(3/17/03) Editorial – When Bush Comes to Shove!!

When Bush comes to shove, everybody loses.  I have, as yet, not taken a stance on the crisis in Iraq.  Today, I think it’s time that I did.  Because it’s not a crisis in Iraq.  It’s a crisis in the world.  It’s a crisis in every community in the United States, where we must all worry about terrorist retaliation, and where our children now live with a fear that American children haven’t felt since they were hiding under their desk at school in the fifties and sixties.  If I were living in a small town in Switzerland, far from a major population center, in a country that has remained neutral in the midst of war all around it, I might not feel quite as concerned about how this would affect me and my family and friends, but I’m not.  I’m living on the outskirts of one of the largest “cities” in the world.  A world that largely views our country, at this point, as an aggressor, who intends to use ITS weapons of mass destruction, to enforce ITS will.

I understand the concept of saber rattling.  It’s worked so far.  I’ve kept my mouth shut hoping against hope that it was saber rattling and nothing more, though I knew deep down inside, that it probably wasn’t.  The fact is, if our president had not rattled our saber, we would not have achieved the concessions we have achieved from Hussein.  But he rattled our saber to get the weapons inspectors back in.  And they’re in.  He rattled our saber to get access to scientists, away from Iraqi officials.  And we got access to the scientists.  He rattled our saber to get access to skies above Iraq.  And we got access to the skies.  He rattled our saber to get Iraq to agree to dismantle weapons that were in violation of UN guidelines.  And they began dismantling.  Late yes, but they started, nonetheless.  Yet for some reason, we said “You do this or else we do this”, and that has now become “You do this, and we’re still going to do this anyway.”  What makes our leaders think that continuing to rattle, now that we’ve forced these concessions, isn’t sufficient to attain our long-term goals?  And what makes them think that it’s better to go to war with little support, when, if we continue to rattle, and that rattling fails to maintain the goals, we will have all the world support we need?  Repeated violations by Hussein, and/or backing off from concessions achieved by the rattling, will surely force our reluctant allies to feel as many Americans feel, that it’s time for Hussein to go, forcefully, because its necessary.

I understand the concept that if you issue an ultimatum, failure to follow through makes you look weak.  And I think that an ultimatum should be followed through on.  But I think the ultimatum was the UN’s ultimatum to give, and it gave it, and so it should be up to the UN to decide to enforce it, and when.  And I think Bush should have rattled the sabers without the US giving an ultimatum, but he didn’t, and we did, so now we have to back it up, because Pres. Bush gave an ultimatum.  Why did we give Pres. Bush the power to do this?  It used to require an act of Congress to start a war, it couldn’t be done by the President alone.  I think that if an ultimatum is given and it’s the wrong ultimatum, it takes a truly strong entity to stand up and say, “I was wrong when I gave this ultimatum, and so, for the good of all concerned, I don’t intend to enforce it.”  And for this reason, I think Bush’s ultimatum will be enforced.

I have seen minimal evidence that supports the theory that Hussein is in some way responsible for 9/11/2001.  That would make it easier for me to support this war.  I have seen minimal evidence that Hussein and/or Iraq is an IMMEDIATE threat to our country.  That would make it easier for me to support this war.  I have seen little evidence that our intelligence suggests that we know where there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  I assume that we would have provided it to the inspectors, if we had it, and by now have won the support of our former allies.  That would make it easier for me to support this war.  But as one local resident at Monday night’s anti-war rally in Kersting Court (downtown Sierra Madre, CA) pointed out; “We don’t have access to anywhere near the information that we need to make decisions on an issue of this magnitude.  I’m confused.”   He’s right, we don’t, and I’m not sure we should.  But without that information, we have to trust in our leaders.  And that for me, is the biggest problem.  I don’t trust our leaders.

President Bush talks in sound bytes.  He tells us what his advisors tell him he needs to say to win our support.  He has been saying for months that the American people are resolved, or resolute, depending on which speech it is.  Yet polls say that only half of us are.   I don’t think there is an American who doesn’t believe that 9/11 was horrific, and very few among us were not in favor of some sort of retaliation.  I sure don’t remember anywhere near the anti-war reaction occurring that we see now when we invaded Afghanistan.  Yet I think most American’s feel that this war isn’t about retaliation.  It’s pre-emptive, not reactionary.  And we are breaking a two hundred twenty-five year tradition of not waging war pre-emptively.  God knows in that two hundred twenty-five years we’ve dealt with worse enemies than Hussein, and still managed to refrain from striking pre-emptively.  Better minds than our current leader’s have been faced with worse situations and responded with patience, to avoid war, which is always devastating.  But patience does not seem to be one of our President’s major attributes. He should remember the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seemed invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.” 

President Bush’s appointees have gradually begun removing our civil rights.  In our name.  In the name of protection of the country.  In the name of patriotism.  Well let’s see what two famous leaders had to say on that issue.  Julius Caesar said nearly 2000 years ago: ”Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”   And then the other leader:  Reichsmarschall Herman Goering said about 60 years ago: “Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”  I’m not sure I like the idea that what I see happening in this country under our current leadership, is what both of these leaders suggested.  I think there might be better examples to follow.

I was asked last week by one of the Kersting Court anti-war protestors if I was “with them.”  My response was that I wasn’t “against them.”  I am for peace.  But I recognize that there are times when peace is just not possible.  As another local reader recently wrote to me: “Can somebody tell me when there was peace in this world?   I need a point of reference.”   As I pointed out to my Kersting Court questioner, I am not one of those people who says peace is the only answer.  There are many people who are for peace, but who will not be joining the protesters, because, they feel, like me, that it would be hypocritical to stand there with a sign calling for peace, when it’s not the war that I’m against. I want Hussein out of there.  It’s the way we’re going about it that I have a problem with.

If we had the support of the UN, and most of the world leaders, I’d be saying let’s go.  But we don’t.  We are acting like bullies.  “We want this, so we’re going to go get this.”  That’s not the way the US should act.  We’re supposed to be the bigger party.  The US should recognize that we need to work with others, because we recognize that what we do affects them.  But we aren’t.  We’re doing what “we” want to do, everybody else be damned.  And that doesn’t make me feel good.  That doesn’t let me say, okay, we’re going about this the right way.  We’ve done everything we can do peacefully, and we have no other choice.  I have heard repeatedly from our President that war is a last resort, if we have no alternative.  Yet he and I apparently disagree on whether or not we have exhausted every alternative, and have no other choice, and if we are, indeed,  faced with a last resort. 

I support every member of the military, and applaud them for their willingness to stand up to defend America and Americans.  I am concerned that our enemies will misconstrue the anti-war movement as endorsement of their methods.  I am concerned that our members of the armed services will not recognize the support that they truly do have from most of the American people who are protesting the war.  I hope they understand that there are very few protesting who do not recognize the value of the members of our armed forces, and that most of the peaceniks do appreciate what they are doing for our defense, and recognize that they are honorable men and women that are doing what they have been instructed to do by their commander-in-chief.  But as one sign in Kersting Court said tonight: “Support our troops, bring them home.”

I know Hussein is a bad man.  I know the Iraqis suffer under his leadership.  I want him gone.  And when we have the support of the UN, and when the world agrees that it’s time, let’s take the necessary steps to get his butt out of there.  But for now, I think there’s a better way to go, a less “unilateral” way to go, and I think that when Bush comes to shove, everybody loses.

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