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Preaching outside the choir

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An activist friend whose husband has been busy hanging anti-war banners from overpasses along Interstate 40 stumped me with a sudden question at a party recently.

"How do you convince people who don't already agree that invading Iraq is a bad idea?" she asked. "I get so frustrated and mad when I try to talk to them. How do you even begin?"

"Wow," I said, buying time with a swig of whiskey and Coke. "Good question."

I shivered as the alcohol--and then the answer--hit me:

"Use conservatives. Hell, Pat Buchanan is against an Iraq invasion. So's the Cato Institute, which is, like, the biggest free market capitalist think tank in the country. That should make a conservative rethink at least a little."

Admit it: Quoting Robert Fisk isn't going to convince your Republican sister-in-law that an invasion of Iraq is a stupid move. You'd be much better off quoting Norman Schwarzkopf, who told the Washington Post on Jan. 28 that he, like many of us, has gotten "somewhat nervous" at statements made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

"When he makes his comments, it appears that he disregards the Army," said the former Republican war hero. "It's scary, OK? Let's face it: There are guys at the Pentagon who have been involved in operational planning for their entire lives. ... And for this wisdom, acquired during many operations, wars, schools, for that just to be ignored, and in its place have somebody who doesn't have any of that training, is of concern."

That should convince a Limbaugh-listening relative to take a second look at the rush to war. If it doesn't, try "Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq," a Dec. 17 report from the staunchly pro-capitalist Cato Institute (see www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa464.pdf).

"Evidence that Hussein presents an imminent and uncontrollable threat is simply not there," writes the free market think tank more closely associated with National Review than The Nation. "Neither does evidence exist that having Hussein in power is any more threatening than the rule of other despotic tyrants around the world. Hussein's threat to the United States has been overstated, and so have the increases in U.S. security that would be achieved by an invasion to oust him."

Any liberal who made a similar statement on AM talk radio would probably get laughed off the air as a hippie peacenik by the kneejerk pro-war host. But conservatives like "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf and the folks at Cato are expressing many of the same reservations that are now driving the left-wing peace movement. They're also impossible to dismiss as bleeding heart liberals.

That may be all the opening you need to get that relative or co-worker to begin questioning this insane and unnecessary war.

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