Why we keep fighting for peace

By Robert Jensen

with Rahul Mahajan

Published in War Times · April, 2003

[This article appeared in the print publication War Times, April-May 2003, p. 3.]

The beginning of the war in Iraq makes antiwar activity more, not less important.

As the Bush administration drove us straight to war over the past months it was crucial for those opposed to take a stand in public. And around the country we did just that — we took to the streets, organized teach-ins, lobbied politicians, wrote letters and went door-to-door. A tremendous antiwar movement was organized throughout the world.

That incredible outpouring of opposition took political leaders and news media by surprise. The movement grew so large that it could not be ignored.

But now — as we realize that our efforts did not stop the mad rush to war — a sense of futility and hopelessness may set in. The Bush administration has undoubtedly calculated that opposition will collapse once the bombs start falling.

There are four key reasons why the antiwar movement must grow even more powerful now.

First, we can minimize the length and brutality of the war. The current plans for the war on Iraq will be devastating to the Iraqi people. Pressure on the administration can literally help save lives in Iraq. We need to monitor our local media and be prepared to protest if they don’t cover civilian casualties.

Remember also that U.S. policymakers have talked openly about using nuclear “bunker buster” weapons. We must let politicians know that if they cross the nuclear threshold, there will be political costs for them.

Second, the Bush administration plans a military occupation of Iraq. A U.S. installed colonial-style government will then use Iraq’s vast oil reserves on behalf of elite U.S. interests, not in a way that’s best for the Iraqi people. Sustained public attention on postwar Iraq can help keep those plans in check.

Third, Bush’s program of war without end must stop with Iraq. After Sept. 11 Bush promised an unlimited war against endless enemies. He has targeted 60 countries. After Iraq, Iran will be encircled by the U.S. military and under the gun. There is already talk about strikes on Iranian nuclear reactors. And after that?

In a world in which Washington claims the right to arbitrarily and unilaterally impose “regime change” by force, no state that attempts to resist will be safe.

Fourth, the Bush administration plans to use what they hope will be a great success in Iraq to implement a whole raft of new repressive measures at home. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that citizens can be held indefinitely without the right to a trial.

These repressive measures are aimed primarily at people of color: John Walker Lindh got a trial, but Yaser Esam Hamdi and Jose Padilla are “enemy combatants” held indefinitely in military prisons without access to lawyers. As the economy turns sour and more resources are drained away from social services, there will be a stronger need for the elites to control by force. Only sustained organizing can stop that.

So we need to keep fighting. In the short term our goal is to limit the damage of this war. In the long term we must fight to derail the Bush plan for global and domestic domination based on the rule of force. That is not hysterical JUST rhetoric. The administration’s national security strategy documents make it clear that the goal is to make sure nothing — no nation, alliance nor international institution — can challenge U.S. power.

We cannot allow policymakers to pursue these mad dreams of unchecked power. If we stay committed to a global movement for peace and justice, another world is possible — one based on human needs not corporate greed, on people not profits, on justice not power.

The choice is clear. The war has come and the immediate battle is lost, but there is still a world to win.