War and the politics of democratic consent
BY IRFAN NOORUDDIN
I remember clearly the day just over 12 years ago (Aug.
2, 1990) when Bombay's Mid-Day newspaper announced
that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. I was a FYJC (11th grade)
student at St. Xavier's College in India and my friends and I
spent the remainder of the day in the canteen discussing the
ramifications of the day's events (actually we spent every
day in the canteen but that's another story). Against the
backdrop of Security Council resolutions and Operation
Desert Storm we analyzed and critiqued the actions taken
by both sides all year long, debating vociferously India's
decision to allow U.N. airplanes to use Indian air bases and
its participation in U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq
(which UNICEF now estimates contributed to the deaths of
over 5,000 Iraqi children under five years old a month or
over half a million children under five since 1991).
The war clouds gather again over Iraq (though the latest
news from the United Nations is encouraging) and I am still
on a college campus, albeit many miles from the Xavier's
canteen. Things are quite different this time around: while life
came to a standstill at St. Xavier's and debates about the
morality of war could be overheard everywhere, student life
at the University appears unaffected by the possibility of a
second Gulf War. Thinking about these differing reactions led
me to reflect on the relationship between education, democra-
cy, and war, and this essay is the result.
Political scientists often argue whether democracies
behave differently in matters of international relations. One
popular theory is that since elected leaders are accountable to insists it will attack Iraq with or without world support (in a
the voting public and since these publics are typically against recent interview with Newsweek, Nelson Mandela calls the
war (because they are the ones who have to do the fighting) U.S. "a threat to world peace"), we should demand to know
democratic leaders avoid conflict unless provoked. Further why. Why Iraq? Why war? Why now?
democratic states supposedly have free presses that take the Unfortunately, as Frank Rich put it in a New York Times
political leadership to task by asking difficult questions, the opinion piece last Saturday, "to question the president on Iraq
answers to which the electorate considers carefully in giving is an invitation to have one's patriotism besmirched." To
consent to foreign policy decisions. But a CBS News/New oppose war against Iraq is to attack America, to defend Sad-
York Times poll last week found that while just 27 percent of dam, and to ignore the realities of evil in a post Sept. 11
937 respondents nationwide thought the Bush administration world. Is Saddam Hussein evil? Sure. Do the people of Iraq
had "clearly explained the US position with regard to possibly.. deserve to be free of Saddam's despotic rule and to govern
attacking Iraq," 68 percent approved of U.S. military action themselves democratically? Of course they do. But to believe
against Iraq (the poll had a 3 percent margin of erro). Ciealy that Bush-Saddam II will bring peace and democracy to that
our theories of democratic consent need serious revisio> accursed country is nayve. Democratic consent cannot be
I argue this simple example reveals how shallow de > oc demanded by our leaders but must instead be earned though
racy can be, and that true democratic debate is too often open discussions in which all participants have access to all
replaced by flag-waving and jingoistic claims of U.S. excep- the fats. Without such free and open discussion, democracy
tionalism and supremacy (I offer as local evidence the Daily's is reduced to a procedural exercise blindly completed at the
coverage of the Sept 11 anniversary; the national corporate ballt box rather than a substantively consequential form of
media is no better). Yet democracies are meant to be govern- government, which is revolutionary in allowing common peo-
ments "of the people, for the people, and by the people."' pe t control their own destinies. Of all places, a public uni-
What this means is that we, as citizens in a democracy, are versity should preserve this revolution by providing a safe
obliged to hold our leaders responsible for their actions rather> ine'ectual space within which it is not just appropriate but
than blindly acquiescing in whatever they tell us to believ.: 'r"a>><a responsibility to demand real answers and to reject
So, when Andrew Card, the president's chief of sta, deftnds government propaganda. That, after all, is what Thomas Jef-
delaying discussion of the proposed war on Iraq till ti t frsn meant when he said that "the price of freedom is eter-
month saying, "From a marketing point of view, you dot nal vigilance."
introduce new products in August," we should be outraged
and disgusted rather than amused. When the W hite House Nooruddin is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science.
The Daily posed this question to community
members: What do you think about the possibility of
Reflections to build
a new movement
BY ALAN HABER
I was an organizer in the '60s for SDS, Students for a
Democratic Society, and still am, now also "Survivors for a
Democratic Society" and "Seniors for a Democratic Society."
A movement these days is about global justice and peace
and justice in all the wars.
Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Columbia, Chechnya, Afghanistan,
Sudan, Congo, Kashmir, Philippines and many other mostly far-
away places are in our faces.
The war system is so overarching, and the connection of
globalization and militarization so intimate, that every aspect of
the local community is affected.
There is a regime in Washington that has increasingly con-
solidated its corporate, military, financial interests in an arro-
gant Western supremacist, ultra-conservative, dominator
ideology and policy that sadly seems driving America again
toward war and the inevitable blowbacks from war.
We need "regime change" here. We should thank George
W. Bush for providing an appropriate vocabulary. In the
short run, "containment" is the best we can do. Everyone
please speak in whatever way you can to oppose and dissent
from the aggressive military policies of the administration.
Each person is a center of power and organization. Talk
to your family and friends, lovers, teachers, coworkers. Be a
human energy amplifier.
But in the next election, and especially the one following, a
new government is what is needed. If we can't launch a winning
opposition by 2004, we and the world should beware.
We need a government in America committed for the
next 10 years to the United Nations decade for a "culture
of peace and non-violence," to a wider justice and a freer
life for all, to a reordering of priorities and a new initia-
tive in community, redistributing wealth, feeding the hun-
gry, getting medicines to the sick, and a thousand other
goods we could all name, increasing democracy in all
areas of our common life, more honesty. We need a gov-
ernment that will be a light to the nations and blessing in
the world. It is possible.
We need a movement, having within its purpose to bring
to authority and power such a government in America, of the
people, by the people, for the people, as it was once said.
We need a movement to knit together innumerable
fronts of struggle, so our human solidarity is more mani-
fest and we can increasingly gain strength and courage
from each other.
Among the fronts are the fights for the commons, for com-
munity and consciousness, for the environment, for water, the
rivers, animals, for prisoners, for education, for health, for a liv-
ing wage, if wages there must be, for a love economy of
exchange, where time is traded and cooperation valued and the
movements for self determination, freedom, autonomy and
human rights everywhere in the world, fair labor standards, fair
trade, fair contracts, turning back from the nuclear path, abol-
ishing weapons, adopting clean energy policies, keeping
weapons out of space, relief of debt, famine, disease, poverty,
for sustainable design - and more; wherever there is compas-
sion in the action.
The tremendous energies in these struggles can converge
The people in the United States are sovereign. They -
we - can create and elect a new government if given the
choice. Americans are literate. A majority could even
"write-in" an alternative and win. People mostly want an
alternative, something better, if they could imagine it.
Rather than an extravagance of materialism, sharing and
caring and giving are a far more viable alternative, rooted in
the spiritual and religious traditions that flourish in Ameri-
ca. The cooperative commonwealth has a proud and humble
linage. There is a working class majority in America. Ideas
can pass, word of mouth, very fast.
A student movement is essential. The creative mind is
the only force capable of combating organized violence and
deception. The university is a center of creativity, however
much the institution sometimes seems to stifle it. Students
have freedom to be radical. Your occupation is to question
authority. You have the capacity to connect and coordinate
across country and internationally.
Cherish your opportunities to study. In the movement,
education is as important as action. Make use of the knowl-
edge you have.
In every class, or nearly so, some aspect of the subject
matter is relevant to on-going struggles and problems here
in Ann Arbor, From environmental pollution to homelessness
to workers without a contract, there is an under side to the
Athens of the Midwest. Get involved. Use your opportunities to
gather knowledge to serve the movements in town. Politics is
local as well as global. The university is not an ivory tower.
Haber is a co-founder of Students for a Democratic Society.
The Butcher of Baghdad and the bomb
., . !YI .. M Yl.=,
BY JUSTIN SHUBOW
When considering whether the United States and its allies
should go to war with Iraq, the fundamental question is: Can
we allow Saddam Hussein to possess nuclear weapons?
That he is actively seeking them there is no doubt. In
1994 Iraq's director of nuclear weaponization, Khidir
Hamza, defected to the U.S., giving us a wealth of infor-
mation about the country's massive atomic weapons pro-
gram. In fact, in an interview in this past Monday's Times
of London, he said that Iraq could have three nuclear
weapons within the next few months.
But whether or not Saddam will have nuclear weapons in
a few months or a few years, it is obvious that it is just a mat-
ter of time before he does.
Those who wonder what would be so bad about his hav-
ing such weapons need to remember that that this is the
same tyrant who ignited an eight-year war with Iran, who
invaded and brutally occupied Kuwait, who tried to assassi-
nate former President Bush, who lobbed Scud missiles into
Israel, and who killed thousands of Kurds with poison gas.
Not called the Butcher of Baghdad for nothing, he is the
sort of man who has had his own family members mur-
dered; who has used U.N.-imposed sanctions as an excuse
to starve his own people (as even the leftist Nation maga-
zine now concedes); and, as Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya
reports, who employs civil servants to rape Iraqi women for
the purpose of political terror.
Repeatedly Saddam has demonstrated that - uniquely so
among the world's despots -he is a menace to his neighbors
and to his people.
If Iraq had the bomb, it would not only threaten countries tional- attack.
in the Middle East, especially Israel (which is the main reason Moirover, it is quite possible that even if inspectors were
why it is developing long-range missiles), but would possess given unfettered access to the country, they would be unable
an enormous deterrent against any defensive or'punitive to detotSaddam's very real nuclear weapons program. In the
action that the world might wish to take against it. same 'Thues of London story mentioned above, Hamza said
If Saddam had had nuclear weapons back in 1990 (which that Iraq has likely become much more sophisticated in its
he probably would have if not for Israel's destruction of Iraq's ability to hide its bomb factories. "The beauty of the present
Osirak reactor in 1981), then the Gulf War might not have system is that the units are each very small and in the four
been fought at all. Saddam could merely have warned, "If the years since the inspectors left they will have been concealed
coalition forces attack me, I will put a one kiloton device on a underground or in basements or buildings that outwardly
cargo ship headed for New York." Likewise he could have seemnorima"he said.
threatened to use nuclear weapons against coalition troops. Thus, if the:first option is impossible or unsuccessful
Even if the likelihood of his following through on - a very real possibility - that means that the only
nuclear blackmail were small, the severity of the possible viable option left is war.
consequences would be so great that the mere threat As demonstrated in our remarkable military success in
would be quite efficacious. The essential p int is. that Afghanistan, the advent of global-positioning-system
once Iraq has nuclear weapons, it will be miuch harder to rimunitions has meant an exponential improvement in the
control Hussein's aggression. accuracy and effectiveness of U.S. weapons (a benefit, inci-
There are two chief ways to ensure that Saddam does not dentally, that drastically reduces the likelihood of civilihan
get the bomb. One is for U.N. weapons inspectors to be casualties). Taking this into account, along with reports that
unconditionally allowed back into the country to establish to large n nber f Iraqi soldiers do not wish to die for Hus-
their satisfaction that Iraq is not developing weapons of mass si, and also with the fact that the Iraqi army is much
destruction. The other is to remove Saddam from power, weaker now than it was during the Gulf War, makes our
which would require strong military force. :militay prospects look promising.
As for the first option, it looks as if the current Pres- While war must always be a last resort, when facing the
ident Bush's much derided saber-rattling has worked - prospect of the world's most dangerous despot possessing the
inso far as Iraq is to be believed when it says it will now most feared weapon in existence, we must not forget the
unconditionally allow weapons inspectors back into the words ofJohn Stuart Mill: "War is an ugly thing, but not the
country. But Iraq has repeatedly lied to the United ugliest of things."
Nations, and its current change of policy could easily
be a ploy to buy time to prepare for a U.S.-led multina- Shubow is a Ph.D. candidate in Philosophy.
Th~e new international police?
BY BRENDA ABDELALL
The reluctance of the international community to blindly
follow President Bush's violent path regarding Iraqi foreign
policy is admirable. The forceful threat that the Bush admin-
istration has placed upon Iraq has resulted in the appropriate
discourse and talks of returning weapons inspectors to the
region. However, Bush has made it clear that he will wage
this war without international support and he has continued
his talks of skepticism of Iraqi motives. The driving force
behind the talk of preemptive strikes against Iraq seems to be
taking much of this country by surprise. We all know that
Saddam Hussein is a corrupt and sadistic individual, but he
was just as despicable two years ago as he is today. At a time
when the United States has its own "war against terrorism"
to fight, the talk of war against Iraq has taken many aback.
With bombs and bullets still ablaze in Afghanistan, where
does Iraq fit into the picture?
The president has claimed that Iraq's corrupted regime
threatens the security of our country. With the current sanc-
tions and air restrictions, the possibility of Iraq shooting mis-
siles and unconventional weapons onto American soil is
about as unrealistic as it is impossible. In addition, former
U.N. weapons inspectors have repeatedly stated that there are
no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The only way to
prove this to the world is to allow weapons inspectors back
into the region. Yet this presents a problem. The timetable
laid out by former weapons inspectors would take at least six
months to conduct a thorough and precise investigation into
the matter. I sincerely doubt that President Bush and Sec. of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld could sit and twiddle their
taken place by Saddam's regime. What about the violations
that Israel has committed against the entire Palestinian popu-
lation for decades? Since the United States doesn't repri-
mand Israel for its violations to international resolutions and
for its subjugation of an entire nation, one must stop and ask
why the United States has a sudden urge and interest in inter-
In the case if Iraq, the United Nations itself defied its
own resolutions. Many people question the appropriateness
of sustaining resolutions set forth by the Security Council
that have directly violated resolutions set forth by the U.N.
Human Rights Charter. The sanctions against Iraq that have
been in place since the early 1990s have truly affected some
23 million innocent Iraqi civilians. These same sanctions
have been linked to the deaths of over 1 million children as
they have been deprived of basic medicine and food. Perhaps
with the new weapons inspection, the Security Council will
lift the sanctions that have deprived the Iraqi people of basic
necessities and essentially violated their rights as humans.
War is death, and the last thing both the United States
and Iraq need are more casualties. It has already been said
that if we went to war with Iraq that it would be much
more complicated than the Gulf War in that it would
involve painful urban warfare with the possibility of an
extended occupation of Iraq. Rather than turning toward a
violent path, let us look towards alternative solutions,
such as deterrence, disarmament and containment of Sad-
dam's regime. My point here is clear: Iraq poses no immi-
nent and immediate threat to America. The Bush
administration has not provided a convincing argument
for why war is any more necessary today than it would be
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