Amidst the impending war on people of Iran, and the ongoing oppression of peoples everywhere through military and financial means, we have limited choices.
One, we could claim refined patriotism that needs validation through the bumper stickers proclaiming, “I support my troops”. This will make some of us look politically correct, since the attacks are apparently not on civilians, but on terrorists (although for most of those among us who profess this first choice, the difference between civilians and terrorists is a matter of our stereotypes based on artificial dissonances—race, religion, nationality—than anything else). Our definition of terrorist is of course one that is rhetorically the most agreed upon, although politically it is the most disagreeable. Despite all the finer questions that complicate our lives, these among us will always root for the troops. Killing, raping, vandalizing, infiltrating, promoting ethnic violence, are all fine, so long as our troops are fighting their terrorists. In fact, the more violence there is, the more legitimacy, our troops gain. As Sister Nirmala implied for Missionaries of Charity that since poverty was God’s gift, it was required to be preserved.
And two, we could go on marching on the streets with pro-peace placards, be called crazy, and court arrests, hog headlines, and be butt of television narratives which pride on being liberal—they harp on the fact they manage to bring two opposing voices to engage in a debate cut short by ad industry’s dictates. But hey, since we are the liberal ones, unlike Fox TV, at least we have the voice of the Democrats on the television. Move on, shall we? So how did we stop the war in Afghanistan? Well, the liberals among us engage in congratulating each other for having persuaded the American troops to be out of the country. Its alright if we staged a stooge there who will play diplomacy with Pakistan and balance the power in our favor in the subcontinent. And how did we stop the war in Iraq? Why, of course we exposed the lies about the WMD. You see, there was no WMD, and the republicans lied about it, and we exposed that. And now, America is isolated.
Clearly, the first group of people who support troops and claim their brand of patriotism as genuine are psychically numb, and the lesser said about their glories and successes, the better it is. But at the same time, one would notice, that the second group, the liberal ones among us, are actually a bunch of opportunistic idealists with no sense of historical conditions.
Why I say that, is because it’s not the war against which we need to worry about so much. Rather we must identify the perpetrators and oppressed in a war situation and mobilize activisms accordingly. The moment we feel elated about WMD myth, we are accepting two prepositions to be valid: one that we are surprised at a politician telling a lie, and two, that if there were actually some WMD, then we would have anyway maimed the future Iraqi generations of children. Likewise, the moment we feel good about Afghanistan, or any other victim of the ‘cold’ war saga, we just look at the consequences (the installation of our favored man as a victory for the dissenting people), and never at the cause (that we might have produced a situation for the conflicts, and to prevent further deterioration, we must get the hell out of these places and let a world body decide a course of action).
Slogans against war are helpful in a society whose main ideology is peace. That’s a society where the state funds peace marches, and signature campaigns against nuclear war. Such informed agitation among the people is necessary to drive a people’s state through necessary checks and balances. Unfortunately, our overworking intelligence sources have already relegated such states to history’s dustbins.
But if we are talking about the elite democracies like the US today, assembly by peace-loving people will only be met with what they face ultimately. Peace activists court harmless arrests, their groups are infiltrated by police informers and yes afterwards, they are ‘allowed’ to continue with their job of opposing the regime. In a way it helps politicians of all kinds in this country to claim that this is not a country made up of kangaroo court, and that since citizens have a right to protest, this is indeed the best form of government that the people deserve.
In the end, the protesters are counseled by the state apparatus that the regime is serious about granting of freedom that enable the protest to go on within the stipulated rules. For example, it is alright to silently hold a placard of protest, but not to disrupt normal activities of other people on work. If you are the peace activist, then you go do your work, just the way your neighbor who is a business executive, does his/hers. Interesting, how the state controls the scopes within which ‘protests’ can take place, its expression dynamics, and the limitations (temporary arrests, and permanent FBI files).
Such a tactic of ‘allowance for opposition’ is so germane to western democracies that it works as a double-edged sword to further the governance mode. It declares the system as the most valid form of governance with active ‘help’ of the opposition. And at the end of the day, when the protestors are as free as they ever were, they come back home satisfied with their opposition tactics and claim the way even Chomsky does: that America is the freest country on the planet.
Behind the simplistics:
When played out, both assumptions confirm with the one-liner “Either you are with us, or with the terrorists.” Its like saying, “Either you support us/join us in war, or oppose us on the street.”
The dominant assumptions on the pro-war front are the following:
1. There is a war going on in Iraq/Iran
2. War is being waged against the terrorists
3. We need more external armed forces
4. We need more internal security
5. We should not stop our attacks till we have eliminated all terrorists off the world map
The dominant assumptions of the anti-war coalitions are the following:
1. War is evil
2. All wars should be opposed on principle
3. We should not break international law
4. We should save our children from dying in the war
5. War costs enormous human lives and money
I have run out of patience in coming down on the war mongers and their ‘classic’ arguments. These are blatantly racist, sexist, militarist people who would use any kind of excuse to either support the national armed forces, or join them and emotionally support those that join, out of pure guilt conscience at times owing to their equalizing the military with morality. More often than not, they will use moralist position to defend the indefensible, and introduce hysteria of necessity. For example, even if they will acknowledge that the military is doing something grotesquely insane (like prison torture) they will still carry on with it arguing that ‘without’ defense forces the country will be even more insecure anyway. Warning of such reactionary trends, the former president of America, Abraham Lincoln had said, “Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so, whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose — and you allow him to make war at pleasure. If today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada, to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, ‘I see no probability of the British invading us’ but he will say to you, ‘Be silent; I see it, if you don’t.’”
Coming to the anti-war movement, there are some issues that need urgent addressing. Firstly, not all war is evil. Indeed, there is a categorical difference between imperialist war and war against the imperialists. Hence, not all wars need to be opposed. Having said that, it’s important to stress not on the ethics of international law, rather energy should be focused on making it mandatory to accept the international laws of sovereignty. Any country violating the aggression-related international law must be prohibited from taking part in the UN proceedings and must be stripped off its security council privileges if any. This alone may just rouse the consciousness of the country’s citizenry.
Lastly, the disgusting drama of “Bring our boys home” must be stopped. It’s highly sexist, since it assumes that there are no women among the troops. Secondly, its too self-centric, since it cares only for the troops of the aggressor country, at the cost of overlooking the various rapes and murders “our boys” commit while having field days in the war. It also unnecessarily sympathizes with the military brutes who are not necessarily innocent little creatures. We can perfectly understand a mother’s cry in wake of her son’s sacrifice at the war against Iraqi peoples, but what we must not encourage is the trend of glorifying the troop at the expense of such shallow patriotism.
(What’s the Alternative?
Next: Bring the War Home, Part II)