|Peace is Patriotic
23 January 2003
War of aggression is an un-American activity. In the absence of clear and present danger, a war of "prevention" is a war of aggression. Yes, the free nations of Europe should have reacted with arms when Hitler invaded Poland. The "coalition" reacted appropriately with arms when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The world should have intervened in Somalia, but evidently too little of monetary value was at stake.
The last time the U.S. engaged in preemptive armed aggression, the result was the Spanish-American War. And we all know how that turned out, don't we? By the way, William Randolph Hearst's role in creating the Spanish-American War stands as proof of one of the principal evils of lack of diversity in news media sources. The current news media consolidation in the world - approximately six major corporations - is surely an accessory to the "potential" war.
As the situation is today, Mr. Bush's itchy trigger finger is more dangerous than what may or may not be waiting for us in Iraq, and his need to fight right now is inappropriate. Iraq isn't invading anybody. The weapons' inspectors aren't done yet. And Iraq has been asked to immediately do the impossible - namely, to prove a negative ("I don't beat my wife"). Any good parent will tell you that kids learn by example. When you played hide and seek as a kid, what did you think of the kid who only counted to nine before he came after you? Rules are rules. No one in all the world will believe in America's honor or maturity if we engage in such petulant behavior. And many regular folks in the world who happen to be Arabs are poised between their desire for peace and the appeal of the inflammatory rhetoric of Muslim extremism. Arrogant American action without international support will likely push such folk the cliff into violence.
The America of which I am a citizen does not engage in wars of aggression. The America of which I am a citizen does not ignore the right of habeas corpus. The America of which I am a citizen strives to be a positive demonstration of democracy in action, and engages in the relentless pursuit of ethical behavior in an increasingly complex world. But the president of the America I'm living in is behaving like an impatient little kid. Whacking the neighborhood bully will not save the neighborhood. America is not about whacking anybody who gets in the way of our desires. We will get nowhere until we dig deep and deal with root causes.
And say, what about those RVs? The president wants to reward us for them. But folks, we have no inborn "right" to petroleum. Beyond consumerism and the enrichment of the giant corporations that feed on black gold (from automobiles to the energy industry), there is no "need" for oil. What there is a need for is an aggressive policy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, for two incredibly important reasons: global peace and planetary survival.
It amazes me that the American public does not seem to get the fact Mr. Bush's war and his proposed tax cuts are ways of selling the average person the right to contribute to the wealth of a very few very fat corporations and their shareholders, at the cost of American jobs, public health, education, infrastructure, dignity, honor, and global ecology. How did we get to be so dumb? Three generations of couch potatoes, that's how. The easiest thing I can think of that would change the way the pinheads among our voting public think is if Iraq were to acquire the National Football League.
Mr. Bush for seems not to be trying very hard to avoid war - after all, his daughters won't come home in body bags. And pulling the trigger is so much easier than reforming at a very deep level the institutions that have led us to this pass. I am aware that it is a hellishly complex situation. I think that Saddam Hussein is an evil bastard who represses his people. What I object to are three things: the apparent failure of the President to have the patience to follow the course he set via the United Nations, the failure of Congress to step up to debating a declaration of war, and the failure of the American people to take reform their own beliefs, desires, and habits in the name of world peace. The fault is not only with our government; the American public bears some responsibility here.
If we are to fight a war with Iraq, let it be for the right reasons. Let it not be over the value of petroleum and the enrichment of the corporations that sell oil and build automobiles; let it not be over the desire of American "consumers" to have an unlimited cheap supply of fuel and power. Let it be rather over the threat that Iraq's current regime poses to the health and well-being of its own citizens and those of its neighboring countries.
Be ashamed. Be very ashamed. Be ashamed of an America that is willing to send its young into a battle that will undoubtedly also kill innocent people on the ground. Be ashamed of American corporations who are willing to engage children and bonded laborers in the third world, degrading other cultures and environments for the dubious benefit of American shareholders and consumers. Be ashamed of a President who helps them do this by abrogated his responsibilities to the environment and the other citizens of Planet Earth in the name of shareholder value. Be ashamed of double-dealing when the President pressures the U.N. to conduct weapons inspections then decides to get on with his war regardless of their findings or the time it takes to produce them. Be ashamed of America for allowing itself to go to war without a declaration of war from the Congress. Be ashamed of a country that allows itself to be cowed by religious extremists into doing nothing to educate or assist in population control where poverty (and thus chaos) spreads at the rate of population explosion. Be ashamed of a government that is working industriously to sacrifice the rights of women, decent health care, education, and the rights of diverse cultures and individual human beings all in the name of corporate gains. And if you own a gas-guzzling car and consume non-sustainable energy any time that the temperature is 70 degrees plus or minus two, be ashamed of yourself too.
And while you're working through that, stand up on your hind legs and BE A CITIZEN. Examine the issues and make a judgment. Write your congress critters (http://www.senate.gov, http://www.house.gov). Write to the president (email@example.com). March in the street. Change your email footer to show your colors. If your vehicle gets less than 25 mpg, replace the damned thing with something that gets you where you want to go without raping the planet (this may require some to forgo the installation of a home theatre for viewing team sports). America is close to achieving a new level of immorality. Do not accept behavior that degrades all that we and our forebears have struggled for. Do not abandon America - the canonical, idealistic, achievable dream of America - in a flush of commercially managed faux-patriotism.
During the Vietnam war I wrote an essay that appeared in my college newspaper. It said, among other things, "believe in America." For this statement I was roundly derided by the liberals for whom I was an unerring foot-soldier and an occasional leader. But I stand by it. Believe in America. Remind yourself of what America really is.
America is about manifesting the best of human potential. And peace is patriotic.