Just about 3 years
ago, in March 2003, the United States, a nation which likes to refer to
itself as “peace-loving,” “democratic,” “civilized,” and standing for
“liberty and justice,” lied to the world and attacked the sovereign
nation of Iraq without provocation. We in the West are
somewhat accustomed to seeing media reports of “other” countries (for
example Iran) where people actually demonstrate in favor of a war, but
it certainly came as a surprise to most of us in Europe to see that
Americans actually took to the streets in support of a war. Most, of
course, came out to protest against the war, but this tiny (and
apparently brave) minority nationally was met not only with the
oppression of the government (which cordoned the protesters into out of
sight, fenced-in areas -- Orwellian “Free speech zones”), but the
derision of active, organized counter-protests, which chanted slogans
supporting a war of aggression on a nation which never in its history
had attacked the U.S. In virtually every news report covering U.S.
protests against the war, the presence of pro-war counter protesters is
Now, we are hearing a
different story coming from that peace-loving folk across the ocean.
Thomas Paine, the famous American propagandist of the revolution, wrote
of the “sunshine patriot” who took the easy way out, only supporting his
country when it was convenient and comfortable. Americans, it seems, are
also sunshine peace supporters. All polls indicate that the American
populace has turned against the war. But before we all rejoice that the
world’s greatest polluter, energy consumer, and military spender has
seen the light, we should note the following facts.
Before the war started, and while the Bush regime was making its case
for a “pre-emptive” war (what they were pre-empting is still not
clear), Europe saw the greatest mass assemblies in history to protest
the coming war. On a cold 15th of February, millions marched and spoke
out; 2 million in Rome, 2 million in London, 1 million in Madrid, 1
million in Barcelona, 500,00 in Berlin, 250,00 in Paris, and many more
throughout the European continent. Yet the two greatest cities of the
United States could only muster less than a combined 600,000.
In fact, American public opinion only turned against the Iraq war when
it became clear that the US forces could not win, and at a time when
over 2000 of their own soldiers had been killed in the conflict --
October 2005. When American bombers were invulnerably bombing civilians
back in 2003, nary a word against the war was heard. When widely
respected British medical journal The Lancet reported that
an estimated 100,000 Iraqis had been killed by American aggression, no
mass outpouring of anti-war sentiment came from the United States.
When the gruesome torture of Iraqi prisoners came to light in spring
of 2004, the polls still showed continued majority support for the war,
and proud, civilized Americans waved their flags and drove their
oversized cars adorned with yellow ribbons admonishing their fellow
Americans to “support our troops.” In September of 2004, when Special
Advisor Charles Duelfer’s report came out, stating what the rest of the
world already knew before the war -- that Iraq possessed no weapons of
mass destruction, that the Bush regime’s case for war was a lie from
start to finish -- there was again silence from the American populace.
No calls to pull out, no contrition for invading a country without just
cause, merely silence and continuation of the war policy.
When American forces were destroying the city of Falluja with
chemical weapons in November of 2004, only the most "radical" of
Americans voiced their opposition. Perhaps their voices were drowned out
by the great number of Americans who voted, some days before the battle,
to return to office the President who started the war (admittedly,
whether this number represented a true majority remains questionable).
With each new “revelation” (although it was painfully clear to the rest
of the world -- certainly, at least, to the millions who marched against
the war in February of 2003 or countless times thereafter) of the
sheer stupidity and moral bankruptcy of the Iraq war, many Americans
were silent. Where was the outrage from the peace-loving land of liberty
and justice? Where were the masses of dissenters and critics? Those who
oppose the war now -- too little, too late -- show only the fickle
nature of American morality: more concerned with the war’s cost in
dollars than in lives, non-American lives apparently counting for
nothing, as they are not counted at all by the Pentagon (hence, it is
therefore curious where Bush came up with his 30,000 Iraqi dead figure).
"Each word," wrote Jean-Paul Sartre, "has an echo. So does each
Daniel Vallin is a writer who no
longer lives in the United States.