Extending a hand to the peace movement.

A wartime lexicon.
April 9 2003 4:10 PM

Giving Peace a Chance

The war critics were right—not in the way they expected.

So it turns out that all the slogans of the anti-war movement were right after all. And their demands were just. "No War on Iraq," they said—and there wasn't a war on Iraq. Indeed, there was barely a "war" at all. "No Blood for Oil," they cried, and the oil wealth of Iraq has been duly rescued from attempted sabotage with scarcely a drop spilled. Of the nine oil wells set ablaze by the few desperadoes who obeyed the order, only one is still burning and the rest have been capped and doused without casualties. "Stop the War" was the call. And the "war" is indeed stopping. That's not such a bad record. An earlier anti-war demand—"Give the Inspectors More Time"—was also very prescient and is also about to be fulfilled in exquisite detail.

So I'm glad to extend the hand of friendship to my former antagonists and to begin the long healing process. Perhaps one might start by meeting another of their demands and lifting the sanctions? Now the inspectors are well and truly in, there's no further need for an embargo. I noticed that Kofi Annan this week announced that the Iraqi people should be the ones to decide their own government and future. I don't mind that he never said this before: It's enough that he says it now.

What else? Oh yes, the Arab street did finally detonate, just as the peace movement said it would. You can see the Baghdad and Basra and Karbala streets filling up like anything, just by snapping on your television. And the confrontation with Saddam Hussein did lead to a surge in terrorism, with suicide bombers and a black-shirted youth movement answering his call. As could also have been predicted, those determined to die are now dead. We were told that Baghdad would become another Stalingrad—which it has. Just as in Stalingrad in 1953, all the statues and portraits of the heroic leader have been torn down.

Some other predictions, it is true, didn't fare so well. Saddam Hussein didn't manage to fire any poisons into Israel (where they would also have slaughtered the Palestinians), and the Israeli government didn't seize the chance to expel the population of the occupied territories. Nor did the Turks manage to annex Iraqi Kurdistan. Osama Bin Laden, or one of his ghostwriters, did admittedly call for a jihad.But then, he always does that. Meanwhile, the Muslim world and its clerics seem decidedly undecided about whether or not Saddam really was a great Saladin after all. The Sunni Kurds and the Shiite slum-dwellers, who fought against Saddam and who rebelled against him the first chance they got, would appear on the face of it to have as good a claim to be Muslim as anybody else.

But these are mere quibbles. We should celebrate our common ground as well as the gorgeous mosaic of our diversity. The next mass mobilization called by International ANSWER and the stop-the-war coalition is only a few days away. I already have my calendar ringed for the date. This time, I am really going to be there. It is not a time to keep silent. Let our voices be heard. All of this has been done in my name, and I feel like bearing witness.

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.

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