Two views on war with Iraq

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Commentators Ellen David Friedman and Libby Sternberg offer two views of the possibility of war with Iraq.

Ellen David Friedman:

We’ve just returned from spending three weeks in China. I come home with a reverence for democracy and a real affection for my country. But as I re-engage in the tasks of daily life, it is the impending war that takes up my mind.

I find myself among the many whose hearts are simply breaking, who are steaming with anger, who are mystified, or who are frustrated. I mean those of us who don’t support this war and who do want to make a difference. We get up in the morning and go about our lives but inside are thinking… this can’t be happening, this can’t be allowed to happen.

Perhaps worst of all, it seems many are feeling helpless and all but paralyzed by despair. But as a professional organizer, I remind myself that hard and purposeful work can still alter what now seems all but inevitable. Indeed, I think it has already been slowed down a bit.

The breadth and diversity of the growing peace movement is impressive. It embraces even business leaders scared of economic destabilization and military strategists alarmed about terrorist backlash. Around the world, millions of just plain folks are turning up at marches and rallies. Even in supposedly pro-war Britain, the leaders of five national unions have just announced there will be massive strikes in response to a war.

We can’t afford to waste time on despair, but should use every path of influence. Talking to a co-worker or supporting a Town Meeting resolution is an act of defiant optimism.

The persistence of an awakened citizenry can strengthen the hand of those who seek diplomacy over war. It can bolster the legitimacy of peace-keeping efforts by the UN and even NATO to resolve intractable conflicts without breeding further violence. Democratic expression is our tool. There are alternatives to this war.

Libby Sternberg:

President Bush’s critics say that he is “rushing to war.” But Bush identified Iraq as a target in his 2002 State of the Union address. So it’s been over a year since he began planning action.

Bush critics also insist that congressional support and approval are crucial. He received it last year.

Bush should receive UN approval, say some, but it was Bush who took the case to the UN last fall, securing a resolution which led to the recent inspections. And it’s the Bush Administration, often criticized for acting with disdain for the UN, that actually made sure our UN dues were paid there.

But Bush needs to “make the case” to the American people, critics say. He’s done so repeatedly – before the UN in the fall, in his State of the Union address this year, in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN, in administration appearances before congress, and on television and in print commentaries.

Finally, to those who insist the US should not act alone, I would point out that 34 countries have now pledged support, including ones like Poland, Portugal, Italy, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Spain and eastern nations, as well as Great Britain, where Prime Minister Tony Blair is reminding us what true political courage is.

Yes, old friends France and Germany have dissented, but France has many financial incentives for keeping the status quo in Iraq – most notably oil interests. And Germany’s Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer is unlikely to be persuaded by anything we say. According to Michael Kelly in the Washington Post, Fischer might not be a terrorist himself but he’s been a “good and active friend to terrorists” over the years.

Bush’s approach to war with Iraq has been methodical and organized, a far cry from what critics claim.

Related link:
udio and transcripts of Perspectives on War are available online.

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