---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 31 Dec 2001 14:48:02 -0800
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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,
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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