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[casi] Reasons for Peace

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Hello all,
here's a very interesting article: an open letter to the peace movement, by Jean Bricmont, 
University Louvain, and co-author of the spledid book: "Intellectual Impostures - Postmodern 
philosophers' abuse of science", A Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont, Profile Books Ltd London  1999. 
It's worth reading.
Dirk Adriaensens.

REASONS FOR PEACE. Open letter to the pacifist movement.

         Neither Iraqi concessions nor objections from leaders of traditionally friendly countries 
seem able to deter the United States government from its determination to take to the warpath 
against Iraq to impose "regime change".   This unprecedented defiance of world opinion is a 
challenge that can and must be met by the rise of a strong new international peace movement.  The 
first task of such a peace movement is to develop and spread a clear view of the situation.  This 
involves avoiding weak arguments and unsound positions that in practice serve as steps toward 
acceptance of the logic of war.
         What is necessary first of all is an accurate evaluation of the real relationship of 
forces in the world today.  The United States possesses a power of destruction unique in history. 
Its vast arsenal is constantly expanding, based on mastery of a wide range of technologies, 
conventional and unconventional, from nuclear weapons to biochemical and
germ warfare capabilities.  In the Middle East, its closest ally, Israel, is by far the strongest 
military power. But it must be kept in mind that the military and economic power of the United 
States is accompanied and promoted by another unprecedented advantage: a global supremacy in means 
of information and propaganda.  U.S. domination of the world's news media and entertainment 
industry has long shaped public perceptions of the United States as an essentially beneficent 
power, eager only to share its domestic happiness with less fortunate countries. Its its chosen 
adversaries are
portrayed as villains who enjoy doing evil for its own sake.  Since it is comforting to believe 
that power is good, this view persists despite evidence to the contrary.  The U.S. propaganda 
machine is so powerful that it dares spin forth the absurd idea that the United States is 
threatened by Iraq, when the reverse is obvious. Since September 11, Americans have been given a 
new identity as victims, which can be used to justify endless retaliation.  Certainly, not even the 
Vietnamese, not to mention the millions of other victims of U.S. foreign policy over the past half 
century, have attracted so much media attention as the approximately 3,000 people who died in the 
attack on the Twin Towers. Systematic media bias in wartime is a fact established by numerous 
studies.   It is well known that truth is the first casualty of war, and a peace movement must do 
everything to come to the aid of this particular victim through critical distrust of mainstream 
media and an effort to seek out and provide alternative news sources.
         Advocating sanctions as an appropriate method of obtaining Iraq's unilateral disarmament 
is not the way to a  peaceful solution. The fixation on imposing unilateral disarmament on only one 
State in a heavily armed region characterized by numerous rivalries and conflicting claims to 
resources makes no sense. Should sanctions be lifted, Iraq could rearm. This implies perpetual 
sanctions against Iraq, with devastating consequences for the population, as pointed out by the 
directors of the "oil for food" program, von Sponeck et Halliday, despite efforts by the Iraqi 
regime to distribute the available food.  A principled peace movement needs to press the demand for 
global disarmament, with the first  confidence building concessions to be made by the most heavily 
armed and threatening powers: the United States globally and Israel on the regional level.
         Unfortunately, it should be clear by now that a peace movement cannot look to United 
Nations resolutions for salvation.  One of the earliest United Nations resolutions demanded that 
Palestinian refugees be allowed to return home.  It has been totally ignored for decades, and 
Israel clearly and stubbornly rejects it.  Yet nobody cites the need to enforce this resolution as 
justification for massive bombing of Israel or "regime change". Such humanitarian resolutions can 
remain unobserved indefinitely. Moreover, the structure of the U.N. Security Council as well as the 
world relationship of economic forces undermine the capacity of the United Nations to act as a 
neutral body. All too often, its decisions are
the product of deals between the Great Powers, used or flouted selectively.
         Finally, it is too often forgotten that the United Nations was founded in order to 
"preserve humanity from the scourge of war", justly considered the worst of evils to afflict the 
human community.  If the United States succeeds, thanks to political and economic pressure, in 
convincing the Security Council to support their offensive against Iraq,
this will not mean that the war is legitimate, but rather that the United Nations has betrayed its 
fundamental mission.
         In light of the facts, it is absurd to present Iraq as a major threat to peace.  Despite 
frequently unfriendly relations, none of its neighbors currently feels threatened.  It is Iraq's 
weakness rather than its strength than may make it a tempting target today.  It is particularly 
cynical for Western governments that supported Iraq in its war against Iran
in the 1980s, even providing chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein, to turn around now and cite that 
war to demonize their erstwhile ally.  Iraq has neither the means nor the motive to strike the 
United States or Europe, nor is there the slightest reason to suppose that its leaders, whatever 
their faults, are prepared to commit national suicide by launching attacks against far superior 
powers, including Israel.  After all, during the 1991 war, Iraqi leaders never resorted to using 
the non-conventional weapons which they possessed at the time.
         Principled opposition to war has nothing to do with our opinion as to the nature of the 
Iraqi regime.  The fact of having a regime considered a "democracy" cannot be carte blanche to wage 
war against any country considered a "dictatorship".  The United States emphasis on this 
distinction is selective.  In the official U.S. view, not only are there
good and bad dictatorships, but, even more telling, there are good and bad democracies.  Menem's 
Argentina was a good democracy because the population was splintered and demoralized, allowing the 
country's wealth to be squandered.  The Venezuela of Chavez is a bad democracy, since it attempts 
to husband the oil ressources to improve the lot of the poor. In their eagerness to "defend 
democracy", both the United States and the European Union hastened in April 2002 to support the 
blatant but ephemeral coup d'état by the Venezuelan oligarchy against the democratic government of 
Chavez. The proclaimed desire to bring democracy to the Arab world by getting rid of Saddam Hussein 
is another masterpiece of hypocrisy.  For decades, the United States, Britain and the West in 
general have favored the most backward autocracies and opposed progressive nationalism in the Arab 
world.  The logic behind this preference has not changed.  Any genuinely democratic Arab country 
would enforce its control over its own resources and would be more anti-Zionist than the current 
dictatorships and autocracies. Only in that way could it meet the aspirations of its population.  
One may doubt that this is what the West really wants.
        Opposition to war can be effective only if it is based on clear principles.  There is 
nothing principled, on the contrary, in opposing war because it may cost too much, because it may 
cause casualties to our side (or even to the Iraqis), because it may destabilize the region, in 
short because it may not work as described by its sponsors.  Imposing "regime
change" by aggressive war is wrong, whether or not it succeeds. If this is not clear, nothing can 
be clear.
         Such "practical" arguments were timidly voiced in mild opposition to the Kosovo and 
Afghanistan wars.  When the triumphant victors were able to point to "success" (real or unreal, and 
ignoring the collatoral disasters), the case for peace was further weakened.  It is almost 
impossible for a superpower such as the United States to "fail" utterly in
a war against an incomparably smaller and weaker adversary such as Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Iraq. 
 At the very least, it can claim victory over smoldering ruins.  At best, in Iraq, the United 
States may succeed in engineering a putsch or an insurrection supported by a massive blitzkrieg. 
Again, one must keep in mind all aspects of the relationship of forces.
The United States has managed time and again to get its way by force: regime change in Grenada, 
Nicaragua, Yugoslavia, among the most recent. Each success is an incitement to more.  One must see 
war itself as a failure, from the moment it begins, regardless of the outcome... and as a 
long-range failure because of the breakdown of civilized means to deal with human conflict.
         The peace movement needs a global perspective.  For the United States, the Cold War was 
far from being a simple defensive struggle against communism.  It was part of a drive toward 
"opening" the world to U.S. influence that began well before communism and continues, stronger than 
ever, after communism.  The Cold War was an episode in what can be called the Latin Americanization 
of the world, that is, the replacement of Europe by the United States as the center of the 
imperials system and the substitution of neo-colonialism for colonialism. Neo-colonialism allows 
the traditional pillage and exploitation of Third World resources and labor to continue (with the 
additional drain of brainpower to make up for the
deficiencies in our education system), while allowing a formal political autonomy and as corollary, 
a relative delegation of tasks of repression.
The U.S.-backed coups overthrowing Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossedegh in Iran, Goulart in Brazil, 
Allende in Chile, Soekarno in Indonesia and Lumumba in Congo are only the most spectacular 
incidents alongside a multitude of
various pressures as well as the mechanism of debt which have imposed "regime change" and 
submission on one country after another. In Iraq, the U.S. aim is simply progressing to more 
unabashed use of force in its campaign to extend this system to every recalcitrant country on 
earth. Whatever the means employed, it is precisely that objective, and the increasing inequality 
it entails, that we must reject on principle.
         The  movement against corporate globalization ought to be in the forefront of the 
opposition to war.  The reason is clear: any country that would actually attempt to carry out 
certain of the measures called for by that movement -- such as writing off unfair debt and 
restoration of important public services -- would immediately get the same treatment as Iraq or 
Yugoslavia.  This might start with measures of economic retaliation or political subversion, but 
when all else fails, war is the trump card held by the dominating power. Only by making war 
politically impossible can will it be possible to build an alternative global system based on 
justice and equal rights.
         It would be a mistake to fail to speak out clearly for fear of being isolated.  The United 
States has never been so strong militarily, but it is rapidly losing any moral or intellectual 
credibility.  The battle of ideas can be won by those who do not hesitate to speak the truth, 
without concessions to a phantom "public opinion" created by servile media.  The
objections voiced by many governments to U.S. belligerence are mild indeed compared to the feelings 
of ordinary citizens all around the world.  Even in Europe, U.S. arrogance is arousing strong 
opposition.  In the rest of the world, not only in Arab countries but in Africa, Latin America and 
Asia, millions of people admire bin Laden today and will hail Saddam
Hussein as a hero once he is attacked by the United States solely because they will seem to be the 
strongest symbols of resistance to the arrogance of power, to oppression and exploitation.  The 
only way that we in the West can overcome such a fruitless polarization is by providing our own 
clear and radical opposition to our own governments, in terms that can lead to a fresh and honest 
dialogue with Third World people revolted by the prevailing world system as well as with 
increasingly alienated immigrant populations in our own countries.
   The peace movements in the rich countries and the liberation movements in the Third World have 
been debilitated by twenty years of economic and military violence. By coming together around 
shared objectives of peace and justice, both can find a fresh burst of strength and hope to build a 
genuinely international movement for a better world.

Jean Bricmont

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