Fri, 14 Feb 2003

The war on war

There is no mistaking that war will break out in the coming weeks, if not days. The American media no longer talk about "The Iraqi standoff", their catch-phrase for much of the past few weeks. Instead, in its place, today we are hearing "The gathering storm", "The slide into war" and other similar buzz phrases.

The American media, to a large extent, reflect the mood, not only of the government of President George W. Bush, but also of the American public. A new survey by ABC News and The Washington Post, published on Tuesday, showed that the majority of the American people supported a war on Iraq, even without UN Security Council approval, as long as the U.S. had allies in the campaign.

The U.S. military buildup around Iraq has also reached the point where it is logistically ready to launch a preemptive strike against Baghdad that Bush has talked so much about these past few months. The approaching end of winter and start of summer in the region puts more pressure on Bush -- because the longer he waits, the hotter it gets, and the tougher it will become for the U.S. military to prosecute the war.

Now that Bush has the majority of the American public behind him to go to war -- something that he did not enjoy before his rabble-rousing State-of-the-Union Address -- he has the legitimacy that, to him anyway, counts the most.

International public opinion has mattered little to Bush's two-year presidency. The war on Iraq will be just another fine display of the latest U.S. unilateralist foreign policy.

Can war still be averted? Can anyone stop Bush?

Probably not.

There is very little chance of the U.S. backing down on its war plan at this very late stage, even with growing opposition worldwide, lest it put its own credibility on the line. Backing down now would mean a considerable loss of face for Washington and would deal a severe blow to its campaign against terrorism.

If war is really inevitable, is there any point in any one of us raising or voicing our objection?

Sure there is -- it is the very least that we can do.

No matter how futile our campaign might sound, we still need to send the message across to Washington that many people around the world find the idea of war, any kind of war, repulsive.

The more people across the globe speak out, the more pressure we are putting on Washington to rethink its strategy, or at least to think of the consequences to the world order if it decided to prosecute a war against Iraq in defiance of world opinion.

The louder we voice our objection, the better chance we have of at least influencing American public opinion, if not the U.S. government in Washington, about its war plans.

France and Germany are leading the antiwar movement in Europe. They may have their own political reasons for taking such a stance against its strongest ally since World War II, but still they give weight and leadership to the antiwar cause.

Both France and Germany were pivotal in denying NATO's plan to arm Turkey, which borders with Iraq, ahead of the attack on Baghdad. These two countries, too, are expected to take a leading role in the Security Council in opposing the use of force to dismantle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

There is also a small, but growing antiwar movement in the U.S., given prestige by the support of many Hollywood stars.

Here at home, both the government and religious and public leaders have also stepped up their diplomatic efforts to avert war in Iraq, or at least to drum up support for the cause.

President Megawati Soekarnoputri is sending former foreign minister Ali Alatas to a number of countries. Leaders of major religious organizations are also traveling to various countries to make known Indonesia's strong opposition to the war plan and to solicit support for the cause.

Individually, these efforts seem insignificant. But it is hoped that, collectively, they will amount to a large, global, antiwar movement that will, somehow, prevent the war from taking place, or promptly bring it to a stop once it has started.