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What Now?
by David Nett | Mar 25, 2003

I'm not sure what to write about this -- how it will come out of me. I've even delayed the release of this week's edition of CSP because I think it is important that we say something. But, not just anything. Which is why I sit here, nervous and uncomfortable, as this stuff comes out of me in painful dribs and drabs.

We're at war now. And, just because the war has begun does not mean that I can stop being against it. That would be the easy road -- the road that so many of our politicians have taken: they failed in their half-hearted attempts to prevent war, and now they "fully support the President and his decisions." I think I can do better than that. I think I can remain against the war, and firmly not behind President Bush, but still lend my support to those soldiers who are risking their lives in a fight that did not have to happen, at least not now. Some 20 or so U.S. and British soldiers are dead or missing. My heart goes out to them, to their families and friends. Those who are now in battle, and those who will be soon -- my support goes to you as well. May you be safe, may your job be done swiftly, and may you escape the war with as little physical and psychological damage as possible. The same goes to the Iraqi people -- may you be safe, and come out of this intact. Now that we are in this war, the best way out is through swift resolution. I sincerely hope that our soldiers' jobs are completed soon -- that we can oust the dictator, and begin the long, costly, painful and dangerous reconstruction effort as quickly as possible. Then, perhaps, we can turn our attention toward 2004, and the removal, through peaceful, legal elections, of our own despot.

But that begs another question. What does happen after the war? I think it's a foregone conclusion that the "coalition" (thanks for the support, Azerbaijan) will be victorious, though the time it'll take and the lives that'll be lost are yet unknown. But what then? This march toward war has done more than cause outrage in the Arab world, and in the Hippie streets of California. It has splintered the UN, the European Union and NATO. It has pitted ally against ally, and funneled great gobs of US money through countries whose human rights abuses and terrorist-factories rival Saddam's own: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, etc. The march toward war has squandered, as former U.S. Diplomat John Brady Kiesling put it, nearly all of the international goodwill the US has accumulated over the past few decades. After playing the bully for the past year, and making good on our threats in the past week, how will we convince our schoolyard chums that we're not going to tackle them when their backs are turned, that we won't hold them down and stuff dead leaves down their shirts, or make them eat mud? How will we fix the rift in the UN security council? In NATO? Or help Great Britain in the EU? Or repair the ill-will that has grown so strong in people throughout the world over the past year? I don't know these answers, by the way -- I can't even begin to think how, apart from ousting our current leadership and starting fresh, we can even begin this healing. Our administration's arrogance, self importance, and blatant action only in their own interest, without respect for the interests and opinions of the rest of the world, has destroyed many international friendships in the past year, and reduced our credibility as a nation of reason and, yes, justice, to all-time lows. Gawd help us if we don't find weapons of mass-destruction in Iraq, after all of this -- if that happens, shit will really hit the international fan, and US credibility will truly near zero.

Most of my real activist friends ("real," as opposed to "cyber," which is the comfortable, easy activism most of us engage in) have diverted their attentions now from direct opposition of the war effort to support of humanitarian aid and human rights groups. I think this is the right road to take. There are only a few people who can bring the war to a swift end now, and they are in Iraq, knee-deep in blowing sand, squinting through the dust at Baghdad. We must wish that they will be compassionate as they carry out their duties, and we should support, wherever we can, those who focus on helping the victims of war -- those people who are wounded and displaced because of our actions, and their families and the families of those who are killed.

All this rambling. All this typing. All this liberal use of the "delete" key. And what, after all, am I saying? Just this: I do not support this war. Now that we are in it, I hope for swift resolution of it, with as little bloodshed as possible, and for the safety of our troops, who have been so carelessly placed in harm's way. I support doing whatever it takes, in both money and support, to heal Iraq once we've finished pummeling it to the ground. And I support the removal of those responsible for this blatantly unnecessary conflict -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and even Powell, as quickly as our democratic process allows.

With luck, the damage we've done to our reputation, to our friendships, to the U.N., and to the idea of world peace is not irreversible.