My Turn: Questions and answers about war and peace

Posted: Monday, February 24, 2003

On Feb. 15, some dozen Juneau activists marched against war. Last week, many of these same activists pressed for an Assembly resolution opposing the federal Patriot Act. I'm not with either group.

In general I'm a pacifist, and I fear security-related loss of freedom. Yet I find the motivations of Juneau's antiwar group chilling. Here's why:

1. War is horrific, but there is a moral obligation to oppose evil with force. Who better than a Holocaust survivor to understand the horrors of war vs. the horrors of delaying war? Congressman Tom Lantos, a liberal Democrat and Holocaust survivor, supports a first strike on Saddam, and that carries weight with me, particularly when he suggests a first strike on Hitler in 1939 would have saved 51 million lives.

2. Antiwar protesters here are untroubled by the Stalinist and anti-Semitic nature of their movement's organizers. All Things Considered (KTOO) has reported on this topic and the fact that Jews were barred from speaking at rallies. An activist interviewed said she was unconcerned with all this, as long as the antiwar message got out.

3. Activists support France, while claiming Bush is going to war for "big oil." A recent article in The Economist points to French oil companies' exploitation of new discoveries around small West African nations. Activists support the French position in the U.N. while ignoring the hypocrisy of France and other European nations' financial stake in keeping Saddam in power.

4. Where is the moral outrage against Saddam Hussein on the part of the antiwar folks? Lip service is paid to his atrocities, but these same groups opposed war against the Taliban after 9-11, and before that opposed sanctions against Iraq after it invaded Kuwait. Is it of no interest to the Far Left that Afghan women - liberated from the Taliban by the United States - now participate in government, attend school, and are no longer brutally raped for, say, reading a book? Of course the Far Left has no trouble with Fidel Castro, and has never expressed many qualms about other brutal regimes so long as their burning hatred for the U.S. is stoked high enough.

5. What is unbelievable to me - nauseating even - is the steady claim that it is the United States, not Iraq, that is the real evil in the world. With that, comes the parallel comparison of George Bush to, for example, Hitler. To suggest as much shows either a complete lack of serious thought, lunacy, or outright bitter hatred of this nation.

6. Is there no concern on the part of antiwar activists that their biggest supporter seems to have become Saddam himself? For a while, it looked as if he was being pressured into exile by a coalition of Arab neighbors. Now, with NATO and the U.N. split, and with worldwide protest growing, momentum for peaceful regime change in Iraq has clearly been lost. Once again, it looks as if appeasement will result in greater suffering and destruction in the future.

7. The Far Left always points out this nation's past collaboration with known evil rulers such as Saddam, and then places this nation at fault for subsequent actions. Yet in World War II the U.S. collaborated with Stalin to defeat Hitler. Was that wrong, too?

8. Groups opposed to the Patriot Act say its measures are stripping us of our liberty. I agree. But the Far Left has no problem with using the courts and statutes to hamstring activists they oppose. Examples are shutting down free speech of conservatives on college campuses, and selected pressure against anti-abortion activists (using RICO statutes to silence protest is an example) and hostility to Christianity in public schools.

Recently the BBC reported on a one-on-one dialogue, broadcast live, between Britain's Far Left icon Tony Benn and Saddam, in Baghdad. It was billed as "no holds barred." Benn's questions, however, all addressed the point of how Iraq has suffered at the hands of the West, and the United States in particular. Benn never asked Saddam why he invaded Kuwait or why he gassed thousands of his internal enemies. Why?

The way I see it, the Far Left today occupies pretty much the same ground that was held by pro-Nazi ideologues (Margaret Sanger, for one) and their misguided followers (Charles Lindbergh, for example) in the 1930s.

I hope Juneau's thoughtful majority will take a stand against the upcoming anti-Patriot Act resolution, which is drafted to politically embarrass President Bush while doing nothing to advance the cause of liberty.

•Richard Schmitz of Juneau grew up a Unitarian in New York. As a teenager, he organized a neighborhood boycott of California grapes and a food drive for Biafran children. Defending personal liberty and dedication to the freedom of oppressed peoples remain a guiding passion.

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