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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.
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About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted, Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.
  • Eric Olsen

    Seriously Jim, some things ARE black and white, at least operationally: zeros and ones, yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong. Of course this is simplification, but some things must be simplified so that the best possible course of action can be taken – not perfect, not flawless, not ideal, just the best possible.

    The best possible outcome right now is for Saddam to be soundly defeated militarily, for the despots of the Muslim world to stop deflecting their own problems in the direction of the US, for the Islamists to be sent into serious retreat, and for modern secular democracy to spread across the region.

    Also with their backers and agitators back on their heels, maybe the Palestinians will finally realize honest, good faith negotiation toward a final two state settlement is in their best interests.

    And Israel has nukes only to ensure its own continued existence, a fairly reasonable aim, I believe.

    And if forced to pick, Beatles, but I wouldn’t want to have to pick.

  • so Beatles or The Stones?

    You are either with the forces of evil, or against them.

    How does that fit yer shorts?

  • Why is it when one says they don’t think something is a good idea, like Isreali nuclear weapons, or a war on Iraq, or Donald Rumsfeld’s codpiece, it is automagically assumed that you are _for_ the opposite. The world is not totally black and white, yin and yang, positive and negative.

    It is a subtle shade of grey. And to think otherwise is to be just, well, stupid.

  • The poor misunderstood terrorists of Hamas.

    Actually I’m anti-terrorist.

    I was raised in the Orange Lodge in a homogenous little town. Didn’t know what those Catholic bastards were, just knew they were bastards and deserved a good beating.

    Now I know better. Somewhat. Maybe.

  • Eric Olsen

    Notice I said “now” regarding the Irish. And please don’t tell me you’re anti-Israel as well? The poor misunderstood terrorists of Hamas.

  • The Irish are a threat to no one but themselves at this point – not true of Middle Eastern terrorists.

    I’m sure all the Canadian victims of Sikh terror, the greatest event of airline terror prior to 9-11 will agree with you – not. Plus the British murder of IRA members in Malta doesn’t count, nosiree.

    I hope you’re not some mackeral snapper bastard, so I can invite you to the Glorious 12th parade.

    Maybe you could ask the English how they feel about the Irish Question. After all they only have some of the most restrictive terror legislation about terror related to the Irish.

    So, you’ve got a Middle Eastern country with nuclear weapons, who is it?

    Could it be … Isreal?

  • Eric Olsen

    The Irish are a threat to no one but themselves at this point – not true of Middle Eastern terrorists.

  • Hey, what do you know? Corrupt American policitians are concerned about Latin America, and using it as a scapegoat?

  • It doesn’t matter if there is a direct connection between al Qaeda and Iraq or not: they both spring from the same causes, they both want the same things. They are both terrorist organizations.

    Could you please tell me how this would work if I changed that to Ulster Unionists and the Irish Republican Army? After all they are both Micks and thugs and both terrorist organizations, so what if they despise each other. Oh, wait, they both recruit in the States, but just pretend they don’t.

  • Wow, that is one of the best uses of the Chewbacca defense I’ve seen in some time. So it really is an American psychosis, not policy or knowledge of foreign affairs. Read 1984 during your Moment of Hate?

  • Eric Olsen

    Jim, You see the shadow very well but you are blind to the light.

    And absolutely, you do some things because you can and don’t do others because you can’t. It’s the real world.

    It doesn’t matter if there is a direct connection between al Qaeda and Iraq or not: they both spring from the same causes, they both want the same things. They are both terrorist organizations.

  • Dickie the Chain: I’m tellin’ you B, it’s not that he beat that who-er, he disrepected the Bing.

    Georgie Boy: But what are we gonna do? We had a good relationship with Saddam until he started up his own shakedown and stopped with the payments.

    Dancin’ Donny R: we need to make an example, break his fuckin’ legs and arms, and he won’t mess with us no more. Plus the respect. You don’t have that, you got nothin’

  • Phillip Winn writes:
    For Jim, though, a note: We don’t want to pick a fight with a military dictator armed with nukes. That’s the whole point. We want to pick a fight with a military tyrant who isn’t armed with nukes, so he can’t get them.

    You forgot to mention the part about taking his lunch money and giving him a wedgie. So it doesn’t come down to doing what is right, but what you can get away with. Iraq is run by a gremilin you fed after midnight, and you can’t let your rep get spoiled. So US international policy comes down to who you can shake down.

    Meanwhile in the Ivory Coast and Congo, there are hot wars going on, but who cares (except the best source for a mineral needed for cell phones is in that area of Africa, but let the Finns and Swedes worry about that). They can slaughter 100s of thousands with machetes, and that’s okay. And landmines, hey, we’re just doing business here.

    I can’t wait for the demonization of Brazil when the US wakes up and realizes the biggest country in South America elected a government who may not kowtow to the Bush junta.

    And when exactly did Iraq get involved in 9-11? Let’s see Saudi Arabia (check), Pakistan (check), nope, no Iraq. But when he was slaughtering Iranians in a pointless war, hey, that Saddam guy wasn’t too bad.

    When did Tony Soprano start to set your foreign policy? Oh, wait, in the 40s.

  • Eric Olsen

    “What he said” – thanks Phillip.

    I would only add that the intense reality of 9/11 and subsequent terrorist attacks like in Bali have made what in the past may have been somewhat academic debates very very real. This is self defense.

  • Great story, Eric, with just the right tone and a beautiful personal touch.

    For Jim, though, a note: We don’t want to pick a fight with a military dictator armed with nukes. That’s the whole point. We want to pick a fight with a military tyrant who isn’t armed with nukes, so he can’t get them.

    With North Korea, we use diplomacy – they have nukes.
    With Pakistan, we use diplomacy – they have nukes.
    With India, we use diplomacy – they have nukes.

    Saddam has no nukes, we (speaking generally) believe he’s trying to get them, and so he’s toast. If he were to suddenly announce that he *does* have nukes and that if the UN inspectors don’t get out of his country he’ll launch a couple at Israel or some other favorite target (actually, he’s only got the one favorite), we’d be treating him much differently.

    Heck, we might even let Israel go ahead and wipe him off the map, like I’m sure they would like to do.

    Anyway, back to the general topic. My brother participates in forensics (debate), and specifically last year I watched him in the national finals for Lincoln-Douglas debate. The idea of Lincoln-Douglas debate is a conflict of values. Each member affirms a particular value as relates to the subject at hand and proceeds to defend their own value as higher than their opponents.

    So when questioning whether federal restrictions on chemical pesticides are justified, one person arguing the affirmative might choose the value of “quality of life” while another might choose the more basic “human life” and still another might choose “animal safety” (though I didn’t hear this one). The person arguing the negative might choose “free market economics” or “private property” as their value. And then the two square off and try to demonstrate that their value should be esteemed higher than the other’s value in this situation. To avoid escalation, where every case becomes a debate between “Life” and “Freedom,” you must defend your value, too. So if you aregue “quality of life,” you must be prepared to demonstrate that federal restrictions on chemical pesticides do preserve and strengthen the quality of life, and be prepared for an onslaught of statistics that call that into question, and vice versa.

    All of that is background to say this: Eric is right in saying that many anti-war demonstrators are not thinking this through, but rather seeing this as “peace” versus “war”. Of course, if those are the choices, everybody chooses peace. But in Lincoln-Douglas, each participant chooses their own value, and “peace” is easily argued against with a simple recitation of Iraq’s missles fired into Israel, its incursion into Kuwait, its burning of oil fields, and a long, long, long list of atrocities alleged to have happened at the orders of Saddam Hussein.

    The affirmative (pro-war) position in this case has any one of a huge number of values that would easily win out over “peace” as a negative position, so the negative has to do better than that. Even arguing potential civilian casualties is dicey, because there are a pretty high number of reported civilian “casualities” alleged under Hussein’s rule during so-called peacetime, more than we managed to inflict during our eviction of Al Queda from Afghanistan.

    The real question, the only question, is whether the cost of war outweighs the cost of no war, or not. There are peripheral issues of whether or not America has the moral right to wage war, but those honestly seem to be largely settled, as even the Germans who have announced their opposition to the war have assured us that they will not in any way attempt restrict our use of our bases in Germany during such a war.

    So let the doves pick their value, and let the hawks pick theirs. I could be swayed in either direction, I think, but currently the hawks appear to be doing a better job of convincing precisely because most of the anti-war crowd appears to be reducing themselves to unintelligent soundbites or illogical arguments, as Eric’s article demonstrates.

    Wow, I didn’t mean to type so much!

  • Eric Olsen

    Sorry about the Pollack slip – fixed it. The government of Pakistan has been very cooperative with us, why would we want to invade them? I though you were going to say North Korea, and the answer for that is the simple fact that they do have nukes – makes a difference. We need to prevent Saddam from getting them, which we can still do. All of the other reasons for regime change in Iraq are mentioned above and in the Guardian editorial, I’m still chuckling about that one – the Guardian!

  • Eric, you got the wrong Pollack, I don’t know who this “Kevin” is, but he’s a clown.

    Seriously, tho, why Iraq? Is it some sort of psychosis like you people have with Cuba?

    I mean if you want to pick a fight with a military dictator, armed with nukes (not trying, got ’em) who is belligerant, a threat to their neighbors, and is directly responsible for supporting and aiding international terror, and is directly implicated in the execution of 9-11, why isn’t the Bush administration all hot and heavy for a war with Pakistan?

    Is it because they have a military machine and little reluctance to use it (three wars with India in the last 50 years), and if the States charged in they might get their asses kicked and potentially lead to a shooting nuke war which may kill about a billion people?

    I think the main reason is because of tension in the region over Kashmir, and that the ‘murrican public wouldn’t get behind a war over a Led Zeppelin album.

    Nah, pick on a tinpot tyrant who no longer meets your Cold War policy needs.