The United States is not bombing Syria.
Let’s savor that again: for the moment at least, the United States is not bombing Syria. That alone qualifies as an unprecedented victory for the SuperPower of Peace – the global movement to end war, win social justice and salvage our ecological survival.
Will it mark a permanent turning point?
That a treaty has been signed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons is icing on the cake, however thin it proves to be. We don’t know if it will work. We don’t know if the current restraint from bombing will hold. But in a world that bristles with chemical and atomic weapons, where the rich get ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, and where stricken Japanese reactors along with 400 more worldwide threaten the survival of our global ecology, we must count any victory for peace, even if potentially fleeting, as a huge one. Let’s do some history.
Ten years ago, George W. Bush took the United States into senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions of citizens marched in the United States and worldwide to prevent the coming debacle. But Bush and his cronies made a point of ignoring us all, as if the public demand for peace was somehow a sign of weakness. Since then, utterly pointless slaughter has claimed countless thousands of lives, including those of at least 7,000 Americans. That number does not include the thousands more who have returned poisoned physically and mentally, with ailments that have driven so many to suicide, hopelessness and debilitating disabilities.
The war was sold as a campaign to rid Saddam Hussein of his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney assured the American public that as our troops attacked, the Iraqi people would spread rose petals of gratitude at their feet. But Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, and the Iraqi people had run out of rose petals -Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) however, were in abundant supply. None of this deterred Team Bush-Cheney-Rove or the corporatist military machine that continues to reap millions in profits from a decade of disaster.
The war did rid the world of Saddam Hussein. But in his wake came…what? A lesson learned in Iraq—for those paying attention–is the “you break it, you’ve bought it” syndrome. If you remove a dictator, however nasty, you still must have something better to put in his place. That was clearly beyond the caring or grasp of the Bush Administration. Lethal discord has defined Iraq since the demise of Saddam, with no end in sight. There’s been more of the same in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and much of the rest of the middle east. What once seemed an “Arab Spring” of popular liberation may be tragically degenerating to a regional slaughterhouse of counter-revolution and chaos.
And the stakes could not be higher. We are seeing a new great dance of world powers circling around control of the old energy sources – fossil fuels and nuclear power. As Fukushima boils at the brink of catastrophe, the global environmental movement -the SuperPower of Solartopia, strives to convert humankind’s energy supply from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables and efficiency. Green energy, primarily wind and solar, is by far the fastest-growing new source of supply. Increased efficiency has saved billions of dollars and oceans of oil and gas that will not feed the demon of climate chaos. But the corporate addiction to middle eastern oil remains a defining force. And the presence of a reactor near Damascus and of nuclear weapons in the hands of the U.S., Russia, Israel and god-knows-what terror groups, make our every move in Syria a matter of life-and-death on a global scale.
With that backdrop, the Obama Administration’s decision to back off air strikes takes on an epic dimension. There are all sorts of modifiers that can and should be used. But contrasted with what George W. Bush told the world ten years ago, Obama’s speech to the nation last week was a pillar of sanity. He referenced our ten years of disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. He acknowledged that while Assad is a terrible dictator, there’s no guarantee what follows would be any better. And he conceded that the attempt to use force could lead to costs we cannot predict. He also made it clear that he was facing down the firewall of an overwhelming public and Congressional demand for peace that would not be denied.
A decade ago, George W. Bush deceived just enough of the American public to go to war. This time, no deal. Whatever it proves to be worth, a treaty has been signed. We have a precious moment where bombs aren’t flying. We’re a few steps back from the nuclear brink. And our economy is not spiraling down into another senseless military firestorm. It may prove a small respite, but it’s a victory by any reckoning. Now the SuperPower of Peace – all of us, must make it stick.
~ Harvey Wasserman serves as the Secretary of Energy in the Ecology Branch of the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States
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