If someone had told me I’d be writing more than one thousand columns for Antiwar.com back in 1996 when I started, I would’ve looked at them askance – and wondered what they were smoking. Today, looking back on it, I’m beyond weariness. Instead, I’m struck with wonder. How has Antiwar.com managed to survive this long?
This question is especially relevant these days, as the journalistic profession seems caught in a double vise: hit on the one hand by the rapidly declining economy, and on the other by the emergence of new technologies that have rendered it increasingly marginal, at least economically speaking. Some are even calling for a government bailout of the newspaper industry – a desperate measure that would undoubtedly open up the nation’s editorial boards to the charge of being shills for Washington. Not that they hadn’t already earned that title well before the present downturn…
In the beginning, believe it or not, I wrote a daily column called "Wartime Diary" of anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words: the war I was chronicling was being fought not in the Middle East, but in the Balkans. A popular Democratic president with a penchant for liberal internationalism in the foreign policy realm was intent on aiding a rebellious province of the former Yugoslavia break away and form a separate nation – one that is today regarded as the most lawless and unstable of any in Europe, a haven for arms traffickers and drug lords. Virtually the entire Left, and a good portion of the Right, was united in support of the war: it was, we were told, a "humanitarian" operation, one that we had a moral duty to undertake.
Antiwar.com, standing virtually alone, opposed the war, on several grounds, first and foremost being that attacking a country that had never attacked us and presented no credible threat to our legitimate interests would set a horrible precedent, one that would come back to haunt us.
As indeed it did.
We warned early on about the dangers of getting bogged down in Iraq: when Bill Clinton, taking advantage of the post-Cold War precedent set by his Balkan adventure, proposed the "Iraq Liberation Act," we raised a hue and cry. Remember, it was the Democrats who pushed through funding for Ahmed Chalabi and his exile group to dig up "intelligence" on Iraq’s alleged "weapons of mass destruction," and a Democratic administration that unleashed American bombers as the liberals stood silently by. It wasn’t until George W. Bush escalated the very same policy that the antiwar movement began to focus on the atrocities committed in the name of "liberation."
That’s been our position for much of our existence: waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with us. We said, as early as the 1990s, that the Iraqis had no "weapons of mass destruction" and the whole rationale for imposing sanctions and going to war was phony from the start. Back then, very few listened. It was only later – much later – that this "outside the box," not to mention "extremist," position morphed into the conventional wisdom.
But we didn’t have either the time or the inclination to wait for the rest of the world to catch up, because we were too busy documenting and publicizing the next phase of the War Party’s crusade to make the world safe for corporate America – the demonization and isolation of Iran. Sadly, events have borne out our prognosis.
However, the War Party is going to have a lot of trouble selling this latest crusade as either necessary or justified. They’re already having great difficulty selling their Afghan occupation. They’re marketing it as a "humanitarian" nation-building effort, but what they don’t tell us is what our loyal allies, the Brits, readily admit: that it’ll be a 40-year effort, bound to cost many thousands of lives and untold billions of dollars.
Through over 1,000 columns I’ve been documenting the consequences – and causes – of interventionism, from the deserts of the Middle East to the jungles of South America, and practically all points in between. Sometimes, when I’m researching a column, I’ll turn up one of my old pieces via Google, and it’s like reading something written by a stranger. I’ll think to myself, "Gee, I didn’t know that!"
But of course I did know that: it’s just that the information got buried underneath the tremendous weight of 1,000-plus editions of "Behind the Headlines" and its predecessor, "Wartime Diary." If you go back and look in the archives, you’ll see what amounts to a complete record of the foreign policy twists and turns of the U.S. government since the Kosovo war – a record that catches up with us on 9/11, when the full meaning and consequences of that policy crystallized in a few moments of horror.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks really brought home the point that we had been making from the start: that we could not continue on the same course without experiencing a good amount of "blowback" – that we could not maintain our position of global hegemon except at great cost to ourselves and the rest of the world. It took three or four more years before anyone took seriously our analysis – and I’m afraid the lesson has yet to be fully learned.
We have, in many ways, come full circle. Once again, as in the beginning, we have a liberal Democrat in the White House, one who masks his foreign policy of global bullying and power politics and puts a human visage on the face of American imperialism. We aren’t invading and occupying Afghanistan – we’re "nation-building"! We aren’t intervening in Somalia – we’re fighting "piracy"! (We must, after all, fight to preserve our piratical monopoly.)
The Bush years were hard, but the Obama era may prove more worrisome. At least back then, the War Party made no bones about its intentions: they were determined to invade Iraq, despite numerous portents of disaster, and there was no question what they stood for: perpetual war and a generation-long crusade to "transform" the Middle East and much of the rest of the world. The Obama administration is embarked on an equally ambitious project – the pacification of Afghanistan and Central Asia – and yet manages to avoid grandiose ideological pronouncements, keeping their real agenda under wraps as they go about the everyday business of managing the American Empire.
The liberals and progressives who supported us in the Bush era have, in large part, drifted away – diverted by other issues, of just as much importance to them. And this is understandable. What isn’t so understandable – or, rather, excusable – is liberal complicity with the execution and escalation of Obama’s war on the "Af-Pak" front – and the lack of an outcry from the congressional Democrats who opposed the Iraq war during the Bush years and constituted a vocal but occasionally effective minority on Capital Hill. They seem to have disappeared from sight.
The silence of the liberals is galling, to say the least: and, of course, they aren’t contributing a whole lot to the fund drive. Why subsidize a Web site that’s focusing on the foolhardiness of their hero’s foreign policy? Confronted with such partisan blindness, I can only throw my hands up in despair and aver that such people are hopeless fly-by-nighters whose only "principle" is attaching themselves to whatever movement claims to be "progressive."
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any progress in the struggle to fundamentally change our foreign policy of global intervention – quite the opposite. The U.S. empire of bases spans the globe and is rapidly expanding, along with our armies of occupation in Afghanistan and Central Asia. We have extended our reach into Central and South America, confronting native populist movements and supporting the regnant elites. In the Pacific Rim, we still maintain our Cold War positions, including in an increasingly restive Japan and South Korea. The encirclement of Russia, begun during the Clinton years and extending into the Bush era, continues apace: Obama threw down the gauntlet by carrying forward the Bushian policy of basing anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, while averring that NATO membership for Ukraine and perhaps even Georgia is not out of the question. The Russians have shown they will not hesitate to pick it up.
Worse yet, the "peace" plan proffered by the Obama administration, which is supposed to ease tensions in the Middle East – or at least that section of it encompassing Palestine – will owe whatever success it may have to Washington’s willingness to deal with Israel on the Iran question. While a U.S. green light to nuke Tehran may well be a high price to pay for a Peace Prize, there are no doubt some in the present administration who would be willing to pay it. However this develops, the prospects for a coming confrontation with Tehran grow daily. Yet the former opponents of U.S. intervention who have invested their hopes in the present administration can’t or won’t see that.
Yet the evidence is all around us. Most members of the U.S. Congress have already signed on to sanctions aimed at Iran, and the Iranians are not enamored of Obama’s announced September deadline for the opening of negotiations over an issue that, as far as they’re concerned, has already been settled. The UN, after all, has given them a clean bill of health – unlike Israel, they allow their nuclear facilities to be inspected. Tel Aviv, on the other hand, won’t even acknowledge it has nukes – although the whole world knows it. And our own CIA has chimed in [.pdf] with the news that the Iranians gave up their nuclear weapons program in 2003, a fact our president seems to have forgotten, if we take seriously his many statements claiming Iran is intent on building nukes.
We have been down this road before, and it’s hard to believe that the American people are going to be taken in again. Will they?
Not if we at Antiwar.com can help it. Yes, you knew this column was going to degenerate into a fundraising pitch, now didn’t you? Well, what of it? We are hopelessly outspent in this vital battle for public opinion, and – like all nonprofits – we’re hurting particularly badly at the moment. We really need to make our fundraising goal this cycle, because the need for Antiwar.com has never been greater.
Yesterday it was the Left that was "antiwar," and the day before that it was the Right. Who will raise their voice against the War Party these days remains to be seen: it’s early yet. But the clock is ticking, and we don’t have much time to raise the money we need to keep going. Our fair-weather friends, of both the Left and the Right, have deserted us in large numbers, and now that it’s coming down to the wire the true friends of peace and liberty are called upon to step forward and fill the gap – the huge gap in our budget, that is.
We can’t continue without your support – it’s as simple as that. So please: reach down in your pocket as deep as you dare. Because the time has come to make a stand for peace. Presidents come and go, and the trend of American politics shifts from Right to Left and back again, and yet we still keep pursuing the same dangerously arrogant foreign policy, one that has led us to our present predicament: near universal opprobrium and imminent bankruptcy, moral as well as fiscal.
So what’s changed?
I’ll tell you what’s changed: the name of the party in power. And that is just about it. That’s why we need Antiwar.com, and why we’ll need it unto the end of time. I’ll be happy, however, if you’ll help us raise enough money for just the next quarter – and we can leave eternity for another day.