Various people have claimed that the beginning of the Iraq War marked a defeat for the peace movement. And now that the war seems to be over even more people will claim that what’s going on in Iraq is a defeat of the peace movement. Neither of these claims is true.
First of all, a movement for peace and justice cannot be defeated. It is a fairly simple historical fact that peace and justice will prevail eventually. It might take some time, maybe a long time. But once the genie is out of the bottle there’s no way to put it back. Likewise, in a fairly similar way, often a movement for peace and justice cannot really win. The struggle for peace and justice is pretty much an open-ended struggle. Throughout history and on most continents peace has always meant the absence of war. It’s more realistic to treat it as such. There will never be a paradise on Earth where wars are impossible and where there is eternal justice. One needs to be realistic about this. Striving for peace means to be aware of all chances for violence. Likewise, striving for justice means to be aware of all those people who want to restrict justice.
But shouldn’t the peace movement at least be happy about the end of war in Iraq? Let’s assume that there really is an end to and let’s assume there will be no Afghanistanization of Iraq with a puppet government installed and with wide-spread misery and no progress outside of the capitol. Yes, the peace movement should be happy about an end of war in Iraq. It means ordinary Iraqis will not have to worry about being turned into heaps of charred flesh called collatoral damage. Iraqi conscripts will not have to worry about being killed and the same goes for foreign troops in Iraq. Everybody should be happy about this. Everybody should also be happy about the fact that Saddam Hussein is not in charge any longer - regardless of what happened to him.
All that, of course, doesn’t change the simple fact that the war did not change any of the arguments against it. It was an illegal war, to a shockingly large extent based on fabrications. Until now, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. We will probably never know whether there were any because, as Russia already indicated, even if some might turn up over the next few weeks there will always be people who claim they were planted there by foreign troops. The US and Britain simply don’t have neither the moral authority nor the credibility to convince anybody they found something - in particular since they really have to find something to persuade the world there was a reason for the war.
But maybe they’ll just stop talking about those weapons and focus on how good it is that Saddam Hussein is gone. How could we disagree with that? The thing is, though, that even though we all agree that he’s gone is good, that doesn’t mean we support the means. Before the war, the peace movement said many times that it deplored Saddam Hussein. So the fact that he is gone doesn’t really change anything because the means were and still are illegal. And they brought death to thousands of innocent people and even more destruction to an already ruined country. On top of that, the US, once one of the democratic role models in the world, is now widely regarded as a bully who only cares about its own interests. Relations between Russia and the US, both if which could destroy the entire planet, have cooled of to pretty low levels. What kind of achievement is that? Do those so-called neo-cons in Washington really think they can be proud of what they did?
There are more achievements to watch: Who will be installed as ruler in Iraq? Will there be democratic elections? Or will the country end up like Kuwait, which has been under military law for over a decade now? Will the people of Iraq finally be able to sell their oil to re-build the once developed country? Or will foreign (American and British) companies take over and create neo-colonial circumstances? Will the US contribute ro re-building Iraq or just forget about allocating funds for it (like in Afghanistan)? Will Israel be able to continually violate all the UN resolutions which were supposed to help Palestinians? And will it be unaccountable for its huge arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? How come those are not a threat for world peace? What about the appaling human-rights violations in Israel’s occupied territories? What about North Koreas weapons?
There are many many more such questions, more than before the war, and the sheer fact that many of these questions are questions which potentially could lead to another war makes them all important for the peace movement. The world has not become any safer after the Iraq war - quite on the contrary. Today, President Bush already “warned” Syria, Iran, and North Korea about weapons of mass destruction. Isn’t it a pretty safe assumption - giving Bush’s track record - that in a few months time there’ll be a lot of talk of waging war on one of those countries to overthrow a dictator (the US public wil be made believe that dictator was responsible for 9/11) and to destroy those dangerous weapons? There’s an election coming up in 2004, and the US economy isn’t doing too well…