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First thing I should say that I myself am somewhat leary about George W.'s mix of motives w.r.t. a military action against Iraq's Saddam Hussain. (Please, notice that I did not say "against Iraq.") Which of his motives are presidential, I ask myself, and which are personal?
From my reading over the years - including a biography of Hussain by an Iraqi author - I have come to understand that he is a student of such dictators as Hitler and Stalin and that he has been advised by members of the former communist soviet establishment how to rule with an iron fist. Also that he has used chemical and biological agents during the war against Iran, notably on Iraqi's. Also that he financially supports families of kids who blow themselves to bits in attempts to bring terror to the Israelis. (And, no, I am not taking sides here in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) Also that he applies his rule with a gun close at hand and that he has used it to kill people who simply disagreed with him. You may have noticed that pictures and videos of Hussain's cabinet meetings show all those in attendance with their hands on the table and the room in which they are seated having curtains all around. You may also have noticed that usually there stands a military guard right behind Hussain's seat. In short, it is wise to regard Hussain as a very dangerous person. Also as one who is quite prepared to take "everybody" with him when his time is up. Hitler aimed to do just that with his maniacal pursuit of the war in Russia and his scorched-earth directive for the destruction of Germany - which to Albert Speer's credit was not carried through. I fear that Hussain will be no different. (I could also refer to such stories as Iraqis murdering infants in Kuwaiti hospitals, but then again, we subsequently learned that those stories were concocted by a PR/advertising agency on behalf of Kuwait while the Kuwaiti "elite" was having a helluva good time in Egypt while American troops were drawing their line in the sand.)
The question in my mind now is: will good fortune rid us of Hussain before he uses his weapons, in which case no war is necessary. Or will he be able to build up an arsenal and a band of co-conspiring terrorists to threaten his neighbors and the world beyond, in which case we better take preemptive action. You see, whether we will be "wrong" or "right" won't be known for some time to come.
The previous paragraphs sketch the disturbing picture of this member of a democratic society not being sufficiently informed to shape a clearly defensible position about whether or not to concur with military action against Saddam Hussain.
Your post is no help, really. It refers to a "Statement of Conscience," but, personally, I think it utterly unconscionable to take a laissez-faire attitude with respect to Hussain and thereby condone the immense risk of exposing large numbers of people (friend and foe alike!) to weapons of mass destruction - especially so with the lesson of Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler still fresh in our minds. Turning to the web site you referred to, it immediately strikes me as riddled with sloganeering, polysyllables, and attempts at misrepresentation. Examples: "Not in Our Name" is sloganeering and the use of bold face to state "The statement appeared in the New York Times on September 19" gives a first impression of the statement being written by highly respected editorial writers, whereas the subsequent lighter print tells us it is merely an advertisement. Then, further catering to the readers' herd instinct, it tells us that "The New York Times ad [ not simply "the ad"] features a diverse list of influential names."
It seems to me that somehow we shall need to learn to find better ways for citizens in democratic societies to arrive at their judgments. Somehow we shall have to learn to properly inform ourselves; how to filter out what is true; how to evaluate and judge the remaining sober; and then, how to act.
"Statements of Conscience" signed by influential names are inadequate for dealing with urgent, complex problems.
Gary Richmond wrote:
The beginning of "A Statement of Conscience" NION (Not In Our Name)
Let it not be said that people in the United States did nothing when their government declared a war without limit and instituted stark new measures of repression.
The signers of this statement call on the people of the U.S. to resist the policies and overall political direction that have emerged since September 11, 2001, and which pose grave dangers to the people of the world.