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Mr. Adler,

You contributed a well-thought out, rational argument to justify this war with Iraq.  My only thoughts to you... would we, despite our power and capabilities, have gone to war if we had experienced war on our soil in recent memory?  I submit, we found this solution — war — the easiest solution, given our might and lack of knowledge of the receiving end of war in one's homeland, easier than long, hard, good diplomacy only because we, Americans, do not know war in our land, in our streets, in our homes.  Would your arguments justify a war versus diplomacy, (granted long and hard successful diplomacy, if that were the case)?  I think not.  However, you seem to dismiss diplomacy as even an option.  Yes, I know it has been tried unsuccessfully in the ensuing years after the Gulf War.  However, the current administration did not put any effort in diplomacy as an alternative.  War, apparently in the administration's estimation was the only solution.

Yes, I know about "good men doing nothing" because I've been seeing it in abundance since 11/2000.  I am beginning to believe Edward R. Murrow, who had a hand in toppling McCarthy "while good men did nothing", was an anomaly.  All I can say to our current administration is, "HAVE YOU NO SHAME!" and to the Stepford wives in the media "HAVE YOU NO COURAGE TO REPORT FACTS and NOT PROPAGANDA!"

You may want to reread Mein Kampf as it may refresh your memory about the dangers of the rationalization of war and how to apply propaganda to get the people to agree that "it's the right and ONLY thing".  Just a thought.

Mary Anne Mills  

Dear Mary Anne,

I received your reply to my article (A Sterile Pacifism) through Scooper — thanks for taking the time to respond.

Firstly, let me say I think there is very little about the 'act of war' which makes it logical for peace - my rationale was not meant to justify war but point to reasons for its occurrence or inevitability. Someone once said, "There can be no lasting peace without justice" — or words to that effect.

As a child I can remember the deep sense of injustice felt when  held responsible for the misdemeanour of someone else, was bullied, humiliated, punched or in some way brutalised.  Perhaps a schoolyard aggressor, in striking out, sought to 'Lord' it over me both verbally and physically. Despite a forgiving heart, my situation with this bully could never change unless an authority (school yard teacher) could justly intervene. In most situations the schoolyard bully had sufficient respect (or fear) of the authority above him. However, there were occasional instances where no such respect was apparent and a 'higher' authority was needed – a la the police (or law enforcement). There is no doubt in my mind there are times when the full enforcement of  'law' is justly required – a law operating on principles of ‘fairness’.

I do not wish to oversimplify the current situation by merely calling Saddam a typical schoolyard bully or the U.S. now acting with the 'higher' authority in reining him in. There are many shades of grey in which the past hypocrisies of the U.S. and the seeming arrogance it displays over smaller nations have been readily displayed. As an Australian I view the situation without any great sense of patriotism, neither do I place the American flag above any other. There is also a fear of a neo-conservative element pushing American Imperialism beyond all recognisable bounds - the Bush administration has to some extent given preference to 'cowboy' rhetoric. I do, however, on the study of a Hussein led regime in the context of current world politics, see a very real threat if this regime is not quickly dismantled. I believe the American constitution, when properly invoked, allows for the placement of the forgotten or lost freedoms amongst our global population.

The rule of international law through the U.N. has not proved sufficiently strong enough in many situations to act decisively when required. Much of Africa is now a case in point and will eventually bear scrutiny. Continuing diplomacy in the situation of Iraq has only led to cruel sanctions on an already starving people with their dictator continuing as the main beneficiary. Countless thousands of Iraqis, many being children, continue to die under an auspice of a U.N. led 'authority' - Iraqis continue to have no choice in the matter. My argument is therefore one of Pro-choice for the Iraqi people, where they can choose to be no longer bullied, raped, tortured or abused. To leave them with Saddam is to assure many Iraqis the death penalty. The mantle of Saddam is that he declares a  'parental' authority over his 'children'. For the 'child' to survive the 'parent' must die as one is now feeding parasitically off the other.



Thank you for your reply to my, ahem, rather emotional, gut reaction to your piece on "A Sterile Pacifism".  I can see from your reply, you read, as suggested by Scooper, "One Woman's Reasons".  I worked very hard, after leaving IBM management after many years of service, to "dumb" down my logical arguments and try to relate to people through their human hearts and human experiences in my writing, rather than to their brains and intellect, which I have unfortunately found, let's say, in a lot of "adult" humans, does not seem to function well or at all; ergo, the blind support of the current administration despite their lack of intellectual curiosity and total disregard for dissenting opinions.  You may be aware that the litmus test now for placing judges is solely their position on abortion, it must be pro-life, which is a misnomer anyway, and only scientists, who uphold the administration's positions on the environment like global warming caused by man's actions on this planet has no scientific proof or validity, are "acceptable" scientists to them.  Indeed, their nominee for a high-level medical position in the administration, believes that Jesus will heal women with reproductive-related illnesses and traditional medical intervention is uncalled for "if the women just pray HARD enough".

Firstly, to address your point about "There can be no lasting peace without justice" — or words to that effect.  America has been laboring since the Cold War ended, to find our place in the world since we, and other democracies, successfully slew the dragon of communism in the Soviet Union.  When Clinton tried to bring peace through justice by addressing the tribal conflict between the Hutus and the Tutses (sic), he was branded by the right wing in America for turning us into the "Policeman" of the world and misusing OUR resources to bring peace to countries and situations that the conservatives in our country thought the locals should handle themselves, no matter how dour or genocidal the destruction.  Indeed, prior to 9/11, the current administration's policy on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was, "let them fight it out themselves, and when they are done, then we'll talk to them about a Peace Plan" to paraphrase Bush II, if you recall. Clinton, during his administration, was not allowed politically to stay the course in the African conflict because of right wing fears of people of the world becoming too dependent on us to resolve their conflicts and we would become the world's "Policeman".   Nor, during Clinton's time, was there a political will in this country to get serious about terrorism.  Thus, he received no political support to counter Osama when we should have done so.  If ever the timing was right to address Osama and terrorism, this was it and we (Americans) let it pass to suffer the inevitable consequences.  We lived in a fantasy that we would never be personally affected by terrorism nor world conflict. It wasn't until Clinton tackled Bosnia that his "Policeman" actions were finally approved.  I have to say, that the fact that the Bosnia situation was between "Caucasians" versus African non-Caucasians, in my observation, did play, on a subliminal level, a role in legitimizing his "Policeman" to the World actions in Bosnia to the right-wing.

My point is, I agree, there can be no lasting peace without justice.  However, this principle must be applied non-discriminately to affect the peace through justice one is attempting to create.  So, why choose Saddam and Iraq as targets of peace through justice,  war in this case, versus say North Korea, who, we unquestionably know, have weapons of mass destruction and who treat their people just as horrendously as Saddam, the leader of North Korea being just as tyrannical, unprincipled, and brutal.  I submit to you, the current administration's real reasons are less high-minded that those reasons for which you give them credit.

Again, I do not disagree that America should strive to inoculate the world with peace through justice, but to go to war with Iraq in the manner it has been orchestrated, i.e. false/weak information about a link between Saddam and Osama/Al Quaeda, an unproven proposition that Saddam possesses "weapons of mass destruction", etc.  flies in the face of the supposed principle you articulate the administration is trying to impose by this war.

The current American administration went to war with Iraq for a number of reasons, i.e. redirect focus from the unsuccessful search for Osama and for the anthrax terrorist (the administration does not mention his name unless Osama has issued another of his videos nor do they say the word anthrax in any context); redirect focus from their disastrous domestic policy and its destructive effects; oil, while not pursuing any alternative energy methods; money for a favored few to rebuild after the war (Halliburton contracts); exoneration of Daddy Bush after he left Saddam in charge the first time, and pure down-right revenge ("he [Saddam] tried to kill my Daddy", etc., but not for peace through justice.

So, bottom-line, I do not disagree with your arguments, but with the reasons you believe people are pacifists and objectors to this endeavor.  The majority of the war protestors, like myself, protest, not because we are against removing the likes of a Saddam, not because we disagree that he is a danger to his people and world peace now and in the future, not because we do not understand the concept of peace without justice, but because it was war or nothing to this administration.  This war has been shoved down our throats on false information and propaganda. We fear it will create a greater danger to peace by giving fodder to create more Osamas by proving that all which they fear about America,  i.e. arrogance, imperialism, hypocrisy, etc., is true.  It could not be better proven than by evidence of this war and how quickly the administration and some Americans chose war over alternatives and made Saddam, not other tyrants acting as a more imminent threat, the target.

The thing that disturbs me the most, which I so poorly articulated, is how the administration was able to convince some of the American people to go to war without a thought to what war is.  To go to war so unflinchingly, so cavalierly, as if any reasons for war, like the ones you articulated, justify the realities of it.  So, again, I submit, to achieve lasting peace with justice does not mean going to war the way this one was orchestrated.  Indeed, we, Americans, by this war, have subverted justice, and therefore, will not achieve peace by our actions, even if Saddam is gone.

Mary Anne Mills 

Thanks for your reply, Mary Anne,

You give an intelligent facet to the anti-war movement many of whom, I fear, have not given the depth of thought shown. A difficulty I find is the deepening polarity between the two sides with both dismissive of the other as either totally immoral or insensitive — or just plain stupid.

For me, pacifists fall into two broad categories. Firstly, there are those whose understanding of non-violent action/reaction is recognised as the first and best alternative in the handling of any dispute. Common sense, for them, dictates a right of law enforcement or self-defence in the event of facing unrestrained belligerence/hostility - most people, in varying degrees, seem to fit into this group. People belonging to a second, much smaller but highly activist group are what I’d term as the ‘idealistic pacifist’. Their ideology is one of all restraining and harmful physical force as equating to a wrong and violent action – pure and simple. A hard core element believe no compromise can be held, even in the event of the self-defence as required to protect life; their arguments on law enforcement, I believe, will always remain a little tricky.

I guess my bottom line is I do not think many pacifists fully understand their rallying point; much of their ado is sheer anti-Americanism coupled with ‘blood for oil’ type sloganing. Many of the protests within the West are merely an exhibit of the frustration held against the ‘establishment’. The Arab nations and many Muslim states express something far deeper and much less easily removed from the psyche - the dimension and determination of a ‘holy’ war.

I agree with you, the motives of the Bush administration seem a little ‘suss’ – their futile attempt in the linking of Saddam to Osama/Al Quaeda was naïve. The religious base of the Sept.11 perpetrators and the secular government of Saddam have but one comparison – that of terrorism. There is little constituting a religious based fanaticism within Saddam’s regime – he and his entourage are, by all accounts, dangerously ambitious and egocentric to the point of abject cruelty. Saddam, however, is but a loose cannon and singularly poses less of an overall threat than the simmering intent of anti-western Islamist sentiment. I would determine the current Iraqi regime as more a loaded gun within the context of middle-east and now world politics; awaiting the discovery of a smoking gun, however, may arguably have left things a little late. My understanding is, we both agree on the removal of the Hussein regime, our difference appears to be one of timing and the manner of removal.

So, why go to war with the Iraqi regime and not, perhaps, North Korea? Are we just seeing the machination of a ‘spoilt rich kid’ bent to avenge an attack on ‘Daddy’ or is the manoeuvring of military might a cover for poor domestic policy? I believe there are mixed motives – as with most human action, intentions are not always obvious even if suspected. I look also to Tony Blair and our Prime minister, John Howard – I try to gauge their perception, knowing also they are not fools. I look also to Bush and try to see through his buffoonery, his struggle with alcohol, his character strengths and weakness; I can perhaps discern he’s not quite the idiot some academia often pretend him to be. One must also look to the leaders of the Asian, Middle Eastern and African continents and place them also into the context of this conflict. The world certainly has its share of dictatorships;  they will  take heart by strengthening their despotic rule if the west dithers. There is this sense of being at a cross road – the resolve to gain peace must not weaken, no matter the action.

I also see the Iraqi conflict as a catalyst for the inevitable collision between the ‘modernity’ of the west vs an ancient and religious based bigotry; religious fundamentalism has its many forms - from which the west is not immune. There is a fear and ignorance found not only from within the oppressed but also from the affluent amongst us who also ignore, at their own peril, the suffering within our human condition. Perhaps a postponement of the inevitable may have occurred pre Sept. 11 but as you’ve rightly stated, our complacency (sleep-walking) has been shattered. The reality of a sinister intent by those who hate the ambiguity of western freedom has been revealed. The corruption within many of our western institutions may also be fully exposed.

So, I do not greet this conflict with any sense of triumph but more a trepidation as to what may lie in the months/years ahead. Many will be challenged in their particular faith to greet with an equanimity their almost predestined fate – for those with no or little faith, a desperate time seems to bode. 



You, I believe, are correct in many of your assessments.

Both sides, ProWar/AntiWar (War with Iraq because each war is different) fail to understand the motives of the other group to some degree, dismiss their beliefs as false or shallow, and underestimate the depth of their (intellectual, moral, soul) searching to arrive at the position they have.

I believe, here in America, the ProWar ordinary person is so because of nationalism, NOT to be confused as it always is with patriotism; revenge as in "an eye for an eye"/"how DARE you attack us [9/11] - we will show you(someone/anyone of the ilk of Osama is OK)", since the majority of the ProWar supporters are right-wing, Protestant, fundamentalists, the war is the logical solution and totally in line with their faith and beliefs about how to handle a recalcitrant tyrant, indeed, the scriptures [Old Testament of The Holy Bible], in their view, advocates this action and supports it as did, I might add, the Koran to Osama; and blind loyalty of the president as Executive and Chief of the Military - if he says it, IT must be TRUE.  These individuals lean on the side of unquestioning loyalty as the only way our democracy will continue to function, rather than healthy dissent as the engine of TRUE democracy in action that our forefathers envisioned and, indeed, established our form of government to support and allow, nay, advocate for the health of our democracy.  Our fear of dissent, in my view, is MORE threatening to our democracy than the real dissent will ever be.

I have articulated some of what I believe are the ProWar administration's reasons for starting this war in my earlier email to you.  Indeed, Bush II has published a manifesto, , to justify his actions and change the traditional view and policy of "imminent danger" and the lengths America will go to "defend" itself.

However, I disagree with your statement: "I guess my bottom line is I do not think many pacifists fully understand their rallying point; much of their ado is sheer anti-Americanism coupled with ‘blood for oil’ type sloganing".  If I may be so bold, this statement is stereotypical for one who possesses such intellectual prowess.  The belief you shared here is held by most ProWar advocates about why AntiWar activists protest and that is a shame, for their AntiWar message is lost in the stereotype.  I speak in generalities, which is a danger, of course.  For yes, like in the ProWar group, the majority are NOT Hawks just for the sake of being a Hawk [war for the sake of war], the majority of the AntiWar group are not "hard-core" pacifists [no war is ever justified], nor are they anti-American, or ignorant enough to boil the reasons for war down to "blood for oil".

For to think that one would take the risk of open dissent easily or at all, is minimizing what one is subjecting themselves to by this action, and what courage must be mustered to act and disagree and publicly, especially, in a society that fears "difference", ANY difference, in thought, appearance, action, or deed; ergo, racisms, homophobia, prejudices against non-Protestant beliefs, etc.  And, especially in an environment that allows a person such as John Ashcroft to hold the position of US Attorney General, since he holds the beliefs of Joe McCarthy to be quite dear, and wouldn't hesitate if given the go ahead to put McCarthy's black list in place, and has, to some degree, done so already!

To say, they, the AntiWar advocates,  protest to display "anti-Americanism" is, in my estimation, a sophomoric assessment, like allowing one's self to believe these protests are against our troops and NOT the POWERS that put them there in the first place.  My belief, as an Anti-War [this war with Iraq] sympathizer, is, that we are MORE American rather than anti-American than the Pro-War people given the backdrop of the Constitution which the administration has distorted and gnawed in support of their so called "pro-American" beliefs and ideology.

I would submit to you, this distortion goes hand-in-hand with the ProWar's group belief that they are patriots trying to defend our country, not nationalists who are ONLY "defending" our country's interests at the cost of another nation's destruction.

You are correct when you say,"My understanding is, we both agree on the removal of the Hussein regime, our difference appears to be one of timing and the manner of removal."  Not only do we both agree, but this belief is shared by the majority of AntiWar protestors.  This is NOT what is coming across in the media or, obviously, in the spin.  That couldn't be allowed for it would diminish the administration's dismissal of these protestors as "anti-American" and unpatriotic, and not people who have a valid, albeit, counter argument to their plans.

When you look you your leaders ["I look also to Tony Blair and our Prime minister, John Howard – I try to gauge their perception, knowing also they are not fools"], I know you will keep in mind, that they may not have been privy to the full truth of the administration's motives, and, of course, have their own ideologies and constituents to satisfy.

As far as your statement, "The world certainly has its share of dictatorships;  they will  take heart by strengthening their despotic rule if the west dithers. There is this sense of being at a cross road – the resolve to gain peace must not weaken, no matter the action", this action would have been TOTALLY justified had it been directed at the known orchestrator of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, not the surrogate of our wrath, Saddam, despite the surrogate's despicable behaviors.  I would submit to you, were the current actions directed at Osama, you would see not one [1] single protestor on the streets, with the exception of those who supported Osama and his actions, i.e. destruction of the World Trade Towers, in the first place.

By our very actions to attack Saddam rather than Osama, we are making Osama's case of "religious [Protestant vs. Muslim]/anti-Arab war" and NOT a war to show the actual perpetrators we will NOT tolerate such actions on our soil or anywhere on the planet, including their sacred Muslim lands and holy places.  In the end, then, we will NOT achieve what you and other ProWar folks desire to show them that we will not tolerate violence like Osama perpetrated on us; we will show them that Osama was justified in his fear of the West and what lengths we will go to show them "whose boss" and, by doing so, will "justify" (if that thought is even comprehensible),  Osama's first-strike actions in their minds.  After all, when you take the emotion (nationalism, ideology) out of it, what is the difference between what Osama did and Bush II's manifesto, only the aggressor and the beneficiary of what the aggression will bring.

We agree -Your statement, "Perhaps a postponement of the inevitable may have occurred pre Sept. 11 but as you’ve rightly stated, our complacency (sleep-walking) has been shattered."  However, since our illusions have been shattered, rather than act in a just, deliberate fashion to achieve the result of "9/11 NEVER AGAIN", we have foolishly, arrogantly spent the goodwill generated by this event and, like a combination of John Wayne in a bad movie and the Lone Ranger at his best, gone ballistic into "over kill" (no pun intended over such a somber reaction) and scatter shot (well, if we can't find Osama, any "similar" target will do) mode totally blind, in my opinion, to whom the target must be and how the action must be orchestrated (with UN approval and a REAL coalition including Arab/Muslim states).

So, like you, I do not greet this conflict with any sense of triumph but more a trepidation as to what may lie in the months/years ahead.  In this, we are in total agreement only with a twist of what caused the trepidation in the first place.  As a thinking woman in possession of a moral compass who understands to some degree, action and reaction, and as a mother with a precious child whose future lies before her, I shutter to think, because of the precipitous actions taken by the current administration, what that future could be.  These are the reasons the majority of the AntiWar protestors are in the streets as they share my trepidations and view of the world we are creating by our administration's actions.

Mary Anne

Once more, Mary Anne, you poignantly state the issue.

A part of any democracy is for those who dissent  to allow serious pause on the opinions of those who 'rule'. With an apparent 70% of Americans now favouring the actions of Bush the voice of dissent remains so critically important. Opinion is often fickle and upset by all manner of event, coercion or fear. My trust is in those who are principled enough to lead – whose convictions do not always blend with a majority but as a tested notion and felt deep inside. May we all stand indubitably for this silent peace so it emanates powerfully to a breaking world.

I believe you are right in the questioning of the Bush integrity for it is far from proven – in fact, a hawkish and often cagey administration leave more than ample room for honest doubt. The unfolding of this conflict will test the resolve of many – a bloodied battlefield may only exemplify an avenging lust in the returning of “an eye for an eye”. A soldier killed is a mother’s son – a civilian killed is perhaps the father, an uncle or a sister. The awful tragedy of war, for those not on the front, is all the death, the stench and the annihilation that is just so terribly afar is also unfeelingly and hideously removed.

Respectfully again,


You prove my point.  We are IN this war now. I believe, the additional percentage points of the approval poll can be attributed to those that buy into the spin that to protest the war is to protest against our troops.  The distinction cannot be made by the majority of people nor definitely the media.  In America, "the annual income of the richest 14,000 families is greater than the annual income of the poorest 20,000,000 families".  It is the sons and daughters of those 20M, not those 14K, that are fighting in the sands and streets of Iraq and losing their lives in this war.  We will, unfortunately, see, if our body count continues to rise and the war lengthens and our economy continues to disintegrate, just where the American people's sentiments lie, and just like 11/2000, it will be too damn late.

Richard, despite our disagreements, I have enjoyed our correspondence.  You are an intelligent, thoughtful, sensitive man.  I have appreciated your candor and your ideas.

May we ALL be glad of the outcome of this war, since too many lives will have been lost to purchase it, whatever that outcome might be.

Be safe, you and yours. 
Mary Anne

What, a disagreement without even a snarl, a snap or a growl?

This was part of a series of reactions to the 9/11 attack and its aftermath, that in later years would have been blog entries.

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For an ongoing summary see our Jihad/Hirabah page.

On 15 March 2003 Richard Adler wrote "A Sterile Pacifism." The ensuing exchange of emails with Mary Anne Mills (author of "One Woman's Reasons") is reproduced here with their permission. We submit it to you as an example of civility between holders of opposing views.