This piece was included in Pieces of War: A Mosaic of Views on the War in Iraq, a special section that appeared in the first and only issue of Mosaic: A Magazine of Arts, Sciences & Everything in Between, which evolved into this website.
And so the war has begun, and it’s time for this armchair pundit to weigh in on the issue, for whatever it’s worth.
Judging by the “No Blood For Oil” sign in my front porch, it’s not hard to guess the general vicinity of where I stand on the matter. Two pundits more heavyweight than I both reached me recently with chastising messages about the over-simplicity of my Blood & Oil sign. Neil Postman said that protest signs are guilty of one of the worst forms of language abuse: sloganism. Rex Murphy specifically criticized the No Blood For Oil slogan as oversimplifying a very complex and confusing war, with many potential pitfalls and many potential benefits.
My response to these two big-brained men is this: there isn’t enough room in my front porch for what I really think and feel about this attack on Iraq, this “Operation Iraqi Freedom” (possibly the worst case of language abuse in human history). There is not enough room on a placard to express the horror and helplessness most people seem to be feeling right now, whether they take it to the streets in mass demonstrations and vigils, hide in their basements eating canned food, or find some other way to cope.
If my front porch was larger and if I actually owned “my” front porch, I’d take down the placard and replace it with these spray-painted words: “No blood should be shed and no injury should be brought upon civilians and soldiers for the sake of American expansionism or neo-colonialism, nor for the sake of supporting anyone’s delusions of self-righteousness or delusions of control.”
No blood for oil is not an oversimplification so much as it is short form. Blood is short for the toll taken in human lives, and the damage done to the psyche and health of an invaded and injured people, and to the rest of us who bear witness to this slaughter, destruction, and subsequent assimilation. Oil is short for the delusional worldview that drives the agenda of the Bush and Blair administrations, wherein ‘liberating’ Iraq (i.e., inserting a new puppet government that will respond to string-tugging by the US) is an important and achievable step toward a worldwide American-style “democracy” (i.e., one in which public opinion is important only insofar as it is perceived to threaten the current political leadership). Former examples of such US-exported democracies include Suharto in Indonesia, Pinochet in Chile, Mobutu in the Congo, and the Shah of Iran, to name but a few. These delusions are clearly laid out in the
1997 PNAC (Project for a New American Century) document that guided three of the past four US Presidents.
This war is not just about oil, but oil is an important factor. If you disagree, ask yourself why Iraq was chosen as the target of this bombing campaign over every other dictatorship on the planet. Oil is important, but it is only one factor in the delusions of world control held by the far-right fundamentalist radicals in the White House.
Similar to these grandiose delusions, though different in scale, is the delusion most people now have that humanity can control this planet, which is here for us to do with as we please. The vast majority of human beings suffer delusions of control that are similar to those of our current political leaders; the difference is one of scale. Collectively, our delusions have created a hierarchy of power designed to administrate our control over the planet and all its life. Each of us within this hierarchy like to believe we have a certain amount of control over how this happens. In our jobs we make things happen in our respective areas of expertise. In our families we have a say in what gets eaten, how money is spent, and whether to de-claw the cat. By voting, we have some control over who leads this hierarchy. The delusion takes effect when we start to believe that all these modicums of control add up to a society that has the world under control. Despite environmental destruction, oppression of some groups by others, persecution of countless individuals, mass illness due to a lack of basic necessities like food and clean water, and constant wars, we like to believe that everything is under control. Generally, the higher up one is on the hierarchy, the stronger this delusion.
At the top of the hierarchy, you have the likes of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Tony Blair, and Saddam Hussein, the most delusional on a planet of delusional beings. Our delusions, and particularly those of these most powerful people, are taking us continually closer to the brink of our own extinction. In the process, they are effectively maintaining all of this destruction, oppression, persecution, illness, and war, despite any better intentions they may have. The outcomes of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” are uncertain; there are simply too many possible outcomes to determine the economic, human, health, and environmental tolls that will be accrued by this course of action. Even if the coalition of those willing to destroy, kill, maim and risk worldwide security and stability achieves its best possible outcome, there will be more wars to fight once Iraq is “liberated.” With more powerful political leaders accruing more dangerous technological capabilities, eventually one of these operations of “freedom” may very well turn into a world war, using the stock holds of nuclear weapons that will be our undoing. If that doesn’t happen, our delusions will likely ensure that we never escape the brutal hold of the hierarchy we’ve created until we sufficiently destroy our own habitat and die off.
My “No Blood For Oil” sign certainly isn’t going to stop this war, and neither will this article. It occurs to me that the professional protestors who generate staccato intonations of “We can stop this war!!” into megaphones are almost as delusional as the world political leaders if they believe what they are saying. Still I keep my sign posted and I attend these protests and vigils, and write this article and others like it, because it is my way of coping, and maintaining some sense of hope. Thinking through these complex issues in more words than four, somewhat ironically leads me to believe that the solution to war is as simple as my placard. To achieve peace, we simply surrender our delusions of control. The concept is simple, making it happen is as difficult as stopping Bush with a slogan. I won’t condemn the protestors, nor the pundits, nor the scholars, writers, artists, musicians, lawyers, students, teachers, doctors, veterans, lovers, pretzel manufacturers, nor even the politicians, nor any others who are opposed to this war, regardless of what they do to try to stop it, regardless of how ineffective it proves to be, because beyond “Operation Iraqi Freedom” there will be other wars, and other insane acts of destruction based on delusions of control and delusions of righteousness. And only through this great diversity of peaceful tactics and analyses and actions can we hope to overcome these delusions and their horrifying, disgusting, unhealthy, unjust, and unsustainable consequences.
My hope is that all of us on all sides can in time learn to surrender our delusions, for the sake of peace, for the sake of justice, for the sake our health, and for the sake of our survival.