Sunday, July 05, 2009

Art Gallery - Benediction (2003)

March 18, 2003

We are now literally hours away from the start of the Iraqi war. I've taken some time to reflect, and I want to share some things with you during these final moments.

This past Sunday, many of us participated in candlelight vigils in over 3000 cities around the world. On every continent, countless thousands of people, just like you and me, added their voices to the call for peace. Some vigils drew thousands, and some drew hundreds, while others drew a handful of family and friends.

Here in the Twin Cities, there were numerous gatherings, including a few thousand at Lake Harriet. For me, I attended a small group at the University of Minnesota, outside the Northrop Auditorium and overlooking the most scenic view on campus. Most of the students were away for Spring Break, drinking themselves into oblivion. Lucky bastards.

These may seem like dark days for the anti-war crowd. "President" Bush is finally going to have his precious war, the Neoconservative Hawks are on the path to their empire, and Dick Cheney (and Halliburton) will get his oil.

That brutal dictator, Saddam Hussein, will be replaced with, um, well, whatever it is we have in Afghanistan. And hopefully, only a few thousand civilians will be killed in the process; at least, until the human rights organizations come in and start counting the bodies.

The sad story of history is that powerful men often have their way. "Manifest Destiny," the Spanish-American War, McCarthy-ism, Jim Crow, Vietnam. Iraq is but the latest chapter in that story, and, yes, there will be more tragedies in the future. Such is the nature of the human condition.

By all accounts, it may seem to you that the peace movement has failed; that we have no real voice; that all our protests and letter campaigns and candlelight vigils mount to nothing. Goodness knows, the American media, dominated by greedy corporations and right-wing extremists, will pound that into your heads every day. Get with the winning side! Don't be a trouble-maker! You want to be a real patriot, don't you?

Don't believe any of it.

The anti-war movement has been a resounding success. Consider that it took Americans years before coming to grips with the horrors of the Vietnam War. Today, millions have taken to the streets before a single shot is fired. Hundreds of thousands march, time and time again, on Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and all points in between. All this happens while we are being told by the "liberal" media that Americans are united behind Bush.

Around the world, people of all colors, creeds, and nations have come together in peace and unity. Millions have taken to the streets of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia; the scientists in Antarctica have even joined in on the action. Across every nation, vast majorities of the people oppose Bush's preemptive war on Iraq; without backing by the UN, the opposition is almost unanimous. These are historic events; we are witnessing the greatest voice for democracy the world has ever seen.

And it is at the United Nations that we have met our greatest success. After the 15-0 approval of Security Council Resolution 1441, it would seem all but inevitable that the Bush Administration would eventually win a second vote authorizing war. But we took to the streets, and made our voices heard. Think about that. The White House tried every trick up its sleeve: phony evidence, scare tactics, almost $50 billion worth in bribes, threats, intimidation, illegal wiretapping.

At the end of the day, despite all of the pressure, the nations on the Security Council adhered to the will of the people. With only four votes to speak of, the Bush Administration turned tail and ran, refusing to even "show their cards" as Bush had promised. This is, without question, the worst diplomatic fiasco in decades.

When the bombs start falling, remember this, my friends: while we could not stop Mr. Bush from taking Iraq, we robbed him of the one thing that matters most of all. Mr. Bush has been robbed of his legitimacy. And nothing can ever bring that back.

Your thoughts, prayers, and efforts have succeeded, and Providence and history will judge what we have done. We have spoken out for the voiceless, the powerless, the hungry and the naked. We have spoken out for those nameless thousands of innocent civilians who deserve the same human rights as you and me. Conquering a nation that has hurt no one will never do that. Democracy can never be achieved at the barrel of a gun.

So I want you to reflect on this, and remember that this will not be in vain. And our voices will be needed now, more than ever. When the war starts this week, you owe it to the world to make your voice heard. Light a candle in your window, attend your local peace vigil, make up some protest signs, write to your elected leaders (and yes, Bush, too), take to the streets.

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