John Kerry has chosen a running mate, and we are now in the final lap of this presidential race. Regardless of who wins, one thing is certain: the American occupation of Iraq will continue. The leading candidates, Kerry and Bush, are not far apart in their positions. There is even talk of bringing back the draft. Sure feels like the ’60s.
Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam? Not necessarily. There is a way out of Iraq with dignity and honor—by handing the country over to the United Nations, and by giving it our full support. The United Nations is not the bugaboo that Pat Buchanan makes it out to be. It was founded by the United States and has operated largely from U.S. soil for nearly 60 years. It will not continue without the support and participation of the United States.
But neither is the United Nations a puppet organization to rubberstamp decisions made in Washington. The United Nations represents something greater and nobler than any one country. It represents the world, and the ideal—however imperfect—of democracy and cooperation at a global level. Working with the United Nations requires listening to the voices of other nations and having the vision and humility to work multilaterally.
It was vision and humility on all sides that led to the resolution of the conflict in South Africa 14 years ago. That happy fate has not yet befallen Israel and Palestine. Indeed, Israel’s position has only hardened, and Bush seems to be following Ariel Sharon’s example, not Nelson Mandela’s. The prevailing idea seems to be: peace be damned, it is force that brings security.
So we’ve got our own West Bank going in Iraq. American-made helicopter gunships target residential neighborhoods of Fallujah, as they’ve done Palestinian cities and refugee camps for years. We too are learning to rail openly against those undemocratic Arabs, rejecting in the same breath any of their leaders with a following and a spine.
And our corporatized media, which gave us endless hours of O.J. Simpson and Monica Lewinsky and nary a squeak about Enron and Halliburton, cultivate in us a false sense of victory and security. So when the next crisis comes, we’ll be just as unprepared and surprised as we were with the Iranian revolution of 1979 or the terrorist attacks of 2001.
It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way out. This year, you can vote. You can say no to fear. You can choose peace.
Arvind Kumar, member of editorial board