My sweet, beautiful, thoughtful, beloved 18 year-old daughter – who is in Americorps for a year before college – called a couple of days ago all excited: she had attended her first anti-war rally last weekend, and marched and shouted slogans, and listened to “Jesse Jackson and Jessica Lange speak!!”
She is a very intelligent girl who has excelled at the humanities – in particular music, art and literature – but until now she has paid about as much attention to politics and world affairs as our 3 year-old has.
Without committing either way, I told her that sounded exciting and asked what had happened. “Well, a bunch of us [her 18-24 year-old Americorps colleagues] were bored and decided to go see what it was all about [they are stationed in DC]. We all said we were against war – aren’t you Dad? You were against Vietnam, right?”
I said in general yes, but not always, like now for example. Iraq is not Vietnam. She sounded surprised and a little hurt. She said the rally was exciting and the speakers were fun and made sense – no blood for oil, right? – and that it only seemed reasonable to let the inspectors do their job, and so on and so forth. “They also said Martin Luther King would have been against the war because he was against the Vietnam War – right?”
I replied along these lines: The main reason King was against the Vietnam War was that a disproportionate number of blacks were in the line of fire due to the draft and the deferment options of relatively affluent whites. Since we have had the volunteer Army for a few decades now, that really isn’t an issue: the percentage of blacks in combat is something like 15% and, I believe, around 13% for the general population, so it’s pretty close.
As far as voicing opposition to war or anything else: by all means those opposed to any policy should speak up and have their voices heard – let freedom ring. But this is a broad overgeneralization: it is both obvious and virtually meaningless to be “opposed to war.”
On the one hand, who is in favor of shooting and bombing and “bodies piling up in mounds”? But every war is different and some result in a better world than if the war had not been fought.
Are we opposed to those salutary results? Are we opposed to the results of WWll? In these cases, “injustice” (you can’t get much more unjust than genocide) is what we were fighting – are you opposed to war that is on the side of justice? What about self-defense?
Regarding war with Iraq specifically, Iraq is not Vietnam: the oppressed in this case are the people of Iraq under Saddam, not some Third World “freedom fighters” seeking their piece of the pie. Saddam has fought against us before, threatened and attacked his neighbors, unleashed weapons of mass destruction upon his own people, continued to try to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction against his own promise that ended the Gulf War, supported terror, and delay only strengthens his hand.
She said she would have to think about it. I said if she was really interested she should also read this editorial in the leftist Guardian, and this discussion of Kenneth Pollack’s book The Threatening Storm: The Case For Invading Iraq by Tish Durkin in the New York Observer:
- Sean Penn needs to read this book. So do Mike Farrell, George Clooney and all the protesters who marched and chanted against an American-led war on Iraq in cities across the world last weekend. (Patti Smith, who kept on singing “People Have the Power” at the rally in Washington, D.C., could benefit just from skimming page 123, which briefly visits Saddam Hussein’s eye-gouging, bone-crushing, acid-soaking policies toward his people when they touch – or are deliriously imagined to touch – a hair on the head of his power.) If, in their eyes, Kenneth Pollack fails to make the case for a full-scale invasion, he will have made an awfully strong argument – an argument that opponents of the war must confront, in all its depth, breadth and detail, if they do not wish to be patted on their heads and sent out to play with their placards.
Because – as I thought but did not say to my daughter – this is the level of understanding among many – most? – of the anti-war protesters, especially young people new to the political arena, who find participation in something that sounds logical – who could be FOR war, right ? – exciting and empowering, and a fun, SOCIAL, thing to do on a weekend afternoon.
Because, as Durkin says, in the real world this is what the Iraq situation is really about:
- the choice at hand is not a choice between war and peace. The options are not a) engaging in a terrible, variously costly, internationally dreaded war, or b) leaving the people of Iraq to their own oil, the rest of the world to its own beeswax, and the United Nations to its vaguely alleged task of more patiently mitigating the eclectic horrors of this regime. Rather, the options are a) engaging in a terrible, variously costly, internationally dreaded war, or b) leaving Iraq to its own misery, the world to the ramifications of a militarily resurgent and politically triumphant Saddam, and the United Nations in a state of even less ability and inclination to do a thing about him.
And the latter is the least worst option.
By then I felt her drifting off: “Okay Dad, that’s interesting. I’ve gotta go now. Love you…” But at least she has something else to think about. “Love you too.”
Mark Steyn is talking about the anti-war rallies last weekend as well – I couldn’t resist this paragraph:
- Out in Marin County somewhere, other bushes for peace disrobed, lay down on a hillside, and formed the words “No War.” I wonder if there are any conflicted nudists, with a bush for Iraq and a rack for Bush. Still, we should be grateful that they’ve got pudenda to rally. In Iraq, according to the distinguished playwright Harold Pinter, millions of children are “born without genitals.” Something to do with “depleted uranium,” the Great Satan’s calling card.