Protecting the Iraqi people, as the peace movement rightfully desires, is one helluva lot more complicated than merely shielding them from the collateral damage caused by U.S. bombs. (That is, unless you really believe that America is the “greatest terrorist state in the world,” as is so often repeated on KPFK’s drive-time shows. If your world-view is that facile, then indeed we have little more to discuss.)
Those who chant “U.S. out of Iraq” ought to be prepared, then, to offer themselves as human shields to protect the Kurds against threatening Turkish troops (a task currently in the hands of U.S. special forces). Or as shields to protect the southern marsh Arabs against occupation by the theocratic armed forces of Iran. Perhaps all those human shields, idle now after fleeing Baghdad when Saddam’s government ordered them anchored to strategic military targets, could assume these new responsibilities.
The peace movement must also concern itself with humanitarian relief. The fight to directly include the U.N. in the administering of that relief (instead of the Bush administration’s proposed reliance on private pork-barrel contractors) is our fight — one infinitely more important than impotently shaking our fists at the CNN building on Sunset Boulevard.
If you don’t trust George Bush, as you should not, and you consider yourself part of the peace movement, then you also better start taking an active interest in who will populate a post-Saddam government. And accept it: Protests or not, there is going to be a new government in Iraq, and very, very soon. Better some of our friends and allies in that new regime than only those favored by Wolfowitz and Cheney. But the peace movement will have no anti-Saddam Iraqi allies if it continues to express no real solidarity with those Iraqis who stand in opposition to Saddam and who might — yes — be actively supporting the war.
For a solid week now, I’ve been arguing these points with a dear friend who says that while she very much wants to see the end of Saddam, she just cannot under any circumstances “support this war.” But this isn’t about supporting the war. It’s about accepting the unfortunate fact that the war has been imposed upon us as an irrefutable reality. We can close our eyes and stamp our feet and hope that by chanting enough it will go away. Or we can truly assume our democratic responsibilities and try to influence the situation so that the outcome is as positive as possible. That’s not much of a choice, admittedly. But it’s all we have.
The greatest threat we face is that after Iraq, the administration will spread the war elsewhere. It will be imperative to block such a move. To do so, we will need politics, not therapy. Time for the peace movement to start thinking and proposing. Merely acting out just won’t cut it.