Superpower in Suspended Animation

by Kim Petersen

Dissident Voice

July 19, 2003



Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also a contest of human power and morale. Military and economic power is necessarily wielded by people.

                                                 -- Mao Zedong


Neither the UN nor the veto-wielding Security Council members France, Russia, and China posed a credible deterrent to the US thrust for global domination. There was clearly a need for another countervailing force to fill the void or add its clout to the overmatched dissenting nations. In stepped world opinion against war. Unfortunately even the mass display of popular opposition was unable to halt the Washington military-industrial nexus. Richard Johnson of Mendocino News Service characterizes the peace movement since the Persian Gulf Slaughter as being “in a state of suspended animation.” He asks, “What do you do after organizing the largest worldwide demonstration in the history of the human race?”


There are anti-war activists who have expressed profound disappointment at the inability to thwart the chickenhawks’ seeming juggernaut. A Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War (SNOW) activist, Todd Boyle, states: “I'd rather change my activities than expend any more of my meager life's energies opposing these 80 percent majority in America.” Mr. Boyle was inspired by fellow dissidents but laments to his peers: “I don't think you're getting through to most Americans and in fact Americans are choosing the war path, until something happens that convinces them it's not profitable.” In summary Mr. Boyle finds: “Americans are a bunch of complete hypocrites, lacking a moral compass or intellectual integrity.”


Author Dan Savage faults SNOW’s “day in the park” activism as being ineffectual. He prefers the activism of Not in Our Name (NION). NION activists call for a “more direct, meaningful, and powerfully symbolic actions to stop the war.” Mr. Savage writes of the “need to shine the light on the war effort in palpable ways, and in some instances take risks that stem from the convictions of the cause.” He cites the example of International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie who went to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and was killed by an Israeli driving a bulldozer.


Britons for Peace activist Lynette expresses the pathos of many: “I can't imagine how, with so many people against the war, and with everyone knowing in their hearts that it was wrong, we all still allowed it to happen. We are all guilty here I think.” Across the Atlantic Alecia laments “the apathy of the American people.”


Editorial-cartoonist Ted Rall asks, “Where is the left?”


As George W. Bush's aristocorporate junta runs roughshod over hard-earned freedoms, as his lunatic-right Administration loots $10 trillion from the national treasury, as his armies invade sovereign nations without cause, as he threatens war against imagined enemies while allowing real ones to build nuclear weapons, those charged with standing against these perversions of American values remain appallingly, inexplicably silent.


We have become a nation of cowards, and I am ashamed.


The above reflect many sentiments within the pro-peace movement. The defeats must be acknowledged but also so must the victories. The fact that Iraq has been attacked and occupied does not mean the peace has been lost.


People Power


The regimes in Washington and London are starting to feel the heat from the failure to uncover the Iraqi dictator’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It has become patently clear that the US-UK governments didn’t know if Iraq had WMD or not. Not-so-longed retired UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix was moved to sardonically remark: “It is sort of fascinating that you can have 100 percent certainty about weapons of mass destruction and zero certainty of about where they are.” The invasion of Iraq was based upon something other than WMD, which most people had suspected from the beginning of the charade.


The anti-war movement had mobilized in unprecedently huge numbers before the most recent phase of the Persian Gulf Slaughter. Millions took to the streets and plazas around the world only to be dismissed as a focus group by US President Bush.


The New York Times christened public opinion as the second superpower. Many have seized upon this designation and rightfully so. However, the power of the people should be axiomatic. It has been shown many times throughout history that people have the power to topple the most despotic, militaristic regimes. The US-client regime of Cuban dictator Batista, Ceaucescu’s Romania, Communist USSR followed by Communist East Germany, the apartheid regimes in Rhodesia and South Africa, the tyrannical Belgian monarchy in the Congo, and colonial British tyranny in India and Pakistan are just a few examples that spring quickly to mind. The people of the world are the ultimate superpower and the power of any single state must never be ceded a greater standing.


True, at the present juncture the US cabal has managed to unleash its aggression upon the citizenry of Iraq, secure its oil, and perilously occupy its territory. But how secure is the oil? It seems nothing is secure in Iraq these days and that includes the lives of the occupiers. The imperion is having trouble pumping out the oil. It seems that even the oil infrastructure is subject to looting and sabotage. There seems to be a message here. Iraqis seem to be saying: “If we can’t have our country, our freedom, and our oil, well then we are not going to let you occupiers have it either.”


Until this point it can be conceded that the belligerents in the “Coalition of the Killing” won a battle. They’ve had their weeks of violence. But there were battles won by the ultimate superpower. The mass mobilization of world opinion prior to the invasion was stirring. Other victories need to be recognized. The NY Times joined the pro-peace cause. It is no small feat to have drawn any support from the mainstream media, no matter how tepid it was. Abbie Bakan writes in the Socialist Worker that Canada’s refusal to openly ally itself with Washington’s chickenhawks was attributable to the anti-war expression in Canada. Turkish citizens gave their government pause to refuse their military supplier and comrade-in-cahoots to the extermination of the Kurdish minority. It can be surmised that other governments also held back their support to the US in the face of public acrimony.


Raising the Heat on Prime Minister Blair


The chickenhawks greatly diminished UN authority and international law on the pretext of Iraqi possession of weapons of mass destruction. This out-and-out phony casus belli is now hanging in the open wind of the media. The mainstream media was, by and large, a witting accomplice in helping drive home the chickenhawks’ case for invading Iraq. Too often the media unquestioningly mouthed the government line. Now, however, the mendacity of the British regime is facing increasingly intense scrutiny at home. Prime Minister Blair is sweating buckets over where to pin the blame for his lies. There was a feeble attempt to insinuate rogue elements in the intelligence service but that fizzled out. The intelligence agencies recorded the minutes of all government meetings aware that their reputations might be smeared by a government intent on sexing up the case for war. The government has egg on its sweat-beaded face. An apology of sorts has been issued by Number 10 Downing Street to the intelligence services.


Oonagh Blackman writes in The Mirror of Mr. Blair being advised to distance himself from President Bush by Sidney Blumenthal, an aide to former US president Bill Clinton. Mr. Blumenthal warns of the upcoming US election campaign: “It is going to become intense to the extent that any foreign leader who associated himself with Bush’s political goals will become an object of controversy. He will be an indirect target.” Obviously this was advice unheeded as Mr. Blair had the distinction of addressing a joint meeting of Congress while there to pick up his Congressional Gold Medal. In the meanwhile the debacle has assumed even murkier dimensions, as the body of Dr. David Kelly, allegedly the BBC Ministry of Defense mole, was found.


The opposition Conservative Party has leapfrogged into first place according to the YouGov poll conducted between 24 and 26 June. It reveals a loss in public support for Mr. Blair’s Labour Party. In a personal blow to Mr. Blair, the MORI poll indicates that over half of respondents think he is untrustworthy and 48 percent feel it is time for him to resign. The 2 July MORI poll shows that Labour is now neck-in-neck with the floundering Conservative Party while Mr. Blair’s trustworthiness remains in the doldrums.


Back in the Homeland


Polls also reveal creeping doubt in the US about the chickenhawk’s war pretext. A poll by the University of Maryland found that 52 percent of respondents indicated belief that Mr. Bush and his circle were “stretching the truth, but not making false statements” about Iraqi WMD. Poll results continue to indicate a tide turning against Mr. Bush.


Yet Mr. Bush trumpets that the evidence for WMD had already been uncovered in the form of two trailers claimed to be biological weapons laboratories. This bluster has been exposed, as the trailers are likeliest hydrogen production units for weather balloons. The US media is catching on. Vanity Fair ran an interview with Paul Wolfowitz in which he minimizes the importance of the case for WMD in Iraq. War Minister Donald Rumsfeld pathetically proffered that Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein destroyed them just prior to the invasion. NY Times op-ed writer Paul Krugman laments: “It's not the fact that people are criticizing the administration; it's the fact that nobody is being held accountable for misleading the nation into war.” The same question might be posed to his colleague Judith Miller who wrote fallacious pieces on the flimsiest of evidence that buttressed the US government case for war both before and after. There are even some stirrings in Washington opposition circles. Senator Robert Byrd is pressing the government on its deceitful case for war. Congressman Henry Waxman is also demanding answers. The heat is on in Washington.


Unlike in the UK, the intelligence agency became political fodder for the chickenhawks. This was too much for a group of CIA veterans who openly call for the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney.


Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark informs “the movement to impeach George W. Bush has entered a new and exciting phase.” The mass grassroots impeachment campaign is garnering growing media attention for Mr. Bush who has been greeted by “swelling street demonstrations” during his fundraising tour.


Mr. Clark relays how “thousands of demonstrators, including anti-war activists and members of the VoteToImpeach.org campaign, confronted Bush on two separate occasions, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The effectiveness of the demonstrators resonated far beyond Bush's ballrooms and was reported by media around the world.”


The Bush cabal needs a diversion, something like another war to throw the media off the scent. Congress is expected to fall behind the president as it usually does in recent times of war. Iran and North Korea are increasingly the targets of dangerous rhetoric. But Iran and North Korea are able to put up a stiffer resistance than Iraq. Castro’s Cuba is thrown in for good measure. Cuba would be a much easier victim. So where is the anti-war movement now?


Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair argued that Iraq was an imminent threat as partial justification of the invasion. This imminent menace doesn’t seem so plausible now for the other states on the list of the War on Terrorism. Somehow the chickenhawks must whip up a paranoia of fear again. However, with Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Blair’s honesty under attack in the media, it should be much more difficult to instill irrational fear in the homeland. This is a moment for the pro-peace movement to press home the advantage.


People Power


US lawyer David Mills, impassioned by his opposition to the chickenhawk power grab in the US, searches for legal challenges to the invasion of Iraq and collaborates with activists from all over. He maintains a positive attitude. “Most defeat occurs because of a pessimistic outlook. Pessimism will beat you every time. The internet has greatly boosted my optimism because of what I have seen it do for Howard Dean and MoveOn.org. … I believe the avalanche will come from the internet.”


The risible faked Niger uranium vendor contracts should have resulted in a collapse of the chickenhawk war edifice as soon as it came to light. Who can accept that the vaunted US and UK intelligence agencies could bungle such an amateur forgery that anyone at home could have determined as dodgy through the Internet. It is absurd that such a pathetic forgery wormed its way into Mr. Bush’s State of the Union address and that months passed before the CIA director George Tennet was made out to be the fall guy although he somehow retains the confidence of Mr. Bush’s administration. All kinds of contradictions have been uttered from US-UK government sources but so far no heads have rolled. It is utterly amazing.


There must be no letup in the pressure, rather a ratcheting up. Mike Langridge, coordinator of Britons for Peace argues the need for action:


So who's to go first? Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their cabal? Or Blair, Straw, Hoon and their cronies?


Neither, unless we keep up the pressure - even moreso [sic] than we've done to date. If Bush goes, Blair's position will be weakened enormously, and the reverse also applies.


Victory of a great sort is at hand for the ultimate superpower but people must seize the moment. The Washington and London regimes are on the defensive. Now is the time to go on the offensive. This is the time to fill the streets with people in greater numbers than ever before. People know they have been duped and people must demonstrate that they will not accept government lies. A display of people power will set a precedent of intolerance to violent lies a drive a wedge in the war machinery.


But again we mustn’t disillusion ourselves; even if we fill the world’s streets with twice the numbers as in mid-February, it may not have the desired impact. As a one-shot or two-three-shots event the efficacy of protest diminishes. From my vantage point here in China where opposition to war was confined to talking heads, this is all easy enough for me to say. Nevertheless, momentum needs not only to be built but also sustained.


The pro-peace movement must also be ready to explore new avenues of protest.


“Non-violence in politics is a new weapon in the process of evolution. Its vast possibilities are yet unexplored,” said Mohandas Gandhi. This still holds today.


Boycotts are reported to have affected some US companies’ bottom lines but still not enough, at this time, to have the chickenhawks rethink policy. Needless to say big the military-industrial complex and related companies are raking in the blood money.


As consumers and wage laborers we can remove our labor and reduce consumption until the government bends to people power-- a general strike, if you like. It will have a more powerful impact than a few hours of protest. It calls for greater sacrifice on the part of people but what is this sacrifice compared to the lives of innocents in war. The human rights we enjoy today have been earned through great sacrifice of those brave people who fought before us. If world opinion is to earn superpower status it must effect change and it must be prepared to sacrifice and accept great responsibilities.


The world must stand up against evil in all its forms: the occupation of Iraq, the plight of the Palestinians, the POWs languishing in Guantánamo Bay, being a bystander to epidemics and famine in Africa, and other injustices.


Some people urge caution leading into the next US election. Mr. Boyle recommends to activists: “Just walk away [from mainstream society].” On the contrary, the regimes are perspiring. Now is the time to mobilize again -- for many reasons.


The iron’s hot.


Kim Petersen is an English teacher living in China. He can be contacted at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk



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