INFORMAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE WAR April 26, 2003.
At this moment in time, there is a pause in the war. Some may say that it is over, because the attack on Iraq has ended, but when dreams of world conquest are involved, we traditionally group all of the victimised nations into a single conflict. Nazi Germany systematically invaded country after country, yet their actions, among those of others, were categorised as part of a single world war.
I shall not bother to argue the merits of invading nations under the guise of a “war on terrorism”. It has become quite plain to me that anyone who is both ethical and free-thinking opposes Bush’s actions. I have received thousands of emails eloquently refuting each and every justification for his Crusade. I have read innumerable articles exposing the lies surrounding the Bush administration’s plans. An overwhelming majority of mankind, encompassing billions of people, is vehemently against the war, and although this is more an indication of the failure of the American government’s propaganda campaign, rather than of personal convictions, it is nevertheless highly significant.
Afghanistan and Iraq are now occupied, and Bush Jr. has made it clear that he hopes to invade more nations from his lengthy list of countries that do not share his ideology. The delay appears to due to economics. The U.S. government has plunged itself considerably further into debt through military expenditures. Until the administration can be sure that they have convinced the rest of the world to help pay for undoing the damage America has done to Iraq, or can begin profiting from Iraqi oil fields, continued warfare will be economically risky. The world can hope saner heads prevail, and that the killing will stop, but this seems less likely with each White House press release.
One would have to think that, with a huge military force sitting in Iraq, a neighbouring country would be the next victim of choice. Iran or Syria seem likely targets. There are strategic and political aspects that may alter the obvious. Sooner than later, Bush Jr. will need to destroy a non-Muslim nation. He risks uniting Islam against him by methodically eliminating their governments one by one, and although he would probably prefer to conquer the Middle East ad hoc, it is too close to the election run-up to be entangled in a lengthy conflict that might be going poorly at an inopportune moment. Somewhere in the mix of potential upcoming victims, an unsuspecting, relatively defenceless nation may find itself branded a terrorist threat only because it is not Islamic. This might not be necessary if Bush feels he can manage another quick victory prior to, or curb his aggression until after, election time. If he is re-elected, public image will no longer have any significance, and America will be free to attack at will.
Bush Jr. has done an incredible amount of damage to America’s international image. Although his defeat at the polls would certainly improve matters, the flaws in the U.S. political system are evident. The world sees that in the future another extremist, with relatives in key positions of power, could again gain the presidency under suspicious circumstances.
The American people in general have fared relatively well in these difficult times. The massive protests abroad, and of course those in the United States, have primarily focused on Bush Jr. and his handlers. Most have wisely placed the blame squarely on their shoulders, for it is a fault of government, rather than that of the people. Persons in all cultures realise that the high level of domestic support for the war, as shown in polls, reflects the mindless majority who don’t really think independently, but only parrot what they believe is the opinion ensuring conformity.
While attending a protest rally outside the U.S., I observed an example of this understanding. Two young idiots with an American flag walked into the middle of a large area the crowd had left open in front of the speaker's podium. During the speeches, their attempt at provoking the crowd of thousands got a response from a small group of teenagers. Soon, they were in possession of the flag, and proceeded to stomp on it. No one cheered. An elderly Arab woman in traditional garb came from the perimeter and took it away from the boys, then returned to her spot, cleaning the flag as she went. Passions are high during rallies, yet almost all know who is really threatening the world.
Failing to realise the importance of the unthinking masses, the present anti-war movement has floundered in the West. Governments are well aware of how easy it is to manipulate public opinion. Even when public sentiments are overwhelmingly opposed to war, officials simply disseminate lies, threats, and fear to change them. As each statement by the Bush administration was proven to be false, they simply switched to new falsehoods. The average person does not judge the validity of current allegations based on the veracity of past ones made by the same source, they simply accept everything told to them by people in authority at face value.
Public opinion is shaped by competing forces, and one does not succeed by believing most people will be swayed by simply promoting the truth, for the typical person responds to emotional stimuli over logic. Those who contend for power try to evoke strong feelings in order to further their cause, and target the most basic of these: fear. Hatred and anger are rooted in fear, as are all human insecurities. Currently, the government uses threats to manipulate the masses. Threaten their personal safety by suggesting that evil nations will attack them with “weapons of mass destruction”. Threaten that anyone who opposes government policy is not patriotic, and will be shunned by their peers. Threaten that participating in peace protests makes you an enemy of the people. Threaten their ability to provide for themselves and their family, since the occupation and destruction of foreign nations benefits certain domestic companies, and somehow America’s home market would suffer if action had not been taken. Detain, question, or publicly vilify those who appear to have an influence on others, in order to intimidate people into conformity.
The anti-war movement has focused on ethics and common sense. Certainly this draws the small minority of independent, intelligent people, but it does not produce the numbers needed to have an impact. Millions of protesters in America is impressive, and never before have so many made the effort to oppose the government. However, it is only perhaps five percent of the population, and although this obviously represents a considerably greater number who do not actually attend, politicians care only about a simple majority.
Peace advocates have made some inroads through certain emotional appeals. Pointing out how many children are killed via the aerial bombardment style of warfare attempts to make a connection in people’s minds between their own offspring and those of the victims. This has had limited success because fundamentally, most people don’t care about anyone who is not part of their own culture. The fact that 400,000 children died in Iraq between 1991 and the start of the most recent invasion, directly due to the perpetual bombing and economic sanctions, did not cause the majority to call for a solution. Many people only donate to charities that aid those who live in their own country; never mind that a couple of dollars will save a life in the Third World, and pay for practically nothing domestically. When the economy is at a low point, the first thing people want to cut is foreign aid, regardless of the fact that we are still living like kings in comparison to the people we wish to abandon.
Awakening the very real fear, of increased terrorist attacks being caused by Bush’s Crusade, has had a slightly better effect. Polls are showing that people believe such a possibility is likely; but this success in shaping public opinion does not rest solely with the anti-war movement. The government also prefers that this fear be cultivated, for it allows Bush Jr. to enforce and expand his “Homeland Security” measures (America’s version of Nazi Germany’s SchutzStaffel, enacted under similar circumstances).
From the administration’s perspective, the negative aspect of this fear of terrorism is easily outweighed by the ability to suppress dissent via the legal withdrawal of certain rights and freedoms. In reality, a greater hatred of Americans primarily affects those who travel abroad. Foreign terrorists in the U.S. will never pose as great a threat to the average citizen, in terms of lives lost, as that from home-grown lunatics. How many people are murdered by sociopaths every day in America? How many other domestic terrorists like Timothy McVeigh are out there?
The anti-war movement needs to understand the audience. When surveys are dissected, one pattern is consistent: globally, support for war is relative to age. Young adults are strongly against Bush’s actions, but as you move up through age groups, pro-war sentiments progressively increase to the point where the elderly provide a high level of support. There are curious regional exceptions, such as in Washington, where the aged are contrary to trends. As well, the United States does not demonstrate as pronounced a pattern as the rest of the world.
Interestingly, these divisions are not evident in the public rallies. Judging from the ones I have been involved with, there has always been a fairly even mix of age groups. Although almost any form of protest usually draws a predominantly youthful crowd, the anti-Bush demonstrations appear to motivate everyone. It would seem that because of this particular situation, those older than what is typical feel a real need to participate; even more so than the young.
The young are idealistic, and their dreams of a better world have not yet been crushed by the realisation that the older people who have been conditioned to blindly conform will vigorously, and often viciously, defend the status quo. Logic works on the young; their minds are still sharp, and they have had less exposure to mainstream propaganda.
As we age, idealism and ethics are often replaced by selfishness and greed. These are the values our culture requires for each individual to be a useful cog in an economic machine, and our socio-economic system of reward and punishment conditions the majority into compliance. The college students of the “Hippie” generation, with their peace demonstrations and strong ethical convictions, have now become the educated sweat-shop owners, polluters, and politicians. Time has twisted them into the very people they once fought against, and now they are the ones supporting and, in the case of politicians, causing war.
The oldest members of the population are from a culture alien to most of us. They grew up listening to WWII propaganda, and lived in a time when consumption had no consequences. There were no concerns about driving life-forms to extinction, pollution, or limited resources. Warfare was the solution to all sorts of problems, and racism was commonplace. They were raised with these values, and have spent a lifetime being shaped by government doctrine. The elderly represent the largest remnant of religious fundamentalism, where those of a different faith are seen as enemies of God. The brain deteriorates naturally with time, and many of the aged retain a mere fraction of the mental acuity they once possessed in youth; consequently, they are most resistant to change. They require routine to cope, and can become confused and frightened by evolving attitudes and circumstances.
Of course, age-related patterns are generalisations, and there exists a statistically significant minority, in every generation, that is an exception to the rule; but for the purposes of peace efforts, it is the typical majority that needs to be influenced. “Baby Boomers” in particular need to be targeted, for they not only denote the largest age group in Western nations, they are the most malleable. They have not yet developed the rigidity of thought that extreme old age brings, and are the generation coveted by politicians and marketing executives alike; hence their opinions have been moulded every-which-way since childhood. They are truly the “mindless masses”.
We should never abandon reason and ethics in the argument for peace, but we must counteract the effective government tool of fear. Proving Bush’s scare tactics to be groundless has not worked well enough, and although his endless stream of forged documents, doctored photographs, and false testimonials has taken incompetence to a new level, sooner or later someone will create “evidence” that cannot readily be dismissed. The public, of course, will then cling to this new “proof”, and past lies will fade from their collective memory.
Fight fire with fire. This is not to suggest that the anti-war forces should deceive the public, but rather introduce concepts that evoke fear. There must be a more dramatic connection made between the Bush administration and parallels in history. It is much easier than one might think, for there are striking similarities between now and events of the past.
My prior references to Nazi Germany in this paper are intentional. From the use of a terrorist attack to justify invasion and “homeland security” legislation, to the rhetoric spouted by this government, the relationship is clear. “Shock and awe” (AKA: blitzkrieg) warfare, detention and torture of Americans of Arabic descent, political and economic circumstances, and many other issues compare between then and now. If you doubt that the spirit of Nazism is reborn in this administration, read the chilling propaganda disseminated by the “Project for the New American Century”1, and note the signatories to their statement of principles.
I am certainly not the first to point out this parallel, and in fact politicians in other nations have made the same observations; anyone studying events leading up to WWII cannot help but notice. Is demonstrating while carrying a placard connecting Bush to Hitler going too far? Not at all; “shock and awe” isn’t just for bombing. Images of Nazism provoke strong emotions, and any similarities we point out between Hitler’s Germany and the American government are based on historical facts. If such comparisons become widespread, Bush can be forced into denying a Nazi agenda; a situation that would make the campaign highly effective. Think about the way the average person perceives what they see and hear from the media. Say you, John Smith, have never been written about in your local paper until today. A single small headline appears in the morning edition: “John Smith denies being a child molester”. From now on, all of your neighbours will not permit their children to be around you unattended. In our society, a denial automatically arouses suspicion.
Bush Jr. has made no effort to disguise his somewhat eccentric religious ideals. The fact that many of his colleagues and confidantes have gone to the press with tales of his feelings of empowerment from God indicates that he sees no problem with such delusions. Normally, ominous personal information like this is suppressed, particularly during times of war, until after a president leaves office. Being that Bush depends on the Religious Right for his support, he must consider his notions to be a positive public-relations tool.
One must be careful when dealing with the religious aspects of this administration. Most Americans consider themselves to be Christians, and just as with all of Bush’s actions, the focus must be on him, and not the religion in general. It should be obvious that I capitalise ‘Crusade’ in reference to Bush for a reason. The Crusades were a time of death, destruction, and attrocities commited in the name of God. Christians attempted to exterminate Muslims during the Crusades, and needless to say, Muslims see similarities between past and present. How much of Bush’s megalomania is related to his fundamentalist beliefs? Is he perhaps embarking on another Crusade?
Monitoring various Christian faiths, I see indications that a number of followers believe we are in the “end times”, primarily due to current world events. Although these people are decidedly a very small minority, the concept itself affects many Abrahamic adherents emotionally. Bush may wish to cast himself in the role of “good” in his self-proclaimed battle against evil, but we can be a little more accurate than that.
"And behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death...” (Revelation 6: 8) sounds more like George than other characters in Revelation. Depicting Bush as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is not philosophically really that much of a stretch.
“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Rev. 13: 16-17). We might say that Bush is metaphorically doing this with his patriotism threats, but aside from that, portraying him as the Beast, or with the number of the Beast on his person, is powerful imagery.
When protesting war, there is no validity to the statement that we must restrict ourselves to the moral high road. This is not merely a philosophical dilemma; people are dying. Over a million Iraqi casualties between 1991 and the commencement of the most recent invasion, and we may never know how many were killed this time. Think about the magnitude of that number, and those who were killed in Afghanistan. Human beings, many of them children, suffering and dying at the hands of American citizens. Think of the additional millions of people who are agonising over the loved ones who have been killed or mutilated. Physical pain does not compare to the intensity of emotional pain; can you even imagine the anguish of digging through the rubble to recover pieces of your child?
Every time we fail to stop our power-mad politicians from slaughtering our fellow human beings, another painful scar is burned into my soul. Each time a peace movement fails to stop a war, I carry a little more of the burden of shared guilt over what we as a society have done. I cannot simply deny these feelings, for every one of us has an obligation to humanity. Each of us is a component of mankind, and it is impossible to forget that we once again have forsaken the innocent.
Sure, each of us can say that we did our part, but collectively we did not do enough. Certainly, each of us can say that it was not our fault, for we tried to make things right. Generations throughout history have faltered in their attempts to bring peace, and consequently hundreds of millions of people have needlessly died. If we do not feel the pain of our ineffectiveness, then we do not care enough to do what it takes to change the world.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, ... Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” [John Donne - 1674 - ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions’]
Link to evil: http://www.newamericancentury.org/index.html