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August 16, 2002

Sleepwalking & Silent


by Murray Polner

As Americans, we need to ask ourselves: Do we really need another war memorial to our newest military dead?

We may come to that in the often-threatened war against Iraq, which our Washington-based War Party confidently predicts will be short and sweet. Are you ready for TV cheering "our boys" on as they race valiantly across arid deserts while our massive weaponry devastates Baghdad? And after victory, celebrating a "regime change" with a newly installed accommodating, democratic Iraqi leader and unchallenged U.S. control of Iraq's oil?

 
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But if not, and things don't go quite as well as the war hawks infer, what then? Will you still be complacent if your sons are drafted (rest assured the hawks own kids will never end up in combat), lots of American GIs are killed in battle, if the Middle East blows up, or there is a chemical, biological and nuclear exchange? And horror of horrors, your taxes soar to pay for the billions the war will cost?

I keep asking myself why Americans are so quiet about a war hatched in secret by a small but powerful group of bellicose Washington-based armchair warriors?

"This is not about the security of the United States," Scott Ritter a 12-year Marine veteran who served under General Norman Schwarzkopf in the Gulf War and for seven years was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq. Ritter, a Republican who voted for Bush, insists Iraq has neither weapons of mass destruction nor maintains ties to international terrorists. "This is about domestic American politics. The national security of the U.S. has been high jacked by a handful of neoconservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically-driven political ambitions."

Despite Herculean efforts to persuade Americans that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks, no such evidence has ever emerged. Nor is there any proof that Iraq has or hasn't developed nuclear weapons. No plausible specialist, including Rolf Eckeus, the UN's main weapons inspector from 1991-1997, believes they do. And if they might in the future, Saddam would never dare use them, other than in a last-ditch battle against invading Americans, knowing full well the disastrous retribution it would bring on himself and his people.

And then there's the barely mentioned "other" factor-Oil. Once Saddam goes, expect a feverish hunt for a pro-American puppet who will then be encouraged to turn the oilfields over to, maybe, Dick Cheney's favorite oil company pals. While the passion to go to war may not only be about oil, it doesn't hurt to control the earth's most vital resource. In fact, even now, from the haven of their very safe and heavily subsidized publications, the very same neoconservative imperial hawks are targeting their latest new enemy, the Saudi oil empire.

Since the Democrats have cravenly abdicated their role as a serious opposition party, what criticism there is emanates from conservatives such as General Brent Scowcroft, George Bush senior's foreign policy advisor who has called for caution, telling CBS' "Face the Nation" that an invasion could be a major error because of the volatile nature of the entire region. Skepticism also arises from an extraordinary number of uniformed Pentagon people who see danger where all the pro-war non-veterans pushing for a war do not. Even the very conservative House majority leader Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) came out against the threatened war.

Surely Americans need to ask why the rush to war with virtually no allies except England, where a broad cast of generals, bishops, peers and former cabinet members are urging the sycophantic Tony Blair, always desperate to please Americans, to think twice.

The time to oppose the war is now before it begins. We need a full-scale congressional debate about goals, alternatives, and possible consequences before many thousands perish. Where is that latter-day congressional hero demanding that the White House instead consider serious bargaining and diplomatic and political pressures? Why not a generous and honest U.S. offer to end the sanctions that, for a variety of reasons, have led to the death of so many Iraqi children, in exchange for permitting fair and honest U.N. inspections?

Now is the time to speak up, contact politicians, vigil, and demonstrate on the mall in Washington. Let it never be said that Americans were silent when the government chose to send their men and women into this needless war. It's our country too.

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Murray Polner is the author of No Victory Parades: The Return of the Vietnam Veteran and most recently co-authored Disarmed and Dangerous, a biography of Daniel and Philip Berrigan.

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