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For nearly five years, many liberal-minded Americans have viewed the war in Iraq as “Bush’s war” — launched on false pretexts at the prompting of neoconservative fantasists, in pursuit of oil and imperial goals, and in defiance of some ten million demonstrators worldwide. “Bush lied, thousands died,” says the bumper sticker. All true.
But the U.S. Congress voted for this war, and has never withdrawn a dollar of funding or blocked a single act of inhumanity. The American electorate reelected Bush and his Republican War Party to power in 2004. The current Congress, led by a slim Democratic majority, has yet to find the courage to draw the purse-strings, or even to deliver for Bush’s veto a steady stream of protest votes — and neither Clinton nor Obama nor Edwards nor Biden has been willing to commit to a complete withdrawal of American troops even by the end of a first term.
So it’s our war now.
The 2.5 million Iraqis in exile from their country, the two million in internal exile (and misery and dread), the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed, the hundreds of thousands more maimed, the thousands of American youth left dead or crippled, the billions and billions of dollars flushed away, the dark forces of religious hatred and ‘ethnic cleansing’ unleashed by our regime-changing folly — it’s all on our heads, and we and our children and our children’s children will surely be held to account.
We will be held to account economically: This corrupt war, while filling the coffers of Halliburton, Blackwater, and oil and armaments corporations, will soon have diverted well over a trillion tax dollars from our country’s infrastructure, Social Security and Medicare, public housing needs, education systems, national parks, college tuition programs, environmental protection, and so on. In essence, the war in Iraq has defunded the possibility of a better tomorrow that the end of the Cold War should have ushered in.
We will be also held to account morally: Our leaders’ hollow words about democracy and freedom will long be seen by the world as costume jewelry worn by a strutting emperor who has no clothes. How will future American leaders seeking to participate in peacemaking, or against genocide, torture or human rights abuses be able to erase the stain of the current government’s hypocrisy?
We will be held to account in terms of our security: By allowing Bush and his cronies to exploit our fear of terrorism as an excuse for military aggression, we have squandered international goodwill, weakened the power of multilateral cooperation, and greatly worsened the antagonism of the Muslim world.
Conservatives in the American Jewish community have seen the Iraq war as “our war” from the start — as a strategy for protecting Israel from forces they see as hell-bent on the Jewish state’s destruction. Never mind diplomacy, truth and reconciliation, or economic pressure: They seem truly to believe that Israel can be protected from ‘Amalek,’ the eternal enemy, only by the high-risk “preemptive war” doctrine of the Bush Administration.
Now these neocons are bucking for another ‘adventure’ in Iran: In the New York Times September 25th the Anti-Defamation League paid for an anxious full-page ad about a nuclear-armed Iran, while back in the spring, an American Jewish Congress resolution advocated that “military action” against Iran “be considered” (Congress Monthly, May-June). Have they learned nothing from the past five years about the casual use of war?! Do they really believe their own propaganda that military violence is the only language understood in the Muslim world?
Individual Jews have also been among the visible leaders of the anti-war movement in the U.S. Yet even among more liberal Jewish organizations, there has been mostly silence about Iraq. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of the Shalom Center, asked why in The Nation of October 1st. Passionate and creative in his ongoing opposition to the war, Waskow perceived the “usual [Jewish] demons at work” among these organizations: “fear of the wealthy, deference to the powerful and a desire not to alienate ‘friends’... so long as the dead are in someone else’s family.” With our leaders cowed by these “demons,” Waskow concluded, it is “grassroots Jews, the great majority of whom have already realized how corrupt and lethal the Iraq War is,” who must take responsibility, now, for ending “the silence [and] despair so as to cleanse anew our institutional houses.” Omeyn!