BTL: Call for Anti-War Groups to Make Their Case
Between The Lines
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Dec. 16, 2002
U.N.-Iraq Weapons Inspection Process Provides an Opportunity for Anti-War Groups to Make Their Case to the U.S. Public
Listen in RealAudio: http://188.8.131.52/brecher122002.ram
Interview with Jeremy Brecher, historian, author and activist, conducted by Scott Harris
Even before the Dec. 8 deadline by which Iraq was directed to present a complete inventory of its weapons programs, the Bush administration was working hard to cast doubt on the viability of the United Nations inspections program to avert conflict. Now that Baghdad has turned over some 12,000 pages of documents they claim detail their compliance with the post-Gulf War ban on their nation's possession of weapons of mass destruction, the White House is searching hard for evidence of a material breach to justify war.
The end game within the U.N. Security Council is playing out as the Pentagon calls up tens of thousands of military reservists, engages in war games and pre-positions troops and equipment throughout the Persian Gulf region.
On Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, over 150 anti-war events were organized by peace groups in cities across the U.S. While the growing movement of people around the world who oppose a pre-emptive attack on Iraq hope that the inspections process can prevent war, it's very clear that the Bush administration's stated goal of "regime change" in Iraq will not easily be deterred.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with author, activist and historian Jeremy Brecher, whose recent article "A Nightmare to Love: How the peace movement can use Bush's almost desperate attempts to destroy the arms inspection," urges those opposed to war to condemn the White House campaign to construct a pretext justifying an invasion of Iraq.
Jeremy Brecher: The problem from the point of view of the administration is that the inspection process -- much to their surprise, I think -- has been embraced by Iraq, at least so far. Saddam Hussein went so far as making a speech to the people of Iraq, saying "We want you to please cooperate with the inspectors because they are protecting us against the Americans." This is not at all what the United States had in mind. But it is probably what a good deal of the rest of the Security Council had in mind when it set up the inspection program. This makes a terrible problem for the administration because the great majority of the American people would like nothing better than for the inspection process to work and in order to prevent that, the administration has been taking one step after another to try to prevent it from working. But what this means is that the peace movement -- in criticizing and bringing out all the things the administration is doing to try to undermine the ! inspection process -- really is in a tremendously strong position to appeal to the American people and to separate them from the administration. To make it clear to them that the administration is gung-ho to fight a war against Iraq even when there is an excellent alternative for dealing with the alleged security problems presented by Iraq in terms of weapons of mass destruction.
Between The Lines: Jeremy, I wanted to quote to you something from the newspaper. On Monday, Dec. 9, the New York Times on its front page had this to say: "In private, administration officials concede that there is no single piece of dramatic intelligence that Iraq has continued to try to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons." Certainly if that's true, it's going to make it quite difficult for the Bush administration to convince the American people or the world that a war is necessary and imminent.
Jeremy Brecher: I think that's exactly right. They are a bit stymied, and I think a bit at a loss about how to respond to this. Now it's always possible that the hawks in the Bush administration will just say, "Look, our chance to fight a war is slipping away." I remember one of the leading hawks a few months ago saying, "You know, time is not on our side about this. If we don't attack soon, we're going to lose our opportunity." It's always conceivable that they will decide to go that route. But first of all, they have serious military problems in doing it because they don't really have enough in the way of (military) bases (in the region) to do it from. So, for them to drop 75,000 American boys and girls down in the middle of the desert from some ships, using planes and helicopters -- this is not a scenario that the American military is going to like very much.
But equally important from a political point of view, what seems like is going to happen is that if the Americans say, "They're lying and we have the evidence," then the whole world's going to say, "Where's the evidence?" And, as the inspectors have said, "Well, tell us where these secret weapons programs that you're talking about are and we'll go inspect them, because we're the people who have the international legitimacy and the right to go and look for them." If the Americans don't actually provide that information and say, "Well, they're here and they're there and those are the places you should go inspect," I think they're going to have very tough sledding in the United Nations with attempting to stampede it into some kind of endorsement of a U.S. attack.
Between The Lines: Jeremy, do you think that the peace movement is on the right track? And by that I mean, do you think, in terms of the strategic opportunities that are opened up right now under the United Nations weapons inspections regime, that the peace movement here is taking full advantage of that?
Jeremy Brecher: I don't think that we have been up to this point. I think that people very understandably were extremely skeptical of the inspection process because the United States (government) seemingly had supported it, although in fact it was more or less coerced into accepting it. But it certainly was originated out of hostility to Iraq. The United Nations process has been manipulated extensively by the United States in the past. I think large parts of the peace movement assumed that we had the same story. But in fact, the rest of the world is very, very upset about American unilateralism and is very interested in containing it. And that means above all else, containing the U.S. attempt to destroy Iraq. That creates a somewhat new situation and that's the one we ought to be responding to and taking advantage of.
Jeremy Brecher's article "A Nightmare to Love: How the peace movement can use Bush's almost desperate attempts to destroy the arms inspection," can be read online at www.commondreams.org. Visit our website at www.btlonline.org for related interviews and links.
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, nationally syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Dec. 20, 2002
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