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War Is Peace. Occupation Is Liberation.

David Rossie | May 3 2004

I am a conscientious objector of the central state's offensive wars, imperialist or otherwise. So I have no need for bad news from the war front to justify my opposition. The war could go smoothly with few American casualties and truly minimal civilian deaths and I would hate it just the same, for my disagreements lie not in results. Rather, they lie with intentions and the morality of intervention.

War must have at least one aggressor, but it’s likely there will be more than one. In Iraq , it's fairly obvious that the US is one of the aggressors. If you believe the hype about an eminent Iraqi threat to the US , you still cannot discount the American overwhelming use of force as a "defense move." That would be comparable to saying that a father who kills a man's whole extended family because of some preconceived notion of a rape is merely defending his daughter. Put simply, hundreds of thousands, nay millions of Iraqis who have never attempted to hurt Americans before last year do not want our American military there yet our military is there; the military is an aggressor.

Since the American presence is unwanted by a growing number of Iraqis and Arabs across the region, the revolt against the occupiers garners more strength and mass-support. Pictures are shown of unusual brutality on the part of rebels against troops, mercenaries, and even aid workers. Yet this overshadows whether or not the insurgency is legitimate. Who is anyone to say that an Iraqi civilian is wrong to want a foreign soldier out of his country? Can one honestly say that he is “evil”? What if he puts actions to beliefs and engages in subversion of the occupying force? Is he “evil” then? Is he a terrorist? Are attacks on military targets ever terrorist attacks?

Only a fool would suggest that Iraqis are not allowed to defend their lives, property, and nation against invaders. Unfortunately, popular opinion in our country views most insurgents as being enemies in the “war on terrorism.” To broadly call insurgents “terrorists” flies in the face of everything that our founding fathers fought for. Some insurgents attack markets and private individuals. They are terrorists. Some disrupt daily commerce, prey on Christian worshipers, and kidnap private humanitarian workers. They are terrorists. Yet many insurgents save their attacks for Coalition troops and Iraqi police who are under the direction of the Americans. They are not terrorists. It doesn’t matter if certain people in our military have good intentions, or if the military is engaged partially in building schools and hospitals: taking away the rights of one Iraqi (compound a million times over) leaves someone (or a whole society) pissed off. We find examples of this in door-to-door searches of homes, shootings of civilians at checkpoints, the indiscriminate engaging of insurgents in crowded streets, and initially the bombing of Iraqi cities that killed thousands of innocents.

War hawks often point to the many Iraqis, mostly Shi’ites, who welcomed the Americans as liberators. Of course, anyone who appreciates liberty even to a small degree was happy to see the old regime go. The same appreciation has been found in nations throughout history after shedding authoritarian rulers. For example, witness the Cubans before Castro, the Czechs before Stalin's cronies there, the Iranians before the Ayatollah . . . . Those examples prove another point: Invading forces, domestic or foreign, always market themselves as liberators. Why would they do otherwise? If an army can fool the populace, they have a more efficient occupation. The Soviets always tried this. They were "liberating" Afghanistan in the 1980s, just as we are "liberating" Iraq from Saddam Hussein today. What always happens is that the "liberated" learn better, sooner or later.

While our war in Iraq may have shades of humanitarianism that gave a short-run benefit to the occupied, the reality of imperialism smacked Iraq swiftly. Humans, who are malleable to a great extent, who can be made to appreciate a foreign army as long as material needs are met and rights are not trampled too heavily, who often remain docile if "collateral damage" is not too high, eventually get fed up with oppression and manipulation. When a domestic authoritarian regime is supplanted by a foreign one, when religious mores are offended by a secular military occupation, when the killing and pillaging of non-subservient locals never ceases, the original benefit of a doubt disappears quickly. The loss of that short-term trust in our military is what our government is faced with in Iraq today. Bush and his ilk are facing their own reality check.

Being opposed to the war because of libertarian principles, I find that I have few ideological allies. Many anti-war people today are in the peace camp because the war was mishandled, because a lot of American soldiers have died, because our government did not consult the UN enough, because the war was not waged to establish a socialist system, and so forth. Few anti-war activists are against US intervention for the sole reason that it's wrong and always has been wrong for a government to apply force outside its borders. The reasons for anti-war feelings that bring new faces to the peace party are mere examples of why war was wrong to begin with: Innocents die, societies crumble, old hatreds are renewed, the rights to life, liberty, and possession are trampled, puppet governments crumble under the weight of their illegitimacy, centrally planned economic polices fail… in every war. Lest we forget that wars hurt domestically too; the theft on a grand scale that is necessary to finance a war through taxes and the costs of diverting resources into producing bombs and war-planes negatively affect us here at home.

The majority of truly anti-war activists are libertarian. They don't want to participate in any war that imposes a system on a foreign group of people, period. Contemporary conservatives were against the wars of Soviet imperialism and the Clinton-era bombing of the Balkans but fell in line to support broad American "pro-democratic" intervention throughout the cold war. Leftists have traditionally been against most US intervention that supported our military-industrial complex, supported fascist regimes, or helped fairly respectable nations that should have dealt with their own problems, yet nevertheless were sympathetic to the rise in Communist intervention. Many advocated for war, internally, on the capitalist class here at home. Something to ponder: How can so many peace activists have ties to Trotskyism? One wonders if they would oppose a war to further a global proletariat revolution.

A libertarian knows that the only just war is a defensive war. And while some may make the individual decision to support defensive causes abroad, a libertarian who values the Non-Aggression Principle and the Just-War Doctrine knows that participation in a defensive war is strictly limited to fighting off an aggressor. Collateral damage and destruction of the property of innocents is unacceptable. And wrong actions, whether on purpose or accidental, must be repented for. The war in Iraq is nothing close to a just war for liberty or one fought with grievance for innocents and repentance. A war fought by a government never can be. This is why no matter the progress made or the "good news" that comes of it, a conscientious objector knows not to support the occupation or government intervention anywhere. It is an evil endeavor, and no amount of good can overcome the ultimate embodiment of coercion and oppression that is an aggressive, offensive war.

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