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Let’s Stop This War

Mark Lance
Date Published: 
October 10, 2002

About a month after the September 11 attacks I wrote an article called This is Not an Anti-War Movement. I argued against conceiving of our task at that moment as primarily one of avoiding war in Afghanistan. First, and most important, I argued that such a task was impossible. Given the mood, it was inevitable that the US would attack Afghanistan, and the direct military confrontation was destined to be quick and decisive.

Second, the war per se was the least important part of what was going to happen. While the resulting death and destruction was horrible, and in my view clearly immoral, it would be low compared to other wars. Of far greater significance was the changing structure of militarism and control in central Asia.

I predicted that the US would install its own troops in bases throughout the region, would increase support for repressive regimes, would look the other way as those regimes attacked whomever they chose to label as “terrorists,” and would install a compliant regime in Afghanistan which would do much for the future hopes of international capital, but little to improve the lives of the people.

The last year has shown that I was right. I say this with neither pride nor joy. One can only feel anger and sadness at this latest chapter in the expansion of US imperialism, and it was no great accomplishment to predict it, as did many others. I mention all this to focus on the contrast with the situation facing us today regarding Iraq. This time, the focus should be the war.

I certainly do not mean that we should ignore the geopolitical strategies of US imperialism or the underlying economic interests that ultimately drive US policy in the Middle East. But this time we need a different emphasis, and more important, a vastly greater sense of urgency.

Certainly those in the administration who support this war hope to turn Iraq back into a client state of the US. After many years as one of “our dictators,” Saddam has served another purpose. He has ruled over a devastated and impotent country while at the same time serving as a bogeyman, an imagined threat serving to justify US bases in Saudi Arabia. But the view of those favoring war seems to be that US military presence in the region is now established and secure, so that Saddam-the-threat is no longer needed, thus opening the opportunity for the installation of a new compliant dictator.

Facts on our side
Either way, little structural changes. This war will not launch a new extension of the US empire. The empire already controls the Middle East. It won’t launch a new militarization of the region, or new support for repressive regimes. The region is already thoroughly militarized and completely stocked with repressive regimes subservient to US interests.

But much will change on the human level. There is little doubt that the level of destruction necessary to remove Saddam Hussein’s regime from power will be orders of magnitude greater than what we saw in Afghanistan. He has a more serious military, a much greater control over the country, and much broader support than did the Taliban and al Qaeda. Despite the suffering wrought by the last decade of murderous sanctions, a direct war threatens destruction on a vastly greater level.

There is also an enormous risk of destabilization and resulting devastation throughout the Middle East region. Civilian resistance to a US war, and the reaction of US client governments, could lead to an eruption of violence in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other countries. Indeed, there is reason to think this is the major cause of internal dissention in the Bush administration.

Certainly the war would be bad for Palestine. Many have suggested that Sharon is hoping for a US attack so that he can use it as cover for a new offensive in the ethnic cleansing of the Occupied Territories. But even in a best case scenario, one can expect more punitive measures and more crimes against humanity by the war-criminal leader of Israel.

Finally, closer to home, it is a virtual certainty that such a war will lead to renewed incidents of political violence against US civilians. (Not to mention the costs, ultimately levied on the poor, to pay for such a war.)

Internal dissention and universal international opposition to the war suggest the most important reason why this war should be a central focus of our work: we have a chance to win.