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2003-04-05 - 11:23 p.m.

The Superpower of Peace and the Fundamentalist Nightmare

by Harvey Wasserman

George W. Bush has attacked Iraq and put the world into a horrific vice that is the global peace movement's ultimate challenge: stopping a holy war that can only escalate into irrational and unstoppable mass slaughter.

In traditional geopolitical terms, the downward spiral of this catastrophic American attack has been fairly straightforward: Among other things:

For weeks the entire world was riveted on Bush's campaign to win nine of fifteen votes on the Security Council to endorse the attack on Iraq. When he failed, he treated the UN as if it were no longer relevant, potentially weakening it for decades to come;

UN weapons inspectors, led by Hans Blix, reported good progress in disarming Iraq right up to the moment the US attacked. They reacted angrily when their work was cut short. By attacking Iraq after it at least partially disarmed, the US may have doomed future UN disarmament efforts;

In conjunction with those efforts, credible reports that Iraq rid itself of its chemical and biological weapons as early as 1991 were published throughout the world, shredding Bush's argument that war was needed to destroy such weapons;

Claims made by Colin Powell and other ranking Bush officials to the US Congress, the UN and the world that Iraq was trying to buy large quantities of African uranium for the manufacture of nuclear weapons have been shown to be deliberate falsehoods, backed by crudely forged documents;

When the campaign for a war to rid Iraq of Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction" failed to persuade, Bush switched to demanding a "regime change" that would mean "freedom" for the Iraqi people But claims by Vice President Dick Cheney that Iraqis would greet invading Americans by "dancing in the streets," and other widely publicized promises of mass revolt by the Iraqi public, are now thoroughly discredited. As at Cuba's Bay of Pigs, in Vietnam and elsewhere throughout history, an invading military force expecting mass revolt has instead galvanized a nation around its own local leadership, no matter how brutal;

Promises of minimum civilian casualties have been rendered tragically absurd by bombings of a Baghdad marketplace that killed or wounded at least a hundred innocents, and by other incidents in which Iraqi non-combatants have been slaughtered;

War continues to rage in "pacified" Afghanistan, where the opium poppy crop has returned with a vengeance;

China, India, Russia and Indonesia---four of the world's five largest nations, involving roughly half its population---continue to express angry opposition to the attack, as does virtually all of Europe, Latin America and much of Africa;

Domestic anti-war opinion within "allies" Spain and Italy is now in the 90% range, and is approaching that in Australia, where Prime Minister John Howard faces possible ouster from office;

The Bush administration assumed it would routinely win permission to use long-time ally Turkey's land and air corridors. Despite a $26 billion bribe, permission was denied, mainly due to 90% Turkish opposition;

Resignations within the administration indicate an increasingly isolated pro-war junta that may be divided within itself, as witnessed by the resignation of super-hawk Richard Perle, often dubbed "the prince of darkness," to pursue more lucrative options;

Congressional moves toward impeaching Bush are escalating, accompanied by serious administration defeats on drilling in Alaska and tax issues;

Bush Jr. faces stiff resistance on funding for a dragged-out attack. His war budget may be a staggering $75 billion just for the first month. By contrast, his father's 1991 Gulf War cost the US less than $5 billion.

As war drags on, the US economy continues to sink into chaos and despair, with the dollar plunging worldwide, losing its long-standing global dominance to the rapidly advancing Euro.

Through it all the worldwide anti-war movement---the Superpower of Peace---has continued to grow and mature. Mass demonstrations in 300 or more cities around the planet continue to escalate in numbers and sophistication. Mid-sized cities like Columbus, Ohio, regularly host three or more demonstrations running at the same time around town.

There have even been cracks in the mainstream media, whose corporate domination has rendered it almost unanimously pro-war. The hawkish Washington Post has taken to printing serious critiques of Bush's attack strategy. Normally servile reporters at military briefings have begun to ask difficult questions.

Extreme right outlets such as Fox News and the Clear Channel radio network have escalated their attack on the peace movement, labeling it everything from frivolous to treasonous. But street demonstrations continue to expand and the level of organization is growing more sophisticated. Meanwhile financial and economic leaders worldwide are raising ever more pointed questions about the wisdom of this horrendous war and its long-term impact on economic stability within the US and around the world.

Tied together by the internet, with deepened commitments to non-violence, the Superpower of Peace may indeed have achieved unprecedented global strength.

But it must now come to grips with the realities of sectarian psychosis, starting with the White House. George W. Bush's initial characterization of his war posture as a "crusade" against "evil" may prove to be all too accurate---and its fundamentalist Christian roots are now almost certain to elicit a horrific response from fundamentalist Islam.

Bush has already made it clear he will not hesitate to use nuclear weapons wherever his whims might take him. Richard Nixon contemplated using them in Vietnam, but was deterred by the peace movement.

But Bush's statements give clear indication that the people now running the United States may lack Nixon's political compass.

To be sure, the internet is now chock full of thoughtful analyses about the role of global dominance, oil and the shrinking status of the dollar in motivating this attack. But it is abundantly clear that George W. Bush believes he talks to his own very personal version of a Christian God, in this case a deity of death, dictatorship and the "end times" of Biblical prophecy as put forth in Ezekial, Isaiah and Revelations. Christian fundamentalist talk radio is overbrimming with the view that Bush is a prophet, sent to usher in Armageddon, starting in Babylon.

In short, this unelected but immensely powerful leader seems incapable of complex thought or retrospection. He views the massive outpouring of millions of world citizens as something "irrelevant," to be cavalierly ignored in the face his own view of a higher purpose. If nothing else, Bush is blithely secure in the illusion that whatever he chooses to do, in war or otherwise, is divinely ordained.

Saddam's mere ouster can no longer fulfill the Bush agenda. While hugely lucrative contracts for "rebuilding" Iraq pour out to his super-rich cronies, it's become clear that no matter what the administration has in mind, a post-Saddam middle east will---like the post-Shah Iran---swing wildly and irrevocably toward fundamentalist, anti-western Islam, probably taking Pakistan and the rest of the middle east with it.

This first week of war has confirmed that Bush has opened this fundamentalist Pandora's Box. Already there are unsurprising signs that Iran to the north and Syria to the south may be helping the Iraqis. In huge, nuke-armed Pakistan, once viewed as largely pro-western, fundamentalist fervor is sweeping the grassroots.

In the wake of September 11 and now Bush's clumsy, brutal attack on Iraq, the world is being crushed between the twin psychoses of the angry fundamentalist Islam of Osama bin Laden and the smug, self-righteous fundamentalist Christian views of the isolated, nuclear-armed George W. Bush.

The Superpower of Peace is gaining strength, sophistication and global reach. It may well be capable of meeting the traditional political realities of a war for oil and imperial domination.

But it must now also anticipate the growing specter of a horrific jihad/crusade without end, a whole new level of theological psychosis and global disarray.

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of www.freepress.org and author of THE LAST ENERGY WAR (Seven Stories Press).

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