Holding the Bush administration accountable

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Society
March 24th, 2003 • 6:08 am

The following article is the most important thing that I have read in recent months on the war in Iraq:

See no evil” by Edward Lempinen, Salon [ad-based pass required to access full article]

Make no mistake: I consider Bush and his closest advisors dangerous. In policy and in manner, their anti-democratic tendencies are clear. In the overlapping wars on terrorism and Iraq, their hubris, their dishonesty and their incompetence have alienated potential allies at home and around the globe. Bush’s claims that Iraq is an immediate threat to the security of the United States, and that Saddam is allied with al-Qaida, have been unpersuasive. Even if the White House hawks had the highest and most idealistic motives, they have created such deep mistrust that nobody believes them. Where Saddam’s depredation should be the issue, in the eyes of the world, they themselves are the issue. In this way, Bush has discredited the very cause he claims to support.

The above quotation, however, is only an “appetizer”. The most important aspects of this article are 1) the part where the author addresses the arguments used by the left to reject war, one by one; and 2) the fact that it is, ultimately, a forward-thinking piece.

I would still have counter-arguments for some of the arguments that Edward Lempinen uses to debunk the arguments typically used by the left. For example, when debunking the left’s argument that “Conflict can be solved without war”, Lempinen lists all the examples in recent history of people who were able to throw off repression only with force, and sometimes only with the help of foreign allies (Europe in World War II, for one).

The one thing that Lempinen’s debunking argument overlooks, however, is that, however recent these historic examples are, they are still the past — and the present is always, in part, animated by the belief that repeating the past is not unavoidable, that things have changed to a degree such that situations cannot be compared. It is understandable, for example, that a number of people would think, no matter how atrocious Saddam’s regime is, it cannot be as atrocious as the atrocities that a war would(will?) bring about — in other words, that the overwhelming atrocity of recent wars has shown us once and for all that war is, indeed, only a very-last-resort option, and that we have not reached the last-resort stage quite yet.

Ultimately, however, our individual positions are leaps of faith. No one knows exactly how atrocious Saddam Hussein’s regime is, and no one knows how atrocious the war in Iraq will be. In other words, it’s impossible to objectively weigh the pros and cons and make a decision based on facts.

Meanwhile, the war is now happening, and we are all faced with a simple choice. We can try and follow events as they unfold and adjust our beliefs based on what we observe, effectively “faith-hopping” from one side to the other depending on what we think is happening.

Or we can start thinking forward and seize the opportunity afforded by this war, by holding the U.S. administration accountable for its own rhetoric. And that’s where Edward Lempinen is particularly convincing:

For those leftists who have supported the war, and for those who have loudly opposed it, now is the time for a shift in strategy. Bush and his inner circle have repeatedly gone on the record describing the war on Iraq as a war of liberation. Even if we do not believe them, we must work relentlessly to hold them accountable. We must insist that the U.S. and its allies implement, as quickly as possible, a constructive post-war plan. They must protect the Kurds from Saddam and from Turkey. Aided by the U.N., they must provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people, no matter the cost. If they truly want to detoxify the Middle East, Bush and his inner circle must commit to seeking a practical solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. They must be reminded constantly, and forcefully, that it is urgent to REPAIR trust, and to stop the corrosion that comes with chronic hypocrisy. By insisting on these values, by returning to the street in a tide of millions, the left might hijack the meaning of this tragedy and salvage from it something constructive. In doing so, we would stand for something that would resonate well INTO the political center; in doing so, we might create energy that could be channeled INTO the 2004 presidential campaign.

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