So America, what do you think of the protesters now?
Four years ago in February, my wife and I boarded a bus from upstate New York in frigid weather to come to New York City and protest the Bush Administration’s war against Iraq, a disastrous war of historic proportions whose initial campaign of "shock and awe" began four years ago this week . This was the first truly global protest in history, with millions of people in countries all over the world coming out onto the streets of Madrid, London, and Mexico City to say no to the war that everyone feared was a foregone conclusion.
Seventy percent of Americans, whipped into fear by the Administration’s lies, supported the war. Remember how any dissenters were vilified? Bill Maher lost his job; so did Phil Donahue. The Dixie Chicks, today the proud recipients of a Grammy, received death threats and watched their recordings burned in an outburst of hate and hysteria. Michael Moore denounced a "fictitious president who gives us fictitious reasons for a fictitious war" only to be booed and shouted down by the supposed "liberals" of Hollywood.
With very few exceptions, the Democratic party collapsed in the face of a bullying, popular President. The press, with the notable exception of Knight Ridder newspapers, generally acted as a Ministry of Information, passing on propaganda from the White House and Pentagon. Judith Miller passed on false intelligence from Dick Cheney, acting as a virtual Administration agent within the NY Times.
Our French allies, who dared to raise their voices against America’s unwise and illegal rush to war, were the object of particular hatred. Remember freedom fries, anyone? In New York on February 15, protesters were greeted by both police officers who whispered "I support your cause" but also attacked by other officers on horseback, as helicopters and surveillance cameras gave a preview of Bush and Cheney’s Orwellian new America.
The protesters were not one unified group but a diverse collection of concerned voices and individuals. What was our message? It was that the war was being sold on false pretexts for sinister or foolhardy purposes. ("How did our oil get under their land?" read one sign) That there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11. That there were no WMD’s and that Iraq was a weak, contained country of no threat to the USA. That the war would become a quagmire ("Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam" read one sign). That the invasion would aid al-Qaeda, destabilize the region, inflict untold human costs on innocent civilians and our soldiers, and blacken the name of the United States at a time when we needed international cooperation. In short, the patriotic protesters (and the French and the majority of the world outside America) were right about everything. Those who blindly followed our leaders, the armchair warmongers and FOX news commentators and "establishment" media and politicians were wrong about everything.
But I do not write this only to say "we told you so." True, I am bitter about the troops: 3000 dead, over 50,000 crippled; all pawns in a political war with shifting rationales and mission, or even worse, twisted into war criminals and torturers. Make no mistake: the blood of the troops is on the hands of the fools who supported this war.
I am angry about what has happened to our country: our basic freedoms from government surveillance and the separation of powers and Constitution itself transgressed in the most crude and power-grasping manner.
Now the Administration is preparing to attack Iran. This time America, you should swallow your pride, learn from your mistakes, and listen to your betters. We were, and are, the true conservatives: cautious, prudent, and wise. We, and we alone, support the troops: we won’t send them to die unless war is a necessary and last resort. We were and are your moral superiors, the true Christians and prophets crying in the wilderness who refuse to worship the state in a fit of mindless patriotism. We are the foreign policy experts, who read books and know history and see the world in its complexity of cultures. We are considered radical because we take the same tools of political, moral, and economic analysis and apply them to our own country, because we refuse to believe the lie that America is somehow exempt from the corruptions and temptations of power that all great countries have experienced throughout history. We deny that God has a favorite nation or ethnic group.
When the time of struggle comes again, look to the protesters and progressives for leadership. Not to the Party of Torture and War, nor to the Party of Opportunism and Collaboration, nor to the fearful, credulous parrots in the media. We have a vision of a peaceful, just, and beautiful society. This time, listen to us! Or better yet, wake up and join us.