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Biweekly Column
Brookline TAB
Brookline, Massachusetts

The War Muddle

Dennis Fox

April 3, 2003

The Bush Administration's delusions of grandeur are already exposed as lies. Skepticism grows despite efforts to shame or threaten into silence those who oppose the war. Yet these days of rampaging empire demand not silence but escalating opposition to Washington elites who have long sought to make Iraq the first of many steps toward a world molded to US specifications.

Here in Brookline, a new Peace Coalition spurred on by Brookline Peaceworks and Brookline PAX draws together local residents who seek to consolidate resources for both education and activism. Even in the unlikely event that the war's ultimate outcome and aftermath turn out as rosy as President Bush's handlers predict, town activists will be busy for years to come.

Soon after the war began, the smugly announced "shock and awe" campaign failed to plunge Iraq's leaders into the promised war-ending disarray. Euphoric opening-days satisfaction with casualty-free advances disappeared, replaced by images of the dead -- Iraqi civilians and US and British troops -- amid the reality of escalating chaos. Did government officials lie to us, or did they really believe their own bravado? I'm not sure which is more dangerous.

Journalists officially embedded in so-called "coalition" military units, bonding as planned with their new comrades in arms, initially offered jingoistic observations not shared by independent reporters who saw missiles incoming rather than outgoing. For the most part, though, the first independent reports were seen only by viewers who watched the BBC instead of CNN or who surfed to websites like

As I write this, the web pages of CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News show photos of determined American soldiers preparing for heroic battle; the BBC and Reuters, in contrast, show wounded Iraqi children and bomb-damaged Iraqi homes. Even the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz highlights Iraqi civilians, with the simple caption "struggling to get food."

Also varying is coverage of continuing anti-war protests. In the early days, CNN's viewers watched for hours but heard little substance about widespread US protests, a topic the BBC covered regularly. When the US media briefly acknowledged the huge demonstrations, they emphasized the handful of pro-war counter-demonstrators, employing a warped view of journalistic "balance" to mislead their viewers.

With the war underway and seemingly unstoppable, anti-war protestors are now divided into many camps, debating which tactics are most effective and, indeed, what the goal should be. Many still stand silently in candle-lit vigils, pass out leaflets, hold signs, or engage in similar activities. Weekly leafleting continues at Coolidge Corner, for example, as well as in Boston.

Some Brookline activists, though, have moved in other directions, joining with others to demonstrate moral opposition to war through symbolic, nondisruptive civil disobedience. As in other cities, some hope to interfere directly with war planning and implementation, by blocking military installations or government or corporate offices. Some attempt more general disruption, marching through streets and sometimes blocking them to ensure that, as needless war rages, business cannot continue as usual.

Despite the strategic and tactical disagreements, it seems to me the variety of approaches is a strength rather than a weakness, allowing expression of moods from sadness to shame to outrage. All are appropriate.

Identifying long-term goals is more complicated. Even if Saddam's tyranny is eventually replaced by something less brutal, and especially if the Pentagon's technological and ideological fantasies come true, anti-war forces must shift from a simple no-war agenda to a broader attack on the US role as global superbully. We must oppose not just this war and the next, but also the factors that make war inevitable: corporate power, superficial democracy, indoctrination in patriotism, persistent racism and economic inequality, political and religious conservatism, a corporate-owned media, and much more.

In the works locally is another resolution written by Brookline PAX for May's Town Meeting. Following up on last fall's resolution putting Brookline on record against the war, the new effort parallels others across the country that oppose growing restrictions on civil liberties. The USA PATRIOT Act was bad enough; with the more Draconian PATRIOT II on the way and a variety of other efforts across the country designed, among other things, to criminalize dissent, opposition is crucial. The time is now.

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Note: this version may differ from the published version.

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