Thursday, February 10, 2005

Say No to Another War

By Mehrdad

Although it may seem that the US administration's intentions in regards to Iran are more along the lines of making a threat to keep Iran in line rather than another military conflict, the possibility of another military misadventure by the US in the middle-east should not be ruled out. It is important for all those who oppose another war to speak up now and preemptively campaign against such a disastrous possibility.

If you agree with the following reasons, or have your own reasons to oppose war, please write to your congress representatives, write to the editorial boards of your local newspapers, talk to you friends, talk to your coworkers, write in your weblog, do what you can to raise the awareness against war.

1. War is not effective against terrorism.

Terrorists welcome bloody conflicts. In their own mind, war justifies their existence. They thrive on the vicious cycle of retaliation, the kind of retaliation that victimizes everyone, terrorist or not. A war does just that. It victimizes the population, breaks down their trust toward the powerful invading state, and creates sympathy and support for the terrorists at worst or apathy at best.

In this global community, we can not win the war on terrorism alone. If you ask your local police officer what the best weapon for catching the criminals is, he will tell you it is the tips they receive from public. In the neighborhoods that the community does not trust the police, no matter how much police force are brought in, they are not effective against the crimes. We need the trust and support of the population of the world, especially in the countries where the terrorists are hiding, to isolate them, cut their support systems, and bring them to justice. The war breaks that trust.

The war against terrorism is the war of winning hearts and minds with weapons of ideas and inspirations. Let's go to them with the weapons of mass inspiration. Let's go to them with the words of the U.S constitution and ideals of liberty and justice. Let's win their minds over to cut the terrorists' blood line. But not only words, but also action, political action. Let's show them in our deeds that we treat everyone justly. Let's show the people of middle-east, not just with words, that we support Palestinians in their aspiration for achieving a state along side Israel. These are the ways we can defeat terrorism.

2. War is not a tool of liberation.

In today's world of communication, no state is powerful enough to block the flow of ideas. No state is powerful enough to control their population forever. No state was more powerful in controlling their society more than the former Soviet Union. The break down of the 70 year old Soviet empire with its powerful secret police and its mighty army is the greatest testament to the power of the people in rising up and defeating tyranny. The 1979 Iranian revolution that toppled its powerful regime is another great example. There, too, existed a powerful secret police and wealthy elite who controlled the economy and the army but were defeated by a population fed up with dictatorship and tyranny.

In the eyes of the current tyrannical rulers in Iran, war is "a gift" from god. That was exactly their rhetoric during their conflict with Iraq. That 8 year war could have ended almost 5 years earlier, but the rulers had found it a "gift" that they could use to suppress their population. One of the worst periods of suppression in Iran's modern history which included the horrific massacre of political prisoners took place during that time. They justified their tyranny by war. They justified their failures by war. They justified their aggression towards the world by war.

War as a tool of liberation undermines the people's right of self-determination. U.S constitution recognizes the people's right to charter their own destiny and take the matters in their own hand. Let's live up to that decree and allow for Iranians to decide their own faith.

3. War is not effective against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The threat of war is counter-productive in preventing the proliferation of WMD. It accelerates its development around the world. What would other nations see in the way US handled Iraq which did not have WMD and the way it treats North Korea which does. They see nuclear weapon as a deterrent and they rush to develop it while US is busy with Iraq and Iran.

In today's connected world, there are too many levers available to pull for punishing rouge states. No nation is an inland. Even North Korea with its isolationist policy realizes that its survival is to sit at the negotiating table and work out an agreement. Iraq's experience showed that UN inspection and international pressure was successful in preventing Iraq to develop WMD before U.S invasion. All political muscles should be put behind forcing Iran to open up to democratic changes, to open up the nuclear facilities to inspection, and respect international law.

If a powerful nation acts above the bounds of international laws and forces a single-minded agenda on others, it loses its credibility. When we act as a rouge state, we can not preach others against it.

4. War is costly.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and more than a thousand U.S soldiers have died and many more injured and maimed in US war against Iraq. U.S has already spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the war on Iraq. Another war against Iran, a country 3 times bigger and a population 4 times larger is going to be many folds more costly for both sides. How can we justify all these lives lost when we now know they were not necessary? We now know that the UN inspections and international pressure worked. We now know that Saddam was not able to produce weapons of mass destruction, and he had no capability for developing it for many years.

How can we justify spending billions on wars that are ineffective and damaging, while we face a great budget deficit and an economic hardship at home, while we have millions of Americans without health insurance or live under the poverty line, while we face challenges in finding resources for the education of our children? We should ask ourselves and our government if we have our priorities straight.

5. Learn from history.

If we do not learn from the past experiences, we bound to repeat the same mistakes. In 1954, US led coup toppled the democratically elected government of Dr Mohammad Mosadeq in Iran. That direct intervention in the affair of a sovereign country set the stage for 25 years of dictatorship and finally resulted in the current religious government. That coup terrorized the whole nation of Iran for many years, and they are still suffering from its consequences. Dr. Mosadeq's government was the chance for Iran to develop a truly democratic society. It could have been the model of democracy in Middle-East that U.S is now claiming for Iraq to become. Iran could have been where South Korea is today, but even much more, because of Iran's vastly richer natural resources.

Today in Iran, a young population, where 50% are less than 24 years of age, is aspiring for democracy and freedom. They are increasingly disillusioned from the possibility of reform from above and are forcing their collective will from below at the grass-root level. Their movement needs to be nurtured and supported to bear fruit. Another direct intervention in form of a devastating war will set this movement back for many years. Even if a war is successful in toppling the current regime, there is no guarantee that a U.S installed replacement would get the support of the democratic forces in Iran. The same disappointment that the U.S faced, after toppling Saddam when they did not see Iraqis embracing their occupying forces, will be faced again in Iran even if a war is successful in toppling current rulers. The people of Iran have suffered countless invasions throughout their history and will not accept a foreign imposed solution for them.

I leave you with these words of Dr Martin Luther King from his speech about Vietnam, at Riverside Church, 4 April 1967 New York City:

"...Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.

Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak..."