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This silence is a tactical mistake. Bush will make sure that the vacuum in the national monologue will be credibly filled...

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Actress Susan Sarandon speaks to demonstrators in Washington protesting U.S. President Bush's proposed war against Iraq. October 26, 2002. Brian Snyder

Opposition Isn't Enough

by Kelly Cogswell

NOVEMBER 6, 2002. Antiwar activists are good at denouncing the underlying reasons for George W. Bush's attack on Iraq — A.N.S.W.E.R., which organized the October 26 antiwar march in Washington, characterized it as "another war for Big Oil" — but they melt down when it comes to meeting Bush on his own terms.

Take Bush's claim that he advocates a "regime change" in Baghdad because he wants to liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's tyranny. Activists counter by questioning Bush's sincerity, pointing at the cost of a war to the U.S., or reminding people that overthrowing a foreign government by force is against international and U.S. law.

They say nothing about Hussein's brutality. They either don't think it needs to be addressed, or aren't interested, or are afraid that admitting there's a problem in Iraq will bolster Bush's war propaganda. Some blithely dismiss Hussein. In an article prominently featured in stopthewaragainstiraq.org, Professor Ira Chernus of the University of Colorado calls him "the dictator we love to hate."

This silence is a tactical mistake. Bush will make sure that the vacuum in the national monologue will be credibly filled by the likes of Imam Husham Al-Husainy, who traveled to the October 26 march to counter demonstrate with about 40 Iraqis that had suffered under Hussein. He told the Washington Post that, "Most of these people across the street, they don't know the reality in Iraq."

Antiwar activists must have a better response for Mr. Al-Husainy than overthrowing Saddam may make things even worse for Iraqis. What difference does that make to the already dead and tortured Iraqis? And if not war, if not an embargo, which antiwar groups like A.N.S.W.E.R. are also against, then what?

Neither have antiwar protesters offered much to undermine Bush's argument that he is protecting Americans from Hussein, a terrorist time bomb waiting to go off. Movement critics like the typical Dr. Chernus just deny that the Iraqi dictator has "weapons of mass destruction," or the means to deliver them to us.

The truth is we don't know. And just what does one do if Hussein doesn't allow thorough inspections and the destruction of weapons? He may not have anthrax today, but he may tomorrow. The scenario is worth pursuing, because even if Hussein is ground into dust today, it will be some other dictator next week, whose abuses and potential for terrorism will be fodder for the Bush war and propaganda machine.

So, if not with war, how do we protect ourselves as a nation when anti-American terrorism is part of our new reality?

Protesters have properly argued against preemptive invasions, TIPS snitches, secret trials, against a whole slew of things, but where in the left are people positing alternatives beyond what even Colin Powell has asserted, like defusing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and encouraging the ever receding ideal of global development and anti-poverty measures?

Where are the banners for intelligent Intelligence or Dirty Bomb Showers for Grand Central Station? Where is the equivalent, in imaginative leap, of the missile defense shield?

As the potential for huge acts of violence against Americans by terrorists is increasingly matched by the violence done to our civil liberties by the calculated tyranny of our own government, it is time for the left to hold their noses and consider "national security" in a proactive way.

It must be possible. After all, it is less the imperative of the 9/11 attacks than pure ideology that has led from the Clinton inertia to the Bush frenzy of first strikes, preemptive detentions, high tech boondoggles, and low tech video propaganda fiascoes, most of which were already on the drawing board.

Continuing to abdicate our role in this debate, relegating it to the Cold War imaginations of the Rumsfelds, Rices, and Ashcrofts, guarantees that we will continue to get what no one deserves, an inferno of "solutions" distant generations will still be struggling to put out.

Related links:

For Behind the Placards a look at the odd and troubling origins of the US's anti-war movement in LA Weekly.

Out Against the War

Metropolitan Community Churches
Pride At Work
Al-Fatiha

Anti-War Organizations

Moveon.org
Campaign To Stop The War Against Iraq
Not in Our Name
UnitedForPeace.org
International A.N.S.W.E.R.(Act Now to Stop War & End Racism)

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