Double Dissident

War with Iraq is looking more and more inevitable. People are going to be asked to choose sides. Do you stand with the pro-war side or the anti-war side? And that presents me with a little problem: When I look around for the side that I want to stand with, I don’t know if it’s out there, or, if it is, it’s not conscious of itself enough to have an official name. So I guess that means it’s up to me to pick a name for it: When it comes to this war, I’m a double dissident.

I can give you plenty of reasons why what Bush is planning feels like bad news to me. There’s the pragmatic objections: If you’re facing a guy who’s got weapons of mass destruction, it just seems like the dumbest thing you could do to put him in a position where he’s got nothing to lose by using them. There’s the objection on principle: The way a democracy’s supposed to work is that if the government want its citizens to authorize it to go off and kill people, it’s supposed to tell us the truth of what the war’s about, and we are being lied to. I mean, on Monday, they tell us we have to destroy Saddam before he can threaten us, on Tuesday they tell us we have to destroy Saddam because he is already threatening us, make up your mind. And then there’s what might be called the aesthetic objection: I don’t like arrogance, so the sight of any country acting like it’s the Chosen One, like it’s entitled to pass judgment on the rest of the world single-handedly — it just rubs me the wrong way.

So if there was a peace movement out there that really understood what was wrong with that way of thinking, I’d rush out and join it. But the more I look at what passes for a peace movement these days, the more I see the exact same way of looking at the world. The only difference is that it’s flipped upside down, with good guys and bad guys reversed, the way that masochism is sadism flipped upside down — instead of “America, right or wrong,” it’s “Anti-America, right or wrong.” But you have the same sort of moral arrogance, the same certainty that anyone who doesn’t see it their way can only be stupid or cowardly or evil. The same willingness to treat any facts that don’t fit their worldview like they don’t count. I mean, a lot of the time it seems like their idea of balanced criticism is “U.S sucks, U.S. sucks, U.S sucks — oh yeah, Saddam’s bad, too — U.S. sucks, U.S. sucks...”

But that’s not the part that really pisses me off. One of the things I’ve always hated about the Right, conservatism, call it what you will, is the way they don’t seem to understand the difference between dissent and treason. Not only is that a violation of what democracy’s supposed to be about, it goes against what they themselves say makes this country great. I know that people on the Left must hate getting treated like that as much as I do. What I don’t get is why they’re so willing to adopt the same attitude themselves. If you don’t believe me, try this experiment. The next time you hear somebody making a speech against the sanctions on Iraq, talking about how terrible it is that U.S. policy has killed all those children, wait for the question period and put your hand up. Ask them, “Doesn’t Saddam deserve his fair share of the blame for those deaths? I mean, if you look at the Kurdish section in the north, which is under the same sanctions, but not under Saddam’s direct control, child mortality has actually gone down the past few years, so isn’t it possible that a lot of those children would be alive if Saddam had spent his money on food instead of weapons and presidential palaces?” If you get treated like you’ve raised a perfectly legitimate question, then maybe I’m wrong. But I think we all know it’s a lot more likely that you’ll get a response like, “Shh, keep your mouth shut, talk like that can only play into the hands of the enemy.” Exactly the same sort of thing you’d get from a Bush or a John Ashcroft or an Ari Fleischer. And they absolutely refuse to see it.

And that’s why I’m a double dissident.

2002 © Wayne Karol