‘Tis strange –but true ; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction: if it could be told, how much would war news gain by the exchange. -A slight variation of a quote from Lord Byron’s Don Juan (1819-24)
In the days leading up to the recent invasion of Iraq we were constantly bombarded with propaganda from the participants on opposite sides in a likely war: the spin doctors of Saddam Hussein on one hand and those of the so-called “coalition of the willing” on the other. Australia was eventually identified as a member of that group by USA’s George W. Bush (contrary to previous denials by John Howard, Australia’s overbold Prime Minister).
I, in common with the majority of my fellow Australians, didn’t want Australia to be involved in any pre-emptive strike against Iraq that did not have the authority of the Security Council of the United Nations behind it. The sheer numbers of protesters taken together with the results of opinion polls confirmed that as being the attitude of the “common people” of all nations involved. Yet still the leaders continued to march to the beat of the war drums, shouting their intentions to wage war at any cost.
You are probably familiar with the saying that “In war, TRUTH is always the first casualty”. Spin doctors, after all, are paid big money to transform unpalatable truth into believable half-truths or even straight-out lies. Yes, we are living in interesting times; times which tug at emotions mixed with a search for meaning and truth..
There are many questions about these issues that demand answers from our so-called leaders. For example: When will someone give us solid evidence of integrity that war was the only option open to the decision makers? Should not the prospect of the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives have been an important factor in seeking out peaceful, viable options as opposed to the constant talking up of war’s inevitability? What were the REAL reasons behind the insistence on the war option? Was it REALLY being done in the name of democracy, security, human rights?
There are, after all, many other countries that lack democratic political structures, abuse human rights and are in breach of United Nation resolutions!. Why not look at the issues globally and join with all nations in putting massive efforts into finding realistic compromises leading to peace and security for all? (Do I hear screams of protest from the czars of the Munitions Industry; the beneficiaries of bloated defence budgets and their political lackeys?)
One interesting arm of the Peace Movement is the class of people that have come to be known as “human shields” –a phrase originally coined by Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War. He used them to man posts in the immediate vicinity of strategic sites likely to be bombed by the Allied Air Forces. However, many of today’s human shields have been volunteers from non-Arab nations.
A couple of days before President Bush declared war on Iraq, I was listening to a radio program from Australia’s Radio national in which one of these human shields talked about his motivations, his feelings and many other aspects of the situation in which he had voluntarily placed himself. The interviewee, a young man from New Zealand in his early 30s, was speaking from a hotel room in the heart of Baghdad.
Soon after the interview he would fly to Iraq to examine some of the sites that he and others would try to shield from military action. He frankly admitted to being apprehensive, but stated firmly and convincingly that he was prepared to die should the invaders decide to attack, despite knowing that he and others were in the line of fire. He also spoke about his closeness to his family and stated that, though not in agreement with his actions, they supported his right to such convictions, even if that meant dying for them.
He said that he did NOT admire Saddam Hussein; that his concern was for the innocent men, women and children who would die in the event of an invasion. “Yes”, he said, “ I am nervous about what might happen to me, but I must stick to my principles!” He stated that his journey in life was the pursuit of TRUTH, JUSTICE and PEACE. What a mantra to meditate on! I thought. The pursuit of Truth, Justice and Peace! What worthy, noble aims!
Then reality checked in: are they achievable? Maybe not in the world as we know it. But, who knows? Perhaps with the help of people such as the brave Kiwi in Baghdad, and the millions who have marched and are marching against war, we humans might achieve those three aims sooner than later.
Maybe one day People Power will rise, phoenix-like, from ashes of apathy and then all mankind will be the benefactors.
©2004 Patrick Talty