A magazine asked me this morning for my thoughts on Iraq and the peace movement. What did this war produce? I replied:
- Over a million human beings killed plus extensive structural and cultural damage amounting to sociocide, which we could have prevented and didn't, which we could regret and make reparations for but instead are largely uninformed about.
- A lesson taught to other nations that nuclear weapons are needed to prevent a U.S. invasion, a lesson also taught by the assault on Libya.
- A lesson taught to other nations that might makes right and aggressive killing and torture are to be used when one can get away with it.
- Entrenchment of a fossil fuel / war industry, environmental damage, economic damage, damage to international relations, and a huge rollback in civil liberties and the right to assemble and protest.
- Enormous enlargement of the war industry, privatization of the military, and a strengthened ability to legally bribe politicians and control them.
In the peace movement, there's good and bad:
- We exposed the lies on which the war was based and educated everyone else, but most still don't grasp that the lies are common to all wars; they think this one was unique.
- We played a role in ending the war. But it was a larger role than we are aware of, so people don't take enough encouragement from it.
- We built international relations among peace activists in numerous nations, building an anti-bases movement and an anti-NATO movement, and building relations with activists in the nations attacked by ours as well.
- We exposed the financial cost and the cost in U.S. military lives. But -- again -- few know about the far greater cost in Iraqi lives. And very few understand that the base military budget dwarfs the war budget and is equally misspent.
- Coming out of that, we have a nation strongly opposed to massive ground wars. But we have a nation willing to accept air and drone wars. And why not? They don't hurt anybody!
- We should have been much stronger. And we should have pushed harder when the Democrats took power by pretending to listen to us. Instead, 3/4 of the U.S. peace movement went to sleep. So, we have to have Republicans in power to have a peace movement -- a severe weakness.
What, I was asked, should be done to mark the 10-year anniversary of the invasion next March?
We should apologize, I said. We should make reparations to Iraq and much of the region, including Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen, etc., all of which our troops should immediately leave. We should launch cultural and student exchange programs instead. We should open prosecutions of those responsible, from Bush and Obama on down. We should move funding from the military to green energy. We should shut down all foreign bases. We should announce the dismantling of all nuclear weapons. We should end NATO. We should reaffirm the Kellogg-Briand Pact. We should reform and democratize the UN and the ICC. Or at least those of us willing to have a peace movement, either because Romney is president or because we're willing to confront Obama now that he's a lame duck and really really doesn't give a damn, should move things as far as we can in that direction.
In the meantime, we should build on what was built in Chicago protesting NATO. We should assist in opposing what look like false prosecutions of activists coming out of that event. We should learn the approach being developed by militarized police forces around the country, which includes huge numbers of undercover police and infiltrators, attempts at entrapment and provocation, and public relations scare tactics used to demonize activists and reduce participation. We should learn from what worked in terms of coalition building and turnout, and what arguably could have been done better -- such as a public commitment to nonviolence by the organizers.