As much as dissent has been under attack here in the United States since Sept. 11, a reasonable amount rational thinking by the American people should prevail when the question of whether to attack Iraq is put on the table.
No other periodical went after dissenters than did The New Republic magazine when it published an article by its editor-in-chief and chairman, Martin Peretz who equated detractors of war and sympathizers of peace as a “fifth column.”
Comparing libertarians to a new fifth column as a group or faction of subversive agents undermining a nation’s solidarity and who supports an enemy while engaging in espionage or sabotage within national borders seems a little ridiculous.
But when looked at closely, this perspective doesn’t stray much further than the words of our own Attorney General John Ashcroft who, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee in December 2001 referring to critics of the Bush administration’s policies including military tribunals, “Your tactics only aid terrorists-for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies”
These statements coupled with continued national support of the Bush administration’s policies through gallop polls seem to point to the fact Americans must resign to the idea that Iraq is the next target in the war on terrorism.
The next front to be won over is the Europeans as well as Arab and Muslim countries that have spoken out for months against a unilateral attack on Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney’s main purpose for his 10-day 12-country tour is to whip up support for future strikes against Iraq, not so much as a coalition, but to justify an American unilateral attack if others aren’t willing to partake in the fun.
Since Sept. 11, the US has done everything in its power to justify an attack on Iraq. A typical tactic of good power-mongering politics is to ‘talk up’ an enemy so as to legitimize an attack just as Hitler ‘talked up’ an invisible communist revolution in Germany to consolidate power for himself.
In this sense, the U.S. government and conservative media pundits first claimed Iraq had Al-Qaeda links. European governments stood up and corrected the Americans stating there was no evidence linking Osama bin Laden to Baghdad and Saddam Hussein.
After that failed the course was changed instead relying on a smear campaign emphasizing the possible possession of chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction.
Scott Ritter, former chief of the Concealment Investigations Unit for the UN Special Commission on Iraq, has said the opposite though. “It was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed. Iraq no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent.” Ritter said. Now, the newest version is the notion that Iraq will have nuclear capabilities soon when in fact that statement is nothing more than convenient speculation and scare tactics aimed at elbowing out detractors.
What seems a little more rational is that the Bush administration is thinking more along the lines of a future Iraqi attack on Israel or Saudi Arabia, two of the main concerns of the Bush Sr. administration during the Gulf War.
Yet, Iraq is a crippled nation and has the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest increase in child mortality during the period 1990-99 of all the 188 countries surveyed according to a UNICEF report released in December 2000.
As Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, two former UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq have pointed out, “At the end of World War II, a Marshall Plan came to the rescue of a civilian population in Germany devastated and traumatized by six years of war. At the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 following the earlier Iran-Iraq war of eight years, Iraqis were sentenced to the most comprehensive sanctions ever extended by the international community to a country.”
Still, the American government will not compromise or even consider the notion of engaging in self-examination and possible changes to a foreign policy that is much more closely aligned with dictatorial power and abuse than democracy.
Our administration must consider how much the world could change if it altered its policy in the Isreali-Palestinian conflict to an objective stance instead of justifying anything the Israelis want. Also, Start spending money at universities like USF on research into alternative sources of fuel for our cars such as solar power, electric and hydrogen powered cars so as to avoid a national addiction to cheap Middle East oil.
Iraq is not a terrorist threat therefore, if the U.S. attacks Iraq, this new military development should be distinctly separated from the “War on Terrorism.” Or, the name “War on Terrorism” should be changed to “War on Dissenters.” A much more open policy would be appreciated since Iraq’s main problem to the US seems only to be its denial of UN weapons inspectors. Of course, “War on Dissenters” can be shortened to “War on Dissent” just as, “War on Terror” has been adopted by the mainstream media.
Alex Lynch is founder and editor of THE SHANACHIE Alternative Campus Newspaper at the University of South Florida. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org