Column misinterpreted antiwar message

WMitch Mosvick We are arrogant. We have made mistakes in the past. We wield our supremacy, sometimes, far too easily.”

The angry, bellicose opinion column seemed to say it all.

As if the antiwar movement could not think up a better sign than a conservative columnist had just given them. In the midst of a war that the mainstream press portrays as patriotic, there is no middle ground between peace activists and warmongers. Or at least this is what you are led to believe when you read the political editorials that are printed these days.

I want to address Steven Snyder’s opinion piece from Wednesday. Filled with vitriol and arrogance, and instead of addressing the real arguments progressive leftists make, he simplifies and demeans the antiwar movement. His main point is that antiwar protesters with signs that say “War is stupid” are “not interested in discussing the issues.” I care about his comments on the United Nations, but here I want to deal with his charges against antiwar protesters.

Snyder’s conviction is that antiwar protesters who proclaim “War is stupid” are stupid themselves. I think they are articulate people who use demonstrations to draw attention to problems and explain their protest to those who ask. I am convinced they have strong beliefs in peace as a given and war as a last resort. I also know that this administration has not used war as a last resort, rushing to war while millions of people worldwide say there are other approaches. Protesters believe that war is at best a foolish, blunt way of freeing the Iraqi people; at worst it is a catastrophe where U.S. businesses profit while the Iraqi people suffer under an undemocratic regime installed by a foreign power.

President George W. Bush has never publicly stated why Iraq is the one place in the world that most needs democratic institutions. This leaves protesters trying to figure out why the United States is not rushing to help Rwanda, a country Snyder mentions in his article as being a place the United Nations failed to intervene. The tragedy of this argument is that Rwanda is still a destroyed nation with incredible problems, and the unilateral United States does not bat an eye at it. Of course, fixing Rwanda does little to satisfy “oil interests,” although I should not mention those words since my Republican friends assure me this war is not about oil. The real purpose of the war escapes most protesters, who are left to come up with their own theories. It could be for re-election, it could be for oil, it could be for the lucrative construction contracts that are even now being awarded to corporations who donated millions to the Republican Party. Protesters do not know for sure, but they rightly fear the war is not only about freedom for the Iraqi people.

Signs at a demonstration are meant to draw attention to a cause, not make a rational argument. Protesters do not make their signs in order to articulate their exact arguments against the war. Arguing against the simplified slogans on protesters’ signs is akin to writing off everything Bush says when you discover he is inventing new words.

Should we go to war to spread democracy to the third world? Disregarding the motives U.S. businesses might have for this, spreading democracy is something I agree with – in principle. The antiwar movement is not against this; this country’s progressive opposition is firmly behind popular sovereignty in Iraq. However, protesters do not want a war tainted by selfish business interests. Protesters want Iraq to enjoy peaceful, democratic elections. What sickens them is the fact that Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton is first in line for lucrative construction contracts to rebuild postwar Iraq.

An opinion piece trying to critique the antiwar movement should address what intelligent protesters are saying – not what they write on signs. They say a war for business interests is not a mission of democracy. They will tell you why this war is blood for oil – it is our soldiers’ blood; it is Iraqi soldiers’ blood; one day it will be our blood when terrorists attack our country again.

“War is stupid” is the expression of many ideas, and on a rally sign it is not meant to explain the antiwar movement or any of its ideals. Contrary to the tone and content of Snyder’s piece, these protesters have very important points to make. War not used as a last resort is stupid. Protesters do not think of this invasion as a last resort, and though Saddam Hussein is a terrible individual, the intent of the corporate Bush administration certainly seems corrupt to them. Because the official stance justifying the war does not explain why Iraq is most deserving of democracy, and there is strong evidence mounting for some time that the war will mainly benefit the plutocratic Bush regime, protesters cannot possibly see this war as “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” But it would be unfair of me to criticize the Bush administration based only on one of their one-liners.