Did we win the War?
In looking at the events of the past few days, in Iraq, and in the streets of cities across the world, I have come to a startling realization. I believe that we may have won the war of public opinion against the truly twisted folk who currently inhabit the bunker under 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Please bear with me.
I think it is clear that the original plans for a massive "shock and awe" bombardment campaign were changed at the last minute because the administration flinched. I've come to this conclusion by taking into account the amount of planning (and gloating) that went into the original campaign plans, and juxtaposing it with the execution of the war so far. Although the administration and the pentagon are obviously ratcheting up the bombing to the levels originally planned, they are clearly loath to do so. The constant yammering about "back-channel" communications with Iraqi military and political leaders in attempts to get them to defect are certainly additional evidence of the disarray being experienced in the warrens of power in washington. Not only that but this incremental (relatively) approach will not achieve the goals outlined in the previous "master" plan. Specifically, rather than deal a potential psychological knock-out blow to baghdad, this incrementalism will only serve to inoculate (at least partly) baghdad to the full effects that a massive and sudden bombardment would have produced. What is especially striking is the lack of "spin" that has been placed on this change of plans. Recently Ari Fleisher attempted to explain that this change in plan (nobody is denying it) was due to the unique capabilities of our new "flexible" and "mobile" military force. I believe it has nothing to do with either flexibility or mobility; it is a natural result of the centralization of command and control of the military.
Up until very recently (the last 2-5 years) military planning and strategic communication was a fairly monolithic affair. Plans had to be developed in detail and disseminated through a deep hierarchy. This takes time. With the full integration of sophisticated planning and communications tools into the military, the time it takes to plan and communicate that plan have been reduced by orders of magnitude. What does this mean? The war is being run in the bunker under 1600, by politicians who look at polls, and worry about elections and who can't think more than a month or two down the road. For us, this is a very good thing.
It doesn't take too much imagination to picture the events that led to the attempt to destroy Hussein and his advisors last Wednesday night. The intelligence community located them and a plan was put in place to "surgically" remove them from the scene. This plan was brought to 1600 and was given approval. As soon as that happened everything changed. The politicians began to chase a chimera that they could avoid a large percentage of the backlash that they knew would ensue from their original "shock and awe" campaign, if they could simply kill off the Iraqi leadership. They are still chasing this chimera. What they have acknowledged is that world opinion really does matter, and it's not happy.
What does this mean for our work? Innocent men, women and children are dying right now because of the actions of our government. We are obligated to do everything we can to stop this war. I believe the best we can do is to organize the largest number of people possible to appose this war and to make their voices heard. Opposition to this war is already huge, and it will grow as a natural outcome of the gang at 1600s cynical and hubristic attitude towards the rest of the world. This will happen pretty much regardless of what we do or say. However, our ability to create opportunities for the large numbers of people who fully oppose the war, but are not in the streets, to get there as quickly as possible will stop needless murder and mayhem perpetrated in our name.
Further attempts to organize mass CD [Civil Disobedience] in an effort to shut SF down are not in anyone's best interest. The message has clearly not resonated within mass culture and has moved the focus from the war in Iraq to the war in SF. CD actions are a powerful and effective method for communicating with the public at large as well as the powers that be. However these activities need to have a more narrowly focused message. As we all know SF is a "target rich" environment and there are huge opportunities for CD that will send this focused, anti-war message, without alienating potential supporters. Please keep in mind that most folks do not see a big difference between candlelight vigilers, weekend peace marchers, building blockaders, street demonstrators, and stone throwers.
I have been listening to the media, watching the listserves and talking to "average" people. My impression is that this war is very unpopular for all the right reasons. People really "get" how risky and cynical this all is. They are scared silly and they are acting from their fear. The administration is holding out a carrot to them. They are promising things that they can't deliver. It won't take long for this strategy to backfire.
So I think we may have won the war. The message we have communicated, with our sisters and brothers around the world, is getting through loud and clear we're fed up and we're not going to take it any more. We are entering a new phase now, a mopping up operation. It will undoubtedly be very messy. The war in Iraq has already been greatly affected by our work. Now we must look to the future and see if we can possibly prevent the next disaster in Iran, N. Korea, Syria, Cuba or wherever our desperate leaders turn their attention to in the coming months. We live in the belly of the beast, and I think the beast may be dying, let's do the right thing and put it out of its misery as quickly as possible.
Of course I could be wrong.
In Peace, Justice and Solidarity,