Robert D. Sutherland



Published in The INDY (April 16, 2003), 2

    Despite widespread opposition, the invasion of Iraq has occurred and will continue for the foreseeable future. The onset of military action does not nullify the need for opposition, but rather strengthens it. However, it does confront those who oppose the invasion with hostile accusations of not supporting the troops and allegations of being disloyal. An example of this is a letter to the Pantagraph of April 5 by Jim Haab.

     “Webster defines treason as ‘giving aid and comfort to our enemies.’ I would like to suggest that the anti-war demonstrators who break the law or burn the flag to gain media attention in the name of free speech are in fact giving aid and comfort to our enemies. Now that we are at war and our military men and women are in harm’s way, it is time to shut up or be considered a traitor!”

     This sentiment is an old chestnut which, every time there’s opposition to a military action, is trotted out to silence dissent. As a matter of historical fact, every one of America’s wars has been met with opposition from citizens motivated not by treason but by legitimate disagreement with governmental aims and policies. It is the government that puts our military men and women in harm’s way, and if the government’s policies responsible for this are misguided, and its aims and motivations specious and murky, then maybe the best way to support our troops is to call a halt to hostilities and bring them home.

     Name-calling is an attempt at intimidation and insult, designed to chill and badger people into silence. It has nothing to do with objective truth. Those of us who demonstrate in opposition to the invasion of Iraq or to any other war, or to war in general, should not be intimidated by being accused of treason, or of being disloyal. Those accusations are not true, and they shouldn’t be allowed to distract us from the task at hand.

     Peaceful demonstrations protesting government policies and opposing wars that are planned or underway are exercises of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. To challenge and oppose policies of the government which are unjust, illegal, and immoral is the essence of patriotism. Such opposition is the duty and obligation of good citizenship.

     If the invasion of Iraq was wrong before it started, it is wrong while it continues, and it will always be wrong for the U.S. to have waged it. It doesn’t matter if the shooting is in process or whether Baghdad or Saddam Hussein have fallen. The invasion, an unjustified unilateral aggression launched on the flimsiest of unsubstantiated pretexts against a country which had not attacked us, is wrong: unjust, illegal, immoral. The saturation bombing, the killing of civilians, the maiming of children, the destruction of schools and hospitals, the destruction of infrastructures for housing and for obtaining food and clean water are wrong.
Once the regime change has occurred, the United States will be in for a long occupation, with our forces deployed indefinitely to be picked off by guerrilla sniping, with enormous financial resources being poured into the occupation at the expense of health, education, and other institutions and services here at home. It’s not only the people of Iraq who have been victimized by our government’s policies, but our own troops and their families as well.

     “NO WAR IN IRAQ” registers and asserts our opposition for all time—whether the invasion is yet to come, is in process, or is morphed into an indefinite occupation.
The United States has already brought a regime change in Afghanistan through military force. It is in the process of bringing regime change in Iraq. Iran is already designated as part of Mr. Bush’s “axis of evil.” Secretary of State Powell is rattling the saber to warn Syria that it’s to be seen as a belligerent for providing night-vision goggles to Iraq’s military. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz has gone farther: “The Syrians need to know that, what they do now, they’ll be held accountable’s going to be more difficult for them to have the kind of relationships they’re going to need to have in the aftermath. And there’s got to be change in Syria as well.” Are we going to have to carry signs that say “NO IRAN WAR”? “NO SYRIA WAR”? And then — what? North Korea? Colombia? The Philippines?

     Our actions in bearing witness are not just for the PRESENT as we express our outrage and opposition to an immoral, illegal, and barbaric assault on a sovereign nation, and establish solidarity with people all over the world who oppose this war and all wars; they are also for the FUTURE: our principled protest and opposition now may in time affect policy, helping to prevent similar excesses in the future. It will create a community of solidarity with like-minded peoples the world over, so that next time mass opposition is needed, we will have the potentials in place.
But our witness also is for the even more distant future. If history comes to be written of this time, let it be recorded that a courageous opposition to imperialistic and wanton use of force and to disregard of human rights and international law was present, stood firm, and spoke out.

     Hopefully, history will credit this global anti-war movement of which we are a part (and a glorious part) with the moral authority which, in our country, we accord to the Abolitionists opposing slavery, to the women’s movement of the 19th century that struggled for the vote for women, to various segments of the labor movement trying to improve pay and working conditions, and to the Civil Rights Movement which struggled to end racial segregation and promote equal opportunity.
We should be strong in our resolve, courageous, and of good cheer. We are in excellent company.




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