Millions of people have mobilized in cities around the world to protest war in Iraq. Even in Indianapolis, in a blizzard no less, hundreds turned out to express their preference for peace. Republicans took out a full page antiwar ad in the Wall Street Journal; military men like Norman Schwarzkopf and Brent Scowcroft, both of whom played roles in George Bush the Elder"s version of a Gulf War, have said they have doubts about the wisdom of this latest adventure. All of these people seem to share one thing: a belief in the basic call-and-respond nature of American governance. They seem to think that if they raise their voices high enough, if they make their arguments strong enough, if they refuse to give up, then something - better judgement or conscience or shame - will kick in among the Bushes and Cheneys and Rices and Rumsfelds. This administration will stop what they"re doing and, as if waking from some dreadful dream, renounce all the planning for war that"s been put in motion. They will bring the thousands of troops home. They will recall the warships. They will order flights of bombers and fighter planes back to their bases. The peace movement"s belief in the fundamental decency of the very people who have thought up this war in the first place is touching. By this I"m not saying that I find the peace movement naÔve. No, these are highly principled people whose protests underscore their abiding belief in our representative form of government. For them, protest is a way - sometimes the only way - to turn the ship of state around when it seems to have lost touch with the will of the people. In this case, though, I hope that those of us who have been willing to stand out in the cold and let it be known that this war goes forward without our consent or approval resist the temptation, should war come, to feel the movement has been in vain. So far the peace movement has received quizzical coverage in the mainstream media. At first, little if any attention was paid. Thousands could gather in New York"s Central Park and get scant coverage. But with the passage of time and the steady growth and spread of protests in this country and abroad, it has become apparent that the movement includes a range of participants rarely seen before. Where it took years of actual warfare and thousands of casualties to finally mobilize significant anti-war protest during Vietnam, we now see a movement of substantial size with a far greater diversity of participants gathering around the issue of preventing a preemptive strike against Iraq. The pundits, with their corporate understanding of patriotism and love of pyrotechnically enhanced television, may still consider the peace movement a sideshow, but they no longer dismiss it. Nor, I daresay, do the members of George Bush Jr."s inner circle. The problem, though, is that the members of this clique are acting from the profound belief that what they are doing is not only right, but imperative. They believe the world is a pathologically dangerous place that can only be managed by a select few. Sept. 11, 2001, proved this, as far as they are concerned. It informed their beliefs with an urgency for action that many of them probably despaired would ever come. In 1998, a group now in the Bush inner circle including Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Armitage and Elliott Abrams wrote a letter to Bill Clinton in which they called on him to do what they are doing now. The U.S., they argued, needed a new strategy in the Gulf: "That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein"s regime Ö" Failure to do this, they said, would put "Ö a significant portion of the world"s supply of oil at hazard." You can read this letter at the aptly named Project for the New American Century Web site (www.newamericancentury.org). The building chorus of protest about war, rather than putting the brakes to the administration"s plans, is, more likely, an accelerant. The combination of failure to sell this war to the international community coupled with growing disfavor at home will not abort this operation. On the contrary, it provides a perverse impetus to go forward. Members of the Bush Administration have been open about their belief that once war with Iraq is won, legions of dissenters will be eager to jump on the victory bandwagon. They offer this as a kind of reassurance. But this conviction, that a quick win in the desert will make believers of many of those who now are protesting, is another indicator of the administration"s self-absorption. It confuses serious questions about the moral and practical consequences of war with weakness. Indeed, if we go to war you can bet that voices in the media will claim the peace movement has been a failure. This will be a mistake. The grass-roots potential of the peace movement to change the course of politics in this country could be momentous. Factor in the slumping economy here at home and systematic dismantling of social services, justified by the cost of war, and regime change - in Washington, D.C., as surely as Baghdad - seems more plausible than anyone would have dared think just six months ago. War may go forward, but the future is in the streets.

0
0
0
0
0

Recommended for you