War and Alternative Medicine
By Bill Moore
During the 2000 presidential elections, George Bush assured the America people that he was a "uniter, not a divider." The results of that election proved otherwise when it took a 5-4 Supreme Court decision to hand him the presidency, so sharply divided was the vote. That pattern of division was only temporarily suspended in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
For one brief, glorious moment, the nation and the world stood united in its support of America and its collective contempt for the perpetrators of those horrid acts of violence.
Now eighteen months later, the nation -- and the world -- has grown increasingly divided over the policies of the Bush Administration, in particular its strategy for dealing with the threat of radical Islamic fundamentalists using terror tactics as weapons of mass paranoia and fear. In frigid winter temperatures, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators turned out across America, supported by as many as 20-30 million other people around the world in opposition to war with Iraq.
No one will argue that we live in a dangerous world where one nation, organization, one madman with weapons of mass destruction is one too many.
We live in a world that is fundamentally unfair and seething with inequities and its resultant evil; where bullies and madmen corrupt, intimidate and brutalize their citizenry for their own selfish interests.
Yet, we also live in a world where we share the same air, water and sunlight. Where Chicago is just thirteen flying hours away from Beijing or six hours from Paris. We are a world that shares common blood types, laughs, smiles, tears and chromosomes. We also share a common desire to live our lives in peace, security and free of want.
In this respect, the Western world has been extremely fortunate, America in particular. Our historic openness, tolerance and sense of justice, not to mention our free-for-all economic system that offers the opportunity to succeed to far more people than any competing system, has been a beacon of hope to tens of millions around the world. It is part of the reason the old Soviet Union no longer exists and why The People's Republic of China has gradually shifted towards an increasingly capitalist economic model.
But it is also a system with a dark side and countless dirty secrets and more skeletons in its closet than anyone cares to count. From the exploitation of slave and child labor in the last century, to the eugenics movement of the 1920s, to the brutal suppression of labor unions in the 1930s, to the civil rights struggle in the 1950s, to the White House lies about Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s, to the corporate corruption of the 1990s, America has been a nation in continuous ferment and change, where the innocent and the guilty have suffered and died on our shores and shores far away.
Now the Bush Administration steps forward and offers its new vision for the world, one of universal democracy, prosperity and fair trade, anchored in American economic and military hegemony. It's a vision that appeals to some, but is widely distrusted and loathed by far more people than just the French.
In the 1990's neo-conservatives within the Republican party began to formulate a grand strategy for taking advantage of the demise of the old Soviet Union. There was now only one superpower in the world and America should exploit that opportunity before the Chinese or the Europeans could become strong enough to contest it. So, began the discussions of a "New World Order" lead by America into a new century of peace and prosperity.
It's an alluring vision and many both in the US and abroad would much rather have the United States fill the power vacuum than Beijing or The Hague. But it's also a vision built like a house of cards on a foundation of enormous government budget and trade deficits, as well as consumer and corporate debt, fueled increasingly by energy imported from abroad. It's also a vision grounded on the threat of violence unprecedented, of smart bombs, cruise missiles, stealth weapons, and nuclear bunker-buster.
More ominous, it is a stark black and white vision of "them" vs "us", of a world where you are either with us or against us. It is world where diversity isn't celebrated but suspected. Where all Moslems are "rag heads" and potential terrorists and all Westerners are demonic, immoral Crusaders who never really gave up on their lust to control the Holy Land and the riches of the Middle East.
So, this is the world vision the Bush camp would have us ascribe to; a series of wars to "reorganize" the Middle East "mess" removing obvious tyrants like Hussein, Mullah Omar, and the fundamentalist Imams of Iran, eventually replacing them with less troublesome, more pro-Western administrations like those in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. A less militant more equitable Middle East, it is hoped, will stem the tide of fundamentalist fervor in the rest of the Islamic world that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific across north Africa, the Middle East to the Far East.
It's a comforting vision, but a highly suspect one, especially by those who don't care to see their governments and economies, much less their cultures and religions, come under the domination of the West in general, and America, in particular.
It is also a fundamentally presumptuous vision founded on a deeply-seeded, uncritical belief in the moral and cultural superiority of the West. It is the belief that the way the West views the very most basic questions of life is the correct way, that Christian and Descartian philosophy constitute the truth. We in the West accept this perspective because we grew up in it, we've seen its successes, equating stability, prosperity and military might with right.
In contrast, we see the destitution and disease that afflicts far flung places like Somalia and Afghanistan and Indonesia as the fault of a flawed philosophical foundation rooted in out-dated religious precepts, when in fact, these regions turned to fundamentalism in response to corrupt and oppressive regimes originally allied with various Western political interests starting with British and French colonialism in the 19th and early 20th centuries and later Soviet and American forms of economic colonialism in the second half of the 20th century.
What the neo-conservative hawks of the Bush Administration seek to impose is precisely the same thing that caused the spread of fundamentalism in the Islamic world in the first place. It's what forced both the British and the French to retreat from Iraq and Syria and Lebanon and Israel and Egypt and the Sudan and Algeria, just to name a few bloody contests most young American and British soldiers, airmen and sailors have never heard of unless their fathers or grandfathers told them about it.
For some inexplicable reason, the neo-cons pushing this flawed vision, believe that a heady cocktail of "Shock and Awe" mixed with promises of democracy and prosperity will somehow change the hearts and minds of a billion Moslems. Yet, they apparently never ask the question in reverse. What if it were the Moslem world that controlled the smart bombs and sought to impose Shariah law on the West?
If the Bush-Cheney-Rumfeld-Perl-Wolfowitz vision of the "New American Century" is fatally flawed, what is the alternative? Can such a diverse and complex world really live in peace and harmony, as the war protestors presumable believe while failing to offer a competing vision?
Yes, it can. It must.
Perhaps the greatest lesson to come out of the anti-war demonstrations of February 15th is the fact that our governments no long speak for us. When the governments of Spain, Italy, Great Britain and America take positions opposed by the majority of their people, can those governments truly be called democratic any longer?
Instead, an increasingly "wired" world tied together by the Internet, faxes, telephones and satellite communications is forming a new universal consensus that spans traditional and highly artificial territorial boundaries. It is a consensus driven by a innate sense of fairness and compassion that no longer buys political demonizations, nationalistic polarizations and government propaganda.
We now know about the lies that were used to trick Saudi Arabia into permitting Western troops inside its borders, further inflaming the hatred of the likes of Osama bin Laden. We know about Kuwaiti slant drilling, the lies about Kuwaiti babies, the lingering impact of depleted uranium weapons, the intransigent attitude of Western governments on the question of Gulf War illness.
This newly "wired" world finally appears ready to turn its back on war-making as a perverse instrument of global peace. Granted, marching down First Avenue in New York or Rome or Sydney won't ease the plight of the millions of people in Iraq who try to live ordinary lives under a Stalinist regime. But neither will the continued imposition of sanctions, no-fly zones or the Pentagon's "Shock and Awe" assaults with 800 cruise missiles and Allah-only-knows how many "smart" but indiscriminate, amoral bombs, artillery shells, DU tank rounds, land mines, bullets and grenades.
It is estimated another 500,000 people will die if war is launched, add to this the 1.5 million dead -- one third of them children under the age of five -- as a result of the first Gulf War and twelve years of sanctions. With 50% of the population of Iraq under the age of 15, we are about to go to war against a nation of children. And this is to say nothing of the new flood of veterans returning from the war with Gulf War illness.
Some will argue that Saddam is a cancer that must be excised before he can acquire and give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. But Saddam is only one tumor in a body politic riddled with many cancerous tumors and some will argue that he is not the most urgent cancerous mass that must be addressed. And who's to say that radical lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy is what the patient needs?
Maybe we're just treating the symptom. Maybe its time for world to begin to take a serious look at alternative "medicines" that treat the causes of the ills besetting our Mother Earth.
Do I have all the answers? Of course not. Do I think we can come up with alternatives to that tired old excuse of violence, destruction and death we call war? Yes. One way manifest itself February 15, 2003.
It will start with a different vision of the world we want to live in and hand down to our children, all of us, Iraqi, Chinese, Brazilian, Nigerian, American, Russian, Indian. It will be a world not of American cultural, military, economic hegemony, but of cultural diversity and respect where education and clean water and economic opportunity are rights enjoyed by everyone, not just a privileged few. It is a world where extremism is a curiosity not a last ditch refuge from poverty, corruption, fear and oppression.
The pathway to that world begins when another person stands up and takes the first step to say no to war.
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