---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 13:08:49 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Antiwar then, antiwar now
Antiwar then, antiwar now
By James Carroll, 10/8/2002
IN 1971, WASHINGTON was shocked when a throng of battle-scarred veterans
showed up to protest the war in Vietnam. They camped on the Mall, and the
Nixon administration quickly obtained a ruling from Chief Justice Warren
Burger ordering the veterans to clear out.
They refused. Would they be arrested? It was then that Senator Edward M.
Kennedy boldly went to the Mall where the antiwar veterans had pitched
their tents and sleeping bags. ''You have served your country well
abroad,'' he told them, ''and will serve it even better here in Washington.''
Kennedy's public support of the illegal demonstrators was key in turning
the tide of opinion - and then law - in the veterans' favor, and a crucial
blow against the war was struck (See ''Home to War'' by Gerald Nicosia).
Ted Kennedy is doing it again. ''I started my career at a time when there
was a war that was important to end,'' he said to me as we sat together
last Saturday. ''And now - not that I am finishing my career - there is a
war that requires us to relearn those lessons of history.''
A few minutes later, in Harvard's Sanders Theater, Kennedy delivered a
stirring address at the induction ceremony of the American Academy of Arts
and Sciences, perhaps the strongest criticism of the move toward war in
Iraq yet made by a leading politician, although you would not know that
from the way the speech was ignored in the drum-beating media.
Instead of focusing on the details of the prowar resolution that Congress
will likely approve this week, Kennedy hom ed in on ''a more fundamental
debate that is only just beginning - an all- important debate about how,
when, and where in the years ahead our country will use its unsurpassed
military might.'' Iraq is simply the first case in point.
Responding to the Bush administration's recently published ''National
Security Strategy of the United States,'' Kennedy carefully dissected the
radical assumptions that are driving the nation toward war. First, he
showed that by equating the two quite distinct purposes of ''prevention''
and ''preemption,'' President Bush is leading America to embrace a course
of action it has long condemned in others.
''Traditionally,'' Kennedy said, ''`preemptive' action refers to times when
states react to an imminent threat of attack.'' He offered Israel's
response to the border-moves of Egypt and Syria in 1967 as an example of
justified preemption. By contrast, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor,
intending to undercut a potential ''capability that could someday become
threatening,'' was a ''preventive'' action. ''The coldly premeditated
nature of preventive attacks and preventive wars makes them anathema to
well-established principles against aggression.''
To Kennedy, preventive war is still anathema, and his denunciation of the
Bush embrace of preventive war against Iraq draws its edge from the fact
that President John Kennedy, in 1961 and 1962, rejected the argument for
preventive war against the Soviet Union, protecting a moral boundary. ''For
175 years,'' Edward Kennedy quotes Robert Kennedy as saying, ''we have not
been that kind of country.''
Are we now? The Bush administration's new doctrine, Kennedy said, ''asserts
that global realities now legitimize preventive war and make it a strategic
necessity. The document openly contemplates preventive attacks against
groups or states, even absent the threat of imminent attack I strongly
oppose any such extreme doctrine.''
The second feature of Bush's radical new approach that Kennedy lambasted
was its assumption that the United States is somehow exempt ''from the
rules we expect others to obey.'' Kennedy reiterated an old cliche of
public morality - ''Might does not make right!'' - but in the present
context, his reference rang with prophetic relevance. The hubris of
overwhelming power is corrupting the nation. ''America cannot write its own
rules for the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run
amok.'' Bush is undercutting the war on terrorism, destroying alliances,
setting dangerous precedents, and eviscerating America's moral legitimacy.
Again daring to go where few of his colleagues venture, Kennedy defined all
of this by its proper name: ''The administration's doctrine is a call for
21st century American imperialism that no other nation can or should
accept.'' The debate in Congress this week is centered on Saddam Hussein
and Iraq, but what is really at stake are basic structures of the American
idea. The name Kennedy is properly attached to this nation's noblest
impulse, and it is fitting that the last of the brothers is raising his
voice in its defense.
The afternoon of his speech, the senator and I were sitting in a Somerville
cafe. A customer approached our rear-corner table to say, ''Senator, I want
to thank you for all you're doing to stand up for us against this rush to
I asked her name, and if I could quote her. ''Lucy Borodkin,'' she said
firmly. ''And you certainly can.''
James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.
This story ran on page A15 of the Boston Globe on 10/8/2002.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Oct 16 2002 - 04:30:34 EDT