Published in the Syracuse Post-Standard, October 2002

War on Iraq and the Demise of Democracy

by Andy Mager

President Bush successfully prodded Congress to grant him authorization for a unilateral, pre-emptive war against Iraq. As a result, the world is a more dangerous place and democracy in our nation has been weakened once more.

As I listened to the Congressional debates about the resolution I was deeply troubled by the fantasy world inhabited by most of our elected leaders. Despite near-unanimous world opposition to the planned US attack on Iraq, an overwhelming majority of federal representatives parrot the Bush administration line that Saddam Hussein is a grave and imminent danger. His neighbors in the Middle East (excluding Israel) don’t see him as a threat. Europeans and Asians, who are much closer geographically, don’t believe he is a threat.

I was appalled that none of these "representatives," including those whose job is to represent Central New Yorkers, discussed the input they had been receiving from their constituents. A variety of reports demonstrate that what they were hearing was overwhelming anti-war. Is this what democracy looks like?

Despite a year of determined public relations efforts, using all the world’s most sophisticated surveillance apparatus and technology, the Bush administration has produced no clear evidence of either of its primary justifications for war against Iraq:

They continue to trot out the same vague allegations, many based on lies and misinformation. Just a couple of examples:

In assessing the lies emanating from the Bush administration and its allies, it is valuable to recall that two of the key justifications for the first Persian Gulf War–that Iraq was preparing to invade Saudi Arabia and that Iraqi soldiers had removed Kuwaiti babies from incubators leaving them to die–turned out to be complete fabrications.

I agree with Bush that Saddam Hussein has abused his power in horrible ways. However, we must look at our own complicity with his crimes. When he used poison gas during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, he was receiving billions of dollars in aid from the US government and battlefield targeting assistance from our Defense Intelligence Agency. In the aftermath of the devastating 1988 gas attacks against Kurdish civilians in Iraq the US Senate unanimously passed sweeping sanctions that would have denied Iraq access to most US technology. This measure was killed by the Republican White House.

Recent polls have shown what many of us suspected all along–that there is not majority support for this war among the people of this country. Despite being inundated with phone calls, faxes and emails opposing this war, Rep. Jim Walsh, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Hillary Clinton all voted in favor of war. Their reasoning that voting for war makes peace more likely, particularly when one considers the current regime in Washington, is utterly unconvincing.

It is clear that concerned US citizens (rather than passive subjects) must raise our voices even more loudly to prevent war. The Syracuse Peace Council, in conjunction with other organizations and individuals, has organized a Peace Demonstration on Saturday, October 26, beginning at 1 pm with Peace Walks from the four directions converging at 3 pm on the Armory Lawn downtown.

Walks begin from:

Southside-South Presbyterian Church (corner of E. Colvin & S. Salina Sts)

Westside-Delaware Elementary School (800 S. Geddes St.)

Northside-Schiller Park near the pool (Oak St. entrance near Rugby Rd.)

Eastside-Grassy Triangle at East Genesee St. & Salt Springs Rd.

Hundreds of Central New Yorkers will come together on the 26th to stand up for the values we claim as a nation–equality, justice and peace. We will say "No War on Iraq" and assert that "This is what democracy looks like." Please join us. For further information, contact the Syracuse Peace Council, 472-5478, spc@peacecouncil.net, www.peacecouncil.net.

Andy Mager is the Co-coordinator of the Syracuse Peace Council.