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AWMR Italia - Associazione Donne della Regione Mediterranea

No War! How Women Show the Way
Val Moghadam, Director of Women’s Studies
Presented at panel discussion on
“War, Regime Change and the Future of Global Civil Societies”
University Galleries, 18 March 2003

There are plenty of reasons to oppose the impending war, but I will mention just three.
First, the whole world is against it! Massive demonstrations and other protest and peace actions have been taking place all over the globe, including a protest rally in Chicago on Sunday, which I attended. The whole world is against Bush’s war.
The second reason to be against the war is that George Dubya is for it.

And third, his cronies are for it – Ashford, Ridge, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Fleisher, Rove, Wolfowitz – what a gang of self-righteous war-mongers! Hyper-capitalists, too, with their tax cuts for the rich that make them a true executive committee of the bourgeoisie, as Marx and Engels would say. And as Ralph Nader has pointed out, they are “marinated in oil” – for example, Cheney was CEO of Halliburton before he became VP and Bush also has oil connections. And now, big business is lined up to bid for post-war reconstruction contracts. The idea is, first you destroy a country’s infrastructure, and then you allow corporations to profit from reconstruction.

This is not to suggest that the Democrats are any better, or that the Bush Administration is an aberration or an anomaly. True, the Bushites are the epitome of weirdness, with their apocalyptic talk of religion and war. But we are facing a systemic, structural problem, which in the old days was called U.S. imperialism. It is still an apt term, because it describes the combination of hegemonic power politics and capitalist profit-making that is driving this war effort. It has to be opposed. Otherwise it will be Vietnam all over again, and this time even worse.

It will be like Vietnam in that the slaughter of the innocents will take place again – noncombatant Iraqi women, children, and men will be killed or maimed by U.S. dumb bombs. It will be like Vietnam because American soldiers will come back in body bags. But it will be different because you’ll be dealing with a different enemy. You see, the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong really were the good guys. They would not use chemical weapons. No – the Americans did that! They wouldn’t avenge the killing of their own innocents by killing American innocents. No – they were too principled for that. As were the Soviets. And of course the Cubans.

Communists were not bad. But now we have Saddam Hussein, a thug with a penchant for biological warfare, and we have a transnational terror network, al-Qaeda, that may despise Saddam Hussein but hates the U.S. more. Since al-Qaeda operatives have no qualms about the killing of innocents themselves, they may plan to avenge Iraqi deaths by pulling another September 11. These are unsettling times, and we have the great misfortune of being exposed to the delusions and dangers of Bush and Co., of Saddam and Co., and of Bin Laden and Co. Is there a way out of this madness?

The Europeans are showing the way with the strong anti-war stance of their governments (minus the governments of Blair, Aznar, and Berlusconi) and of their populations. Hooray for the French, but seventy percent of Italians have said in a poll that they would oppose war against Iraq even if the UN authorized it! Now that is a principled anti-war position! For various reasons, I am regarding the European Union as a salutary counterweight to both U.S. imperialism and Islamist reaction.
More significantly, women are showing the way out of this madness. Women have long been involved in peace action, anti-militarist, and social justice movements and campaigns, and to jog your memory I would mention the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Women Strike for Peace, the Women of Greenham Common, and Women in Black. And now we have the ongoing Women’s Peace Vigil in front of the White House and elsewhere in the country, organized by the newly-formed Code Pink Women’s Pre-emptive Strike for Peace. The name Code Pink, of course, is a clever spoof on the Bush Administration’s color-coded terrorism alerts, as well as a maternity ward reference to a baby in danger.

The Vigil was organized by Starhawk,an important figure in the spirituality and ecofeminist movements, and Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based organization that deals with issues of labor and trade. Let’s note that much of the anti-war organizing has been done by women, and that women are strong participants in the anti-war movement, as I myself witnessed at the huge demonstration in Washington DC on January 19. The National Organization for Women issued a strong statement against the war on Iraq and has actively assisted the Women’s Vigil. And here’s something novel: there are men supporting the Women’s Vigil,and apparently some have even baked cakes for the women! Along with Code Pink, the anti-militarist group Women in Black continues to protest Bush’s war in front of the White House and elsewhere. We should also take note of the anti-war stance of the U.S. labor movement – although I would not be surprised to discover that this is somehow connected to the fact that women workers are the largest growing constituency of U.S. trade unions.

Some years back, the notion that “there is no alternative” – to neoliberal capitalism, to privatization, to the current model of globalization – was gaining currency, but some of us rejected the pessimism inscribed in the “TINA syndrome”. Today, some would have us believe that “there is no alternative” to war, and to simply shut up and accept the investment of billions of our hard-earned tax dollars in (guess what?) weapons of mass destruction. Well there is an alternative, and that is to demonstrate our opposition to this mind-boggling war-mongering madness in as many different ways as possible, and to help build what seems to be a historically unprecedented global social movement for peace, economic justice, and gender justice.

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