An article, with the headline, “Serving Notice of a New U.S., Poised to Hit First and Alone,” appeared in The New York Times on the morning of January 27. The subject is the Bush administration doctrine of pre-emptive war, which the article refers to as “the right (my emphasis) to strike first to defend American troops and territory against imminent threats.” The article, by Michael Gordon, features some tepid criticism of the doctrine –mostly focusing on considerations of pr– by warmakers of former times, but missing from the story is even a shred of recognition that the emperor is naked.
In this hour of jingoistic fever, with the world poised on the edge of mass homicide, and events that would further ignite anti-American rage throughout the Middle East, the Times article, like media discourse generally, in articulating the doctrine of pre-emptive war, omits the most glaring objections to this doctrine. These objections should be obvious to everyone:
1) The doctrine can be used as license to wage agressive war –for example, for oil, or as a demonstration of imperial might– especially if accepted uncritically by the media and the public.
The distinction between legitimate acts of defense and the waging of aggressive war is critical, but unexamined in the Times article. Waging an aggressive war is a violation of one of the four counts of the Nuremberg indictment under which Nazi leaders were executed: crimes against peace. And waging an aggressive war is a violation of the UN Charter and thereby, despite the disregard with which international law is held by public officials in the United States, a violation of the supreme law of the land. There is not a hint of this in the Times, or anywhere in the mass media that I have seen.
2) United States policy toward Iraq is bitterly resented throughout the Middle East, and escalating from sanctions to war, whatever else it may do, is likely to fuel attitudes that breed terrorism. In other words, it is likely to further consequences opposed to the stated aims of the war, to make Americans more, rather than less, vulnerable.
3) Finally, but hardly least: A war on Iraq is likely to kill and injure tens of thousands of innocent people, at least, and to further devastate some of the most miserable people –thanks to years of U.S. support of Sadaam Hussein, the U.S.-backed war against Iran, the Gulf War and its aftermath, and the years of near genocidal sanctions– on Earth. Needless to say none of this figures in the “wide-ranging debate” over the policy of pre-emption as reported in the Times.
Are journalists who work for such corporations as the Times, Disney, General Electric, and so forth, able to identify, not to mention interview, people who can speak authentically for the interests of the innocent people who will be under the bombs (of course I do not mean Iraqi government officials), or for those most likely to suffer in the next cycle of rage?
WALTER MIALE is the director of the Green World Center in Sutton, Quebec, where he is producing the film, Democracy is Coming to the USA, in which a college student meets and interviews activists including Noam Chomsky, Jane Goodall, Julia Butterfly Hill, Ralph Nader, Grace Paley, Peter Singer, David Suzuki, and Paul Watson. Walter is now booking Democracy Film Workshops, which give participants an opportunity to appear on camera in a cinematic dialogue with each other and with the luminaries who appear in the film. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org