Saturday, April 5, 2003

What's Missing from the Antiwar Argument

An editorial cartoon illustrating the confusion in America's antiwar movementCredibility, consensus, consistency.

First and foremost, this is not an editorial in support of or in opposition to our war with Iraq. This is an editorial written out of frustration. For weeks before Allied troops crossed the Kuwaiti border, the hawks eloquently spoke in Pentagon press conferences, on shows like Meet the Press, and, despite your opinion of their argument in favor of war, never strayed from their consensus agenda. The doves – suffering, no doubt, from the defection of Collin Powell – increasingly became a camp of celebrities, cowardly politicians and hippie protestors wielding giant puppets and irrelevant signs. Their argument was fractured and incomplete.

I've never understood the political fervor of Hollywood's limousine liberals. Regardless of the genuine nature of their beliefs, Hollywood suffers from a severe political-credibilty problem (blame Regan, Arnold, or Fonda for that one). Are the Dixie Chicks and Susan Sarandon the greatest political voices the entertainment industry can offer up? If so, than woe to tinsel town. Texas Country radio listeners and Florida's United Way have spoken – we don't care what you have to say.

And why should we. America should look to men and women who know the issues and know war – our veterans, analysts, and critical journalists like Tim Russert and Aaron Brown – long before considering the half-educated notions of million-dollar thespians. I love the movies, and no one makes them as well as Hollywood, but I don't value John McCain's opinions on Movie of the Year (no offence to the senator, but he does lack industry street credibility) anymore than I do Barbara Streisand's attitude toward Washington politics. Actors are just people, like you and me. They only have the benefit of a platform.

When Michael Moore – the Oscar winner for his documentary film, Bowling for Columbine – took the stage at this year's award ceremony he railed against the president and the war: a "fictitious election" has produced a "fictitious president" who is leading us into a "fictitious war". Let him speak – more than most people in Hollywood, he knows politics (though apparently not the electoral college system). It seems most Americans saw the Oscar debacle coming, though, and spoke their minds with their remote controls – this year's award show had the smallest viewer audience (30 million) since Nielsen's began tracking in the early 70's.

And France. Oh, France. I really like France and I am normally proud of my French heritage (though I'm a little tight-lipped about it now), but Jacque Chirac is a huge jackass. When he's not bullying Eastern European nations, trying to inflate his country's waning influence, or waging war in former West African colonies, it appears that he is more interested in protecting his nation's valuable Iraqi oil arrangements than upholding UN dictates. Russia and Germany are in similar circumstances (though, as a BBC columnist recently acknowledged, the world whould much rather face down the problem of German pacifism than German militarism).

US politicians have been noticeably quiet– with the exception of Tom Dachle's schizophrenic position on the war (it seems to depend on how the battle is going, minute-by-minute). Seems most Americans support the current conflict. That ends the argument for most of our esteemed representatives.

And the protestors.

I am a huge advocate of freedom of speech and public demonstration. It is the right most precious and unique in our country. It is, therefore, an unfortunate truth that a group driven to protest is often a group too poor to afford a lobbyist – and therefore have a real effect on our government.

But more than any other aspect of the antiwar movement, the organized protestors have missed the point. Carrying signs that decry "No blood for Oil" and "Stop killing Iraqi children", the protestors have marginalized themselves by not addressing the stated point of the conflict. Even a remedial education in economics and natural resource industries would have shown them the irrelevance of the first point (the US oil industry has, in fact, very very little, if anything, to gain from a war over Iraq's oil fields). One has only to look to the Iraqi regime itself to answer the second.

The real problem lies in the nature of the hawks' argument. They are saying that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein. And, for whatever reason motivates the doves, a "Save Saddam" campaign is not desired or acceptable. So what can they say?

There never was a real debate between the hawks and the doves because they never meet on the same page. And in the end, the hawks won because their agenda and their proponents were more credible and their argument more consistent. They got the troops moved into position and no one could put together a compelling and popular reason to say no other than, "We don't want to..."

The anti-war movement should keep the pressure on but it should find a real voice. Instead of blocking intersections in San Francisco, abusing their celebrity, or threatening to cooperate politically in the future, doves worldwide should find an argument that addresses their real issue – whatever that turns out to be. fb

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