War and Peace

If we want that the future from all of us we should have to shape it by ourselves

March 15th, 2003
Ed Hollants
Autonoom Centrum

The overthrow of the current regime in Iraq by violence from the United States has far-reaching consequences. It causes an increasing destabilising world from which it is unclear where this will ultimately end at this moment. In the short term it is clear that there will be many negative consequences, especially for citizens and the environment. The war is also an expression of a political process in the US, which was set a few years ago and will not end for a long time. A movement, which is turning themselves against the war, should have to look particularly over the period of war.

The war against the regime in Iraq doesn’t stands alone: you can see it as an event, which is part of a period, which doesn’t predict many good things. It fully illustrates the ambitions of US right-wing Republicans to maintain an independent economical and military superpower - if needed with armed interventions - which dominates the whole world and wanted to stay to rule. It results in a disturbance in the existing relations. But there are also other things which have far reaching consequences: the world-wide stagnating economy, the Palestinian revolt, the threat of terrorism and the legitimate crisis of the international institutions such as IMF, World Bank, and now also the UN.

It looks like that we are landed in a new chapter of the world history. An era which is characterised by polarisation, unceremonious power politics, armed conflicts, a failing international community, increasing fundamentalism, but also an increasing resistance from the local communities everywhere in the world against there negative developments.

For myself it wasn’t the September 11th, but the outbreak of the second Intifadah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an event, which did realise me that we are entering a new era.

The unconditional US support to Israel and in a lower measure by Europe causes more and more disbelief and resistance against the politics, which are carried out by the US and Europe and which should be based on democracy and human rights. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is exemplarily for the colonial and imperialistic attitude against the suppressed ‘minor’. On a small scale and it makes clear hundreds of years of existing contra-dictions. Not for nothing the people in Arab states, but also in many other countries, especially the former colonies, seen as a symbol of repression. To solve this conflict in a satisfied way for the Palestinians, is also important for world peace and opposing the polarisation instead of overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The lack of perspective on the Palestinian side has caused an increasing willingness to commit suicide attacks. From Israel, nothing is spared to break the resistance and to annex a large as possible part of the Occupied Territories definitively and to cleanse of Palestinians. Actually, everybody agrees that without any pressure on Israel the conflict is only becoming worse and worse. But this pressure is not coming. The result is a bloody battle which has raged for many years without any perspective on a solution, which shows daily the hypocrisy of especially the US.

The end of the “end of the ideologies”

Last year a number of things happened which have put the test on the safety and the trust in the way the world is and is shaped. The rejection of the US of the Kyoto protocols, the sabotage of the US of the International Court, September 11th and the aftermath, the bookkeeping scandal of Enron. And - closer to us in the Netherlands - the Mad Cow disease BSE, Foot and Mouth disease, the fraud in the building industries, and so on. All this is an unprecedented accumulation of events in a short period of time in which a few things have come to light. The events show the end of the era which has lead to the “end of the ideologies”, like it was jubilant determined only a few years ago. The victory of capitalism and the free market, which thought that had the political mandate on their side, is now subject of discussion in broad circles. Things may change strangely. Until recently it was practically impossible to pass radical criticism on neo-liberalism and the free market. With that you excluded yourself from every discussion. Today everywhere is spoken about capitalism reaching too far. Another clear observable fundamental idea is the growing uncertainty and a lack of feeling safe.

The life of the western world for consuming citizen has been cruelly disturbed. Finally I want to name here the aversion of the existing political system particular when it concerns administrators. This became wholesale evident in the Netherlands with the appearance of the phenomenon around Pim Fortuyn for the first time and currently with the resistance against the war in Iraq. A huge number of citizens have little trust in the policymaking and the motivation for that purpose, which politicians and officials are using. Instead of the apathy, which was characteristic of the nineties, today there is talk of politicising of citizens and a growing resistance.
Despite the mass media and the propaganda, which is brought to us by these media, it appears that a very large part of the world and this time including Western countries are against the war. It has even caused that there is talk again of some debate. In many countries the US politics are considered as at least as dangerous as the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Consequences of the war
One of the most important consequences of the war concerns the area where these events take place, i.e the Middle East, is the break into the existing relations of power. This could be positive when it came from the communities themselves striving after more democracy, but that is not the case. What we especially have to fear is the upcoming different forces who take their profit. Turkey tries to annex North Iraq (partly) or in any case to enlarge their influence, while Iran this also tries. A conflict between these two can’t be excluded. The Kurdish will be betrayed in the long term, and be sacrificed. In South Iraq, Iran will try to enlarge their influence, while just the US this country seen as a part of the axis of evil and as a possible a next target. Israel already want to defeat the Palestinians definitively for a long time, which has enormous consequences for the rest of the Arab world, certainly when it appears that the US will stay to support Israel in general. The US has decreased their dependency from Saudi Arabia once they control the Iraqi stream of oil, by which the pressure from the US on that country is becoming to grow. Finally, most of the perpetrators of the September 11th (2001) attacks came from this country and there is still a stream of money from there to fundamentalists groups. The control of the oil, also one of the reasons for overthrowing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, has also to deal with another reason. China is one of the few countries, which makes through a huge economical growth. Economists predict that already this century will become the century of China like the 20th century was the century of the United States. China will also become more and more dependent from oil. The control on the oil is the only way for the US to have also some control on China.

Because of the war against Iraq and the consequences of this, the resistance against the US will be only growing. Particularly in the Arab countries but also in Asian countries where it is more difficult to resist openly, because it mainly concerns dictatorships, which are supported by the West, this resistance is looking for a way out. The exhaust-valve therefore is more and more fundamentalist Islam, which is the only power which is really resisting ideologically as well as militarily. For instance Pakistan has to deal with this. The resistance will become suppressed more and more bloody by the existing regimes or with a new dictator, supported by the US who wants to safe the oil pipeline through Pakistan. No doubt every country, like Iran and North Korea which has to fear a confrontation which Bush and his right-wing government want, will arm themselves in a quick tempo with nuclear missiles, because this is probably one of the few means to
Bush to mark time. In other words: the current politics of the US is just favouring the production of weapons of mass destruction. The war could be also the beginning of the end of the US as a superpower. Since the Second World War this power has been only increased and is now on landed on the highest point. A superpower can only stay in power when it is taking into account other countries and also knows to carry out a moral right, besides the economic and military domination. This is just exactly what is not happening now. The US war against Iraq doesn’t know how to make clear why this war is necessary and at this time. The bigger story is, that this be the beginning of a democratisation of the Middle East, is absolutely unbelievable. Just more democracy should mean more anti-American politics and also more pressure on Israel. Now it is restricted by big words of dictators and elites which in fact have strong connections with the US. Instead of negotiations around the question Iraq there is chosen for confrontation, also towards the other members of the Security Council. The economic and military means are used on a blunt and a revealing way to do one pleases.
The reasoning is: “We don’t need the world, we can do it all ourselves.” This will surely have consequences. The atmosphere in many countries will become anti-American, also in countries, which were always known as friends of the US. It can be the beginning from the fall of the US as a superpower.

But also in the Netherlands the consequences will be huge. There is a growing distance visible among especially the Dutch from Arab origin and autochthons. The way in which the media every time is focussed exclusively on the threat of the Islam. There is still not yet complete acceptation of immigrants on the same level and the one-sided view on the Israeli Palestinian conflict causes for this. This will be only growing. The gap threatens to become wider and there is barely talk of living together. Autochthonous Dutchmen do not integrate in a multicultural society.

Growing fundamentalism

Many migrant youngsters find themselves in an ideological vacuum and an identity crisis. On the one hand they feel western and Dutch, but not accepted, and on the other hand Moroccan, Turkish, Islamic. It is no wonder that they are open to movements like Islamic movements, which are filling the vacuum.

Movements also move against the odious and pernicious western consumption world and giving a form of self-respect. From the left there is no solicited story that can bind young migrants, there are also barely or only fragile contacts back and forth. The Palestinian struggle is for many young migrants a struggle by which they can identify themselves, as a struggle of the good against evil powers. As a result the youngsters are more susceptible for fundamentalist movements. This applies also for other European countries and provides in that way a breeding ground for terror groups. It seems to me also that there isn’t the question whether there come an attack in Europe, but when. After this happens one has to fear stronger repression measures from the government against migrants and refugees. On it self, there are signals that Islamic fundamentalism diminishes also because the world is becoming smaller and people freed themselves everywhere from squeezing ties. When there are no progressive powers, however, which are linked up with dissatisfaction which there is, people will turn to the perspective of the fundamentalist Islam. The Islamic powers are privileged that there are financial flows to support them and to build social relations via supplies. Especially oil states in the Middle East are playing a role in this. Anyway it isn’t only the fundamentalist Islam that is taking advantage of the dissatisfaction; fundamentalist Christian and Jewish groups are also taking the initiative and are also not aversed to attacks on citizens. If we don’t be careful there will be more and more confrontations from fundamentalist religious convictions. It almost looks like if here is aimed for consciously not alone by the fundamentalist Islam in the person of Bin Laden, but also by the Bush administration. The one calls for support of his acts “Allah is great” and the other “God bless America”

Politics to free market product

The model of the parliamentary democracy loses credibility, just like international institutions such as the UN. In almost all European countries a huge majority is against the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, countries like Spain and Italy where there is not a single basis for the war, however, from which the governments declaring themselves in favour of the war. More and more people become aware of the entanglement of politics, the companies and the media and started to rise in revolt. The UN are gradually a mockery and look like more on a market with bargain or a Mafia structure with wresting. The US defends their horse trading even by to point out that this is now common diplomacy, which is typical for a free world. After the material resources and collective services it seems that also the politics have to meet the needs of the free market. If you have power and money you buy your votes for supporting your view. With this democracy has lost al her value. It’s no longer going about opinions, debate, of convincing each other. Every perspective to solve conflicts with reasonableness and finding a compromise is lost. There is no Palestinian citizen who believes this, but also many other people. The only way out, which is seen by most ones, is the armed resistance in the form of terror, the only form of armed resistance, which has a chance to be successful. From the complete malaise concerning reliability of institutions like the state, the IMF, the UN, World Bank, and so on, there are seen two important tendencies. On the one hand these of nationalism and fundamentalism and on the other hand the movements for direct democracy, among others to see within the globalisation movement from under. The state and his bureaucracy feel that the stability can be harmed and that his control on what happens is diminished. The result is a grab to the well-known weapons: increasing repression and checks.

What we have to do with this now

An armed conflict on itself hasn’t always to be only negative or undesirable. When you aren’t a fundamental pacifist, sometimes there is a case for armed interference. Dictators are often only to drive away with military means whether from outside or internally by armed fight. A well-known example is Vietnam, which invade Cambodia and made an end on the reign of terror of Pol Pot. In the case of Iraq there is the right question when there is at this moment also a chance on change without armed interference. This is often a thorny question. A question, which is not easy to answer, is for example if the Afghans are better off on this moment than under the Taliban regime and if the Taliban regime could have been stopped in another way. If the Kosovars are better off now than that they had yet to have live with Serbian repression for years. A war, however, has not only consequences for those who are directly involved and can’t be judged as a random indication. In other words: the war is an outcome of a process and has long-term consequences, which also have to weigh in the criticism. Moreover, to much fixing on the war itself has the disadvantage that many things don’t come to the fore and that the fundamental criticism on the war is enfeebled, when the war should take a short time and for example thousands of Iraqi’s stay jubilant in the streets soon. It is exactly what proponents of the war often doing: to set free the moment on itself from what happens before and after and the simplification to the fact that military interference is nevertheless good at that moment. It’s just fine that the Iraqi’s are lost of Saddam Hussein. There are also many Iraqi’s who are reasoning like this, which is understandable from their point of view. They are satysfided with the war to get rid of Saddam, while at the same time they haven’t any confidence in the motives of the US. A fight against the war will especially have to be fit in a movement, which is an effort for much further reforms than ending a war on itself.

Resistance against war means that you don’t overestimate the importance but especially also on the period afterwards as well as before that. Not only on Iraq but particularly also on the effects on the world and also on the Netherlands. Just the war on Iraq has far-reaching consequences. There is an increase in estrangement and tension between especially Dutch from Moroccan origin and white Dutch, from which the last ones occupy important positions in the society. Also most action groups and peace movements are white, there is little direct contact and co-operation with for example the second and third generation of young migrants. Just these youngsters should have to get also a perspective to develop progressive criticism instead of sliding down to fundamentalist groups or nationalism. The conflict Israel - Palestine affects them much more direct than most of the white Dutch. Amongst them there is a total lack of understanding about the attitude of also the Netherlands towards this conflict. Entirely in comparison with the attitude of among other things the Dutch government towards Iraq.

The peace movement has to embed itself much more in a broader outlook on society with depth. On the one hand you’ve the logic of geo-political and strategically considerations which especially come across as inevitable via the media. It’s good to analyse this, but opposite this realism we have also to design own logic, which is not based entirely on power politics of states and multinationals and also beam out realism.