(Note-This first appeared as an op ed in the Toronto Star on Monday, January 14, 1991. In reaction to the death of the arch war criminal George Bush I thought I would share what I wrote then regarding the first Iraq War, just as it was about to begin and when Canada was considering taking part in the usual coalition of the criminal, and all the horrors that followed.)
The road to war is neither well marked nor easy to avoid in the darkness of confusion, misunderstanding, self-interest and hypocrisy. It is a road which has its beginnings in the darkest regions of the human mind but which leads to one destination only; the charnel house.
This country, for reasons still veiled behind platitudes of “freedom” and “standing up to aggression” has begun the journey into a world of unimaginable terror; a world of disciplined and sanctioned murder, of gaping wounds, and blackened, burned flesh, of young men screaming agony, of the inferno of flamethrowers, napalm, disintegrating planes, and tanks blazing in the desert night; a world of spilled intestines and sowllen, stinking death.
It has been said that war is a natural state of things, that man cannot avoid it in a lawless world in which might makes right. It has been said that war serves to invigorate a nation, to cleanse it of indolence, tha it is a necessary corrective for the corrosive influence of peace. It has been said that this will be a “just war”.
That such arguments are false is self-evident. Nothing corrupts a society and its values more quickly and effectively than war. War requires that one state impose its lawless will on the will of another, and so spread the anarchy and cynicism among other states and among the people.
The prime directive of all civilised societies, “thou shalt not kill” becomes, “thou shall kill those it is your duty to kill.” No system of morality, law and justice can survive this contradiction and the justifications used to rationalise it serve only to breed contempt for all law and all morality.
There are those of our citizens inflamed by prejudice and propaganda, who preferwar to peace, death too life, fighting to talking, hatred and violence to wisdom and patience. They must be confronted with war’s reality. The Iraq war will not be fought in living rooms on Nintendo videos. It will be fought in the blazing heat and numbing cold of a desert which has no mercy for its victims.
They are the first victims of this war, their ability to question critically snuffed out by a surfeit of unanalyzed information, mistaken information, and an ignorance of history. Unable to see beyond the skilfully woven veil of propaganda, they support what they beleive to be a “just war.”
The reality is that Canada, and Britain and the European community of nations are providing token assistance to or acquiescence in this American adventure not from conviction but from self-interest, the quid pro quo being an attentive American ear on present and future economic problems. Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia becsuse they have an interest in preventing the rise of an Arab power which will rival their own. The Soviet Union has voiced support out of weakness and a desire to curry favour with the United States in order not to prejudice American economic assistance.
The war preparations have continued despite the fact that snctions are so effective that Iraq cannot long withstand them. The director of the CIA, William Webster, in testimony to the American Congress a few weeks ago stated that Iraqi exports have been reduced by 97 per cent.
They continued despite the fact that Iraq has offered to leave Kuwait asking in return only that negotiations be held on its claims in Kuwait and the Palestinian question.
They continued despite the fact that Iraq’s seizure of Kuwait was no more or less justified than the American invasion of Panama to secure its control of the Panama Canal, for which Manuel Noriega was the pretext; despite the fact that it was no more or less justified than the American invasion of Grenada to overthrow a foreign government that it did not like and despite the fact that the United States has supported tyranny around the world when it suited their interests and despite the fact that the protection of American economic interests has always been beneath the white cloak of “freedom and democracy.”
All efforts to get the Americans to conduct meaningful negotiations are futile. The Americans are set on bringing Saddam Hussein down and with him, Iraqi power.
George Bush’s efforts to negotiate were really nothing more than ultimatums to Iraq which were designed to be rejected. They were designed to be rejected becuase the American agenda is war.
Whether this war agenda is driven by perceived threats to America’s oil supplies, or by regional pressures to emasculate an upstart Arab power which threatens the hegemony of the west in the region doesn’t really matter. The fact is unless diplomacy has been exhausted Canadians will not die to defend freedom and democracy. They will not die in the name of international law. They will not die in the name of justice. They will do in the name of absolute power, for absolutely nothing”
27 years later and what has changed except the names of the actors.