Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Peace in Our Time

Below is an article I wrote the on Monday, February 17th immediately after the worldwide "peace". It's one I submitted to the Register as an Op-Ed piece.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in major cities around the world this past weekend to show their solidarity for “peace”. The usual crowd was there, wearing Che Guevara tee shirts and carrying signs caricaturing our sitting President as a Cowboy Hitler. Amongst all of the usual confused images and juvenile anti-U.S. slogans, one sign stood out. It read simply “Peace in Our Time”. A worthy and noble goal, no? It is doubtful that the sign’s carrier knew the source of those exact words and how they reflect the protesters’ ignorance and naivety.

For those of you who were absent during the history lecture covering the events leading to World War Two, Neville Chamberlain pronounced those words, words that would later taste of bitter gall. Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of Great Britain in the late 1930’s. He, and the League of Nations (yes, we’ve tried the UN thing before) were advocates of appeasement. After the carnage of World War I, Europeans were so appalled by the possibility of war that anything seemed preferable. So, they used a policy of appeasement in an effort to control a bellicose Germany. Give Hitler the Sudetenland, (hey, it’s just a little bit of Czechoslovakia after all), and he will be appeased. He returned from a summit with Hitler in September 1938 and declared (you’ve got it), “peace in our time”. Unfortunately, it was a very short time for peace, less than a year later Germany, emboldened, not appeased invaded Poland.

Peace is not a principle that exists in isolation. It is certainly not the steady state of human existence. Peace in one respect is an ideal; a useful compass bearing that guides liberal democracies like the United States. However, when seen as an end all, be all, it becomes a destructive fetish. Without other ideals like “justice” and “liberty” to provide balance, peace is an empty vessel that is a servant for other ideas, many of them quite unsavory. You can be sure that when Mother Teresa and Teriq Assiz talk of peace, they do not mean the same thing. Peace without freedom and justice is worthless and is nothing more than slavery. Peace with freedom and justice comes at a price, and that price has always been blood.

For the organizers of these rallies, “peace” is a tool to thwart the U.S., Great Britain and their allies from using justified force to promote international security. Newsflash, we are at war. We have been at least since September 11, 2001. However, the great majority of those marching for “peace” are convinced that the United States is responsible for the World Trade Center attack. How? Our support for Israel, our troops in Saudi Arabia, our cultural hegemony (feared and hated by France just as much as by Islamic Fundamentalists), our international sins committed during the Cold War, fill in the blank. We are to blame. We are the war mongering, shoot ‘em up vigilantes that must be stopped. We do not value peace above all. All we want is cheap oil and we don’t care how many Iraqis we have to toast to get it.

This anti-U.S. farce plays itself out in the UN Security Council. The United Nations, (where the chair of the committee on human rights is Libya and the chair on the disarmament committee… this is no joke… is Iraq), uses the illusion of “peace in our time” to block the U.S. and Great Britain’s efforts to liberate Iraq. The UN only considers itself successful if it keeps countries (specifically the U.S.) from going to war. In this charade, France has the dual role of playwright and condescending schoolmaster, lecturing us on the cost of war and the supremacy of peace at any price. If millions of Iraqis must continue to live under a brutal dictatorship to block U.S. hegemony, then c’est la vie… just as long as it’s not c’est la gerre.

However there is a dirty little subplot to this drama that has gotten precious little attention in mainstream media outlets like the Register. Pssst… it’s about OIL. Specifically it’s about France’s desire for oil. Total ELF Fina, a French oil company has negotiated a sweetheart agreement with Saddam Hussein to develop oil fields in Iraq. However, as long as post Gulf War sanctions remain in effect, the contract cannot be signed. The French economy has a lot to lose if regime change takes place in Iraq nullifies this deal. This, along with speculations that French companies may be involved in illegal arms component trade with Iraq, feed skepticism regarding the purity of France’s motives in promoting “peace”.

So this is the UN laid bare, a forum for power conflicts between nation states, not a benevolent super-entity promoting world peace. Similarly, the demonstrations over the past weekend were not really pro-peace, or pro-anything for that matter. They were simply anti-U.S. The people marching in these demonstrations are the same ones who, before war came to the front burner, were protesting against the enforcement of economic sanctions on Iraq. Now they say that sanctions and “inspections” are working, just don’t invade Iraq. Inconsistent… well, not if you consider that the goal.


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