By Damon Krane
Monday, October 13, 2002
The Ohio University Post
Thursday, October 24, 2002
The Arbiter Online (Boise State University)
Why would anyone support a U.S. attack on Iraq? I had a chance to find out last Thursday when a 150-person strong anti-war rally was met with about a dozen Ohio University College Republicans holding an “anti-anti-war rally.”
Equipped with signs like “Liberals Support Terrorism,” the counter-protesters chastised us for our “un-American” behavior between chants of “USA! USA!” It was definitely a learning experience.
At least when one of these hecklers called me “Sideshow Bob,” it had some legitimate basis in my hairstyle’s resemblance to that of a certain Simpsons character. But the standard smear-words of the right –- “liberal” and “un-American” –- say much more about the people hurling them than they do about the people they’re applied to.
Liberal? I’m a left-wing radical. More specifically, an anarcho-syndicalist. But even if members of the College Republicans knew what that was, would simply calling out my political ideology serve as an adequate rebuttal to the arguments I’ve made against this war? Arguments you’re likely to hear from people who hold a variety of political ideologies?
What is the ambiguous label “liberal” supposed to communicate other than the fact that right-wingers need to resort to calling their critics names every time they can’t respond to criticism with rational arguments? You can judge how often that’s the case by how incessantly (and often incorrectly) the word “liberal” is tossed around.
And then there’s “un-American.” Think about the implications of that term. In a country where public policy is supposed to come about as the result of vigorous public debate, you can call someone wrong for expressing a view you disagree with –- but “un-American?” Those who believe there is such a thing are more accurately described as fascists than conservatives. As Noam Chomsky points out, words like “un-(insert country here)” are most often found in totalitarian states with quasi-religious myths about the Fatherland, not among members of a democratic political culture.
So was there any substance behind the slogans and slurs trumpeted at last week’s anti-anti-war rally? I offered the bullhorn to any counter-protester willing to explain why he wanted war, and one took me up on the offer.
After taunting the crowd by suggesting we hold a Take Back the Night march in Baghdad, College Republicans President Peter Lehman explained that he didn’t like war either, but Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator and “tough decisions” sometimes have to be made.
Saddam Hussein’s brutality is not unique among U.S. allies –- which is what he was before, during and after the United States had knowledge of him gassing to death Kurdish Iraqis during George H.W. Bush′s administration with weapons supplied by the United States and Britain. That doesn’t make Saddam’s actions any less despicable, but it does cast significant doubt on the notion that the current administration is any more motivated by humanitarianism than the last two. Let’s not forget that when Clinton’s Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright was confronted with allegations that the sanctions against Iraq had resulted in the death of half a million Iraqi children by the time of her May 12, 1996 appearance on 60 Minutes, she didn’t deny the numbers. She simply said, “We think the price is worth it.” Six months later Albright was promoted to Secretary of State.
The fact is, when you get past the name-calling of war proponents, you find that their arguments are either unsupported or blatantly contradicted by available evidence. As a result, the existence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the threat posed to Americans and the U.S. government’s humanitarianism abroad are much like the existence of Jesus, Allah, Vishnu or Siva – they are all things that can be taken only on faith.
In The Fire Next Time, Civil Rights activist and acclaimed author James Baldwin proposed a certain test of religious faith equally applicable to faith in a government and its officials.
“If the concept of God has any validity or any use,” wrote Baldwin, “it can only be to make us larger, freer and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”
Arguments about non-nationalistic forms of religion aside, the blind faith in this country’s reigning administration, exemplified by those who support the war, surely fails Baldwin’s test. It is simply immoral to advocate actions that undeniably would result in the deaths of thousands of innocent people when there is no evidence that those actions would protect either Americans or Iraqis from an imminent threat to their safety. It doesn’t make us bigger people. It won’t make us or dead Iraqis any freer. And surely it won’t make anyone any more loving. To chose to support this war would be a “tough decision” indeed, if it was actually based on rational thought as opposed to blind faith.
Ironically, one of the signs Republicans held up at last week’s rally read: “Remember 9/11.” But the sign’s irony isn’t to be found in the total lack of evidence linking Saddam Hussein’s secular dictatorship to Al Quaida’s decentralized network of religious fanatics. That’s just the sign’s stupidity, not its irony. The irony is that I do remember the September 11 attacks. I remember that I’m opposed to killings like that no matter who carries them out. So thanks, College Republicans, for reminding me — and so many others at last week’s rally — why we need to do everything in our power to prevent this war.