When you start your day with a Guinness in your hand surrounded by a bunch of drunken Irish athletes, you know it’s gonna be a good one. I headed down to the Alice Radio St. Patrick’s Day shindig at the Irish Bank before heading into work this morning. Did it more for the 500 point bonus code than anything else, but I must admit I was curious. At 8am in the morning, I really expected it to be pretty empty, but someone called up the Irish Athletic Association and, well, it was pretty crowded.
Irish chicks: WAY hot.
Didn’t stay for too long — got a frantic call from my boss about the servers going down over the weekend and the story I’ll need when the executives come looking for my head (long story short: it’s actually *his* job to monitor the things. I’ve placed an automatic monitoring system in place that he just needs to configure, but he just hasn’t done it. Grrrrr…) — So I headed off to the office. Having not eaten breakfast yet, the Guinness when straight to my head, so it’s been a pretty good morning here, all in all. No pain.
On my way back to the office there was a “massive” peace protest at the corner of Market and Montgomery. I had heard reports on the radio about masses of protesters terrorizing the streets of downtown San Francisco. Dozens of cops were out in force, ready to quell any uprisings, and it looked like I was about to walk into some excitement. Then I got there. I’d say about 40 people or so were gathered on the corner carrying banners and singing weird protest songs (one of them sounded like a sample from a Moby tune). It was pretty pathetic, to be honest. We’ve heard some stories about protesters saying they were going to attempt to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange and try to completely hobble the financial district. Truth is, I doubt there’s a big enough force for that.
Here’s my take on the protestors: too many of them hurt the cause rather than help it. I am against this war — I haven’t seen a single piece of evidence to indicate that Saddam is at all an imminent threat — but I can’t stand the way folks protest it. Peaceful demonstrations are all well and good, but all too many of them become confrontational. Take the “Black Bloc” breakaway protesters. They’re typically a much smaller group of people — maybe 10 percent of the larger demonstration — but they’re the ones who color the entire event. They break away from the group and vandalize local businesses, claiming to be against capitalism, consumerism and U.S. imperialism. The regular protestors, while denouncing the black bloc’s methods, don’t seem to give a lick about them, silently condoning their actions by their own inaction. As a result, we have the image of anti-war protestors as being a group of communist/socialist anti-imperialists bent on mayhem and destruction. I’ve seen pictures where the standard protestors smile in the background watching the black bloc folks destroy public and private property. Why the hell aren’t they stopping them?
And what about the protestors carrying signs containing derogatory messages about our government officials. What is this, the third grade? “Don’t side with Bush, he’s a poopy head.” That’s essentially what this screams to me. Granted, I refer to Bush as “that beady-eyed monkey” on a daily basis, but it’s usually in front of some material criticism of his policies. I listened last week to his first press conference of the year (it took him three months, folks… what the hell?) and was pretty appalled to hear him talk about what “his government” wants rather than what the American government wants. He actually referred to it as his government. That, to me, speaks volumes. Pounce on his flaunting of the tradition of international consensus building, pounce on his overeagerness to rush into a war that has little or nothing to do with the attacks on American soil that raised our hairs to begin with, but stick to the issues instead of the schoolyard taunts. It just makes us all look bad.
My argument against most protests is that they lack intelligent, cohesive arguments for their side. Rather than intelligently debate their beliefs, their message often gets lost in a barrage of angry screams that serve only to alienate those who genuinely agree with their cause, but would rather be associated with a more cool-headed bunch. This was true during the whole affirmative action flap, it’s true now. To be perfectly honest, no amount of intelligent discourse is going to stem the tide of war. The fact is that a vocal majority of the American public seem to either agree with the president or are so apathetic that they don’t care what happens. One of the earmarks of a solid democracy is a well-informed and educated electorate, but truth and fact are things that are manipulated easily by those in charge. Bush and his crowd have successfully convinced much of the US population that war with Iraq is a good thing and, like it or not, it looks like we’re going to war.
Initially, the pro-war crowd said they’d back down if Hans Blix and his crew found no serious indication of WOMD in Iraq. Their report has indicated, essentially, that there’s really no way to tell. That doesn’t mean that Iraq is hiding weapons, nor does it mean Iraq isn’t hiding weapons. It just isn’t possible to know for sure unless Saddam whips ‘em out for the world to see. By then, it would essentially be too late, but going on the assumption that he has these weapons is one hell of a dangerous move. Colin Powell did deliver some evidence to the U.N. and the American public, but this evidence is a tad sketchy and has never been backed up by another country’s surveillance.
It has come down to the US’s word against Iraq’s, and this is why the international community is mostly against this action. Only three nations are openly backing action against Iraq — the US, the UK and Spain. The US and UK are already dead set on sending in troops to oust Saddam. When Blix’s report came in, they immediately added another requirement to their list of demands against Iraq to avoid conflict: Saddam Hussein must step down as ruler and leave the country. And what happens if today, on the deadline for these demands, he decides to leave? What if, as has been suggested, he puts one of his sons in power to replace him? The pro-war coalition is essentially requiring the Iraqi government to hand over the keys to them or else. Sounds kind of like blackmail to me.
And what happens if we go to war? If it’s anything like the 1991 conflict, it’ll be fairly short and sweet with a limited number of US casualties. Bush Sr. dropped the ball on that one, though, when he left Saddam in power. Did no one learn their lesson from WWI? Hitler rose to power amidst a nation demoralized by it defeat during the first world war, finding a convenient scape goat for it woes in it’s Jewish population. September 11th was a direct result of our mishandling of the middle east situation. After the Gulf War, Saddam was left in control of a government under constant US surveillance and sanctions. Whether US Sanctions led to starving Iraqi children or whether it was Saddam’s own brutality against his people is totally irrelevant — Saddam was still able to parlay his country’s problems into anti-semitic and anti-american hatred. Anti-american sentiment has long been a part of the fundamentalist Islam that dominates the Iranian culture and is spreading into Pakistan, Turkey and other predominantly Muslim nations. Afghanistan is still in ruins and members of the Taliban are still holed up in caves throughout the nation, probably still protecting Osama Bin laden and his compatriots. The chances of them entering and prolonging any armed conflict against Iraq is highly probable, detonating the powder keg that the middle east has represented for centuries. And, while this is certainly nothing new, if America suffers from getting entangled in the imbroglio, we really have no one but ourselves to blame.
American war in the middle east would resemble Vietnam only in the fact that Vietnam set a precedent for civil unrest during wartime that this nation had never seen before. I don’t believe we’ll “lose” the war like we did in Vietnam — I think it’s entirely possible that we’ll be able to dethrone Saddam Hussein and install some kind of allied-controlled government in his place. But I don’t think we can claim that to be “winning” the war. It is naive to believe that the US can end a conflict that has gone on for literally hundreds of years. And, like Vietnam, we wouldn’t be fighting a regimented government-controlled military. We’ll be fighting against people trying to secure their homeland and their way of life. A majority of the Muslim world disagrees with the fundamentalist dogma practiced by those in control in Iran and Iraq, but an attack on them can very easily be spun by the masters of deception as an attack on Islam, gathering more forces for their cause. It’s not hard to imagine the dozens of ways that our involvement in such a conflict can spin out of control.
There’s no easy answers here, because simply stepping away isn’t a good idea either. I think I’m more in line with the international community: Saddam Hussein’s regime has not demonstrated a valid commitment to total disarmament, but they have not posed an immediate threat either. We should continue with regular inspections and diplomatic means of fixing this issue. We have the technology to keep Iraq under constant surveillance, the problem is that the U.S. isn’t too willing to share, even with their allies. Without the US’s cooperation, it’s rather difficult for the rest of the international community to be sire of Iraq’s intentions. The US is the bully in the sandbox — we have all the best toys, and we’re not willing to share unless the other kids side with us. But how can they side with us when we won’t share the information necessary to make solid informed opinions? We’re asking them to go with us on faith that we’re right. Our government may very well be telling the truth, but in a world where the truth is a thing easily tarnished, bent and formed into something new, the rest of the international community is their rights to disagree with us until they see further evidence. We’ve painted ourselves into a corner and, like it or not, we’re going to war over it. And, quite frankly, we’re fairly powerless against it. Welcome to democracy.