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April 10, 2003

Where the Peace Movement Went Wrong

This is a long one, laying out some of my assessment of what went wrong with the peace movement. It's what I've been saying to friends in the movement-- conservatives can chortle as they listen in since it's a harsh assessment, but the way forward to a better strategy in the future is tough criticism when it's needed to make a change in tactics and strategy.

I am actually glad to see the pictures of Iraqis celebrating freedom from Saddam's dictatorship. Not because it changes my view that this war was the wrong decision, but at least it means that for some Iraqis the death and devastation of their cities is offset by their immediate freedom from Saddam's yoke.

The problem for the peace movement is that they failed to argue persuasively that death and war was not the best option to achieve this goal, instead leaving a lot of the US population with the sense that the choice was between the war and inaction, which ended up tilting many moderates reluctantly to the war camp.

For many Americans, the war involves fighting a brutal regime that abuses its own people and has a history of invading neighbors. Whether the Bush leadership have other nastier intentions is separate from that obvious issue, which many people can separate from even concious misgivings about the Bush administration.

The antiwar argument had to be about whether there was an alternative way to achieve the goal of a freer and more democratic Iraq (and questioning the good faith of war proponents to achieve that result).

The antiwar movement lost the argument on timing and on the efficacy of alternative means of addressing peoples broad concerns on Iraq. And I attribute that partly to their simplistic focus on "no war" unity over developing a more sophisticated positive message that also would have required more outreach to non-rallygoers (and probably less focus on rallies).

And I continue to argue with a range of activist friends that when we allowed groups that defended the Hussein regime in the past to lead some of the rallies, many folks who don't like Hussein rightly could think that such a movement has no real plan for an alternative challenge to Hussein's regime.

For some of the left, they've retreated to almost isolationist pacificism as all the argument they need, without any need to address strategy and why THIS PARTICULAR WAR is the wrong direction.

The left in this country has an honorable history of leading the fight internationally for human rights, from challenges to Belgium's mass murder in the Congo at the end of the 19th century (led by among others Mark Twain) to denunciations of the fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s to attacks on colonialism in the 1950s to denunciations of death squads in El Salvador and Apartheid in South Africa, the left has always called for challenges to bad regimes.

Progressives have usually supported non-violent means as a way to do so, usually arguing that it was misguided support for such regimes early on that get them to the point of becoming so dangerous that war is the only answer. This point is obvious in the case of US support for both Bin Laden and Hussein in the 1980s.

But to merely point out past US complicity is not enough. If we oppose war, we need a far clearer roadmap for the public on how we would support those who resist oppression. Mouthing lines about national sovereignty in cases like Iraq is as stupid as the Bull Connors or Pat Buchanans who cited states rights rhetoric to justify national abstention from challenging racism in the South.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with humanitarian interventionism in principle-- the left has believed in it for centuries. What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form, when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population.

But in the case of Iraq, the lack of organizing of that global solidarity and plan on how to help those resisting Hussein is exactly what strengthened the warhawks in arguing that their method was the only way to "liberate Iraq." In practice and in message, there was little or no message by the antiwar movement on how they were acting in solidarity with the oppressed folks within Iraq.

And that was the fatal flaw of antiwar organizing.

And the left cannot plead lack of time, since they had all the time necessary between the first and second Gulf Wars to build a cohesive public education message in defense of Kurdish and Shia human rights and pressure for non-violent strategies that would have been seen as an effective alternative to war. It was the first Bush administration that sold out both the Kurds and the Shias when they rose up in the aftermath of that first war, yet the left failed to rally to support their cause strongly against that sellout.

So over the years and even in recent months, the peace movement failed to engage that issue substantially and mostly said nothing.

And that was a substantial reason that large chunks of even liberal opinion moved into supporting the war. You can excuse it by saying they were all misinformed by the media and such, but it's worth understanding and emphasizing that two months ago, only about one-third of the public supported war without significant global support, as signified by UN endorsement, and now an additional 40% of the public now supports this unilateral intervention. It is the failure of the antiwar forces to hold that 40% of the public that needs to be analyzed.

The "Win Without War" folks somewhat took on this challenge but it was by the time it was organized a bit too little too late. The neoconservative warhawks had been doing their intellectual outreach for years, publishing books, holding policy conferences, organizing at their grassroots, to solidify a, yes, moral basis for their position (even if its a disingenuous position), while the left was largely throwing its critique together on the fly.

The Left was flatly outorganized on this issue and not because they had fewer resources but because they just didn't even do the organizing necessary or engage in serious intellectual engagement. Which is why it was claimed that the only "unity" position possible was the simplistic "no war" message and thus anyone, including pro-Hussein propagandists like the WWP, could speak in the name of that antiwar message. It was too thin a message and failed.

I opposed this war for a whole range of reasons, moral, realpolitick and geopolitical. On the moral side, I thought that there was a non-war alternative through continuing to press for change on behalf of the Iraqi people through the United Nations or other methods, such as support for internal resistance (and critique the first Bush and Clinton administration for failing in that). On the realpolitick side, this war is unlikely to lead to a real democratic alternative, both because of Bush's disingenuous motives and precisely because it was unilateral, Iraqi nationalism is more likely to be channelled in response into authoritarian counter-responses over time. And geopolitically, the war in Iraq endangers both us as US residents and others around the world by stoking hatred and strengthening authoritarian movements that will find ideological sustenance denouncing our actions.

Bits and pieces of this response were scattered across antiwar analysis, but it was marginal to the simplistic "no war" legalisms and "unity" rhetoric with forces that excluded such analysis. Speeches at rallies I went to were preaching to the converted, not speaking to those less convinced of Bush's complete perfidy and for whom an actual argument was necessary. A few on February 15th in New York attempted this, but they were such the exception, and so unreinforced by broader public outreach to that unconverted group, that I'm hardly surprised that it was ineffective.

While I am personally convinced of Bush's cynicism and bad motives, merely repeating or worse assuming it will not convince many people who needed to have actual arguments and alternatives presented.

The antiwar movement was a failure. Many of my left friends will point to the "success" of the large rallies organized, but what's the achievement? Tactical successes such as a few big rallies? Rallies are means, not achievements. Why should we praise tactics that coincided with AN INCREASE in support for uniltateral war? The February global rallies seemed to make a small untick in opposition but it was pretty ephemeral.

While I did work supporting the mass rallies, I've written that the energy put into them could have better been put into broader outreach to the unconverted middle, whether door-to-door, going to community meetings, or just talking on street corners to those who would listen. I started my political life going to door-to-door, talking to new people about consumer and enviro issues. Most serious union organizing is based on door-knocking as well at potential members doors.

The deemphasis on door knocking and the attached organizing is the exact problem I see with too much of the antiwar left that preferred to talk to itself at rallies or in its existing media circle rather than reach out to new people.

That needs to change and quickly. And it can start by the peace movement concentrating now on what we can do to guarantee that the Iraqi people get the democracy they have been promised and keep control of the oil resources and escape their country's debt which largely went to the Western governments and companies that armed the military we just fought. I'll write more about that in coming days, but I'll leave on that note as a start.

[NOTE since comments are broken on this post, anyone wanting to put up a comment should go here.]

Posted by Nathan at April 10, 2003 06:48 PM

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Comments

Your criticism implicitly acknowledges the reason behind the war as the liberation of Iraqi people. To me and many against the war, I always thought the bigger rationale was take out the so-called WMD's. The false choice was not between Bush's war and the progressive's alternative, but, assuming the WMD argument, whether a sufficient threat to attack existed and then if it did offer an alternative to war. Sadly, many people have moved on to the message of "Liberation of the Iraqi" people, it has always been about the "Liberation of the Iraqi" people just like the clucking goose, ducks(?) of "Animal Farm." Eric Alterman summed it up best with this comment, " And lest we forget this war was justified on the basis not of liberating the Iraqis lots of people need to be liberated and are not going to be but on the defense of the United States of America. So far, no evidence at all has turned up demonstrating the reality of that alleged threat. Even in victory, therefore, the war remains unjustified, if not unjust."
Dan Mark

Posted by: Dan Mark at April 10, 2003 07:06 PM

Hi,
However much I disagree with the Anti-War movement, I cannot help to agree with this part:
"And I continue to argue with a range of activist friends that when we allowed groups that defended the Hussein regime in the past to lead some of the rallies"-Nathan Newman

It warms me to know that you have taken light on this fact. The second I saw Hezbolah and Hammas signs being waved inside the peace rallies on T.V., I changed the channel. How can a "peace" movement allow terrorist groups in its midst.

Now that I have hered you say this, I will give you credit IF the protestors change(unlikely).

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 10, 2003 10:10 PM

What the Left needs to do is create a solidarity movement with the real democrats and human rights activists of the Middle East -- just like we did with Latin America in the 1980s.

We already have this going to some extent with certain Palestinian groups. But now we need to find those groups in the other nondemocratic, oppressive regimes of the region, including Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

We find those groups. We support them. We shed light on what they're doing, what they're up against, how the Right is not actually behind them, and we act in solidarity with their cause.

It is, after all, OUR movement. The Left in these countries, what little there is, has been arguing for democracy and human rights and economic justice. Those are OUR people.

Whatever it was we were doing with Latin America, we need to repeat it with the Middle East in general. Those movements are still alive and making headway in places like Brazil, Ecuador, and El Salvador right now. It's sort of funny. The Bush Doctrine is just the Monroe Doctrine applied to the Middle East. It's time we act accordingly - and avoid allowing ourselves to become associated with ANY regime in the Middle East. We support movements of self-determination, democracy, human rights, and socio-economic justice. If we're already out there doing it, we'll be better prepared to stake out a position with a plan when the next war comes.

Posted by: The Tooth at April 11, 2003 01:03 AM

No chortling, though I'm a centrist-conservative (and thus have semi-permission). It's a pretty good article. I was particularly taken by this sentence:

"The Left was flatly outorganized on this issue and not because they had fewer resources but because they just didn't even do the organizing necessary or engage in serious intellectual engagement."

I agree. However, to engage in serious intellectual engagement you have to take the other side's opinions seriously. That also sort of suggests that one at least admits the possibility that the other side may be right. I am not entirely certain that the individuals that you are most trying to persuade with this article are willing to do either of these things.

Moe

Posted by: Moe Lane at April 11, 2003 11:41 AM

No chortling, though I'm a centrist-conservative (and thus have semi-permission). It's a pretty good article. I was particularly taken by this sentence:

"The Left was flatly outorganized on this issue and not because they had fewer resources but because they just didn't even do the organizing necessary or engage in serious intellectual engagement."

I agree. However, to engage in serious intellectual engagement you have to take the other side's opinions seriously. That also sort of suggests that one at least admits the possibility that the other side may be right. I am not entirely certain that the individuals that you are most trying to persuade with this article are willing to do either of these things.

Moe

Posted by: Moe Lane at April 11, 2003 11:42 AM

There was never any possibility of engaging in a dialog with the Right on this, and even less of influencing anything the Bush Junta wanted to do. The fact that the rationale for this war kept changing indicates that none of the supposed rationales put forward by the Admin or the Right was ever meant to be taken seriously. They were just cover stories for television consumption. Engaging them in debate on a cover story is pointless. If you succeed in making points, they will simply switch cover stories.

I firmly believe that we have not heard the real reason this war happened, and it will probably be several years before it becomes evident.

For those who claim, as the current cover story has it,"It was a war of liberation", please explain what it is about Iraq that made it more deserving of liberation than any one of the other brutal dictatorships that rule in this world. If you claim it was necessary for national security, explain why we chose a fifth-rate power to enforce against, and not those such as North Korea, who has weapons they can hurt us with, or Saudi Arabia, who sponsors those who HAVE hurt us.

Posted by: Chuck Nolan at April 11, 2003 12:18 PM

The problem is in part with the notion of a "peace" or "anti-war" movement, which presumes agreement on the position that recourse to war is unjustified under any imaginable set of circumstances. That is not a serious position, it will never command any significant allegiance in American politics, and frankly I doubt that all of the members of the so-called peace movement actually believe it. A left foreign policy needs to do the hard work of explaining what criteria need to be met before resorting to war, and why those criteria are the right ones.

A case in point is Michael Moore's pointless slap at the NATO airstrikes on Kosovo in Bowling For Columbine, a film I otherwise liked. The NATO intervention in Kosovo stopped a genocide, period, end of discussion. America has no hidden imperialist agenda in the Balkans. If you're not an across-the-board pacifist and you think NATO shouldn't have acted in Kosovo, it seems to me that you're obliged to offer a pretty compelling explanation why. Moore doesn't.

Apropos of all of this, I cannot recommend more strongly Samantha Power's book on genocide, A Problem From Hell, which has just won the Pulitzer for nonfiction. The book is extremely readable, and considers in a thoughtful and detailed way the history of American response (and nonresponse) to human rights disaster in Iraq and elsewhere.

Posted by: alkali at April 11, 2003 12:24 PM

For those who claim, as the current cover story has it, "It was a war of liberation", please explain what it is about Iraq that made it more deserving of liberation than any one of the other brutal dictatorships that rule in this world.

Further to what I said above, while I agree that the administration has been extraordinarily deceptive with respect to its intentions in Iraq, I don't find this objection very compelling: by that logic, it is wrong for me to donate to AIDS relief in South Africa, because there are many other African countries with AIDS crises.

Posted by: alkali at April 11, 2003 12:35 PM

Neither WMD nor liberation were the reasons for this war but both are achieved by the actual reason: regime change. I find the "I told you so's" now coming from the left about how no WMDs have been discovered quite off-putting.

The peace movement was so poorly conceived and executed that it was actually embarrasing to be anti-war.

Posted by: pb at April 11, 2003 12:45 PM

Nathan,

Thanks for thinking about this and starting a dialogue. I think you are correct in your assessment that the antiwar movement failed to articulate a realistic strategy for dealing with Saddam, and thus the choice boiled down to a simplistic "war, or no war?" But it is worth remembering that prior to the start of the hostilities in Iraq, the majority of Americans qualified their support for military action by saying that we ought to get United Nations backing first. Guess what? Bush broke his own promise, didn't even bother asking the UN for a second resolution, and went to war anyway. You will recall that Bush had stated that he was going to force other nations to vote, to "show their hand, and go on the record." He didn't have the votes, and rather than risk embarassment the US went ahead with the war on the assumption that once the military campaign was won, the doubters would be silenced and all would be forgiven. Might makes Right.

My point is that even if the Left had successfully laid out a practical and persuasive alternate strategy for dealing with Saddam, the neocowboys in the White House were in no mood to listen. They command the stage at the moment, and are determined to rearrange the chairs in the Middle East to their liking. The Bush people are ideologues, true believers who are utterly convinced of the Rightness of their actions. You suggest that the antiwar movement should have invested more energy in "broader outreach to the unconverted middle." I am convinced that had we been able to sway every last citizen in that demographic, it would have made little difference; Bush/Cheney/Rove do not answer to We the People. They are waging jihad on behalf of the corporate agenda, and I believe that it is a dangerous mistake to think otherwise.

Posted by: peter jung at April 11, 2003 01:27 PM

Nathan....Has it ever occured to you guys on the left that perhaps there are alot more people who disagree with you than agree? Maybe that's why the polls indicate 70%sh approval ratings for Dubya and his "corporate stormtroopers". Just maybe you are in the minority? hmmmmmmmm.....what a unique concept. "Neo-cowboys" my ass-try that line in Wyoming sometime....pussy commies

Posted by: Gawdamman at April 11, 2003 02:22 PM

Gawdamman,

There is a site called Free Republic- It would be a more appropriate venue for your comments. Here is the URL- http://www.freerepublic.com/

regards,

oj

Posted by: peter jung at April 11, 2003 02:29 PM

Ditto Chuck Nolan.

Of course marginal improvements could have been made by those oppossed to the gigantic and costly red herring of this war on Iraq. But we could do nothing to dissuade Bush -- our political institutions do not require that he be responsive to popular opinion. And so the war came.

The real test of those opposed to this war will be to maintain the energy and commitment to political action necessary to defeat Bush, and his sycophants, in the next election.

Posted by: boban at April 11, 2003 03:07 PM

A good piece, measured, reasoned and civil.

It reflects however the opposite of your conclusion: a complete lack of any credible alternative ideas on how "freedom from Saddam's yoke" could have been achieved in any other way.

This is what has been driving the domestic event we now see unfolding before us: the moral bankruptcy, and the intellectual bankruptcy, of the peace movement.

If the peace movement can actually come up with some useful ideas before the next conflict comes along this will be a shame, because it will find it harder to get the same level of attention from the US public.

If it can't then I guess it doesn't matter.

Posted by: NF at April 11, 2003 04:48 PM

I really enjoyed this, although I find a lot in it that I profoundly disagree with. I think many of your criticisms are apt, and I'm all in favor of a harsh criticism as a means of improving. But I think a number of your critiques are unfair.

The anti-war movement didn't prevent the war. But when, pray tell, has an anti-war movement been in the position to PREVENT a war, instead of ceasing one? The fact that this movement existed prior to the first shot being fired is, in and of itself, remarkable.

Also, this movement was GLOBAL. All around the world there were protests, massive protests. Now granted, they weren't all marching with the same motivations, but they were all marching to prevent war. Again, that's something that no other anti-war movement has ever achieved, even for a moment.

As to tangible success, it is true that the movement didn't stop the war. But is it really fair to criticize protesters for this failure? Did you really believe the Bush Administration could be persuaded NOT to attack? I think this war was inevitable, regardless of what the UN, Hans Blix, other countries, our citizens etc. ultimately said.

And if you do believe the Admin was persuadable, then you have to concede that the movement played a role in delaying the war. It seemed from October onward that the bombs could begin falling any day. Miraculously they didn't. Maybe that had more to do with military logistics than protesters, but I think a little credit can be thrown the movement's way for the 4 or 5 months that we weren't bombing the hell out of Iraq.

I also think you fixate a little too much on the WWP, ANSWER and their assorted ilk as a turn-off to mainstream America. The rallies I went to and witnessed were attended by mainstream America. I doubt if many moderates knew or cared about the WWP and ANSWER, or how they were related to the anti-war movement. And this leads to my final point...

The polling data. There are so many issues here. I'll leave aside the inherent untrustworthiness of polls in general. But seriously, once our troops were in harm's way was there any doubt that "support" for this war would sky-rocket?

If you seriously thought that 40% of the "no war without UN sanction" crowd would hold that opinion once hostilities started you are FAR more optimistic than I am. Remember Gulf War I? Prior to the start of the war, the country was ambivalent on what should be done. Once the war started, though, that ambivalence quickly changed to certitude. I think polling data on Kosovo bears out a similar result. For whatever reason, the vast majority of Americans will support military action that has already begun (don't forget, opposition to Vietnam didn't reach the 50% mark until about 1970), even if they weren't crazy about that military action before it began.

So to fault the anti-war movement for failing to hold the 40% who (along with the pre-war 33%) now support the war, is just not fair. That 40% was ALWAYS going to bolt. But it doesn't mean they suddenly think that Bush is a brave and bold leader, or that they buy his "liberation" rhetoric.

If you'll allow a basketball analogy, we've all watched a player hoist an ill-timed and unnecessary 3-point shot. While he's shooting it the coach and crowd are thinking "what the hell are you doing?" But then it goes in. What does everyone do? They cheer of course! That doesn't mean the coach won't sit that player down at the next deadball, or chew him out later. Or that the crowd won't approve of such measures.

But despite all that I've said above, I think much of what you say has merit. Demonstrations versus organizing is a no-brainer, but even the movement organizers are caught up in the media mentality of "get it on tv!" They should be smarter than that, or more sophisticated, but I can't really blame them for it. After all, some unions think giving money to politicians is more important than hiring and training more organizers.

Also, the "message" of the anti-war movement was muddled. I'm not as dissatisfied with the "no war" slogan, especially in this bumper-sticker media era. But I was always rankled by the signs that myopically focused on Bush's evils or equated Saddam and Bush/Cheney etc. At least "no war" begs the question "why." But the others just say that the person has missed the point, or is unwilling to entertain the notion that there MIGHT be a good reason to remove Saddam.

Finally, I think the antiwar crowd would have been more persuasive if it had discussed how "regime change" has occurred via peaceful methods. There's the whole fall of communism in Europe to point to, and the fall of apartheid in South Africa coupled with the enfranchisement of the country's majority. All of that occurred without an invasion or bombing, but rather through intense international and diplomatic efforts.

And to alakli, I think Moore (like myself) has the same reaction to Kosovo that we do to Iraq. We support the goal (ending genocide and bringing a brutal dictator to justice), but deplore the methods. There as well, genuine diplomatic efforts to end that conflict should have been utilized before the bombing began.

Posted by: Kumar at April 11, 2003 05:15 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful critique. I supported the war effort, although on balance, it really did appear to me to be a simply binary choice of war/no war where the preferred peace position of containment (that is to say, the status quo of the Ba'ath regime) was basically unacceptable.

I asked many of my anti-war friends to suggest some credible alternatives to war. There was only one serious "alternatives to war" essay I read published by a columnist in the Guardian. This is a lesson that ought to be carefully considered: rather than preach to the faithful flock, spend some time reaching out to those who, as you put it, need an argument.

Thanks for the essay. It's good. I hope it causes some change for the better.

(Note spambait in email)

Posted by: Mark at April 11, 2003 05:33 PM

Hi,
After rading your article for a second time, Nathan, I have come to realize the general problem with the left at the present moment. The current left leadership(Tom Daschel etc.) spend too much time bad-mouthing president Bush! The people of America have responded with exuberance to Bush's tremendous leadership in the past 3 years, his poll # are still very high. The Republicans have missions and goals, but the Democrats only have opposition to those goals. If the Democratic party is to get out from the gutter, they need some real leadership.
-Respectfully
-Robert S. Morgan

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 11, 2003 11:23 PM

When a peace movement faces a mighty greedy slaughter supported by ignorants its really hard to do something effective.

Those same murderers didnt need U.N. votation to decide what to do, they didnt even need the necessary votes from their ignorant people to be on charge of their contry.

With a help from 'not less mighty' Media they are now called, with exuberance, tremendous leaders, '.

Posted by: guilherme at April 11, 2003 11:46 PM

Sorry, Nathan but I really don't see it your way. Of course the antiwar movement made some mistakes but in the end, this war was going to happen. The neocons wanted it more than its opponents didn't. They were willing to spin all kinds of lies and getting caught at it didn't faze them, they just moved onto another lie. They had the chutzpah to do it and the power to get away with it.

Support for the war was never primarily driven by the desire to democratize Iraq. It was driven by fear, stemming from 9/11 and a still strong desire for revenge for that attack.

Now that the war has happened, our government's propaganda machine is only too glad to show shots of Iraqis jubilant over the demise of Saddam Hussein. That is indeed the one good thing to come out of the war and the war party is trying to exploit it for all it's worth. (And isn't strange how little it's proving to be worth? In one day the picture has gone from jubilant Iraqis pulling down Saddam's statue to anarchy and looting. Sorry, Tom Brokaw, please don't try to tell me what images I must file in my mind forever. That's not your job.)

Against this fear-and-revenge-based motivation, a democracy-based initiative "We can do it better" was never going to work on a mass level. If for no other reason that without the neocon push to do something about Iraq, what would have happened instead would probably have been nothing. I think the antiwar movement used what was ultimately its best argument - war is a last resort. It just wasn't good enough.

There was no time. This war had to happen now to fit into Bush's political calendar. The die was cast. Remember, the big antiwar marches didn't start until after the 2002 elections - when the Democrats cravenly surrendered to Bush, voting for the war resolution so they could go home and campaign on prescription drugs or whatever. Starting from that point, I see no alternative path that would have stopped this war, and frankly, this Monday-morning quarterbacking is offensive to me, especially since it's all so vague.

Well, okay, what's done is done. Your approach now has to start from what is in front of us. Now, our task is, how do we prevent the present mess from developing into the larger mess our neocon friends are so eager for?

Posted by: Steve Cohen at April 12, 2003 08:09 AM

Nathan:

You wrote:

"I am actually glad to see the pictures of Iraqis celebrating freedom from Saddam's dictatorship. Not because it changes my view that this war was the wrong decision, but at least it means that for some Iraqis the death and devastation of their cities is offset by their immediate freedom from Saddam's yoke."

It's being reported that one video that got a lot of play was staged, and somewhat misleading. I didn't see it, nor do I know if it's the one youre referring to. Below are links to the story.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2842.htm

http://www.antiwar.com/orig/baghdad.html


Stories in the links above and other sources report out of control civil disorder in Baghdad and other places.

Amnesty International report-April 11, 2003
Widespread looting and arson. Lawlessness and reprisal attacks. Water shortages and power cuts. Overwhelmed and ransacked hospitals. Disorder hampering humanitarian relief agencies. This is the grim reality facing millions of Iraqi civilians in areas newly under the control of US/UK forces. As one Iraqi told a BBC reporter on 10 April, "No authority now. No law now. No anything. Thieves anywhere."

US and UK authorities were repeatedly warned before the conflict by Amnesty International and others that there was a grave risk of widespread disorder, humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses, including revenge attacks, once the Iraqi government's authority was removed. Now that US/UK forces are occupying substantial parts of Iraq, they must live up to their specific responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect the rights of Iraqi people.

more
http://web.amnesty.org/pages/irq-engmde140852003

The US/UK attacked Iraq and are guilty of waging an aggressive war. They are now occupying powers throughout much of Iraq, illegal occupiers to be sure, but they have the same obligations under the Geneva Conventions/humanitarian law as legal occupiers would. They are violating these obligations by their failure to maintain order. (See rules on AI site)

With respect to the pictures, Bush is not the first conqueror to attempt to legitimate aggression with images of the conquered population celebrating.

Posted by: Tom Doyle at April 12, 2003 08:46 AM

Great points, Nathan, and also alkali's response is spot-on.

Yes, the left was out-organized, and this is in large part because post-Vietnam, the left has strongly identified with the peace movement. Only it seems with Afghanistan did large numbers of lefties feel capable of supporting war.

This is a principled position, but politically it is a strategic mistake. The left has essentially abdicated influence over the security policy of the United States by not having one -- by even charging that HAVING one is itself evil. The vitriol over the Project for a New American Century blueprint is typical. Gosh, it says America must remain dominant. Are you really saying, in disputing that, that a Democratic president should permit China to move to a dominant position in Asia? Of course not: that will never happen. But to the left, developing a strategy for the US almost seems to mean going to the UN and asking it what we can do to be liked more.

On a related point, many in the left seem to already regard the UN as a constitutional world government. They called Iraq an "illegal war" though no Security Council resolution was passed against it (or even discussed); and of the hundreds of wars in the last 50 years, only two were ever authorized (Korea, and GWI). They fail to see the revulsion with which ordinary Americans see a body that incorporates Libya and Syria on human-rights committees. They fail to understand the many limitations of the UN as a global security body.

In patriotism, the left finds nothing but jingoism: many lefties make a point of not flying the flag, or even being flag refuseniks, calling it a symbol of imperialism and racism. That just tars the movement as anti-American at its root. By not flying the flag, the left *ensures* that the flag will be owned by those with antithetical agendas.

And finally, by not participating in the security policy debates and not participating in the defense, the left abdicates control. That out-organization bit stings, because the neocons have been thinking for a long time about how to present their case and they have institutes, books, and legislative influence where it matters. The left doesn't have a single think tank that deals with security from the perspective of national policy, ensuring that Democratic presidencies come in with more poorly formed strategies and less experienced civilian diplomats. The closest thing to a lefty think tank, that attracts civil servants, is the determinedly centrist Brookings Institution. Similarly, by treating military service as a sport for killing machines, and not a noble calling for any citizen, they ensure that the miltiary will increasingly be made up of a professional military class that is further divorced from political life -- at least liberal political life. Liberals don't serve, so they don't get an understanding of military culture or needs. The left seems to treat the military as divided into corporate-welfare types, and family-welfare types -- as another victim underclass sent to die. Which leads to contortionist argument when you have a volunteer army: "They were seduced by the college aid! They never thought they'd have to fight .. and die!" Uh, dude, it's the ARMY, not a cotillion. So liberals don't understand the military, and the military decreasingly understands liberals.

And the left wonders why the electorate doesn't trust them on security policy.

Posted by: Dan Hartung (blogging again) at April 12, 2003 09:02 AM

I have yet to hear from "moderate liberals" what having a "serious" security policy (as opposed to left-wing pacifism) might be. I've heard lots of handwringing that we don't have one, but little about what one might be and still less about how this might be connected to mass politics.

There's a reason the politics of fear and revenge were fought primarily by the politics of anti-war leftism, and not by "serious" liberals. That's because the "serious liberals" never had a constituency or even a policy that was clearly delineated from Bush's policies. As I said in my earlier post, the field was ceded to the left-wing pacifists by the failure of the Congressional Democrats to offer any coherent opposition policy. The fault for that lies with those Congressional Democrats, not with the anti-war movement, which did what it could with the hand it was dealt.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at April 12, 2003 11:24 AM

People who do not understand their past will always have a tough time charting their future. The "left" (I really hate the term, as well as the "right", but it will have to suffice for this discussion) has made a habit of asserting that their opponents fail to pay heed to historical American misdeeds, from Iran, to Guatamela, to the aftermath of GWI, etc., which leads the right to persist in yet more misdeeds. Ironically, the left completely ignores the historical context of those misdeeds, and the left's, or at least a large portion of the left's, role in creating that historical context. Ignoring that historical context, and their role in it's creation, means that the left views the future in a fundamentally flawed way.

Mr. Newman writes:

"The left in this country has an honorable history of leading the fight internationally for human rights, from challenges to Belgium's mass murder in the Congo at the end of the 19th century (led by among others Mark Twain) to denunciations of the fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s to attacks on colonialism in the 1950s to denunciations of death squads in El Salvador and Apartheid in South Africa, the left has always called for challenges to bad regimes."

This paragraph constitutes a half-truth, for ignores the fact that a substantial portion of the left has neglected to challenge the absolutely worst regimes. From Duranty's cover-up of Stalin's mass murder, to those that characterized the titanic slaughterer Mao as a mere "agrarian reformer", to a recent (at the time) Presidential candidate (McGovern) soft peddling the nature of the Khmer Rouge, while Pol Pot's henchmen were piling the skulls to the sky, to the current (!) useful idiots who fly down to Cuba to kiss Castro's ass, there has always been a non-negligible element of the left which is entirely comfortable with mass murder, on a scale that makes hideous regimes, like apartheid South Africa, seem mild in comparison, as long as the titanic slaughterers were sufficiently collectivist in their economic philosophy, or sufficiently hostile to the United States.

There is nothing unusual about elements of the left being comfortable with alignment with the likes of Saddam Hussein; it is part of the left's heritage. When the right was soft on apartheid, they had the rationale (perhaps false) of it being in the context of a global struggle with the vestiges of a Stalinist empire. When elements of the left were refusing to acknowledge Stalin's mass slaughter (or Mao's, or Pol Pot's, etc.) what was their rationale?

This historical blindness also leads to other errors as well. Tyrannical regimes which are fully committed to the application of mass terror are not vulnerable to any force other than military attack. The Soviet Union fell only when the power elites were no longer willing to slaughter their subjects by the millions. This took seven decades. The murderer of North Korea may prove to be an exception, simply because North Korea is so devoid of any salable resource that it cannot function once he has starved a certain percentage of his population. A tyrant sitting atop the world's 2nd largest oil reserves would never face this dilemma, and by all accounts Hussein's heirs are just as committed to mass murder as he, so failing to remove Hussein by force meant that his regime would remain in it's present form for decades at least. Those that opposed this war should at least be intellectually honest enough to acknowledge this fact. To posit that Hussein was as vulnerable to non-military pressure as, say, South Africa's apartheid regime, which as awful as it was, did have some measure of consent of the governed, if only white people, reveals an ignorance, willfull or otherwise, of the nature of mass murder regimes like Iraq's.

That isn't to say that all who opposed this war were so blind. Those that opposed this war while fully acknowledging the hideous nature of Iraq's regime, AND were also willing to frankly acknowledge that nothing short of military action was in any way likely to change it, at least were attempting to be intellectually honest. Yes, Hussein was vulnerable to internal forces in 1991, but that was only due to external military action taken agaginst him. Ironically, it was the Bush I commitment to multilateralism that condemned the Kurds and Shia' to their fate. Funny (not really) that the today's multilateralists don't mention that much.

Such honest opponents to this war are also reactionary, in that they fundamentally believe that status quo of the Middle East is tolerable, despite all evidence to the contrary. I have no real affinity for George W. Bush, but neither do I have the ability to read his mind, so I try to refrain from pretending that I do. I do know that the status quo of the region is unacceptable; that having tyrants with control of the world's oil revenues means that elements which seek to slaughter westerner's in massive numbers will have the resources by which to pursue those aims. Therefore, and because crushing the Hussein clan's hold on power was very likely to be a net improvement for the population of Iraq, I supported the means that would most surely guarantee a destruction of the status quo.

If this President merely attempts to install a more friendly (to the U.S.) tyrant, he will guarantee his own political doom, since any such attempt will fail miserably. Therefore, I expect this President to try to foster some degree of improvement, by the standards of the region, in the way in which Iraq is governed. If it is successful, such a government will have a destabilizing effect throughout the region, which is why all of Iraq's neighbors are so opposed to such a development. Will it succeed? Who knows? Given the alternative, however, which was the continuation of a status quo which inevitably meant disaster, the attempt to do so was the best of a set of unattractive choices.

Posted by: Will Allen at April 12, 2003 01:23 PM

Nathan - please pardon me for not having read your whole post instead of just the part on your initial page.

I see now that you're talking about the errors of the anti-war movement going back to the end of the first Gulf War.

But here you're on even shakier ground. Of course, a part of the anti-war movement was challenging the sanctions regime since 1992, but this is not the serious policy you're looking for. The problem is, though, that except for this group and the neocons, NOBODY was thinking much about Iraq from 1992 to 9/11/2001.

And it's a difficult problem. Your country has handed the keys to a lucrative oil-patch country to a brutal thug. How can you change that?

1. Wait for the thug to die.

2. Economic sanctions (tried that, didn't work) - and starved the people, not the thugs.

3. Military/diplomatic might (multilateral) - secure in the knowledge that time was on its side and recognizing that the threat of force was more valuable than shooting that wad. But motives were never clearly defined, and there was too much worldwide suspicion of

4. Military might (US alone) - which was easier to orchestrate and even more problematic


I am supposing that your "serious alternative" lies somewhere near #3. But there are many reasons that no one, including but not limited to the anti-war movement, pursued that course seriously until it was too late.

a. there were other issues thought to be more pressing.

b. there was serious reason to question the democratic bona fides of the United States

c. Iraq was not the only anti-democratic country in the world

There's a reason why door-to-door campaigning for more democracy for Iraq would never have been an effective tactic - until supposed terrorist threats put Iraq on the agenda, neither America nor any other country really cared about it. I've gone door-to-door, Nathan, and I've learned you can mobilize people about issues they care about, but it's damned hard to get them to care about issues they haven't thought about.

Posted by: Steve Cohen at April 12, 2003 02:07 PM

An inspiring bit of self-criticism.

However, you are making a big mistake if you think the Bushies and "warhawks" insincere or somehow of bad spirit.

Just because somebody disagrees with you and your brand of utopianism doesn't mean they're evil or want fundamentally different things from you.

This emphasis on heresy hunting motivation instead of arguing on a basis of _good_ faith, is what is killing the Left as a viable opposition.

The fact is, unless you are a poor, damned pacifist, there can sometimes be good liberal cases for war, and even good liberal cases for war that conservatives can understand and approve of (even if they might not be a conservative's _first_ consideration, that being the safety of US citizens). And it's possible too, for there to be good conservative cases for war that even liberals can understand and approve of, albeit grudgingly.


Posted by: George Stewart at April 12, 2003 04:41 PM

I don't know what it is with you guys.

Why is the philosophical point of whether there CAN BE "good liberal cases for war" ever so much more important than the immediate question at hand - namely, whether such a case was made in THIS CASE.

What does it buy you? You become a Thomas Friedman, arguing till he's blue in the face that a "good war" could have be made here, but sadly concluding, as the bombs were about to fly, that this probably wouldn't be one under this leadership.

Tell me again why it's THE LEFT that's irrelevant?

Posted by: Steve Cohen at April 12, 2003 07:10 PM

I am one of the %40, I am a Filipina living in the Richmond district of San Francisco ( very mixed neighborhood BTW). I used to be anti War, I actually joined a really here in San Francisco few months ago. I saw so much hatred, so much anti America, Anti Bush, Anti Israel. I might be anti war but I am still pro America. I am so grateful for all the opportunities this country has given me (I have a good job thank God, I own a car, house, etc).

I am not a Bush fan but comparing him to Hitler is a way too much for me, he is still the president and should be respected, I think the Palestinians should get their own country but I do not think the Jews over there should be kicked out into the sea.

So I left the rally in the middle and I went to Chinatown. I never joined again,. I still hoped that the war can be avoided but when the war started I was pro-Bush , Pro-troops.

I think thing the Democratic party lost all of us , who used to be the Clinton Democrats, I do not think I will vote Democrat when I am eligible to vote.

I hope Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for the Governor of California when I get my American Citenship, he will get my vote in a second.

And yes I think Rumsfeld is cool.


Posted by: Lizzel at April 12, 2003 10:21 PM

"The NATO intervention in Kosovo stopped a genocide, period,"

There was no genocide happening at the time. All the reports of massacres were lies or exaggerations. Interestingly, after the NATO intervention there was then ethnic cleansing of Serbs by Albanians.

Posted by: dave murphy at April 12, 2003 11:06 PM

"The NATO intervention in Kosovo stopped a genocide, period,"

There was no genocide happening at the time. All the reports of massacres were lies or exaggerations. Interestingly, after the NATO intervention there was then ethnic cleansing of Serbs by Albanians.

Posted by: dave murphy at April 12, 2003 11:06 PM

I believe the Peace Movement was blindsided toward the end, but for an improv act, did quite well.

As for the left, as I've argued in response to this, the only point in looking backward is to prepare for what's ahead, and I hope the longer look is in that forward direction.

Posted by: Cowboy Kahlil at April 13, 2003 04:38 AM

"People who do not understand their past will always have a tough time charting their future."

As far as challenging Stalin goes, the Communist Party took direction from the Soviet Union, but other Marxist parties in the US were extremely critical of the SU, Stalin, the US Communist party, and the whole set up. The Trotskyites, also inclined to splits, had nothing to good say about Stalin. In the mid to late forties the US CP lost most of its members (except those planted in the party by the FBI.) The CP never regained its WWII size. And do recall that Khrushchev denounced Stalinism in 1956, and subsequently the US CP followed the USSR s approach (not a big surprise).

In any event by the 50s there was a non-Stalinist, non cp left, liberals were signed on in support of the cold war. About 10 years later the civil rights movement and later the new left came into existence.

The point I m making is that most before most people in the left were born, Stalin was a very unpopular and criticized and quite dead as well. Mao Tse Tong was briefly a popular figure with a few splinter groups and some of the new left but this passed quickly. Then he became pals with Kissenger and Nixon, and he was judged, harshly, due to the company he kept.

In sum, whatever left can be said to exist in the US today does not have a history of Stalin or Mao support, and traces back (to the extent it can be traced back) to organizations hostile or cool to S & M.

Your information on George McGovern is not accurate. Mc Govern ran against Nixon in 72. He was absolutely not a supporter of the Pol Pot regime, because it didnt come into existence until several years later. It must be noted that the Khmer Rouge genocide was ended when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, ousted the regime from power, and installed a new government. Because the US had aligned itself with China in opposition to the USSR, the US denounced Vietnam and continued n to recognize the Khmer Rouge as the government of Cambodia.

Posted by: Tom Doyle at April 13, 2003 05:02 AM

Uh, Tom you need to read what I wrote, as opposed to what you what you want to believe I wrote. I did not say that George McGovern was a Presidential candidate at the time he was soft pedaling the nature of the Pol Pot regime. I said he was a recent Presidential candidate. Do a google search of "George McGovern" and "Khmer Rouge" before you confidently declare me to be in error. McGovern did soft-pedal that band of mass murderers.

Mr. Newman asserted that the left has always denounced bad regimes. This assertion is false. The NYT won a Pulitzer for concealing Stalin's slaughters. Go look it up.

Many on the left characterized Mao as an "agarian reformer" while he was engaging in mass slaughter. Go look it up.

If you wish to continue deluding yourself, feel free.

Posted by: Will Allen at April 13, 2003 03:59 PM

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with humanitarian interventionism in principle-- the left has believed in it for centuries. What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form, when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population.

But in the case of Iraq, the lack of organizing of that global solidarity and plan on how to help those resisting Hussein is exactly what strengthened the warhawks in arguing that their method was the only way to "liberate Iraq." In practice and in message, there was little or no message by the antiwar movement on how they were acting in solidarity with the oppressed folks within Iraq.

And that was the fatal flaw of antiwar organizing." -Nathan Newman

Kind of like tanks vs. sticks isn't it?

In this metaphor I'm not referring to the resources supplying two sides in a conflict. I use it to point out that regardless of how one side came to be armed with tanks and the other with sticks the outcome is easy to predict.

If the various warhawk media machines are as tanks and the peace movement wanted to avoid things going wrong (by whatever measure) then something more like tanks than sticks would surely be needed for an anti-war message in this case.

"And that was a substantial reason that large chunks of even liberal opinion moved into supporting the war. You can excuse it by saying they were all misinformed by the media and such, but it's worth understanding and emphasizing that two months ago, only about one-third of the public supported war without significant global support, as signified by UN endorsement, and now an additional 40% of the public now supports this unilateral intervention. It is the failure of the antiwar forces to hold that 40% of the public that needs to be analyzed." - Nathan Newman

I agree. I believe that many included in that 40% change were able to dismiss the peace rallies as a freak show. I'm intending no offence but I want to point out that the media machine of the warhawks actually takes the trouble to know its audience and finely craft messages designed to make sense to them in sound byte format (the only format that 40% was likely to absorb).

When genuine people presented themselves (in image and message) at rallies instead of the images and messages that the 40% would have responded to, it gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand I loved the genuineness to the extent it was there. On the other I felt many of the borderline people I know would disregard it, (and therefore, I supposed, others like them).

I would not propose anything amounting to deception but what do you think of at least figuring out what those people respond to and formatting accurate messages accordingly?

I have noticed in one on one conversations that succinctly pointing out and repeating the most obvious disconnects - the things that don't add up - they start to sink in, break the ice and foster serious inquiries from those that would otherwise not have pursued these issues. I have found it takes about 4-5 repetitions of one of these obvious disconnects with differing details each time before the ice is broken. The "ice" is the petina of media influence.

All such people I have spoken with are aware of the gassing of Kurds in the 80s without U.S. intervention (to stop it) and yet they never thought to see this as undermining the idea that the U.S. is engaged primarily in a war of liberation. They are aware that the main reason given for war initially was Axis of Evil - WMD but now is hardly ever mentioned.

Is it possible to deliver these sorts of kernel messages succinctly, apart from the iconic peace rallies that are so easily dismissed as some sort of 60s tradition without real cause?

Would message packaging tactics of the opposition be so terrible if the information were accurate? Would it be a slippery slope toward something unacceptable?

I'm afraid a traditional rally with peace symbols is just folly for any effort that is serious about successfully engaging a wider audience. I wish it wan't so but this is apparent to me.

I think this point may be in agreement with Nathan as regards de-emphasis on rallies but it suggests something other than the logistical difficulties of door knocking. What do you think? Too much like brainwashing? No way to fund it? Honestly, I haven't thought through how one would actually do what I have suggested.

Posted by: Rob at April 13, 2003 05:55 PM

I think you have it backward. The reason the anti-war movement "failed" was that there is no radical left in the country. The anti-war demos had 2 of the same ingredients as those against the vietnam war: boring "concerned" middle age, middle class people, and idiotic sectarians. What it did not have was an Abbie Hoffman or Malcom X or Bobbie Seale. Those people provide both a marketing edge of "cool" and a force against death by compromise. Without them Tom Daschle looks like a leftist and is vulnerable to attack from a unified right that includes both the extremists who bring on the enthusiasm and the right-center.

Posted by: citizen k at April 13, 2003 06:01 PM

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with humanitarian interventionism in principle-- the left has believed in it for centuries. What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form, when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population.

But in the case of Iraq, the lack of organizing of that global solidarity and plan on how to help those resisting Hussein is exactly what strengthened the warhawks in arguing that their method was the only way to "liberate Iraq." In practice and in message, there was little or no message by the antiwar movement on how they were acting in solidarity with the oppressed folks within Iraq.

And that was the fatal flaw of antiwar organizing." -Nathan Newman

Kind of like tanks vs. sticks isn't it?

In this metaphor I'm not referring to the resources supplying two sides in a conflict. I use it to point out that regardless of how one side came to be armed with tanks and the other with sticks the outcome is easy to predict.

If the various warhawk media machines are as tanks and the peace movement wanted to avoid things going wrong (by whatever measure) then something more like tanks than sticks would surely be needed for an anti-war message in this case.

"And that was a substantial reason that large chunks of even liberal opinion moved into supporting the war. You can excuse it by saying they were all misinformed by the media and such, but it's worth understanding and emphasizing that two months ago, only about one-third of the public supported war without significant global support, as signified by UN endorsement, and now an additional 40% of the public now supports this unilateral intervention. It is the failure of the antiwar forces to hold that 40% of the public that needs to be analyzed." - Nathan Newman

I agree. I believe that many included in that 40% change were able to dismiss the peace rallies as a freak show. I'm intending no offence but I want to point out that the media machine of the warhawks actually takes the trouble to know its audience and finely craft messages designed to make sense to them in sound byte format (the only format that 40% was likely to absorb).

When genuine people presented themselves (in image and message) at rallies instead of the images and messages that the 40% would have responded to, it gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand I loved the genuineness to the extent it was there. On the other I felt many of the borderline people I know would disregard it, (and therefore, I supposed, others like them).

I would not propose anything amounting to deception but what do you think of at least figuring out what those people respond to and formatting accurate messages accordingly?

I have noticed in one on one conversations that succinctly pointing out and repeating the most obvious disconnects - the things that don't add up - they start to sink in, break the ice and foster serious inquiries from those that would otherwise not have pursued these issues. I have found it takes about 4-5 repetitions of one of these obvious disconnects with differing details each time before the ice is broken. The "ice" is the petina of media influence.

All such people I have spoken with are aware of the gassing of Kurds in the 80s without U.S. intervention (to stop it) and yet they never thought to see this as undermining the idea that the U.S. is engaged primarily in a war of liberation. They are aware that the main reason given for war initially was Axis of Evil - WMD but now is hardly ever mentioned.

Is it possible to deliver these sorts of kernel messages succinctly, apart from the iconic peace rallies that are so easily dismissed as some sort of 60s tradition without real cause?

Would message packaging tactics of the opposition be so terrible if the information were accurate? Would it be a slippery slope toward something unacceptable?

I'm afraid a traditional rally with peace symbols is just folly for any effort that is serious about successfully engaging a wider audience. I wish it wan't so but this is apparent to me.

I think this point may be in agreement with Nathan as regards de-emphasis on rallies but it suggests something other than the logistical difficulties of door knocking. What do you think? Too much like brainwashing? No way to fund it? Honestly, I haven't thought through how one would actually do what I have suggested.

Posted by: Rob at April 13, 2003 06:01 PM

I think you have it backward. The reason the anti-war movement "failed" was that there is no radical left in the country. The anti-war demos had 2 of the same ingredients as those against the vietnam war: boring "concerned" middle age, middle class people, and idiotic sectarians. What it did not have was an Abbie Hoffman or Malcom X or Bobbie Seale. Those people provide both a marketing edge of "cool" and a force against death by compromise. Without them Tom Daschle looks like a leftist and is vulnerable to attack from a unified right that includes both the extremists who bring on the enthusiasm and the right-center.

Posted by: citizen k at April 13, 2003 06:02 PM

"There is absolutely nothing wrong with humanitarian interventionism in principle-- the left has believed in it for centuries. What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form, when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population.

But in the case of Iraq, the lack of organizing of that global solidarity and plan on how to help those resisting Hussein is exactly what strengthened the warhawks in arguing that their method was the only way to "liberate Iraq." In practice and in message, there was little or no message by the antiwar movement on how they were acting in solidarity with the oppressed folks within Iraq.

And that was the fatal flaw of antiwar organizing." -Nathan Newman

Kind of like tanks vs. sticks isn't it?

In this metaphor I'm not referring to the resources supplying two sides in a conflict. I use it to point out that regardless of how one side came to be armed with tanks and the other with sticks the outcome is easy to predict.

If the various warhawk media machines are as tanks and the peace movement wanted to avoid things going wrong (by whatever measure) then something more like tanks than sticks would surely be needed for an anti-war message in this case.

"And that was a substantial reason that large chunks of even liberal opinion moved into supporting the war. You can excuse it by saying they were all misinformed by the media and such, but it's worth understanding and emphasizing that two months ago, only about one-third of the public supported war without significant global support, as signified by UN endorsement, and now an additional 40% of the public now supports this unilateral intervention. It is the failure of the antiwar forces to hold that 40% of the public that needs to be analyzed." - Nathan Newman

I agree. I believe that many included in that 40% change were able to dismiss the peace rallies as a freak show. I'm intending no offence but I want to point out that the media machine of the warhawks actually takes the trouble to know its audience and finely craft messages designed to make sense to them in sound byte format (the only format that 40% was likely to absorb).

When genuine people presented themselves (in image and message) at rallies instead of the images and messages that the 40% would have responded to, it gave me mixed feelings. On the one hand I loved the genuineness to the extent it was there. On the other I felt many of the borderline people I know would disregard it, (and therefore, I supposed, others like them).

I would not propose anything amounting to deception but what do you think of at least figuring out what those people respond to and formatting accurate messages accordingly?

I have noticed in one on one conversations that succinctly pointing out and repeating the most obvious disconnects - the things that don't add up - they start to sink in, break the ice and foster serious inquiries from those that would otherwise not have pursued these issues. I have found it takes about 4-5 repetitions of one of these obvious disconnects with differing details each time before the ice is broken. The "ice" is the patina of media influence.

All such people I have spoken with are aware of the gassing of Kurds in the 80s without U.S. intervention (to stop it) and yet they never thought to see this as undermining the idea that the U.S. is engaged primarily in a war of liberation. They are aware that the main reason given for war initially was Axis of Evil - WMD but now is hardly ever mentioned.

Is it possible to deliver these sorts of kernel messages succinctly, apart from the iconic peace rallies that are so easily dismissed as some sort of 60s tradition without real cause?

Would message packaging tactics of the opposition be so terrible if the information were accurate? Would it be a slippery slope toward something unacceptable?

I'm afraid a traditional rally with peace symbols is just folly for any effort that is serious about successfully engaging a wider audience. I wish it wan't so but this is apparent to me.

I think this point may be in agreement with Nathan as regards de-emphasis on rallies but it suggests something other than the logistical difficulties of door knocking. What do you think? Too much like brainwashing? No way to deliver these sound byte length messages to large audience?

Posted by: Rob at April 13, 2003 06:05 PM

Somehow my (lengthly) previews were posted. Sorry and hope you don't have to read this 3x as well.

Posted by: Rob at April 13, 2003 06:38 PM

Hi,
Just today, I was watching the news and saw the "peace" rally in D.C. Instead of protesting the war, they were protesting Taco Bell. If protestors want to get something across(like stop the war in Iraq), they shouldn't try to protest Consumerism and Welfare politics at the same time. I know many people who are anti-war, yet still believe in American capitalism. By protesting so many different things, they drive more and more people away from there supposed message. -Respectfully
Robert S. Morgan
P.S. I also saw Communist red flags and Anarchist groups at the "peace" rallies; what were the organizers thinking!

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 13, 2003 07:38 PM

No one seems to have mentioned the obvious point here, that a left anti-war message is probably harder to communicate than than most of the right pro-war ones that people probably bought.

The right has simple, clear messages :

- taking out Saddam makes us safer from WMDs he's developing

- taking out Saddam saves the Iraqis he oppresses

- support the president

On the left we have arguments that depend on an entire systematic framework of ideas.

- taking out Saddam would save the Iraqis from oppression and could be accomplished by a complex programme of diplomacy comprising rewards for co-operation and penalties for refusal to co-operate. But we can't tell you exactly what those are because the programme will have to be continually adapting as we see what works and what doesn't.

- this invasion is only a minor skirmish in a systematic attempt by the US government (which doesn't, by the way, respond to the needs of voters as much as to the interests of a network of corporate sponsors and associates) to extend it's domination over the world. Even if this war considered in isolation has merits, it should still be opposed because it helps to extend and cement this domination.

Now, I happen to believe both of these leftist arguments, but it's pretty clear that they are objectively harder to present, and certainly harder to convince people of, than the pro-war arguments.


Posted by: phil jones at April 14, 2003 06:13 AM

Nathan, your essay assumed that those who disagree with your position are either ignorant or dishonest.

I disagree with you and I'm sure that I'm neither. Perhaps the anti-war movement failed because after the consequences of invasion are weighed and the consequences of inaction are weighed, even with all of the uncertainty the future holds, the long term suffering that inaction insures can not be morally tolerated.

Perhaps the antiwar movement failed because it picked a position that, from most points of view, is immoral - and then proceeded to act like Baghdad Bob and simply deny it's own moral weakness and simply deny the moral strength of some of it's opponents.

I'm asking myself why Z Net has an anti-war section but no anti-facist section?

I'm also wondering why there was no one willing to face up to the desperate weakness behind the arguements used. The UN security council is dressed up like a pig in a formal evening gown. Sure it would be wonderful if there was an international body from which justice and moral legitimacy flowed. An organization that looked out for the rights of man and enforced justice, but this side of Marvel comics, no such organization has ever existed. Neither history nor any other sort of objective analysis supports putting any faith in the power or authority of the security council. But history was completely ignored as activist clutched at every slogan they could find - it only had to sound PLAUSIBLE. I'm sure people didn't realize that their slogans didn't stand up to reality, but if you don't know how international politics works then you shouldn't pontificate about it.
sigh

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 14, 2003 06:36 AM

"But in the case of Iraq, the lack of organizing of that global solidarity and plan on how to help those resisting Hussein is exactly what strengthened the warhawks in arguing that their method was the only way to "liberate Iraq." In practice and in message, there was little or no message by the antiwar movement on how they were acting in solidarity with the oppressed folks within Iraq."

Two problems here: Who controls the message? and What role did the embargo against Iraq play for ten years in limiting attempts at solidarity? It is impossible to honestly say that anything like a left-wing message was allowed open display in our national media, particularly the TV where "more Americans get their news than any other source."

Saddam was the handmaiden of America despite every atrocity, when the sweetheart deal that the US and Iraq shared was a benefit to US interests. We didn't care who got killed. Pundits on the left and the right were blind as long as the oil/drug continued to flow -- CHEAPLY.

Posted by: RicHARD Makepeace at April 14, 2003 11:54 AM

Hi,
"Saddam was the handmaiden of America despite every atrocity"-RicHARD Makepeace

In what way, Richard?

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 14, 2003 05:04 PM

"Nathan, your essay assumed that those who disagree with your position are either ignorant or dishonest.

I disagree with you and I'm sure that I'm neither"

But your argument is so vacuous that your assurance is untenable. The argument that the UN means nothing, so that the US had a responsibility to enforce a UN resolution, is pretzelian. The argument that Iraq had mighty WMDs that threatened the US has been shown by events to be as bogus as was argued at the time. The sheer dishonesty of the administrations excuses closes the case.

And to ice the deal,consider the inability of the pro-war side to even come to grips with the objections to the war, and their desperate reliance on cartoon misrepresentations of the other side.

Posted by: citizen k at April 15, 2003 12:27 AM

Yes Phil Jones, but what about leaving people to learn about these complexities offline, in time, with some books?

I don't pretend to have a study ready to defend with research, the approach I proposed, but I have noticed in small scale efforts of my own that merely cracking the mind numbing of the media blitz is a worthy objective in itself. People, naturally curious, may pursue information (especially with references conveniently provided) that they otherwise would not if they were made concious of as few as one single unavoidable, in fact obvious, flaw in the rhetorical persuasions they are accustomed to.

I think too much is attempted within precious air time and other forums to communicate the complex situatuions of the real world you refer to.

Perhaps smaller, simpler, stronger objectives should be set in at least those efforts to engage wide audiences, if not others.

It is the elevator version I am talking about. What could you communicate during an elevator ride if your life depended on it and you had 2 months to rehearse? This work has not been done and is not reflected in the rally efforts. Is it? If so then I missed it.

The necessity of formulating simplified messages that do not do justice to the subject seems unfortunate to me - even offensive if carried too far, but may be the only way to crack through the non-rational training most have received.

For some few the genuineness and rationality of a message, however lengthy, is what attracts, but I'm afraid that for most it is familiar show biz packaging the most interesting blurb that wins influence.

Posted by: Rob at April 15, 2003 12:28 AM

Perhaps the antiwar movement failed because it picked a position that, from most points of view, is immoral - and then proceeded to act like Baghdad Bob and simply deny it's own moral weakness and simply deny the moral strength of some of it's opponents.

The saving grace of this operation is that Saddam has been pretty clearly a bad actor and the world is better off without him.

Nevertheless that feature alone does not resolve the entire issue of whether or not this war has been a truly moral one. The pro-war contingent in my book has to bear the burden of making its case. I, for one, hold that America is by default a nation at peace with all other nations, unless and until Congress declares war.

A morally justifiable war imho is one in response to attack or to forestall imminent attack or one as part of a world coalition to respond to illegal aggression, as the war in 1991 was.

This was a 'war of choice' in every way. Iraq was certainly not imminently about to attack the U.S. and clearly posed no grave threat, as the military campaign has demonstrated quite well.

No one has proven that Iraq was involved at all with the Sept. 11 attacks and not one of the attackers was even from Iraq, thus any claim that invading Iraq was part of the response to that event is just specious.

Many argue that because of the nature of the regime in Iraq, that even such a 'war of choice' is justified. However, the end does not necessarily justify any means to accomplish it, especially if the administration blithely disdains any form of rule of law, shuns diplomacy and ignores world opinion. I favor the U.S. making every effort to establish the stamp of legitimacy in the eyes of the world, for the sake of maximizing the possibility that the long term end result will be a fair and just one for all parties. This administration OTOH made zero effort to have the kind of worldwide legitimacy that characterized the campaign in 1991 and was rather disingenuous about its motives for war.

Even if this war has achieved a result that a lot of us can live with, the administration's not having been forthcoming with the American people is still a serious problem.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 12:43 AM

richard: "the end does not necessarily justify any means to accomplish it"

I disagree with that given the ends... In real life you're not always given any moral choices. Sometimes the lesser evil is still evil but also very much the lesser.

Arguements about "legality" of war are spurious.

By the definitions of the UN worshipers, there's only been one legal war in all of history, the first gulf war. No one gets UN approval for a war - and the UN security council has never lived up to it's mandate, so pretending that it has is just dishonest.

From a moral point of view, we should use morality and discount law entirely when making political decisions. Right and wrong only coenside with legal and illegal when we make it so.

And to argue that the there was a diplomatic way to get Saddam's boot off of the throat of his poor people is to live in a fantasy world. That was clearly an impossible goal. Even the lesser goal of getting him to come clean about the VX, mustard gas and anthrax he bought in the 80's was an impossible goal.

As for the administration not being forthcoming, I think it was as forthcoming as it was capable of being given the constraints international diplomacy. You can't be totally honest and keep your allies, that's just a fact of life. Anyone who took the effort to remain informed and know what the various actors in the administration and their mentors were saying wasn't in the dark at all... If most of the public was that's just a sign that the public doesn't know the Washington and international relations very well. Sorry I don't think it was possible for them to be any better. Perfection isn't actually a possible goal here either.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 01:46 AM

Two points:
1. The "elevator argument" is an excellent point.
2. "Joshua Scholar" illustrates the in-utility of arguing with the Republican "ideological core". Note that whatever anyone says, Mr. Scholar is impervious: he has a script for the anti-war argument and he will follow it even if the anti-war people won't.

Posted by: citizen k at April 15, 2003 11:05 AM

The rabid right wingers are in love with seeing force used while others are still too much afraid as to be willing to question the administration.

Not that long ago, an administration not being forthcoming about war was a big deal. It should be a big deal, in any case, with all of the money spent on weapons in this country and all of the destructive power of those weapons.

Not that long ago, the American people expressed a certain skepticism in government rhetoric, a skepticism that's a healthy thing to have when presidents are wont exercise such power as many have. Presidents work for us, the people, and if they're not forthcoming, that's a major problem for me.

Also not that long ago, we impeached a president for lying about his personal life.

I think that the anti-war movement should have concentrated on one theme: the administration is lying -- Iraq is not a threat.

If they act like they oppose all wars, while that's an honorable position to take, it's also a turn-off to some. The thing to do is to make clear that opposition is to wars that aren't morally justified. And I cannot buy the notion of a war that's illegal but still morally sound.

When Iraq is not even a threat, where's the moral justification to go to war, which means destruction of property and killing of civilians, not to mention combatants, without the sanction of international law?

This was an act of aggression on the U.S.' part, pure and simple. Invading a sovereign nation who hasn't attacked first and is not even an imminent threat and toppling its regime without the sanction of international law is quite simply not morally right.

Saddam was a bad actor and he's done. Fine. Where's the indignation from the radical right wing to topple the other bad actors on the world stage, the ones in places like Africa and East Asia?

Shifting rationales=not the truth=no authority to go to war, in my book.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 11:50 AM

c k, I'm not impervious to good arguement, I just have my internet filter on. There's no point wasting time with insulting, shallow trolls.

Oh and I'm registered Green not Republican by the way. It's possible to be a progressive antifacist, or at least it used to be.

Richard:
Uhm I don't give a damn what the rational given is. I care about what the result is,

American politics isn't perfectly open, I've come to terms with reality on that. All politicians emphasize what they think will make their views popular, not what their internal priorities are.

You want to go the low road and muddy the waters calling politicians liars? What, don't you have the strength to attack a problem honestly, on its actual moral merit? If you don't have actual right and wrong on your side then you should give up. NEVER waste people's time flinging mud. It's a tragedy that anyone ever listens to such arguments.

"When Iraq is not even a threat, where's the moral justification to go to war, which means destruction of property and killing of civilians, not to mention combatants, without the sanction of international law?"

Shit, how about Saddam's boot at the throat of his people? Humanity doesn't matter to you, only "international law"? That's a transparent lie. A situational lie. It's like how the Republicans care about the constitution only when it's a Democrat threatening it.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 11:59 AM

"Where's the indignation from the radical right wing to topple the other bad actors on the world stage, the ones in places like Africa and East Asia?"

Oddly enough it's there. I haven't had time to check them out, but the policy clique that's come into favor with Bush II since 9/11 are called neo-cons. I hear rumors that they're ex-lefties on a global reform-the-world kick.

Fresh air had a couple of interviews the other day... i found out you can find web sites for "the weekly standard" magazine and for at tank called "the project for the new american century".
use google

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 12:04 PM

Hi,
"And I cannot buy the notion of a war that's illegal but still morally sound."-Richard P.

Who's writing the law here, Richard? Too say that America going to war in Iraq was illegal so, therefore, it was immoral, is insanity! According to the Kellog-Briand pact just before WW2(which America, Germany, England, Japan, etc. all signed), the whole war of liberation in Europe was "illegal". People who write the laws are not always good or rational people, especially in the international sector.
-Repspectfully
-Robert S. Morgan

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 15, 2003 01:27 PM

The founders of "Project for a New American Century" are the same people who wrote a paper in 1992 that contained many of the same elements of basic policy advocated by that organization that was founded later and then adopted by the current administration that was so controversial then that the administration of former president Bush immediately withdrew and disdained it when the media had gotten copies.

What it is is essentially a call for return to 19th century style imperialism. The British eventually found out that that doesn't work. The U.S. will find out, also, if this is the direction in which we're going.

War is NEVER a positive good! War always involves killing and destruction and should always be a final resort to resolve disputes.

Sometimes war is morally defensible, but there's a big difference between a war when a nation is fighting back against attack or an attack on an ally or forestalling an imminent attack and what this conflict has been.

Iraq was no threat to the U.S. This was a war of choice and an act of aggression on the U.S.' part.

The war in 1991 was morally sound in being a response by the whole world community to an act of aggression undertaken with the sanction of international law and with the clear goal of liberating a nation, as opposed to the goal of toppling the regime of a sovereign nation who is not any kind of threat at all to the party conducting the war.

If, in the long term, the peace that exists is not superior to the peace which existed before the war, i.e. if Americans are not safer from terrorists or safer overall, if the people in Iraq do not have a better situation than before the war, if world stability and safety is not improved, than this war cannot be morally justified. If the U.S. had seriously made an effort with diplomacy, had seriously given inspections a chance, had listened to allies and world opinion, then I believe that there was a good possibility of being able to act within the law and with legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world, thereby ensuring the best chance for a long term positive outcome.

However, the administration didn't even try to accomplish that and may well have a very serious credibility problem on its hands with the rest of the world that it didn't have before if no one finds any chemical weapons.

The rabid war hawks can gloat to their hearts' content over the short term result but if the long term result is not a net positive then the short term result will be meaningless.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 02:33 PM

Hi,
"If the U.S. had seriously made an effort with diplomacy, had seriously given inspections a chance, had listened to allies and world opinion, then I believe that there was a good possibility of being able to act within the law and with legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world, thereby ensuring the best chance for a long term positive outcome."-Richard P.

Do you honestly beleive that the "rest of the world" should decide American policy. France or any other nation, does not care about the people of America. When the connections between terrorist cells and Saddam come out, your whole argument will be shot to peices. We have already found Mobile Chemical weopons factories, we have already raided terrorist training camps in the north. The ambitions of nations that did not support the U.S. liberation of Iraq were not based on "peace". They were economic! Saddam owed France, Russia, Germany, and China billions of dollars in debt.

Secondly, the U.S. did NOT have the approval of the WHOLE world in 1991 as you said. There will always be nations with conflicting goals. To say that a war will ONLY be justified when it is backed by the WHOLE world is assinine.

Thirdly, the claim that America acted "Unilateraly" in taking action in Iraq is also bogus! The last time I checked, the offical tally was 49 different nations, including Poland, New Zealand, Australia, England, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Italy.....the list goes on and on. Everytime a protestor sais "George Bush acted Unilaterally!", they are spreading ignorance to the facts.

The fact is America, with a broad coalition, invaded Iraq with the intent to:
1. topple a brutal and sadistic regime
2. seize and secure all WMDs
3. eliminate Iraq as a harbor for terrorists.

1 and 3 are all but finishedand 2 will take some time, but we will find them. Saddam had 12 years to hide them, so it will take a while.
-Respectfully
-Robert S. Morgan

Posted by: Robert S. Morgan at April 15, 2003 02:59 PM

To those who care only about results, how about the 'results' of civilians killed and maimed, to say nothing about troops? How about the hospitals in Iraq unable to function without power and water, and about the looting, which has also affected the hospitals which American troops are apparently not guarding?

How about the results in Afghanistan, where the stories are that the Taliban may be re-emerging as a result of the general disorder in which that country has existed since late 2001?

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 03:05 PM

Larger coalition than in 1991...another piece of war hawk propaganda.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. leaders say they are proud of the alliance they have assembled against Iraq, even in comparison with the broad alliance the United States assembled for the war to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a news conference on Thursday: "The coalition in this activity is larger than the coalition that existed during the Gulf War in 1991."

But the facts put out by the administration itself suggest otherwise.

In 1991 at least 33 countries sent forces to the campaign against Iraq and 16 of those provided combat ground forces, including a large number of Arab countries.

In 2003 the only fighting forces are from the United States, Britain and Australia. Ten other countries are known to have offered small numbers of noncombat forces, mostly either medical teams and specialists in decontamination, making a comparable alliance of about 13 countries.

U.S. officials have named 33 countries which support the U.S. invasion of Iraq but this includes countries which are providing overflight and basing rights and which are giving only diplomatic or political support for the invasion.

President Bush said on Wednesday that 35 countries have chosen to "share the honor" of supporting the campaign but U.S. officials could not name more than the 33.

They say some 15 other countries are cooperating with the U.S. war effort behind the scene, mostly by giving access to bases and airspace, but they do not want to be named.

In 1991 the United States and its allies did not count countries which provided overflight rights or political support because the campaign had the overwhelming support of the U.N. Security Council, which had voted 12-2 for the use of force.

Link

If we impeach presidents for lying about their personal affairs then how is it OK to be spreading falsehoods about war?

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 03:16 PM

The fact is America, with a broad coalition, invaded Iraq with the intent to:
1. topple a brutal and sadistic regime
2. seize and secure all WMDs
3. eliminate Iraq as a harbor for terrorists.

As to no. 3, Iraq was not connected to the Sept. 11th attacks and was hardly the harbor for terrorist groups that several other nations that the U.S. counts as allies actually are. No links to al-qaeda ever proven.

As to no. 2, the U.S. abruptly halted inspections before even giving them a chance to reach a point at which the inspectors themselves could have said, "Alright we've reached an impasse," although inspectors did conclude that there was no nuclear weapons program in Iraq and production facilities for such are very difficult to conceal. If the administration had solid intelligence information as to the locale of chemical or bio weapons stocks, they could have provided it to the inspectors as a means of substantiating their claims, but they did not and it appears now that they don't have such information. The U.S. did not even consider so-called coercive inspections, as many people suggested. If no one finds serious quantities of bio and chemical weapons, the administration will have a credibility problem on its hands.

The administration sold the war to the American people mainly on the premise that Iraq was a threat because of its weapons. Were they knowingly speaking a falsehood in doing so?

No. 1 -- Saddam is done and that is a positive. What the long term result for the people in Iraq will be is another matter and from the U.S.' standpoint, as well as theirs, is now the main thing that matters.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 03:34 PM

"To those who care only about results, how about the 'results' of civilians killed and maimed, to say nothing about troops? How about the hospitals in Iraq unable to function without power and water, and about the looting, which has also affected the hospitals which American troops are apparently not guarding?

How about the results in Afghanistan, where the stories are that the Taliban may be re-emerging as a result of the general disorder in which that country has existed since late 2001?"

Saddam's sons promised to be worse than him. 50 more years of torture, terrorism and lives made drab by oppression isn't worse than 1 month of war followed by freedom? How the f*** do you figure?

That just proves that you don't value freedom nearly as much as I do.

...

As for Afganistan, it's already a country where girls can leave their houses, open their windows and go to school... That's as momentous as the south freeing the slaves - by the way if war is "never a positive good" I assume you'd have been for peace - and black people remaining slaves forever!

2000000 expatriot Afgani's have gone home.

Never again will stadiums be used to slaughter women for such crimes as having gone to a hair dresser. Or men and children...

And most importantly for US policy, Al Qa'eda no longer has an entire country to terrorize and to use as a base to terrorize us with.

Afganistan isn't likely to become what Iraq may any time soon, but it's still not a failure by a long shot

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 04:03 PM

As for the UN making success more likely... I've been hearing BAD things about Kosovo. Perhaps too many cooks spoil the stew. I don't thing their involvement is worth much. It's worth some mere money, but it's also the source of lots of backstabing - it gives authority to lots of diplomats from countries who want to protect their interests by making sure this fails.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 04:09 PM

To get back to my point, it was to discuss why the anti-war movement did not turn more Americans against this conflict at the critical point in late Feb./early March when there was just too much momentum for the operation for it to be stopped.

I feel like some of the public reaction has been "rally around the flag" syndrome and some fear as a result of Sept. 11 coupled with the mistaken belief of many that Iraq really had something to do with those attacks.

My suggestion for the main theme for critics of this war was "the administration is lying; Iraq is not a threat."

I feel strongly that actual events have shown that to be an accurate view of things.

Others have suggested that the war critics needed to show how the human rights concern could have been addressed by alternative means. My alternative scenerio is that the administration could have made the effort with diplomacy and with a good faith use of the inspections to at least try to substantively build the case to the world community for the use of force, which they didn't even do. Not even close. Thus, we're left with a world in which the leading superpower shows a callous disregard for rule of law. I don't see how the war hawks can make this case that the U.N. is somehow completely useless when this administration, very much unlike former president Bush in 1991, never had its heart into pursuing that process and gaining the stamp of legitimacy wherein.

I will not endorse imperialism and I will not endorse vigilante-ism on a national scale. Both are wrong and both are trouble in the long term even if the U.N. is imperfect, which it is, just like the fact of a neighbor down the street being a criminal does not justify my summarily shooting that person myself rather than relying on the criminal justice system, which also has its faults.

I don't oppose all wars. OTOH the conditions under which wars can be considered moral and just are strictly limited and that is how it should be. If we don't make absolutely sure that OUR government here at home isn't observing the rule of law, isn't being completely forthcoming, especially about something like going to war, then what kind of freedom do WE have?

Oust Saddam in Iraq but restore, if not bolster, the 'Imperial Presidency' at home. Real consistent there.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 04:55 PM

"I will not endorse imperialism and I will not endorse vigilante-ism on a national scale. Both are wrong and both are trouble in the long term even if the U.N. is imperfect, which it is, just like the fact of a neighbor down the street being a criminal does not justify my summarily shooting that person myself rather than relying on the criminal justice system, which also has its faults."

That depends just how bad the UN is. Let's take your analogy a bit further. Suppose you were a black person living in south right after the civil war. Could you then trust the "criminal justice system, which also has its faults?"

No of course not. Degree matters.

Posted by: Joshua Scholar at April 15, 2003 05:24 PM

The criminal justice system has its flaws and so does international law, but vigilantism and imperialism are perfectly acceptable alternatives and not only that, it doesn't matter whether an administration is telling the truth or not, as long as it produces results, does it? Hardly.

If an administration is lying or spreading falsehoods about the rationale for going to war, that's a very serious matter, no matter what. I can't just blithely ignore that and the American people shouldn't.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 15, 2003 09:13 PM

Where the peace movement went wrong…

Yesterday, as people flooded the post office to file their taxes, anti-war protestor continued to demonstrate. One held up a sign, “fuck fucking George Bush”, followed by an individual holding a sign, “support our troops.” Guess which one engendered sympathy.

The extreme left’s visceral reaction against George Bush is as repellant as the extreme right’s visceral reaction against Bill Clinton. Both heap scorn and derision on their respective nemesis and construe all motives as nefarious. You are going to lose broad support for your stance if you take up this tactic.

The flat out refusal of the anti-war demonstrations to address the horrors of the Saddam regime made them come across as hopelessly nave. Tony Blair bested them on this one.

Did the peace movement miss out on another alternative to war? Sanctions brought immense misery to the Iraqi people. Containment by fly over is low-grade war with no end in sight. Inspections were a sham.

If 2 million people had marched before the start of the war holding signs, “Stand Down Saddam”, if the French, Russian and Germans public had pressed their governments hard to disengage from doing business with a tyrant, could this war have been averted? Could there have been a regime change by peaceful means?

Now that we are here, is the peace movement prepared to support democracy in Iraq? Or, is this all about fucking George?

Posted by: mlp at April 16, 2003 11:48 AM

Those are some fair points.

Yes, people who take up such extreme tactics as marching with a profanity-laced poster are going to be seen as extremists and that's no doubt repulsive to many while not useful in winning over the middle-of-the-road.

In retrospect, the critics of this war were up against some formidable obstacles.

To begin, the national climate of fear in the aftermath of the terror attacks. Also, the fact of Saddam actually being an odious character who won't be missed by many. Finally, the widespread (but misinformed) belief of Saddam having been involved with the 9/11 attacks, an idea, I have to admit, that's easy to get considering the reputation that Saddam had already made for himself long ago, plus a to-be-expected 'rally round the flag' effect.

I think that the best comeback that war questioners had at their disposal was/is "the administration is lying -- Iraq is no threat," although that alone still doesn't address the human rights concern.

However, a quick and successful military campaign didn't allow for the 'rally round the flag' effect to subside, and, beyond that, success made for public contentment.

If OTOH the war had gotten bogged down there would have been greater chance for the contention that the administration was not telling the truth to take hold in peoples' minds. That did not pan out and probably one reason why Rumsfeld wanted a quick attack with a smaller-sized force.

The Vietnam conflict enjoyed public support initially and there wasn't discontentment over it and suspicion about it, especially among moderates, until it had gone one for several years.

The "Win without war" theme was/is very noble and does address the human rights issue, but was/is totally useless once the war was under way, and there was definitely a point, probably by mid-February when even though things hadn't officially started, there was no way the administration was going to hold back.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 16, 2003 12:30 PM

The problem with “the administration in lying – Iraq is no threat” is that you are asking the public to make a judgment call as to who is lying and to deduce the degree of threat Iraq represents either in the immediate future or within the next 5-10 years. People reached different conclusions on the nature and severity of the threat posed by Iraq. Frankly, I don’t believe Colin Powell lied to the Security Council.

If the war had gotten bogged down, support would have flagged not necessarily because the public not longer believed Iraq had been acquiring biological, chemical and/or nuclear weapons and had been financing and training terrorists but because unremitting images of death would have been unendurable.

It was interesting to read somewhere that by 1968, the Vietnam War was in its 4th year, longer than the American Revolution, longer than the Civil War. Would support for the War of Northern Aggression have flagged had it gone on longer? Perhaps.

Posted by: mlp at April 16, 2003 06:26 PM

I don't know whether I'd say that Colin Powell was spouting bald-faced lies but I believe it was Cheney who was appearing on Sunday talk shows and saying that Iraq was 6 months away from possessing nuclear weapons and that one was a whopper.

But, yes, only in retrospect is it possible to clearly see that the notion of Iraq somehow being a grave threat to the U.S. was really way off base. Otherwise it's a judgment call.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 16, 2003 11:54 PM

I am a middle of the road American liberal who can only speak to why *I* was unconvinced by the peace movement's arguments against the war.

My opinion was based upon a combination of things, and it was the combination that made the argument for me. First, of all, Saddam Hussein is clearly an evil man, and while not the only evil ruler in the world, he was clearly in a rarified group of the some of the worst. It was hard to feel badly about a war that would get rid of the guy and his gang of storm troopers. Second, after 9/11, it was hard to seriously make the argument "Yes, Saddam hates us, but he wouldn't dare attack us" with any degree of confidence, even with regard to a real nation like Iraq. Finally, I really did believe, based on the information disclosed by Colin Powell, that Iraq was probably working on biological weapons, and that given time, Iraq would try to develop nuclear weapons as well (I may end up eating my words on the current state of Iraq's biological weapons program, it seems).

It is this *combination* that was hard to argue with. Yes, inspections were clearly working (albeit only because of the 200K+ US and British troops in the area), but within a year, I'm sure Saddam would have expelled the inspectors again, as soon as the US and British troops were gone. Yes, never-ending sanctions clearly limited Iraq's ability to wage aggressive war, but at a high cost to the Iraqi people, and with no end in sight, either.

The peace movement never made any credible argument that there was a peaceful way to improve the status quo in Iraq.

Posted by: Michael Kazar at April 20, 2003 10:49 AM

Where the Peace Movement Can Go Right in Iraq

1. Refrain from a Hate American First platform.
2. Pressure the US/GB to open the bidding process on reconstruction. Where possible, the subcontractors should come from countries neighboring Iraq. Employment opportunities need to be created in the region.
3. Pressure the UN to open the books on the Oil for Food program.
4. Pressure the US/GB and UN to compromise on UN oversight on reconstruction. Skip the security council debates and vetos. Iraq could use an oversight committee compromised of 12 nations. Suggestions: Mexico, Chile, Botswana, South Africa, Bulgaria, Poland, Spain, Norway, Malaysia, Afghanistan, South Korea ... countries which have expertise in oversight of a natural resource, experience in implementing or deflecting the advice of the World Bank and/or the International Monetary Fund, experience in reconciling a painful fractured history, experience in negotiating aid and the resources of NGOs, experience implementing free trade zones.
4. Pressure the US/GB, UN and OPEC to negotiate a transitional phase where Iraq oil is brought to the market. Acknowledge that there was money to be made by keeping Iraqi oil off the market. These countries, namely Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, need assurance that they will gain in trading with Iraq which will offset losses from cutting back in production to accomodate Iraqi oil production levels comparable to those prior to 1991. Otherwise, there will be mischief.
5. Believe that liberal democracy can be customized to meet the needs of Iraqis.

And, pressure the Middle East nations, the Palestinians and the Israelis to compromise and to negotiate peace. There will be no Right of Return for the 1948 refugees and the settlements in the West Bank need to be relinquished.

Posted by: mlp at April 20, 2003 06:20 PM

The peace movement never made any credible argument that there was a peaceful way to improve the status quo in Iraq.

Why did the peace movement, or anti-war movement, have to be the party to *disprove* why a war was necessary?

My question is "Why wasn't the public questioning why war supposed to be the only solution?"

The administration sold to the public that war was necessary to protect our country.

So far the facts aren't quite supporting that assertion, regardless of Saddam having been a bad character that almost everyone has savored seeing ousted.

If we're at the point at which being at war is the default status, that's something to think about.

Posted by: Richard P. at April 20, 2003 08:33 PM

I hate to disturb the flow of things. However I had a fairly extensive post on this topic which is no longer on the site. Was this deliberately removed or a website glitch? Just wondering, I thought I had some valid points.

Posted by: Tomiwa at April 22, 2003 11:11 PM

just a test.

Posted by: Rob Grocholski at April 29, 2003 12:25 AM

I salute you, Nathan Newman, on your critique in re where the peace movement went wrong. It is encouraging that someone has the intellectual bravery to attempt such a task.

I have recently found myself awkwardly rewriting elected representatives whom I implored to oppose Bush's request for Congressional approval to use force against Hussein's Regime back in October of 2002. I believe that I bear some responsibility (even if my letters were merely read and responded to by interns) for having stupidly penned so many of the very anti-Bush themes that seem so pointless now.

Relucantly, I became a supporter of this war, mostly by looking back on my own experiences. (I say relucantly because I would not want to make a habit of being politically opposed to people like Gore Vidal, Gunter Grass, and Medea Benjamin.) In 1989 I aided and abetted the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Yeah, the Sandinistas, whom I'm quite confident that most leftists and liberals supported then and still do. It was okay to support the use of force for that revolution. It was the FSLN and a substantial international solidarity movement behind them that booted the, as they said in Managua, 'last marine.' Looking back, what was the difference between Somoza and Hussein? Only that Hussein was a more efficient murderer. But the central truth was that the Nicaraguans then like the Iraqis now, would be liberated from the brutality of a facist dictator. The big difference is that unlike in the 1980's when the US 'was the wrong side' and could seldom see over the Berlin Wall, our government is most certainly wearing the white hats this time. Herein, I think, lies fatal flaw amongst leftists and liberals; aware of the history of US government foreign policy which was so ready to coddle tryants like Somoza and Hussein, the left, so ready to make the charge of 'blowback' for past misdeeds, we (maybe I'm really describing my own affliction) are unprepared for when the US actually gets it right.

...it really happened. There were Iraqis everywhere cheering our troops as liberators. They really were glad to see us. The Iraqis lived under real repression--not the rhetorical version yapped so often in America and Europe. ...Yet it was so hard to see a US-British invasion as a force for liberation and democratic redemption for the Middle East. After all, the messenger, Bush, seemed so ironic. Hadn't Bush been the court appointed President? Hard to believe that histories forces could have Bush as Iraq's emancipator. But some things are true even if Bush believes them.

And now, on to the hard work of nation building and developing democracy. So many people I know who claim to be anti-war or for peace seem so quick to point out that it is not likely that democracy will happen in Iraq. This is a shame. It seems as if many in the so called peace movement are actually looking for ways for Bush to get his comeupance over this ordeal. I'd rather let Bush get his rightful credit than miss the chance to help Iraq succeed. I wish we who claim to be for peace and human rights could be involved in honorable acts like the Kuwaiti citizens who doubled the amount of blood donated when asked by international relief agencies to relieve the wounded in Iraq--knowing full well that the blood often went to the very same Iraqi soldiers who had invaded them 13 years before (BBC report). I think we'd all be honored if the Iraqis would welcome our help now.

Again, your critique, very honorable and decent of you. If your post is intended to ask what is to be done with the peace movement now, I would answer scrap it and let's all move on. Better to admit the movements faults than to have a cadre of activists and organizers looking for ways to even scores or try to find ways to score points to a debate that has already been settled. How about a leftist/liberal version of what a US foreign policy should look like. A theory before tactics. I think George Packer got it mostly right in his article in Mother Jones, February 2003.

Rob Grocholski
San Pedro, CA

Posted by: Rob Grocholski at April 29, 2003 02:13 AM

Im an independent and I don't particularly like Bush, but I supported him on this war because it was the right thing to do. But I have some thoughts on the "peace" movement:

Where are the so-called "anti-war activists" now? Why aren't they flooding the streets to protest the war in the Congo that's been going on for four years with 2-3 million dead? Why aren't they protesting the war in Sudan with millions killed and Arab Muslims enslaving black Christians and practitioners of indigenous religions? The reality is that the anti-war movement is motivated by hatred of America and can only rally thousands to oppose America.

Ask yourself this: Was it worth 600,000 lives to preserve the Union and end slavery in the Civil War? If you say yes you're not anti-war; and you accept that the preservation of the US is a good thing; and that huge sacrifices are worth liberating 4 million people from oppression.

The US, Britain, Australia and Poland (and that's not unilateralist) just liberated 24 million people from a heinous dictator with nowhere near the the casualities of the American Civil War. More Americans will die this year in auto crashes than total casualities in the Iraq War.

The fact is the left was on the wrong side. The reason is because they hate America and thus are willing to support dictatorships and oppression (e.g. Castro) if it means opposing the US.

Posted by: phil at May 21, 2003 06:04 PM

Your article was posted at Lastsuperpower.net, (a site run by outspoken Left's), and while I appreciate your attempt to analyse what went wrong, I am afraid that you still miss the real problem. May I suggest that you check out Albert Langer's work at this site.

Chomsky pointed out that "the swamp would have to be drained" if the war on terror declared after 9/11 was to be won. ie "one" could not just keep on killing mosquitoes that emerged from the swamp of the middle east.

But Chomsky has not then put himself in Bush's shoes and sat around the war cabinet table, and asked the question that any leader would have to ask after declaring war on the perpetrators of 9/11. 'Well, Generals' how do we win this war? What is to be the strategy'?

Chomsky's conclusion, is the only viable strategy. Chomsky can not believe Bush either, so he fails to accurately look at and assess what are Bush's options.

Any other strategy would simply delay adoption of the only strategy that can win this war, and in the period of delay, if the terrorists "get the bomb", they could bring it into Manhattan and make the twin towers disaster look like small potatoes.

Modernising the whole world through industrialisation, and the adoption of bourgeois democracy is the way to rid the world of the medievalists that harm "western" ruling class interests, and proletarian interests also.

But Bush is not about to declare that fifty years of (rotten to the core) US policy is being junked, and a Chomsky'ite policy of spreading bourgeois democracy to the middle east is being adopted because it is the only way to win and stop the medievalist terrorists.

It is irrelevant that you doubt Bush, the point is he has no real choice. Thus a Palestinian state is also on the agenda now because the swamp is being drained in front of your very eyes! Despite all the scepticism and cynicism in the non thinking left, and the junk spewed by the outright pseudo left, there will be a democratic state emerge from the war in Iraq because history requires that the bourgeoisie bring it forth.

Note that all left's (thinking, unthinking or pseudo) would support the students who are rising up against the mad Mullah's of Iran, and quess what? So does G W Bush. So, stop being so suprised that the interests of the ruling class coincide with proletarian interests at this point of history!

The Bin Laden's of this world are opposed to the modernity project that BOTH classes that are the descendants of the Enlightenment follow. Proletarians may very well want to go further but the issue here is ridding the world of something else. When the whole world looks, and smells like Australia, Europe, and the US, freaks like the Taliban will be an historical eye-sore as glaring as the Catholic Inquisition that the bourgeoisie of old rid us of. As karl Marx once said in a letter to Aberham Lincoln, "The workers of the world are behind the stars and stripes" as with WW2, and the Gulf war once more this is the case.

My own view goes along the lines of the JFK quote "Ich bin ein New Yorker", in essence we proletarians are all New Yorkers now!

Onwards with the Revolution!

Regards Patrick

Posted by: Pat Muldowney at July 20, 2003 01:08 AM

The mistake even you make is that you have made Bush your focus and not policy. It is the same mistake Clinton haters made. A part of the public is likely to vote for Bush just to piss off the haters.

Lieberman will be seen as the Goldwater of the Democrats in times to come. In fact their positions are not too far apart. Muscular defence including the spread of limited government democracy, free market economics, and social liberalism. It is what the center 40% want.

Posted by: M. Simon at July 29, 2003 06:46 AM

"What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form, when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population."

I'm not intending to be too critical of this entire analysis, because it is well stated and largely correct. But analizing this paragraph sheds light on another aspect of why the anti-war argument failed so badly.


"What is opposed is its use on behalf of corporate interests in a violent form"

There almost seems to be a tick in the partisans against the war that requires them to tack on an ad hominem attack against the pro-war proponents. Suffice to say, if the war is just and necessary, it doesnt ultimately matter what the 'true motives' of the administration are. This to me always seemed to be an intellectual indulgence, taking a swipe at ideological enemies that added no weight to the argument in the minds of the undecided. The bottom line is Soccer Moms in Des Moines dont want to hear about conspiracy theories involving military-industrial complexes and Israeli provacateurs.

"when non-violent solidarity is both more likely to lead to a just result and imposes less costs on the population"

And here is an even larger problem with the anti-war stance. There is virtually no history of these 'non-violent' solutions being effective, indeed historically they have often led to massacres, civil wars, and the emergance of tyranical governments every bit as bad as the reactionary governments noted above. We may do well to recall that more than 300,000 corpses were the result of the last uprising against this regime, and how that could have been prevented without military intervention is unclear to me. The anti-war movement simply is on the short end of the factual and historical stick when trying to argue for solutions to brutal military regimes through non-violence. Even to the most average Joe on the street, encouraging dissidents to march on Baghdad seemed at best naive and at worst idiotic. Even were it to be possible, would the outcome have cost as few lives as the current war has, much less regional upheaval, refugees, ect? Would a civil war have been a better solution (a very very likely outcome to any internal strife in Iraq)? These are the questions the anti-war forces are required to address, and in my opinion the lack of satisfactory refutation is what has driven them into their current corner. Unless and until they can come out and do intellectual battle on these grounds they have little choice but to continue on this track.

Posted by: Mark Buehner at July 29, 2003 12:05 PM

So where are we when it comes to North Korea and its human rights abusses... It does not appear that we have learned much form our anti-war position. North Korea is doing much worse too its population and I am not hearing any cogent ideas on how to support the people of North Korea.

Posted by: Bruce Kirk at July 29, 2003 01:27 PM

and all this time I thought you loved me... :(

Posted by: Osama at July 29, 2003 04:51 PM

It's good that you can recognize how bad the failure of the left was in the war on terror. The Democrats actually have some good issues if they will get off the pacifist road. We were attacked. Lew Ayres was a major actor who ruined his career in WWII by declaring himself a conscientious objector. This is not Vietnam. It is a terrible error to assume that the majority agrees with you about Iraq. Many Democrats are happy that Bush won, now that foreign issues are foremost in our concerns. You would do much better to focus on Congress and issues like national health care.

Posted by: Michael Kennedy at July 29, 2003 10:11 PM

As one of the moderates pushed into the war camp, I found this article very interesting. I always thought it was horribly obvious (and depressing) that the anti-war movement only had pacifism on it's side.

But even an intelligent anti-war person such as yourself still hasn't presented a compelling alternative to war, which would also oust Saddam Hussein's twisted regime. From what I can tell, your alternative would be to continue international pressure, and to stoke (and probably arm) the Shia and/or Kurdish opposition into overthrowing Saddam.

Ironically, such a civil war, even if successful, would result in much more bloodshed and chaos. Furthermore, the resulting government would almost certainly be an Iranian-style theocracy. Frankly, your plan sounds like it came straight out of the CIA playbook: "Replace unfriendly facist regime with friendly facist regime. Minimal cost/publicity, sanctions get lifted and the oil flows once again."

You've got to come to grips with the fact that war was the least bloody option. And stop lumping all Western governments in together when it's convenient. You say that "Western governments and companies that armed the military we just fought", but fail to recognize that those selfsame governments also opposed the war. You can't heap blame on the U.S. for the despicable profiteering and corruption carried out by certain European powers.

Posted by: Rayonic at July 30, 2003 01:31 AM


"The left in this country has an honorable history of leading the fight internationally for human rights, from challenges to Belgium's mass murder in the Congo at the end of the 19th century (led by among others Mark Twain) to denunciations of the fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s to attacks on colonialism in the 1950s to denunciations of death squads in El Salvador and Apartheid in South Africa, the left has always called for challenges to bad regimes."

Do you mean those whom George Orwell excoriated in the 1930s for being "against war and against fascism"? Or perhaps those multitudes who vocally opposed the thirty-year long slice of living hell that was Stalin's Russia? Or the government-created famines in China's Mao, Mengistu's Ethiopia, and yes, today's North Korea? Funny how that vocal opposition was and is so inaudible that the resulting silence was and is deafening. In fact, the left has a long and dishonorable tradition of turning a blind eye to the worst excesses committed by regimes mouthing Marxist slogans, or more recently, by regimes opposed to the US or to Western ideals more generally. Implicit support for Saddam fits in perfectly, and in this case also served the "corporate interests" in places like France and Russia very well. It is worth noting that many of the same people who lead protests against the war were earlier protesting against sanctions on Iraq: undermining the regime, before or after the first Gulf War, was the last thing on their minds.

Posted by: YankInParis at July 30, 2003 10:36 AM

right now all of my condolences goes out to both families of americans who were slattered.I dont live in america but i no how you fell. I think that all of this could have been avoided if the president wasnt bush if he had just stayed out iraqs business the war and the slattering could have been avoided all bush wants is power and i think thats wrong.

Posted by: astric at June 19, 2004 08:32 AM

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