Eleven hundred US soldiers killed. Perhaps thirty thousand Iraqis, most of them civilians, killed. Countless others on both sides wounded and disfigured. It was only a little more than a month ago that the 1000 GIs killed mark was reached in Iraq. Meanwhile, the US military and its civilian cohorts are stepping up attacks on the Iraqi city of Fallujah, spreading death and destruction in the name of liberation and democracy. Despite a multitude of evidence in the international press, the Pentagon insists it is only attacking so-called isolated militants. If that is the case, then why are so many women and children dying? If that is the case, then why is the war getting worse instead of better? If that is the case, then why does every Iraqi interviewed in the media (except for those who have thrown their lot in with Washington) insist that this mystery man who may not even exist-al-Zarqawi-is not in Fallujah and does not represent them?
I’ll tell you why. Because the US needs to keep the fear of terrorism and the terror of fear alive in its citizens’ minds. Otherwise, those citizens might, like many already have, look beyond the fraudulent war on terror and realize that there is no war on terror, but a war of terror on those people who would interrupt Washington’s plans for world domination. If this type of realization occurred on too grand of a scale, it could mean the end of the world as the rich and powerful know it. Without an enemy there can be no war. So, Washington creates new enemies that look like police composite photos from an episode of the old television show Kojak, and tells its soldiers and the people of the US that this is whom they are fighting. Yet, when the soldiers get to Iraq, they don’t find terrorists, they find regular folks defending their homes and families. Many GIs deny the reality they find, convincing themselves that they really are avenging the horrors of 9-11, but more and more of these men and women are seeing the truth for what it is. In short, they understand that the real enemy of those forces that sent them to Iraq and Afghanistan are the people who live there. Why? Because they don’t want foreign military forces in their country.
Meanwhile, those of us at home who have sent our men and women overseas to kill and die struggle with that decision. Like the soldiers themselves, some of us accept the reasons that our politicians provide. Others, however, look for something more substantial and, finding nothing, draw the same conclusions as those soldiers who have come to realize that they have been sent to fight not terrorists, but regular folks like themselves.
What do to with that knowledge? We’ve marched and we’ve supported candidates who oppose the war-all for naught it would seem. That’s what the numbers quoted above seem to tell us anyhow. The killing continues. GIs return home, many of them maimed physically and mentally. The major party candidates talk about a “better-run” war and trade charges about bringing back a military draft. Neither promises a withdrawal from the battleground, despite a growing sense among many people that this action is the one that makes the most sense. Yet, this idea is dismissed as naïve and impossible.
We must reject this characterization! Immediate withdrawal is not naïve, nor is it impossible. It is humane and reasonable. It is up to the antiwar movement to bring this idea into the common conversation. To do so will require daring actions. Marches are important, but we need to do more than march. Creative and direct actions are needed to push the struggle beyond its current stasis. Faculty and students should take a look at how their university or college is connected to the US war machine and challenge the administration to disconnect from those endeavors. If the administration refuses, then it might be time to occupy an office or a building. Voters need to visit their Senators and Congresspeople’s offices en masse to ask them why they voted for this war, why they continue to support it, and to demand that they introduce legislation to get us out. If these legislators hem and haw, then we should sit down and refuse to leave. Workers who oppose the war should consider leaving work on a certain day and rallying in their town center. It’s time to kick it up a notch.
Of course, in some parts of the country, marches and rallies can have the same effect as sit-ins and blockades might have in other parts of the country. It depends on the local political and social environment. Case in point-rural Texas is not New York City, so a sit-in in Texas might anger more people than it would attract, whereas a peaceful rally might very well have the opposite effect. It’s very important to take these actions with the idea that they will spur greater involvement of our fellow citizens. That means we must be careful that we inconvenience those who might profit from this war either in terms of money or power, not those who (like us) must pay for it. We don’t have to wait for a national organization to organize us; we can do it on our own. This bloodshed going on in our name and with our tax dollars will not end unless the men and women whose interests it serves have no choice but to end it. Protest is great, but resistance is necessary. And it is the combination of the two that will leave the warmakers with no choice but to end their murderous adventure.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: email@example.com