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As the attack on the people of Iraq begins, more than 1,200 Harvard students have pledged to walk out of classes today and rally by the John Harvard statue at 12:30 p.m. to protest an unjust war forced upon the world by the Bush administration. Today we join millions around the world who will leave their classrooms or jobs to raise their voices against the invasion of Iraq.
This war will bring violence and destruction to Iraq, not peace and democracy. If all goes according to U.S. plans, 3,000 precision-guided bombs and 600-800 cruise missiles will be dropped in the first 48 hours of the war—10 times the number of missiles launched in the entire 39 days of the 1991 Gulf War. This massive bombing campaign to “shock and awe” Iraq into quick submission will undoubtedly result in the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, in addition to the more than 150,000 Iraqis killed during the first Gulf War, and the 500,000 children who have died due to the sanctions imposed since the end of that war. A review of the history of U.S. foreign policy illustrates the realities behind our rhetoric of spreading freedom and democracy to the world. And such costly projects come at the expense of jobs, healthcare, education at home and the lives of our soldiers.
In this war’s wake, the Bush administration has planned to contract Iraq’s rebuilding to private, exclusively American corporations—including a subsidiary of Vice President Dick Cheney’s very own Halliburton. Experienced non-profit and international organizations will largely be bypassed. Judging on how it has reneged on most of its commitments to liberated Afghanistan, the U.S.’s pledge to fund Iraq’s rebuilding and help alleviate its current humanitarian crisis is dubious at best. We should not let ourselves be duped again by public-relations farces like food airdrops that can only reach an insignificant fraction of the population.
This war will not help stop terrorism. It will only promote it. The Bush administration’s claims of the current links between al Qaeda and Iraq are embarrassingly flimsy, but if Bush would like to establish those ties, this war is probably the best way to do so.
Just what is this war? We quote members of the Bush cabinet: “Pax Americana”—i.e. American empire.
With a National Security Strategy based on the maxim, “The best defense is a good offense,” whether Iraq poses an imminent threat may as well be irrelevant to the Bush administration. Scary rhetoric about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and a far-fetched presentation by Secretary of State Colin Powell, including evidence debunked as fallacious by the CIA’s very own records, suffice to justify a war planned years before Sept. 11. Bush’s National Security Strategy, unveiled in Sept. 2000, incorporates policies long-endorsed by members of his cabinet to establish a lasting military presence in the North Korea region and the Gulf—regardless of whether Saddam is in power.
The lies and half-truths of the Bush administration have obscured the real reasons for this war: oil and U.S. global domination. Iraq contains about 11 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Oil is the world’s most important commodity, essential to all economies and militaries. U.S. control of Iraqi oil, even if indirect, would provide a major lever of power over Europe, Japan, China, Russia and any future rivals. It would also significantly decrease the power of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to influence oil prices and supplies. As a by-product, Bush, Cheney, other administration members and their cronies involved in the military-industrial complex of defense industry and oil interests would receive a major windfall.
This war is not a response to imminent danger. Rather, Bush’s policy of pre-emptive strike becomes a justification to ceaselessly launch future military campaigns to “eradicate evil”—a justification that can also be used by any other country blinded by fear or wishing to opportunistically follow suit.
This war has been imposed upon the world by Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair despite massive popular opposition—including the largest single-day worldwide protest in history before the start of a war, when over 10 million people from Johannesburg to Hong Kong to Brasilia took to the streets on Feb. 15.
Peace has not been given its fair chance. In Monday’s national address, Bush denigrated the weapons inspections process, but completely omitted the role the U.S. has played in purposefully hindering inspections. Saddam is a horrendous dictator, but not an uncontainable aggressor.
To those who simply say good riddance: When will we learn that democracy cannot be imposed on subjects and hostages by the barrel of a gun? That, as for weapons of mass destruction, a policy of overwhelming force will never prevent nuclear proliferation? That military aggression will only continue to produce terrorism? The world will always be full of threatening enemies-in-waiting if we keep choosing to beat them into opposition. The world knows we choose to attack Saddam because he is vulnerable, while we offer North Korea diplomacy; as a result, those countries which don’t already have nuclear bombs will vow to develop them.
Today, when the U.S. is the biggest “threat to the world” as such threats go, protests will continue, and resistance to Bush’s irresponsible military aggression must only grow. We must continue to demand the end of this war, and to oppose the Bush administration’s intent to strike pre-emptively elsewhere. It is now our responsibility to “enforce the just demands of the world” on Bush.
Daniel DiMaggio ’04 is a social studies concentrator in Leverett House. Amelia Chew ’04 is a social studies and women’s studies concentrator in Lowell House. The writers are members of the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice.
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