Let us have no illusions.
In Baghdad, once I’d gotten to know someone fairly well, they’d often ask me point blank: “The war, Joe… when is it coming?” And searching my eyes, it was clear that they weren’t looking for comfort. They wanted the unmitigated truth.
They need, of necessity, to ask these hard questions. The 8-year war with Iran in which 200,000 died; the Gulf War, which took possibly another 300,000 besides wrecking the entire infrastructure; 12 years of U.S.-enforced U.N. sanctions, which have cost them an additional million lives-23 years of sustained economic and military conflict have simply made the Iraqi people immune to illusions, in the matter of war.
Let us, like the Iraqis, have no illusions.
I was in the states at the end of September when the House of Representatives handed the president a gun. I was in Baghdad when the Senate loaded it for him. History repeats itself, as the power to make war is now invested in the person of one, fallible man. Was not the American Revolution fought to prevent a king from making war at his subjects’ expense?
As the “Old Europe” of Germany and France makes waffling attempts to assert their independence from Washington realpolitik, Eastern European nations are lining up to take their places at the table. Washington will not lack for lackeys, because power makes money makes power makes money, and this is the first lesson of politics. Have no illusions; other nations will not come to our moral rescue. It may seem ridiculously obvious to you that if the inspectors remained in Iraq for the next 75 years it would still be just plain cheaper than any other solution.
You may be angry at how deeply your civil rights are being slashed at, and recreated in the image of a neo-conservative New World Order.
Or you grasp all too well that it is U.S. arms sales around the world that make inevitable the endless cycle of big and little wars to come, for the next hundred years.
Maybe it’s equally clear to you that any future U.S. treaty is a thing of convenience, to be abrogated when its purpose has been served… That the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Accords, bans on nuclear and conventional weapon testing, research into alternative energy sources, all of these are only impediments to “preserving the American way of life”…
That the War on Terrorism is simply a convenient place to focus American fears now that Communism is dead, and the Pentagon needs a new justification for its ever-expanding budget…
That this war on terrorism, the war in Afghanistan to secure right of way for the natural gas reserves of central Asia, the war for the oil of Iraq, the not-so-coincidental turmoil in Venezuela…these are only the opening gambits in the U.S. bid to secure the fossil fuel resources of the entire planet, in order that we may dictate terms to the rest of the industrialized world.
Ask the shoeshine boys, the art dealers, the doctors, the cafe operators, the hotel staff, ask anyone in Iraq why the United States is coming there. They have no illusions. “It’s the oil, we know,” they say, shrugging their shoulders as though this is a commonplace, known to every child.
In ancient Assyria, war was not dressed up in Patriotism or the tattered gown of Democracy or a distorted Moral Righteousness fabricated from the loving words of long dead Holy Men. War was an undisguised grab for the wealth of another state, the losers impaled or sold into slavery. And you had to face your “enemy”.
Will the government of Pakistan, a nation that possesses nuclear weapons, be destabilized? Will the Israelis use the occasion to push the Palestinians into Jordan? Will Turkey finally move on Iraqi Kurdistan? Will the Shia’a majority of southern Iraq link up with Iran or simply demolish itself in endless revolt against the American invaders? How many more Saudi terrorists will be inspired to action? How long before the New Hiroshima, and what unfortunate land will suffer it?
Hundreds of thousands would die in such a war, but that is academic, an historical footnote, statistics. Lives mean nothing to this administration, yours, mine, or the Iraqis’. Have no illusions.
Dare we note that, should the Iraqis put up a stiff resistance, the American military machine will merely back up, and then, oh my fellow citizens, then we will see a demonstration of Weapons of Mass Destruction such as the world has not previously witnessed.
Debate or forget all of the above, but be assured of one thing: the present crisis is over nothing less than the American Soul.
So why, in a world pitching giantly out of control, would you bother to raise your tiny voice, against a din of violence, waste, fear, greed, and “gut feelings”, that seeks to drown out any rational consideration of events? We raise our voices because we are Americans…unlike the Iraqis, we can still raise them. We raise our voices because we have children…and parents…and loved ones…and cherished ideals that we’d like to hang onto, and we realize that everywhere an American bomb falls, an Osama bin Laden seed is sown.
We raise our voices because the right of assembly has not yet been taken from us. We raise our voices because our government’s arrogant denial that all the peoples of this planet are beautiful and necessary parts of creation, this arrogance is now attributed to the American people as well, and soon it will be unsafe for us to travel outside of our borders.
We raise our voices because the incontrovertible result of war is more war.
We raise our voices because we have galloping inequities in our schools, in Corporate America, in our inner cities, and the 100 or 200 or 900 billion dollars we would squander on further brutalizing our brothers and sisters in Iraq would be better spent otherwise than in financing the theft of that nation’s natural resources, to fill the pockets of the conglomerate that is running this country.
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Writing in the early Baghdad evening, I often watched the sun setting over the Tigris River. There, in the Cradle of Civilization, one was, perhaps, more keenly reminded of the flickering and snuffing out of civilizations, and by a small leap, to grasp the historical illogic of war as a problem solving device.
We raise our voices because we must. Because our hearts tell us that the clock is ticking, not quite as loudly as it’s ticking for the Iraqis, but time is running out on the American Dream. Have no illusions: An attack against Iraq will be one of the cataclysmic events in American history, on a par with The Civil War and the Great Depression. Would it not signal to the world that democratic principals and Jeffersonian humanism have no more significance in the American ethos than they did in Nazi Germany? And to send that message is to invite a return to international barbarism, but on a scale we must shudder to contemplate.
We raise our voices because there’s a drunk at the wheel. Approaching the wall, the catastrophe ever more imminent, we begin to see, with growing and terrible clarity, who and what drives the American State. There is precious little time left in which to grab the keys and avert this self-inflicted disaster.
We raise our voices in the certainty that even should the dreaded Battle of Iraq come, it need not, must not, will not stun us into silence.
And the clock is still ticking…
JOE QUANDT is a 52-year old actor/cab driver/activist/teacher/poet living in the Albany, NY area. He traveled to Baghdad on the 49th Voices in the Wilderness delegation, during the month of October, 2002. He can be reached at: Ytonthemoon@aol.com