This morning we had run out of coffee, so I strolled four blocks to the corner and back with beans. On that trip I saw two houses displaying antiwar signs and some graffiti on the main drag; pix below. On the evidence, we're at a turning point, however this plays out. (Warning: lengthy meander through the experience of luck and non-life-threatening injury, with a dip into Sinéad O'Connor.)
The war is on. The Chilean proposal for Iraq to get 45 days to meet specific conditions or get whacked: rejected. The French proposal to place a time limit on the inspectors' work: rejected. The silly, irrelevant one-hour three-way in the Azores: done.
Non-Life-Threatening Injury · In late 2000, I was bicycling home from work and was struck by a car. It was a non-life-threatening injury; my shoulder was severely broken and dislocated, and I spent 3 days living on morphine and intravenous while they took multiple X-rays and waited for the right combination of specialists and nurses and operating rooms to become available. I spent days trying to sleep sitting up after the surgery, months sleeping poorly, and my shoulder will never be the same again. This was, once again, a non-life-threatening injury, the kind that doesn't even make it into the "collateral damage" numbers, and I got care from one of the world's best medical systems, without a war going on.
Along with such unrecorded devastation of body parts and who knows how many thousand nights' sleep lost to pain, the bombs will destroy buildings, machines, tools, documents, and photos of kittens that were crafted with skill, with hard-won resources, and even some with love. Nobody, it seems, will weep, but it would be well, when contemplating war, to contemplate these things as well.
And yet, and yet, and yet. If one is to have an army, what better use for it than taking out a government like the one Iraq currently suffers under? There's a level at which everyone in general and the Iraqis in particular should be damn grateful to the Yanks for going there at their own expense and stomping a particularly verminous insect under their large and well-armed heel.
This is particularly true since pretty well nobody in the world outside of the American far-right ideological fringe really believes this claptrap about Saddam Hussein being the single most dangerous threat to the world. Since it's not credibly self-defense, it must be public-spiritedness, right?
Truth and Unilateralism · You can see all this as a victory for truth; the global community, represented (reasonably well in my opionion) by the UN Security Council, declined to buy the Big Lie about Saddam's danger and give the US first strike diplomatic cover. Perhaps the next time a superpower wants to take out a rogue tyrant, they will present it as something worth doing for its own sake rather than dressing it a flimsy cloak of lies. And I bet they get more then 3 votes in the Security Council.
And obviously this is a victory for unilateralism. When the United States decides they dislike some government strongly enough to go take it out, they have established that they will do this with or without international blessing, and no matter how small and tawdry the collection of second-rate powers that decide to tag along. This has to be worrying, and make the world, on balance, a less stable place.
Feeling Lucky or Feeling Scared? · I feel lucky this week not to be American; I have never, nor has any Canadian born since the Fifties, ever really felt pressure to go to war.
But the world is a scary place, with Mr. Hussein being far from the scariest thing in it - last week I offered a list of fifteen scarier things. Well, make that sixteen - this horrible disease breaking out of Southeast Asia and already here in Vancouver apparently has a name (SARS) but no known pathogen, nor any useful therapies. Here's a nasty thought: suppose this bug got loose among the hundreds of thousands of soldiers camped out in the Gulf waiting to invade Iraq, living intimately and unhygenically in tents in the desert.
Historically, the outcome of most famous military campaigns was affected by epidemic and infestation more than strategy and tactics. Two excellent similarly-named books have been published on this subject: Rats, Lice and History and Guns, Germs, and Steel.
A Drink Before the War · I fear for the shoulders that will be broken unwept-for. I fear the pathogens ramping for assault. I fear for my little boy growing up in a world where the notion of the "International Community" is presently in tatters. I think of Sinéad O'Connor's song A Drink Before the War:
No, no, no
It won't happen to us
We've lived our lives
Basically we've been good men
So stop talking of war
Cause you know we've heard it all before
Why don't you go out there
And do something useful
Oh listen to the man in the liquor store
He yelling "anybody wanna drink before the war?"
"Anybody wanna drink before the war?"
"Anybody wanna drink before the war?"
Let's those of us that drink savour one, this last weekend before the war. Long life and health to all.