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Op-Ed: Daimon Sweeney 2003

Dear Friends,

If you agree with what is said here, please spread this letter.

I am deeply concerned that if Operation Shock and Awe is carried out, the consequences will be far more destructive than even the planners envision, and will grow in their negative effects long into the foreseeable future.

Even if you know the plan, please continue, as this is not about the plan but its long-term consequences, which I have not seen discussed. If you do not know it, the idea is to launch 600 to 800 guided cruise missiles against Baghdad in 48 hours as the opening move of this invasion. Apparently this is likely to happen.

According to Harlan Ullman, one of the authors of the concept, in addition to destroying military facilities, "You also take the city down. By that I mean you get rid of their power, water. In 2, 3, 4, 5 days they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted." The intent is to focus on psychological destruction of the will to fight.

The attack will create "this simultaneous effect - rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima..." "There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," says one Pentagon official familiar with the plan, and he continues, "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before."

This is a city of five million people.

It is inevitable that many thousands of civilians will be killed, directly or indirectly, including especially the young and the weak as water and other support facilities are destroyed. That alone is indefensible, but the consequences do not stop there. In fact, that is only the beginning.

This is the scenario that unfolds to my eyes:

This action will be deeply and permanently traumatic, both to those experiencing it and to millions more worldwide who witness it through the media, or who identify with the targets.

With this action, a very large part of the Arab world will become understandably and deeply convinced that the American government understands only destruction and violence, and is on a religious and racist crusade against Islam, impervious to world opinion through the UN, or to common sense.

On the neglected but highly influential emotional level, the trauma inflicted directly and by witnessing this event on global media will virtually destroy the possibility of rational thought on any related matter for many millions worldwide. Rigid, repetitive imagery and feelings will take the place of thought.

Re-creation of images and of actual destruction, suffering and death will be the emotionally inevitable outcome. This is how traumatized humans behave, unfortunately, without specialized care, and that will surely not be widely available.

The incomprehensible shock and fear this action will induce will be converted in the hearts and minds of very many Arabs to permanent, trans-generational hatred, resolve, and desire for revenge.

The immediate result is that we could inspire jihad for real, a deep commitment to the destruction of the US by any means, whether or not it accords with the real teachings of Islam, on the part of hundreds of thousands of Muslims worldwide, furious at this disproportionate devastation.

In the minds of many, worldwide, the goal of Arab self-defense alone would completely justify such a mission to stop America. Ironically, the argument would perfectly mirror the Bush argument for the necessity of taking down a nation prone to the use of weapons of mass destruction, and not willing to comply with international law and standards of behavior.

The one difference is they would have more justification, for we would have actually inflicted mass destruction on them. A Hiroshima-class attack is mass destruction in any reasonable view. Thus we create what we fear. This whole scenario of attacking Iraq is the result of fear.

A campaign for the total destruction of America would be bolstered by the perceived necessity to regain self-respect and peace of mind by inflicting an equal or greater amount of pain.

Obviously this logic doesn't work, but we ourselves participate in this motivation in attacking Iraq. That country and its leader stand in the American public mind as the surrogate for Arabs who attacked the towers, the Pentagon, and who crashed in Pennsylvania, even though no Iraqis were in any of the four planes (a fact unknown to most Americans, according to a poll).

We see the same pattern of compulsive but fruitless satisfaction-seeking in the endless revenge attacks between Palestinians and Israelis. With this next step, if we take it, we can look to that intractable and sorrowful situation as our model of the world to come.

An additional goad to the Arab world, if one were needed, would be the racist hypocrisy and religious hubris of the US. This would be demonstrated by our actually inflicting mass destruction on Arabs to prevent hypothesized and unsubstantiated potential acts by Saddam against our white and, as proclaimed by the president, Christian nation on a mission to save the world.

If we do this act it will be obvious that to the US, Arab civilian lives count for nothing, while we expect the world to mourn our losses. This insulting assessment of the worth of human lives based on race and religion would be intolerable to virtually anyone on the receiving end. We have only to imagine it (if we can rise out of our self-centeredness enough to do so) to see the truth of that statement.

While all of that is plentiful reason not to attack Iraq in this way, if at all, there is more.

One consequence of Operation Shock and Awe will be pan-Arabic (at least) shock and outrage. The response to this act and everything associated with it will fuel a powerful upsurge in global "terrorism," sure to be well-funded. A worldwide campaign will rise to new heights of sophistication and intensity, legitimized by our own actions. By our own hand we will loose an uncontrollable plague of hatred and destruction on ourselves and on the west.

Secondly, "shocked" by this "evil," and "incomprehensible" reaction to our doing what is "right," our leaders will do all they can to "defend" us, fully justified now in curtailing traditional but too-dangerous American freedoms, as has already been attempted with some success but not to the degree sought.

The times will "demand" more surveillance, more intrusive police action, more government and judicial secrecy, less accountability from both, and more intrusion into the affairs of other nations for our self-protection. There may be document checks at home, more extensive eavesdropping on phone and email communications, and so on. Hate crimes and religious and ethnic intolerance will proliferate. Frightened people will abandon freedom for safety, as we have seen, and there will be plenty to frighten us with.

In other words, Operation Shock and Awe could well create the rationale, perhaps desired by some, to put the US on a new footing, moving toward or indistinguishable from a police state. Under executive control unfettered by legislative oversight due to the nature of the emergency, the most powerful nation with the most powerful weapons and surveillance mechanisms ever seen would be a terror to the world.

It would be the means to global domination for those who control it, the source of virtually infinite might and wealth. Such control can only be possible in the face of a terrifying and implacable enemy. This is the deepest secret: The Arab world is being used to create that enemy.

Is this action, the invasion of Iraq, and as part of that, Operation Shock and Awe (or Operation Permanent War, as it might better be called) being chosen deliberately and rationally as our best option to sustain democracy and freedom in the world, as stated? Or is it the semi-conscious working out of deeply held religious beliefs combined with lust for wealth and power? Or is it a completely cynical subversion of American ideals for the sake of oil, political power, and military expenditure to enrich the war industry?

It doesn't matter. The result will be the same. If we inflict this dimension of destruction on innocent people we will initiate a cycle of violence limitless in its potential.

We will be faced with the apparent choice of our own destruction or of hardening up into a closed, controlled, fearful and traumatized society, patrolling itself and the world for its enemies in a state of permanent war on all fronts. We will bully our allies, "proactively" destroy as our leaders deem useful, and put all our resources, including what could have been used for education, health care, the environment, and helping the poor, into "homeland defense."

This is a course that must fail in the end, but it may not be quick, and it will not be pretty. The loss of what could have been would be the greatest loss of all.

My purpose in writing this is not to create more fear, though I'm afraid when I look at this picture. On the contrary, I hope understanding the potential consequences of our actions will strengthen and spread resolve among Americans and people worldwide to stop this unbelievably ill-advised adventure, and to take all action possible to do so.

Invading Iraq, and carrying out Operation Shock and Awe, are choices, not inevitabilities. Citizen action and protest have been highly effective in changing government policy many times in many countries. Please know that anything you do may have consequences far beyond what you see, and do it. As a citizen, I will be doing more. If you are already doing what you can, thank you. If you have yet to join in resisting this course of action, I hope you now have new motivation

Daimon Sweeney 6 Feb 2003


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