BTL: Groups Opposed to a New U.S. War Against Iraq
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Sept. 23, 2002
Groups Opposed to a New U.S. War Against Iraq
Organizing For Nonviolent Civil Disobedience
Interview conducted by Scott Harris
Click here to listen: http://220.127.116.11/clark092702.ram
As the Bush administration works to undercut Saddam Hussein's offer to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, the Pentagon is escalating its attacks against Iraqi air defenses. On Sept. 16, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that in response to Iraqi anti-aircraft fire directed at U.S. and British warplanes patrolling northern and southern no-fly zones, he has ordered allied jets to attack command and control sites that operate Iraq's surface-to-air missile batteries. Many observers view these changes in tactics as a means to degrade Iraq's ability to defend itself in advance of a future U.S. attack.
As part of its preparation for war against Baghdad, the U.S. also recently announced that it will base B-2 bombers at a British airbase on the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, 3,000 miles closer to Iraq than current bases in Missouri. In other signs that the Bush administration is laying the groundwork for war, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, is planning to move key sectors of his headquarters from Tampa, Fla. to Qatar by November.
As the drums of war beat ever louder, peace groups around the U.S. have responded by organizing teach-ins, protests and vigils. One of the projects now underway, the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, is modeled on an earlier effort to stop American military intervention in Central American conflicts during the 1980s.
Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Gordon Clark, coordinator of the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, who discusses this national movement being organized to oppose a new U.S. war against Iraq.
Gordon Clark: It's called the Iraq Pledge of Resistance, and it is very much modeled on the Central America Pledge of Resistance which effectively mobilized public opposition to Reagan administration policies in Central America specifically preventing an invasion of Nicaragua or El Salvador. This one of course is focused on the impending war with Iraq and there are a number of national organizations including Peace Action, Pax Christi USA, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Voices In The Wilderness and others who are joining together to organize this campaign. Specifically, the Pledge of Resistance is mass, nationally coordinated non-violent civil disobedience. It is an effort by those of us who are truly concerned about this impending war with Iraq -- its effects primarily on the people of Iraq but also on the people of the United States and a myriad of foreign policy concerns that will be affected by such an attack. It is the strongest way that we can publicly withdraw our ! support from the Bush administration and do whatever we can to stop it by literally putting our bodies on the line -- and our freedom for many of us for the amount of time that we will spend in jail for performing these actions.
The Iraq Pledge of Resistance is being organized in a number of cities around the country; that list is growing. We have high hopes that we will soon be able to make it an international Pledge of Resistance, although we're focusing on the United States at the moment. It’s a very active campaign right now and I think over the coming weeks we're going to see numerous cities organizing to oppose the Bush policy in Iraq in the most rigorous way possible, once again putting our bodies on the line as necessary.
Between The Lines: Gordon, give us your overall assessment of where the Bush administration is taking this country and the world in its drive for war against Iraq.
Gordon Clark: Well, I think with the Bush administration we are seeing the fullest expression of the hegemony that the United States has held, the Pax Americana if you will -- except there's not too much "pax" (peace) involved -- since the end of the Cold War. Many people ask why Bush is so intent on doing this, and while there are a number of different reasons, and I think certainly the current push like "a decision must be made right now," certainly has to do with the Congressional midterm elections and the White House's attempts to influence them by making people think about military action as opposed to the woes of the domestic economy or corporate scandals.
But overall, I think what we're looking at is an administration that came in and has basically been suckered by the temptation of dominion. For those in your audience who are Christians, it's an important example: dominion was actually the third temptation reportedly offered to Christ, that he would have rule over all the Earth. And it's ironic that this president who calls himself a follower of Jesus Christ has in fact succumbed to the temptation of dominion and believing that basically because no one can stop the United States from doing what it wants -- that the United States is therefore free to do anything it wants anywhere in the world.
We’ve certainly seen that in terms of the repudiation of all the specific treaties, be they environmental or weapons related and I think we are seeing that now in respect to war. As he said to the U.N., the Bush administration's concept of consulting is basically, "Here's what we're going to do, please agree with us or get out of the way."
Between The Lines: Gordon Clark, the Bush administration's rationale that we must attack Iraq, eliminate Saddam Hussein in order to prevent future terrorist attacks on the United States such as Sept. 11 resonates with many people in this country. Have the American people, in your view, bought this claim that war with Iraq is necessary?
Gordon Clark: Well living near Washington, D.C. and being involved politically, new polls come out every day. Polls can swing 10 or 20 points based on what happened the day before. They can swing 20 or 30 points based on how the question is worded.
When you ask Americans for instance, "Is getting rid of Saddam a good idea?" Well of course they're going to say, "Yes." Then if you start adding things like, "Well, what if no one in the rest of the world supports us?" Then you see support plummet. "What if it involves heavy U.S. casualties?" Then you see support plummet once again.
So I think on a very simple level, a very surface level, which is frankly the level that many poll questions are asked on, on a very surface level people say, "Yes, sure." But as soon as you start talking about the likely consequences of war, what might happen to the U.S., then you see support plummet. That's why I think it's in the interest of certainly the Bush administration to keep it on this very, very shallow simple level of "Saddam's a bad man. We have to get rid of him."
Saddam is a "bad man," but so is Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the self-appointed president for life of Pakistan who is receiving U.S. aid at the same time he clamps down on any sort of democratic resistance in his own country. The Saudi royal family are "bad" people who, although it's not discussed much in the media, run one of the most repressive religious regimes in the Middle East. In fact, they have religious police who are just about as bad as the Taliban were before they were kicked out of power (in Afghanistan.)
So the question is not, "Is Saddam Hussein a 'bad man'?" Of course he is. The question is: "Is he an imminent or grave threat to the United States?" I think the answer is absolutely not. And the other question is: "Will this make the Middle East or the world better by us going in militarily to take him out?" And again I say the answer is absolutely not. It will make any number of things much, much worse and risks catastrophic consequences.
Iraq Pledge of Resistance can be contacted by calling (301) 608-2450; or visit their Web site at: http://www.peacepledge.org
Scott Harris is the executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Sept. 27, 2002