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by Tom Kertes
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2003 at 6:20 AM
Empire is a concept that connects many of the reasons to oppose this war in a logical, clear and reasonable way that can make sense to many Americans. Includes links to anti-war for Empire posters (PDFs). For anti-Empire posters: http://lovethepeople.org
We’ve all heard these comments directed at our movement:
“I support peace, doesn’t everyone? But I think this war is the way to achieve peace.”
“Look, the Iraqi leader is just like Hitler – so we need to oppose him for peace.”
“The US government has limited Iraqi deaths – we want to rid them of the government, not kill the people.”
“The US deaths are not very high, and it is worth it if we are fighting for our freedom.”
Discount these perspectives and lose the messaging campaign around this war. Sure, we don’t agree with these statements, and we think they are a bit silly. But to most Americans, they make sense. That is why those in favor of the US invasion of Iraq work hard to project these forms of reasoning. And it is why we need to think about a strategy of how best to frame this war.
I’d like to start by suggesting that most in the anti-war movement aren’t opposed to all forms of violence (state or otherwise), would have had found justification for stopping Hitler by almost all means required and think that fewer citizen deaths are better than more. This is in part why these charges to our message our powerful tools used against us. And it is why we need to think about why we are opposed to this war at this time.
I think that for most organizers and activists against this war, a large part of our horror and anger stems from two facets of the war plan. First, we don’t believe the US government’s claims for why the war is occurring. Second, we suspect that an underlying reason is to expand US power and influence by any means available in the interests of the few. When we fail to stick to these messages, we end up weakening our case. Opposition for all war is weak because all it takes is one case in which war is justified for someone to say it is merely a matter of degree and how we each conclude the circumstances of this war. Working on fear of massive deaths is weak if the war ends in a week or if the government can project few deaths of Iraqis.
I suggest that we instead start to focus on this war as an act of empire building, and that we make this the central theme of our opposition. I suggest this for four reasons:
1. Empire is something we can oppose in all cases
2. Empire is the opposite of democracy and is word with cultural relevance across cultures and political views
3. Opposition to empire does not end when the war ceases – the war is just one part of building the American Empire
4. The term has specific meaning, but can be easily expanded to include other priorities and views of anti-war organizers (Oppose Corporate Empire, Empire is not worth any human cost, Empire violates basic human rights, Empire is a threat to the republic (or to human liberty), etc, Empire is what the WTO and IMF are about building, Empire in Latin America and throughout the world are connected to this war, etc.)
I think we should change our signs from “No War” to “No Empire” (another strength of this idea is that it is simple to convey). And then we should work to connect Bush to Empire. Always we should convey that Empire and Democracy do not mix; they are incompatible to both those in the Empire’s home and in the Empire’s holdings.
Finally, I think the word “Empire” is more effective than its sibling words, such as imperial or imperialist. Empire is still a fresh word with a simple and straightforward meaning that can be used effectively.
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