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Shock But Not Awe



I write with a heavy heart. Our cause has shifted from trying to prevent a needless war to seeking to end an illegal war. The audacity of the Bush administration takes one’s breath away.

The United States is bombing Baghdad, engaged in its “shock and awe” strategy. Shock yes, but there is no awe. To suggest awe reflects only the arrogance of the Bush militarists. US attacks on Iraq are shocking and awful.

Shocking that we are at war in violation of international law and our Constitution.
Shocking that our government is committing aggressive warfare, which is a crime.

Shocking that a large majority of the US Congress has been so compliant and cowardly, handing over their responsibility to declare war to the president. By giving up their Constitutional powers, Congress is putting the future of our Republic in jeopardy.

Shocking that Bush has demonstrated contempt for the strongly held positions of our allies, and hundreds of millions of their protesting citizens throughout the world.
Shocking that Bush has shown such studied indifference to the millions of Americans who have taken to the streets in protest of his war plans.

Shocking that the United States has attacked Iraq in defiance of the United Nations Security Council and with disregard for US obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.
Shocking that the United States has acted in bad faith, having assured the other members of the Security Council at the time of passage of Resolution 1441 that it does not provide for an automatic recourse to war. John Negroponte, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, assured other members of the Security Council on the day that Resolution 1441 was passed: “Whatever violation there is, or is judged to exist, will be dealt with in the Council, and the Council will have an opportunity to consider the matter before any other action is taken.” What he apparently meant was that the Security Council would have a chance to endorse a US-led war against Iraq or be cast aside as irrelevant.

Now we are faced with the challenge of ending this illegal war, and bringing those who are committing war crimes to justice. This must not be only victors’ justice, but justice that applies to all sides. As Bush and Rumsfeld have emphasized, following superior orders will not be a defense to the commission of war crimes. This should be so both for the Iraqi leadership and for the American leadership.
The anger wells up at the hypocrisy and arrogance of the Bush administration. The two most powerful statements that I have seen recently in opposition to the war are Senator Byrd’s lamentation, “Today, I weep for my country…” and the expression of bitterness of Michael Waters-Bey, the bereft father of one of the US soldiers to die in a helicopter crash returning to Kuwait from a mission in Iraq. Mr. Waters-Bey said that he wanted to tell the president that “this was not your son or daughter. That chair he sat in at Thanksgiving will be empty forever.”

There will be more killing and more deaths, more empty chairs. It is a time of sadness, as our country is losing its credibility and honor throughout the world. It is a time of tragedy that the militarists are having their day. It is a time of shock, but far from a time of awe. We will find a way back to decency, democracy and the rule of law. Until then, we must continue to express our dissent and opposition to this war, to policies of perpetual war, and to the diminishment of our democratic rights. We must also find a way to hold the guilty accountable for their crimes against peace and war crimes.

DAVID KRIEGER is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( He is the editor of Hope in a Dark Time, Reflections on Humanity’s Future (Capra Press, 2003).

Today’s Features

Gary Leupp
What Democracy Looks Like: the Streets of Cairo

Bill and Kathleen Christison
An Interview with Hanan Ashrawi

Bruce Jackson
Why Protest? Why Write?

Uri Avnery
Bitter Rice: Thoughts and Warnings on the War

Jason Leopold
Blood Indicator: Casualties and the Stock Market

Jeffrey St. Clair
Life During Wartime

Gilad Atzmon
Strategic Blunders by American Generals

Ralph Nader
A Pre-emptive War on a Defenseless Country

Website of the War
Iraq Body Count

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David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation ( 

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