As the barely week-old war on Iraq unfolds, contradictions are rapidly emerging around the anti-war movement.
Last Saturday, a massive anti-war demonstration was held in New York City. I was in town for a conference, and a cabbie remarked that these “f–ing Americans love Saddam more than his own people.”
And it doesn’t stop there.
Republicans dubbed Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle ‘the Senator from France” because he had the audacity to say that President George W. Bush has failed at diplomacy.
In recent weeks, Bush has been playing up the importance of bringing liberty to Iraq, while disarming Saddam.
Stories of Iraqi dissenters fill the scattershot reporting of the cable news networks, while in America, anti-war activists are getting slammed as unpatriotic.
If we are fighting for the right of Iraqis to dissent, in a war dubbed ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom,” why are dissenters here at home being branded as traitors, cowards or, in the words of FOX News, ‘Saddamites?”
Once again, hawks are appropriating the American flag for themselves, denying that people can oppose their government’s policy, yet still love their country.
Anti-war demonstrators are not contending that Saddam Hussein is a benevolent ruler, who should remain in power until the end of his natural life.
Their argument is that war, and certainly a preemptive, internationally-opposed war, is not the way to make the world a safer place.
Several weeks ago, polls showed that over 50 percent of the country opposed a war without United Nations approval.
These same polls now say the three-quarters of Americans support the attack.
All of the arguments for peace have gone by the wayside for these folks. Now, many of those in opposition to an Iraqi invasion say that since war has been launched, they hope it is successful.
This is counter-intuitive.
Why should someone who opposed the war suddenly support it just because it has started?
Dozens of U.S. and British soldiers, as well as several journalists, have already died over the past week, and others have been wounded or captured.
An unknown number of Iraqis have died in the massive bombings, and no one knows what casualties may emerge from an assault on Baghdad.
Critics of the anti-war movement accuse demonstrators of not supporting U.S. troops, who are now in harm’s way.
The best support we can give to our soldiers, and to those living and working in Iraq, is to demand the immediate end to this illegal war that unnecessarily endangers their lives.
The chilling effect of peace-movement bashing is partly to blame for these contradictions.
But so far, verbal attacks, sporadic arrests and Dixie Chick CD-burnings have been the main response to the remaining voices against the war.
Despite the long shadow of the Patriot Act and the cries of ‘My country, right or wrong,” if the war drags on, more people may find their voice for peace again.
Brian White can be reached at email@example.com.