Several weeks ago, I was in Washington DC with 150,000 others protesting the Bush administration's fraudulent rush to war. Surrounded by fellow dissenters, buoyed by demonstrations taking place elsewhere across the US and abroad, I sensed a powerful tide of public opinion against the war. Back in Rochester, a coalition of organizations was active and committed, sponsoring rallies of over a thousand people. Together, we could stop this thing.
Then came the avalanche of Bush-led victories in the midterm elections, followed by the 15-0 vote for Bush's UN Security Council resolution. Deflated, some of us wondered whether our optimism was wishful thinking. Was the cause already lost, with Congress, the UN, and most of the US population apparently behind the Bush momentum for war?
The answer is, resoundingly, no.
The election was by no means a referendum on the war, since the Democrats had conceded Bush's war agenda before the vote. And a majority of US citizens polled, including many of those voting Republican, continue to voice strong opposition to a unilateral US attack on Iraq.
The UN Security Council vote was about political appearances, backroom deals, and tactical maneuvers to avoid war through renewed inspections, not a unanimous endorsement of war.
So while Bush might seem now to have an uncontested mandate for war, in fact we have come a long way in preventing war. The massive, ongoing demonstrations, here and elsewhere (many thousands just marched throughout Canada), have successfully stalled Bush's original war agenda. Recall that only a few months ago Bush was insisting on his prerogative to go to war without any approval whatsoever from Congress, from our allies, or from the UN.
Bush's appeal for Congressional approval was a retreat, as was his appeal to the United Nations. And the Security Council resolution was itself a compromise, requiring Bush to return to the Security Council if Iraq obstructs inspections, rather than triggering an automatic US military response. The definition of Iraqi non-compliance also remains controversial, with other nations vigilant against too hasty a call to war.
Bush has had to maintain a semblance of legitimacy in world opinion, which shows that US superpower status has limits, that Bush cannot simply do whatever he wants. There is room to maneuver.
So what are we to do? Above all, we must remember that despite the veneer of legitimacy lent by Congress, the UN, and the elections, the rationale for war remains a fraudulent house of cards, built on layers of incoherent swagger and shameless lies. Lies about the global importance of Saddam and Iraq relative to other world problems. Lies, too, about the imminent danger of Iraq to the US, about Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda, about Saddam's weapons capabilities, about the demise of previous UN inspections, about the competing goals of disarmament and "regime change," about the prospect of Middle East postwar stability, and about humanitarian concerns for the Iraqi people (still suffering under genocidal sanctions).
We must continue to call public attention to this torrent of deception and dissembling. We must remind our neighbors that this call to war is irrational, immoral, illegitimate, and potentially catastrophic.
We must also signal people in other nations that our own antiwar dissent is ongoing and growing stronger. And we must continue sending a clear message to Bush that he will not get a free ride, that his policy must continue to carry legitimacy in the world of public opinion.
Together we can still stop this thing. Contract MetroJustice (325-2560) for further information.
Douglas D. Noble, Werner Park, Rochester (Noble is a MetroJustice member.)
Thanks to Rich Gardner for the piece on Cobbs Hill ("Cobbs Hill Diaries," November 13). What do you think of ending general public auto traffic to the reservoir? I see several benefits:
1) Apparently, the concrete barriers installed after 9/11 are to fend off cars with lots of nasty chemicals crashing into the water and polluting it. End the traffic, and the barriers can come down.
2) Speeding traffic on the road makes walking up to the reservoir dangerous, noisy, and decidedly un-natural. End the traffic, and you improve the quality of the park experience.
3) Cars are the means by which beer and much garbage is brought to the park. People throw their empties into the woods regularly, as any walk into the sloped woods on the east, south, and west sides reveals. End the traffic, and you reduce this problem greatly. Most people will not lug a 12-pack up to the top (though no doubt some still will).
4) Build a parking lot at the corner of Highland and Monroe. People can walk up from there, or perhaps have golf-cart trams run them to the top.
There is precedent for ending vehicle traffic: Much of Central Park in New York City is closed to traffic on the weekends. The park will be cleaner, quieter an safer as a result.
Tom Pappas, Oakdale Drive, Brighton
Jon Popick's review of Bowling for Columbine mentions the "fact" that America is the most violent country in the world. I am tired of the US being labeled this way.
There are many forms of violence. What about the violence that occurs in other parts of the world? In Europe, it is not rare for a bloody riot to accompany a sporting event. In Asia, one celebration involves people piercing their bodies. Rituals in many areas of the world would be banned as torture in the US. In countries run by dictators, people fear painful deaths if they do not champion the ruler.
Most of what I have listed is sanctioned violence. The crimes that make the US seem so violent are not sanctioned. Having said that, I certainly am appalled by the number of gun murders in our nation and am shocked that Canada's number is so much smaller, despite Canadians' having more guns per household. Focus should be placed on the motives for these killings, and not on why this nation is supposedly the most violent in the world.
Kieni Schneider, Honeoye