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I don't trust it, so I won't read it: Similarities between the event Brett Sokol described in "On the Left, Off the Wall" and the actual teach-in do not extend much beyond the location and the names of some speakers. Certainly his article did not accurately reflect the earnest attempt of those involved to intellectually explore the complex and dangerous near-war situation in which we all now find ourselves.
Knowing how little Mr. Sokol reflected the actual event, I now have no faith in the accuracy of the reporting in New Times. Count me as one less reader.
And it backfired on Brett: I assume Brett Sokol was trying to be cute in his sarcastic attack on those opposing Dubya's passion for invading Iraq, creating an old-fashioned wartime popular allegiance, undoing his daddy's boo-boo in snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in 1991, and avenging the abortive Iraqi plot against his dad a few years later. In fact Brett only managed to display his own ignorance and prejudices.
Yes, there are kooks in the peace movement. There are also plenty of them in the pro-war movement, including quite a few in the current administration. Most of them qualify for the title "chicken hawks," having never served in the military but being oh-so-eager to send others into battle. Career military leaders are, of course, publicly muzzled by our system of civilian control.
There is a vast chasm of difference between our multilateral effort in 1991 to thwart Iraq's annexation of another sovereign state and our war against al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Islamist terrorism on the one hand, and Dubya's proposed war against Iraq on the other. The first was justified under the rules of international law and the precedents set by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan; the second by the right of self-defense, pure and simple.
However, this administration has not produced one shred of credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein with al Qaeda and international terrorism. If they have any, why not show it? Saddam is a clever, wily, and unscrupulous old fox whose first rule is self-preservation and retention of power. He's a lot of things, but no one has ever accused him of being suicidal.
Can we afford to attack every nasty dictator in the world? There are dozens of them, including some of our current allies and also including good old Fidel, 90 miles away. The people of Iraq have to liberate themselves, and I have no problem with supporting their efforts. But if history tells us anything, it tells us that given the choice between a homegrown despot and a foreign invader, Iraqis will fight the invader. In the meantime we have more to fear from Iran, Syria, and Libya, and lots more to fear from al Qaeda and North Korea, than we have to fear from Iraq.
Asking tough questions is the American way:Brett Sokol questioned the evenhandedness of the antiwar discussion, but curiously his article failed the same test. He avoided anyone who profited from the broad range of opinions heard from the panel as well as from the floor. He also suggested that no one mentioned the world has changed since September 11, 2001. What has changed is that the murderous madness of violence as a method of "political dialogue" has been brought to American shores. Isn't an innocent death the same crime whether it's the "collateral damage" inflicted by one political regime or that inflicted by another? Is Mr. Sokol so ignorant of history he is unaware of the truth that "one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter"? Ask King George or Yitzhak Rabin about that. Isn't an innocent death in New York or an innocent death in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, or Palestine still an innocent death?
This right to peaceably assemble to consider American policy and its ramifications, alternatives, and options were all under discussion. Questioning American leaders and calling them to task for policies and actions done in our name is evidence of the vitality of the American way. Miami should be proud.
Brett's ignorance alone justified the teach-in:I would like to make three points in response to "On the Left, Off the Wall." First, any cursory read of the ongoing debate about the Bush administration's "endless war" and current policy toward the Middle East would reveal that criticisms derive not just from the left but also from the American right. Let us also not forget that a number of the neo-conservative cheerleaders for this war (Norman Podhoretz, for example) began their political careers on the left. That Brett Sokol groups my comments and others at the teach-in under the left demonstrates two things: a profound ignorance of the issues at hand and a reason why the teach-in was organized in the first place.
Second, I did not "opine" that one war goal among some Israeli and U.S. government officials is to overthrow the Palestinian Authority, expel Arafat, and force Palestinians from their land. Rather I was citing statements from those quarters that explicitly advocate those policies. There is a difference between opinion and fact. More important, such facts should invite critical inquiry instead of glib acceptance. Is Ariel Sharon's vision of the Middle East compatible with U.S. interests? Should the Israeli military be free to use American-supplied weapons in any way it deems necessary?