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Twenty five years later, we find ourselves mired in a like-minded political environment, surrounded by those same unfortunate attitudes and victims of an unspoken but ever-present cultural supremacy complex that has been snowballing for decades in our political system. The world today finds itself in a continuing battle with the United States' imperialist, energy-obsessed ideology, an obsession that once again finds the American government prying into the Middle East in the interest of capitalism rather than democracy. There is an overwhelming global opposition to any pre-emptive unilateral military action by the United States in the Persian Gulf region, yet the Bush administration presses on, alienating the international community and ignoring the processes and policies of the United Nations by threatening to violate the sovereignty of a foreign state.
At the same time that United States officials are unveiling evidence garnered by U.N. weapons inspectors that they consider proof of Iraq's violation of international sanctions, they contradictorily claim that those same inspections are somehow not working. The American public is drowning in a flood of government controlled mis- and conflicting information. On February 11th CIA Director George J. Tenet testified before members of Congress that he had provided U.N. inspectors with all the information the CIA had on relevant weapons sites. Two days later Tenet admitted to a Senate defense panel that he had been wrong. In fact, he said, there are a "handful of sites which may not have been known" to the U.N. inspectors. On the same day as Tenet's original false testimony, Michigan Senator Carl Levin cited classified documents from the CIA dated January 24th and 28th of this year in which the CIA clearly stated it had not shared information about "a large number of sites" of "significant" value. Levin went on to say that "we have undermined the inspectors since the beginning."
It is this very sort of subversive and janus-faced behavior that has given birth to a new grass-roots movement in American politics, prompting municipal governments around the country to adopt resolutions on behalf of their citizens officially opposing a war with Iraq. From Baltimore to Ithaca, Kalamazoo, Chicago, Austin, Sacramento- the list of cities grows every day in response to the failings of the government to represent the true voice of the people.
On the night of February 12th I had the experience of attending the City Council meeting in Davis, California, where there were two such resolutions on the table - one being in opposition to the American Patriot act and the other in opposition to the proposed war on Iraq. There was a capacity crowd in the Council Chambers for the meeting and thankfully the first resolution passed unanimously after a swell of support from the assembled audience. However, nearly six hours after the meeting had begun it was clear that the second resolution would not pass so easily. There were complications from the beginning, largely spurred by one of the council members' remarks about his experience 35 years earlier in Vietnam and the contrast between the America he left in 1969 and the one he returned to several years later. The councilman claimed to be opposed to a war in Iraq, yet insisted that there be amendments made to the City Council's resolution. The councilman's perceived melioration was to state that in the event that this seemingly inevitable war does occur without the support or consent of the public the citizens will put down their signs of protest, drop their petitions for peace and stand behind the military, American flag raised high. This is clearly an idea that is completely absurd.
It is the moral and civic duty for dissenting citizens to oppose the war that is on the horizon and to oppose it relentlessly, without exception. We must oppose it now and we must continue to oppose it in the event that it should unfold. We cannot back down from our opposition at any cost, lest we be sucked into the vacuum of reason that war creates. While the departure of husbands, fathers, mothers, daughters, brothers and sons leaves us all with heavy hearts, we cannot forget that the members of today's military are not drafted but sign up voluntarily. Soldiers are recruited on high school and college campuses, at career fairs and through advertisements on television and in print glamorizing the lifestyle of the military. There are listings in the classifieds section of every major newspaper reminding prospective combatants that waging war is not just a job, but an adventure! While we all wish our fellow citizens a safe and prompt return from the battlefield in the event of war we cannot turn our voices from dissention to corroboration at the whim of our emotions. The greatest support we can give to the lives of military personnel and their families is to keep them together, at home, in defense of their homeland. Thankfully, Americans have the choice to enlist willingly into a profession that, however valiant it may be made to seem in television and in film, is simply a service provided in exchange for a pay check. I have no illusions about what it takes to be willing to put one's life in harm's way for a living, to die on the job at the instruction of a supervisor. Personally, this is the precise reason why I'm not in the military.
We must refuse to support murder simply because it is in someone's job description. We hold the Police and other law enforcement officers accountable for their actions when they kill without justification, when they follow orders that they know are cruel, wrong, inhumane. Yet we seem to waive those basic human responsibilities for the military. And for what reason? Taking the life of another human being without provocation is murder, regardless if it is in response to an official duty. There can be no other interpretation.
We cannot blindly support our military for doing what they are told, lest their duty be stripped of the very dignity which we associate with it. In truth I had a great deal of respect for the council member who had recounted his experience in Vietnam, remembering how 19 year old men were sent around the globe to do their civic duty, to do what they believed was honorable. They were told that they were fighting for freedom, that what they were doing was just, but they risked their lives only to come home and find resentment. Of course we all know now that Vietnam was a mistake, that 36,000 Americans and exponentially more Asians died for the wrong reasons, for a wrong cause. Do we really want the men and women currently serving in the military to be saddled with that same guilt?
As that same councilman pointed out, the military has a provision for conscientious objectors. We must all object to the idea of a preemptive strike against a nation of impoverished strangers, as it is our duty as citizens of the world, as champions of freedom and democracy. The actions of the American government in the name of its citizens have strayed too far in practice from the concepts upon which the nation was founded and has prospered. It most certainly requires bravery to enter the unknown void of war, but it requires true courage to stand in the face of tyranny and fight for peace. Let us learn from the past and adopt the teachings of more civilized leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. who bravely proclaimed that we "Ain't Gonna Study War No More." The United States constitution guarantees government for the people, by the people, and it is time the people make themselves heard.
. STOP THE WAR .
SUPPORT THE U.N. - Where the American and Brittish Ambassadors to the United Nations has failed the rest of the world has succeeded. Show your support to those who oppose the war by sending them a petition.
PROTEST - Activists have organized a protest calendar at the Peace No War website. Be visible and be vocal.
GET INVOLVED - If your City Council has not already introduced or adopted a resolution against a pre-emptive military campaign, get one started. For more information visit Cities For Peace.
Additionally, make your voice heard by contacting your local, state and national political representitives, your religious congregations, professional organizations and unions, et cetera.
EDUCATE YOURSELVES - As always, there are an overwhelming number of people who continue to use ignorance as an excuse for their apathy. Ignorance is no excuse. The information is out there. Find it.
Howard Zinn | Human shields in Iraq | War Crimes | Bombs | Lysistrata Project SEE ALSO: www.nowar.org
SEE ALSO: www.antiwar.com
SEE ALSO: www.nowarblog.org
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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