Tuesday, February 22, 2005

GOLD STAR FAMILIES FOR PEACE is an antiwar group started by families of soldiers killed in Iraq. One of the mothers in Gold Star Families is Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004. I posted a poem that Casey's sister, Carly, wrote about Casey's death back in December. The group is small still (50 families out of 1,450 families who have lost loved ones in Iraq) but it's growing. What upsets and angers families like the Sheehans is not so much that their sons and brothers, sisters and daughters died in war, but that their deaths were unnecessary, because the war was built on lies. It's also distressing for them to suspect that the war is fading from the active consciousness of Americans not directly affected by it; some people even express bewilderment when Sheehan, and other families, tell them their child died in the war. They don't know what war that is.

What angered me most in this article was the reaction people who support the war often have about military families who actively oppose the war: They write them off "as grieving mothers -- most Gold Star members are mothers -- whose judgment has been clouded by emotion. "

But appealing to Americans' emotions is exactly how the Bush administration got their support for the invasion of Iraq. Some examples:

  • On September 8, 2002, Condoleezza Rice told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that lack of proof (i.e., objective, unemotional evidence) was not critical to a decision to invade Iraq because "... there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."
  • On September 24, 2002, Tony Blair said, in a report released by the British government, that Iraq had "chemical and biological weapons that it could launch within 45 minutes' notice and that it ha[d] gone shopping in Africa to try to buy uranium for nuclear weapons. " This appeal to the powerful emotion of fear was repeated by the Bush administration and used to persuade Americans that their survival was in imminent, immediate danger.
  • On April 4, 2003, a couple of weeks after the war began, the White House released a "fact sheet" detailing the atrocities that Saddam Hussein had committed against the Iraqi people. The fact sheet included the information, from Amnesty International, that "victims of torture in Iraq are subjected to a wide range of forms of torture, including the gouging out of eyes, severe beatings and electric shocks... some victims have died as a result and many have been left with permanent physical and psychological damage." The point to note here is not that any of these details are untrue, but that the Bush administration cynically used them to manipulate the emotions of the American people so that they would support the invasion of Iraq -- the reasons for which had nothing to do with Saddam's violations of human rights. It's also important to point out that two out of the three forms of torture the Bush administration took from the Amnesty report to show how barbaric Saddam was (severe beatings and electric shocks), have been used by the U.S. military in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and many other detention centers against Muslim and Arab detainees.

No doubt readers of Liberty Street can come up with any number of other naked appeals to emotion by the Bush administration to justify the war against Iraq.

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