s not an easy issue to discuss either.

I am aware that there are some people who are unhappy that I’m not continuing to protest the armed conflict in Iraq. That doesn’t bother me, as I knew that there will be people protesting the war until the end and that some will understand where I’m coming from, others won’t. I can accept this.

No, what does bother me is that others see this as a form of support for the war, as some sort of right-thinking move. (I hate that term with a passion, almost as much as I dislike neo-con.)

Let me be blunter: I am still against this war in Iraq. I believe, strongly, that the United States has no right to make what amounts to a unilateral invasion of Iraq. People are suffering and dying because of super inflated egos who have worked out a ‘strategy’ on paper and who refuse to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers; in most cases, they don’t even know what the questions are. No, I believe the US screwed up.

However, I am also most interested in focusing my energy on what we can do to help the people of Iraq as soon as possible, as well as minimize the anger in the rest of the Arab world. In my opinion, this means establishing an interim government that will be acceptable to the Iraqi people and the majority of countries in the Middle East. At least until the Iraqi feel comfortable enough, as a whole, for everyone to “please just leave now”.

To me, this interim government should be overseen by more neutral parties, in my opinion, something joint between the Arab League and the UN.

I think the worst possible thing will be for the United States to continue in any form of controlling position in this country. Not only will this increase the stress and the anger in the Middle East, quite bluntly, I don’t trust the current leadership of this country not to screw up.

I also want to ensure that the US does not invade any other countries without cause. Not on my watch at least.

Now, taking all that, and borrowing from Jonathon’s upcoming “‘How to Respond to Idiots’ for Dummies” book, I don’t know how one gets from being sadly resigned to the belief that pulling troops out at this time would do more harm than good to the Iraqi people to I am now behind this war to give freedom and human rights to the Iraqi people.

However, there may be some confusion because of a mixed message I’m sending. After all, I am behind a war for freedom and human rights; it’s just that this war is being fought within the United States, not Iraq.

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From the Ashes arises the bird of converse

Sheila probably spoke for many yesterday when she declared no more war. The anger and bitterness surrounding the issue of the war in Iraq can drain even the most energetic of people. However, my hope is the war of rhetoric has managed to burn itself out, and from the ashes can come true conversation.

Soldiers are heading to Baghdad, and eventually, this city will be in US hands. This isn’t to say the ‘war’ will be over — this is not a typical war, fought by typical warriors. The question was asked — what next? Steve Himmer made a start on answering this question, without rhetoric, providing practical suggestions as to directions. In particular, his suggestion of the UNESCO loan program is a viable, reachable start to helping the people in Iraq. However, equally important, in my opinion, was that he was making an attempt to bridge differences between people with different views of the war in Iraq. And doing so in a non-confrontational manner.

Jonathon Delacour commented on Steve’s efforts, in the same writing where he responded to an accusation of racism levied against him in his comments. His remarks are about the most rational and effective response to that type of accusation I have seen. Rather let loose a stream of invective, and wade in with shirt sleeves rolled up, ready for a virtual showdown, he calmly refuted the accusation; managing to deflect the anger of the accusation, not back at the accuser, but outside the conversation, completely.

That’s what we need to do.

Primarily because of Steve’s reasoned response, Jonathon has also re-directed his discussion about protest marchers into expressing a specific issue rather than the use of more colorful and rather pithy adjectives.

Their conversation, and the comments associated with them give me hope. Hope that could only be increased if other voices join in.

(Hint. Hint.)

There is a conversation waiting to be born about the presence of the US in Iraq, about UN involvement, and the makeup of an interim government. There is also a conversation waiting to re-born about human rights at a global level — a closely related topic. Allan Moult pointed to two documents detailing human rights abuses in the world, including violations in this country. These are a start.

(How poetic that the twin issues of freedom and human rights for the people of Iraq are the same issues that we need to address here in the United States. )

From these conversations, common agreements can be found, perhaps even unified, positive actions. At a minimum, we may come away with a better understanding of our own reactions to the war, the UN, the US involvement, and human rights in general.

It’s just too bad we’re all so burned out. And I’m fresh out of Burningbird magic Rising from the Ashes Pixie Dust to sprinkle about.

And as I was finishing this, I looked up and out the window at a sky filled with black smoke. But it was just a fire at an auto shop nearby.

Peaceblog no more

I have removed the Peaceblog logo from the sidebar. I’m not sure at this point exactly what a peaceblog is. After three difficult days of thinking, I’m not sure what ‘peace’ is.

Before the invasion, ‘peace’ meant to me working to prevent my country from invading Iraq without good and decent cause and world support. By world, I mean UN support.

I never at any time considered Iraq an imminent threat. We are not justified attacking the country for this reason. We’re not justified attacking the country for 9/11. The only justification we could have for an armed conflict is to remove Saddam Hussein because of his oppression of the people of the country, but talk about Weapons of Mass Destruction is not concern about the Iraqi people. Too late the people of Iraq entered our regard.

Once we entered the country, once we dropped the bombs, we started something and to leave now will just result in a stalemate that will result in yet more death in a country that’s seen too much of it. The same type of death that resulted when we encouraged the Iraqi people to revolt 12 years ago and then didn’t stay around to help them. I bitterly regret that we started this war, but we can’t just leave now.

However, acknowledgment of finishing what we’ve started is not support. I do not support Bush and his administration. I do not support their short-sighted arrogance or their frightening long-term view for the Middle East.

The Sydney Morning Herald had a story today about disagreement within the Bush Administration about post-war strategy. It notes that the State Department (Colin Powell), as well as Britain’s Blair, believe in turning over the administration of Iraq to the UN after the war, though Powell has shown he won’t publicly refute the President’s and the Pentagon’s interest in maintaining US control.

I agree with turning the temporary administration of Iraq to UN control, as the country goes through what will be an extraordinarily difficult time. Replacing US control of Iraq with UN control is my push and my focus now, and that’s what I’m working for. The US presence will still be there, including our money and aid — we did start this after all — but under UN supervision as part of the UN forces.

And I do not agree with American corporate profiting from this war. Period.

The US staying in control of Iraq makes this a war of imperialism, regardless of how we want to wrap it. Not only will this inspire more terrorism, it will further destabilize the Middle Eastern region with fear of what the US will do next. I won’t soon forget the discussion about Syria and Iran last week. I won’t forget the implications of those words, and neither will Syria or Iran. Or, most likely, North Korea.

I also support direct Arab League involvement in the administration of Iraq. We have to start getting over our distrust of each other — Western world and the Arab world. Being the enemy without is not going to stop the spread of Muslim fanaticism or any form of fanaticism for that matter.

A most vivid image in my mind is that Iraqi driver the morning of the first bombing of Baghdad. The country was under war and the city had just been bombed, but the driver still signaled to turn, still stopped at a red light. Of all the images of destruction and violence and death from Iraq, this is the image that haunts me the most.

What the people of Iraq, and the Middle East, want is what we want — normalcy. Nobody wants war but the fanatical and the ambitious.

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Being intellectually divorced

I spent the day today talking about the war in Iraq and possible solutions, about protests and voices. But behind all of this has been the disappointment of hearing people chastise the peace movement — dismissive statements about self-indulgent moralizing.

Once, not long ago, before the invasion of Iraq, I wrote that it was important to respect those people who choose not to protest:

I think one thing we’ve learned since the last major global anti-war demonstration is that these demonstrations aren’t for everyone; neither is some or even all aspects of the anti-war movement. We must remember to respect each other’s beliefs and choices, if what we say in these demonstrations means anything at all.

We’re heading into tense, difficult times. Regardless of what each of us believes, we have to keep in mind our respect for each other. Our service people in the Middle East deserve our respect. So do the people of Iraq. It just breaks my heart to see two groups who deserve respect having to kill each other because a few men, deserving of no respect, have demanded it in their arrogance.

It’s difficult, then, to see people deny me, and others who have been part of the movement, that same respect.

Kottke came out with a posting on the war, the first and only time he’s made a statement about it. He wrote:

It’s all much more complicated than this. All the arguments out there for and against are necessarily shallow. We’re getting very small pieces of the whole story from TV reports, newspaper articles, weblog postings, and magazine pieces. No one has the time to read or write a complete analysis of the situation (which would be a social, political, religious, scientific and economic history of the world from 5000 B.C. up until 2 minutes ago…basically all human knowledge).

Summing up, Bush bad, war bad, this war not so bad even though bad Bush reasons also bad.

Rather than provide a solution or an alternative, he basically calls all sides the joker and dusts his hands off from any further discussion. Back to blogging, as usual, he’s made his stand and his statement. He’s done his part. And oh, the praise that came in when this posting was published.

Yet, what did Kottke say — that the pro-war and the anti-war sides are all idiots, but he’s neither so he’s intellectually superior to both?

Demands have been made of the peace movement: what are our solutions? What is our strategy? Good questions, and ones we should look at answering. I’ve tried to start this discussion, though I realize that the Kottkes of the world will consider it to be trite and ineffectual and it most likely would be laughed out of any number of erudite gatherings in New York and San Francisco.

What those who would disdain what I say miss, though, is that for all of its simplicity and idealism, it comes from the heart and I am at least doing something. It comes because I genuinely want to make a difference. Because I’m doing the best I can.

Kottke says:

Just as unconvincing as Bush’s flimsy arguments for war have been the arguments from the other side for peace. Talk about preaching to the choir. Your “blood for oil” and “give peace a chance” signs are as ridiculous and unconvincing as Bush’s “well, they’re evil” argument. War is bad. Duh. Any ideas as to alternatives? Praying, marching, and hoping for peace isn’t going to get it done alone. Bush and the peaceniks are both equally at fault for not working hard enough at having a meaningful dialogue on Iraq, each side settling for lobbing rhetoric over the wall. Bush looks like a chimp. Great…now tell me what the fuck that has to do with anything. Blech.

By demeaning both sides of the equation, Kottke is indulging in an intellectual divorce from the issue. But can a person do this? This conflict isn’t happening on someone else’s world.

You see, the war is happening. People are dying. Chaos is increasing, and there will be deeper and heavier prices to pay on this issue before this is over. To condemn both sides with a pithy chi-chi clever dismissal doesn’t absolve Kottke, or anyone else, of responsibility. Doesn’t make them superior to we who made our simple statements either for or against this war.

Dave Rogers would have us shut down the protests and fund organizations and people such as Blair and develop thinktanks and have conferences as a solution to Iraq. He wrote:

What would it take? There are already probably some organizations who have some thoughts on these things, maybe sponsor some kind of international conference of these various groups. Outline an agenda for what the immediate needs are likely to be for post-war Iraq. What will be the security arrangements? How will the oil be sold and what will be done with the revenues? What is the state of the health and education infrastructures within the nation? What are the real problems with ethnic animosities among the various groups? What kind of reconciliation efforts will there people? Does South Africa have a model that may help? What about the environmental issues? It seems to me we have an opportunity to really help the people of Iraq and the entire region if we can get our act together before Bush declares victory.

My only possible answer to Dave is that we had the organization. It’s called the UN. What he asks for is what the UN is supposed to do. But it does no good if the UN is diregarded by the US and other members of the coalition. Creating a new UN like infrastrature won’t be any more successful.

I can respect what Dave’s saying, but it seems to me — just my own opinion — that what might be happening is that he, and others, are being overwhelmed by the emotion on both sides and they just want it to stop. They want to war to reach its conclusion and the fighting to stop, and for those who protest the war to stop and to give everyone peace, which in this case is silence. Or perhaps not silence, but the absence of emotion.

Normalcy. A return to normalcy.

The peace movement, or whatever we call it, does need to focus, and I think this conversation now is a good one and I’m appreciative that it’s started. But I also think there’s a deep disappointment underlying some of the pushback against the movement. Ultimately, we failed people — we didn’t stop the war and we didn’t come up with an alternative that would stop this war in time. Now, the coalition of Bush and Blair and Howard have invaded Iraq and we’re in for some nasty, nasty times. We failed the world by not stopping this. So now, we’re being asked, what are we going to do about it?

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Scorched Earth

Jonathon wrote a thoughtful and compelling response to my post Cut the Ribbon yesterday, using as counter-point the political and social condition of the Japanese people prior to World War II, and the prosperity these same people have enjoyed since. He doesn’t deny the “ribbon of folly and greed, arrogance and stupidity’; instead, he writes:

Rather I accept Thomas Sowell’s view that the evils of the world derive from “the limited and unhappy choices available, given the inherent moral and intellectual limitations of human beings.” In other words, folly, greed, arrogance, and stupidity will inevitably arise wherever there are people present.

I don’t necessarily disagree with Jonathon, though he and I do share somewhat different viewpoints of the inherent goodness of humanity as balanced against the inherent badness of humanity. I also respect and understand Jonathon’s expressed view that he’s not pro-war just because he’s not completely anti-war. However, I think at times we rely too much on the accidental successes of wars as a justification for war.

In my comments, Kevin Marks included the text of Tony Blair’s speech in response to the protests this weekend. Now that the terrorist threat has begun to recede as an impetus for the war, the talk turns to Saddam Hussein’s treatment of his people. Blair quotes letters from Iraqi people who talk of the deaths of innocents, Saddam’s brutality, the oppression. None of us deny this. This is the reason, all along, that we should have talked about war — to help the people of Iraq. We should have been discussing this thirty years ago.

But now the Iraqi people are being brought up as a justification for war because we need one more reason to fulfill our agenda of a unilateral invasion of Iraq by the US and a few allies. We need justification for our “righteous” war.

Blair’s speech sickens me because in his grand words in support of the war against Saddam Hussein, he neglects to mention why Saddam is in power; who put him there; who supported him while he killed millions in the war with Iran. Who brought about this horror we face now?

Ridding(sic) the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.

And if it does come to this, let us be clear: we should be as committed to the humanitarian task of rebuilding Iraq for the Iraqi people as we have been to removing Saddam

Who brought the horror? The very leaders who hold up photos of children starving in the countryside. The ones who only now talk of rebuilding Iraq “for the people”.

The hypocrisy makes me want to vomit.

The only planning Bush and Blair have done about the effects of the war and the people of Iraq afterwards is who we’ll put in charge, and how much oil will it cost for our occupation. And Bush and Blair will pursue their agendas regardless of what the world, including our allies, says..

No one wants Saddam Hussein to remain in power, but the cost of marching in with the sole goal of defeating Saddam Hussein and disarming Iraq will bring about horrors worse then any that have been perpetuated in this country in the past. Don’t trot out pictures of Afghanistan and Japan and other beneficiaries of accidental successes of war — the situation in Iraq is different. Amnesty International recognized this, which is why they call, again and again, for a discussion in the UN about the people of Iraq. But all we hear is “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. And 9/11.

Have no doubt of what will happen. Today the papers and the news talk about Saddam Hussein’s scorched earth policy, something which I don’t doubt he’ll follow.

I have no doubt he’ll kill millions, let loose chemical and biological weapons, blow up the oil fields — he is a cornered man with nothing to lose, and no concern about the welfare of his people. If this scorched earth happens, it will take years — years — to recover. And ultimately we will have bred more of the same terrorists we sought to confine and eliminate.

We talk of war, but what war are we fighting? The one Blair and Bush have packaged, and are now wrapping with a pretty bow composed of the faces of the children of Iraq we’re going to save? The war governed by sanctions that focus primarily on weapons?

Or are we going to focus our attention and our energies on finding a solution that will allow us to go into Iraq and help the people without destroying them?

These are two different wars. Which war are we to fight?

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