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[casi] a must read - for ourselves: We almost stopped the war

We almost stopped the war

By Ali Abunimah

Electronic Iraq
20 March 2003


The "war" -- or more accurately the massive assault on a small,
defenceless country by an uncontrollable superpower -- began precisely on
schedule, although with a "pinpoint" strike of "only" forty cruise
missiles rather than the "massive" attack of hundreds or thousands that
have been trailed in Pentagon advertising. The massive attack, we are
told, is still coming. So what do we do now?

Even before Bush issued his ultimatum, it had always been crystal clear
that the hawks in Washington would have their war. War was always
probable. War was always almost unavoidable. War was until the end nearly
inevitable. But it was in the "almost" and "nearly" that many found hope
and motivation to do everything in their power as individuals and as part
of an unprecedented global mobilization to try to stop this madness. Now

The mind tries to comprehend the enormity of what is about to happen, the
fear and terror that the people of Baghdad are experiencing as they wait,
huddled in their homes for who knows what. Beyond the immediate, the sense
of humiliation starts to sink in of what it means that the great city of
Baghdad will, like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Hebron, be occupied
by a foreign power, while the Arabs sit by as helpless spectators. How to
avoid the temptation to just sit and stare at this horrible spectacle?

It is also hard to resist a feeling of guilt, as all around us here in the
United States, life goes on as normal for the vast majority of people. We
shop, we eat, we go to work, we say good morning to our neighbors, sure
that they and the homes we leave behind will be here when we get back. For
us, participation in the war is optional. And if we do choose to
participate, then that participation is limited to watching it as a we
would watch a sports event. On channel 32 I can watch the war. If I don't
like that, I can turn to channel 7 and learn who will be wearing what and
arriving with whom at next week's Oscar's ceremony. The ridiculous
features on the local tv news on how to assemble a "disaster survival
kit" for "you and your family" only underscore how far removed we are from
any palpable, personal danger. Or, if as the 11 September 2001 attacks
proved, the danger is real and massive, then such 'preparations' only show
how woefully inadequate any personal preparation for it can be. The Code
Orange, (or is it Red now?) stinks of a desperate attempt to make us feel
'part of the action,' to scare us into supporting the war.

The pundits are already predicting that the antiwar movement will wane as
people in the United States and United Kingdom "unite behind the
troops." This is an understandable sentiment. But we should resist the
pressure to make a virtue of blind conformity. If the war was wrong before
it started, the dropping of bombs does not suddenly make it right. It is
still wrong. We must oppose it. I support the troops. I support them not
being sent to be killed in a distant country that presents absolutely no
threat, and to kill innocent people and destroy and occupy their
country. I support them being brought home at once. Not one American or
British soldier should die in this war. We should also remember that
America's armed forces are disproportionately composed of the economically
and socially disenfranchised, people who, denied a slice of the "American
dream" at home by failing schools, racism, the prison industry, and
growing economic inequality, must seek to escape by joining the
military. Empires have always sent their poorest, least educated and most
marginalized to fight in the distant provinces.

It doesn't have to be this way. We must participate in a meaningful way,
and stand up against this war and the degraded "values" of its authors. We
have a greater choice than what to watch on tv.

First, I have decided to observe a strict embargo on watching American
television network coverage of the "war." Any useful information that
could be gleaned from such, would be far outweighed by the cost to my
mental health and sanity of being exposed to the gleeful belligerence and
ignorance of organizations that serve as nothing more than extended
infomercials for the US government and its weapons of mass
destruction. Such "coverage" does not bring us closer to what is
happening, but puts a further veil of unreality between the viewer and the
events in Iraq. I will listen, instead, only to foreign broadcasts via
satellite and the internet. I will read newspapers. I will look at the
first-hand accounts from the Iraq Peace Team and others who have decided
to stay in Baghdad as the true ambassadors to the Iraqi people of world
opinion that rejects this war.

Second, although the global antiwar movement failed in its primary goal of
stopping an American attack on Iraq, I will remind myself it did not fail,
and its role may only just be beginning. All of us together, millions of
people around the world, we nearly stopped the war. Nearly. But without
the opposition, the US might have been able to assemble more than the
ragtag band of tinpot governments it calls a "coalition of the
willing." As it is, they still don't even have Turkey. And the Spanish
prime minister, for all his warmongering and opportunism, has not backed
this up with Spanish troops, only because Spain's people stand almost
unanimously against war.

If you start to think our opposition doesn't matter, just imagine how much
worse the world would be if the US attack on Iraq were totally
unopposed. We still have an enormous job to do. So let's get up, get out
and let our voices be heard.

Ali Abunimah

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