[sixties-l] On Progressives Who Support the War (fwd)

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Date: Wed Jan 02 2002 - 21:13:23 EST

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    Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 14:48:02 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: On Progressives Who Support the War

    On Progressives Who Support the War


    Leon Wofsy's Journal

    December 22, 2001:

    I'm thinking again about people who are committed progressives, but who
    support the Administration's war on terrorism. They surely have not
    transferred their loyalties to big business and their anathema list still
    includes Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, Perl, the Enron CEOs and, most
    likely, George W. Bush. The war has divided us despite all that we share,
    including our recognition that organized acts of terrorism demand powerful
    and effective counter measures.

    Now, well into the first round of what Bush promises will be a protracted
    war, it's worth looking anew at what divides us. In fact, it's absolutely
    necessary, because even before Afghanistan is behind us, what's next is
    upon us. Will more and ever wider war continue to be the core response to

    To support the war, a progressive has to conclude that war is central to
    the defeat of organized terrorism, and that the events of 9/11 confer
    historic responsibility on the United States and the President for waging
    that war. Other considerations and corollary consequences are, therefore,
    necessarily subordinate.

    So it's fair to ask: What is the war achieving and how likely is it to
    deter terrorism? And just what are the corollary consequences, now and
    looking ahead? Then, we can reconsider what progressives should try to do
    about the war and terrorism.

    Supporters of the war point to the termination of the Taliban regime and
    the disruption of bin Laden's headquarters and Al Qaeda operations in
    Afghanistan. Those consequences indeed resulted from the overwhelming US
    military campaign. For the moment we won't try to calculate the collateral
    cost in civilian lives and devastation. Whatever the aftermath, no regime
    can be more barbarous, benighted and viciously anti-woman than the Taliban.

    It remains to be seen what the impact will be on terrorism. Whether or not
    bin Laden is eliminated, whether or not the Al Quaeda leaders who escaped
    are eventually captured, the Bush Administration says the "global war on
    terrorism" will have to go on for years. In other words, we are not to
    expect that war will substantially reduce the terrorist threat any time soon.

    The list of upcoming targets is long. Today's SF Chronicle maps "potential
    terrorist threats": Somalia, Philippines, Sudan, Yemen, Indonesia, Algeria,
    Kosovo and Bosnia, South America ("a lawless area in the region where the
    borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge"), and, of course, Iraq.
    (The Chron overlooks North Korea, although Bush has made it clear that he
    doesn't. And what about Palestine?) The map of terrorist threats is
    certainly global, but should we agree with Bush that global war is the

    If one supports the unfolding war agenda of the Bush Administration as
    obligatory for opponents of terrorism, what are the corollaries that get
    subordinated? One has to downplay the dangers of trying to impose a "new
    world order" by way of overwhelming US military force. One accepts that any
    US Administration, even the one now in place, is the world's best hope as
    the guarantor of human rights and justice. One accepts that the US is
    privileged as no other country to wage war, override international law and
    ignore the United Nations whenever it wishes. Above all, one has to put
    aside fears that the immense power seized in the "global war on terrorism"
    will be turned into the right to confront any government or popular
    movement that withholds allegiance to "our" interests.

    Is this a case of "Cheerful Carrie", crying about unlikely accidents that
    might befall us in the future? Hardly. The "war emergency" is already the
    excuse for a domestic grab bag of prizes long the object of reactionary
    ambitions. Isn't the assault on civil liberties and dissent already
    alarming? Aren't big business lobbies scrambling to get war bonanzas from
    Congress? Aren't the recession, the critical needs of the jobless, and the
    Enron scandal getting much too little attention in the noise of war?

    Is it raising a false alarm to picture a similar grab bag of reactionary
    ambitions on a global scale served by the war on terrorism? Can one doubt
    that the Bush's advisers see a country at war at least through 2004 as an
    investment in "four more years"?

    Some will no doubt say that supporting the war in Afghanistan doesn't mean
    accepting all the corollaries. No progressive will buy into the Ashcroft
    program or the greed of big business so favored by the Bush Administration.
    Nor will progressives fail to object to contempt for international
    agreements on ABM, germ warfare, arms control, global warming, and on and
    on. As for the corollary dangers involved in expanding the war itself, it
    is no longer possible to say "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it".
    The time is now. Colin Powell may oppose expanding the war to Iraq, but for
    Rumsfeld and his shadow war cabinet, it's not whether but when. Easier
    targets are imminent.

    When all is considered, the negatives of the "global war on terrorism" are
    not just corollaries. They are central. Keeping the country and the world
    on a war footing with no end in sight won't end terrorism, but it will
    surely make a sick world sicker and life in the USA uglier.

    Does opposing the expanding war mean giving in to terrorists? Does it mean
    ignoring the acquisition of more terrible weapons by terrorists? The
    assumption here is twofold: 1) war can defeat or effectively contain
    terrorism, and 2) there is no viable alternative.

    While war can eliminate or make things hard on some terrorists, the
    phenomenon of terrorism is no more likely to be expunged by war than is
    traffic in drugs and international crime. On the contrary, short-term
    military victories over particular culprits are subject to being offset
    elsewhere by worsening conditions and increased hatred. The world is full
    of lessons along that line: Israel/Palestine, Ireland, France/Algeria, and
    many, many more. A succession of devastating bombings around the world
    won't insulate us from that reality.

    Given the state of the world, there is no good and quick remedy. That,
    however, is a poor excuse for making things worse by sticking to the
    illusion that war can succeed. There are alternatives that can improve
    public safety substantially while building active international cooperation
    against organized terrorism. There is a lot we can learn from the people of
    other countries, almost all of whom have long experienced such problems of
    public safety. If we made an effort to foster collaboration based on
    international law and the United Nations, there could be a much stronger
    coalition than can ever be built around a US imposed global war. The
    climate could begin to be more favorable for justice and peace than for
    recruiting new generations addicted to hate-based religious extremism.

    By whatever route, there is a long way to go. The hope is that support for
    the Bush war agenda will fade as the futility, damage and costs become hard
    to ignore. That return to sanity is beginning to appear on domestic issues.
    Progressives should do everything possible to convince people to oppose the
    looming next war adventure, whether in Yemen, Somalia or Iraq. What's done
    is done. Let's not be silent while Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz drag the world
    further into the deep muddy.

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