|The last laugh. Image by Webdiary artist Martin Davies. www.daviesart.com|
Hi. Today, responses to John Wojdylo’s attack on the motivations of peace marchers in Why the people’s instinct can be wrong. Contributors are Simon Ellis, Peter Funnell, Michael Chong, James Woodcock, Michael Grau-Veliz, Paul Walter, David Palmer and Peter Woodforde.
John’s claim that popular opinion on the war and on boat people are both borne of denial of the “other” is a challenging one. Many protesters, in my view, are with minority opinion on boat people and detention policy, stressing humanitarian concerns, universal human rights, and compliance with international law. Their stance is consistent. Why have others joined them? I think it’s partly about the Australian instinct for isolationism. To build Fortress Australia against boat people, then want to fight a war a long way away against a nation of no direct threat to us is a contradiction for many.
I also think that, perhaps paradoxically, the Bali bombings increased opposition to the war. Australians saw and felt the horror of indiscriminate mass violence against their own people, innocents all, creating empathy for the fate which awaits Iraqi civilians when the war begins. They want to avoid being a part of inflicting harm on innocents if at all possible. They also fear becoming a higher priority target for terrorism in our region if we invade Iraq.
To begin, Webdiary poet Michael Chong wrote this poem after hearing “John Howard’s latest demonstration of “How to piss off one million people with short sentences”.
by Michael Chong
‘kiss my ass, take it to the president’ Charles Bukowski in ‘I cannot Stand Tears’
Field Commander Howard
his face grows soured
as he stares down
into the crowed streets.
“These marchers’ hands will not salute
and their feet do refute
the order of my
drummer boys’ beats.”
So the Commander himself moves
to the spot with a higher view
and then unleashes
his world-famous megaphone.
He shouts of certain harms
in refusing his call to arms
as he casts upon the rowdy sinners
his first stone.
This march of objection
Howard accuses of collaboration
With the enemy’s aforesaid
But that’s no way to interpret
a situation so delicate.
And besides this is what
the marching people say.
“Often we’re left to accept
democracy’s alleged effects
and ask whither
our conscience withdrew.
But at time such as it is,
future obscured by debris
mere show of hands
just will not do
We fear that your current mission
of spreading bombs and salivation
will not be executed
as planned or as conspired
And it will not do to deduce
that justice will issue
from cannons that are meant for
issuing of fire
Those held hostage
to the Tyrant’s chemical rage
will not be rescued
but simply evicted.
Just as choices of participation
in war and in litigation
are seldom offered
but always inflicted.
So we’ll not hear you criticise
the fitness of our hearts’ eyes.
Compassion’s aim, you know
is always true.
Our conscience is not sabotaged
and our passions are not overcharged.
Honour is erected upon reason
of many not just a few”
Like many of your readers I’ve just finished a couple of hours struggling through and trying to comprehend John Wojdylo’s latest epic, but this time I was struck by a fundamental change in his analysis – a new and almost manic edge to his reasoning.
I’ve always seen John’s pieces as credible attempts to build up an intellectual argument to support his hawkish stance on a particular issue, and despite the fact that I disagree with him at the most basic of levels, he has won my grudging respect through his unassailable use of logic and reason.
His latest effort, however, falls far short of the mark, and is a prime example of how an acute intellect can sometimes betray its owner.
John appears convinced that he alone has the clarity of thought to see the ‘real’ intentions of the protesters, or at the very least that he alone is able to understand the true nature of the mass demonstrations around the world. John has seen through the anti-war movement’s self-delusion and is now trumpeting the same contradiction in terms that our political masters seem so fond of – that it is the peace marchers, not the war-mongers, who are plunging this world into conflict.
Does he realise how ridiculous this argument is? Is he so caught up in the complex mental gymnastics that he’s had to put himself through in order to justify his pro-war position that he can’t see what is right there in front of his face?
I think so. I think that the very intellect that has served him well in the past has got him so caught up in assumptions, and counter arguments, and rationalisations that he can’t see the fundamental truth – which is that he is in denial.
John denies that the protesters ‘understand’ what they’re doing. He denies that the majority of Australians do not support his position by assigning trivial motivations to their actions. But most of all he denies the very message of the anti-war movement – because to recognise it would be to introduce an absolute counter-argument to his position, and that is not John’s style.
So John, allow me to clarify a couple of points for your benefit:
1.The anti-war movement doesn’t support Saddam Hussein – period. As much as you and your political namesake would like to believe that it does (because it allows you room to re-claim the moral high ground) it just doesn’t. Opposition to a war on Iraq does not equate to support for the dictator who runs the country. Duh.
2. The fact that Saddam interprets the demonstrations as ‘support’ is irrelevant. It is like arguing that those who oppose the death penalty should shut their mouths because the murderer on death row is interpreting their opposition as implicit support for his innocence. What would you suggest the anti-war movement do John? Keep quiet as a mouse in case an insane tyrant interprets their ‘anti-war’ message as support? Geez mate – get real.
3. The anti-war movement does not support the status quo in Iraq. Not one person who demonstrated in Australia last weekend would argue against the absolute necessity of removing Saddam from power, nor the necessity of ensuring Iraq does not have WMD. The anti-war movement simply believes that the world can and should achieve these ends without killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people. That’s all there is to it! We want Saddam out as much as you do – we’re just not prepared to go to the same violent lengths as you are to achieve it.
4. It is illogical to argue that anti-war protesters should be condemned for not marching against injustices perpetrated by other countries. Why would we protest against Saddam Hussein? We live in Australia for crying out loud – we protest against things that we’re doing – not stuff that other people are doing!! It is completely nonsensical to argue that we have no right to protest against our Government’s actions because we don’t protest other Governments’ actions.
5. Yours is NOT the only way. You seem to believe that by not supporting your war the anti-war movement is condemning the people of Iraq to a lifetime of brutality and oppression – as if there are absolutely no other options available. Doesn’t your very argument depend on this premise? That war is the ONLY solution to the problems faced by the people of Iraq?
No doubt John would be convinced that it is in fact me who is in denial. That all the arguments set out above merely serve to re-enforce the fact that I have allowed my inner dove to cloud my reasoning, or alternatively that only he is able to really understand the reality behind my viewpoint. Certainly if this gets published I expect a 20 pager from John refuting my every point with a complex and verbose web of counter-argument.
Well I’ve gotta tell you John – you don’t understand me better than I understand myself. In fact, all evidence suggests you don’t understand the vast majority of Australians at all. Come down from your intellectual ivory tower mate – unwind the spin that you’ve built around yourself – and open your eyes to the truth. You doggedly support a war that will needlessly cause the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children – when there are other avenues available to us.
Peter Funnell in Farrer, ACT
John Wojdylo has turned himself inside out this time. I march against the war in Iraq, because I don’t want any Australia citizen to go to war. This apparently is an incomplete state of mind or being and does not assist the freedom loving Iraqis. My first thought was not for the Iraqis. I did it for the citizens of the country in which I choose to live, the place of my “dreamtime”. For what it will do to those I love and care about.
I don’t want Iraqis killed anymore than Australians. I hope the Iraqis get rid of Saddam’s regime, but that’s their responsibility. I do what I can to help by not joining the fight against them. By demonstrating that I do not support a war, I point at the only way possible – for the Iraqis to do it for themselves.
I am not responsible for what Saddam might think he can achieve by exploiting my unwillingness to kill Iraqis. He will do what is necessary for his purpose. I will not meet him on ground of his choosing. I will not be an agent for the death of Iraqis and enable him to point to me and say you were prepared to kill Iraqis. I am not.
I live in Australia, I am an Australian citizen, I will speak to Australians through my simple participation in a march. That’s where I start because that is my first responsibility.
The Wojdylo spins a convoluted intellectual yarn. It quite literally disappears up its fundamental orifice. It lacks “instinct” of any kind.
I’ll stay with my instincts and the instincts of others who marched because among their many individual motives they simply don’t want Australians to go to war against Iraq. If a fascist marches alongside me, that’s all right by me on this issue. My instincts tell me that tens of thousands of ordinary people march because they are concerned we should not go to war.
It was “instinct” that motivated people. The sense that war is bloody pointless and you have to be desperate to get involved in one. Not wanting Australians to go to war and not killing Iraqis is the best I can do. I felt that was the sum total of the “people’s instinct” on this one. Simple enough. It will do me.
Michael Chong in Manly, Sydney
I must admit that John Wojdylo’s article was as powerful as it was sincere, and should be read by all those at the anti-war rallies. Although the article did cause me to rethink my position, I disagree with his judgement on the current anti-war movement:
“[ T]hey are the ones responsible for keeping Saddam in power, for the murder of countless Iraqis by his henchmen in the years until the fall of his regime. Whether you agree with the war or not, this is the consequence of the success of the protests’ aims. From being obliterated in the minds of “the people”, the viewpoint of the Iraqi desiring liberty is obliterated in reality.”
To begin with, I don’t believe the anti-war protests will stop the war. The war is still ON and diplomatic squabbles at the UN will not do much more than to buy a few weeks time.
More significantly, he assumes that objection to the war can be interpreted, by the process of negation, as a demand for complete disengagement by the world from the Iraq situation. It is possible that a few extreme isolationists may have been present at the rally, but, surely, these protesters, along with the Nazis, were a tiny minority amongst the thousands who have put some thought into this issue.
Most anti-war protesters know Saddam Hussein’s tyrannical hold over Iraqi people will not loosen by itself. All sides in the debate understand that the continuation of the current Iraqi regime also means the continuation of its brutality against the people. This, along with the other critical issue of Hussein’s threat to the international security, is the problem faced by everyone around the world, regardless of their ideological, political or religious differences.
The current situation meets the classical definition of a crisis, where possible solutions to the problem generate even greater webs of complex and uncertain consequences, to the extent that all those involved in the crisis become unable to move in any particular direction. In such situations there will always be one party that calls for decisive action and brands any disinclination towards such an action as a failure to address the problem.
This is precisely what the US has done. Colin Powell has repeatedly accused those who reject the military solution of running away from the problem, a predictable strategy of putting words in the mouths of opponents to manipulate the discussion into a stark division between those ‘for’ the solution and those ‘against’. We became all too familiar with this game during the Cold War. To those who accept the picture of polarised opinions presented by Powell, it is natural to assume that those “the antiwar protesters – ten million around the world – ought to have apologised to Iraqis and offered their condolences that this time they cannot support liberty in Iraq; that they have chosen to block action that would free Iraqis”.
I do not believe that the distrust against the US’s tendency to run head-first into any type of international crisis can be construed as a retreat from our responsibility to address the issue of Saddam’s dictatorship.
It is perfectly legitimate to ask whether full military engagement will achieve the result of liberating the Iraqis and reconstructing the society ravaged by the Gulf War and the sanctions, and to point out that the humanitarian justification of the coming war is only incidental to Bush’s stated objective of disarming Saddam.
Significantly, the recent protest against the war in Iraq was also the expression by the people of their disillusionment with the current strategy of militarism, as a matter of principle and of policy. Ever since the Second World War international military actions, particularly those by the US, have not achieved their stated aims of achieving the global peace. At best military solutions resulted in a stalemate of threats and, in most cases, the presence of the US Army has created cascades of reactions that haunt the world for decades.
This was one the main points most protesters were arguing for: The policy of war has repeatedly failed to achieve its objectives and has incurred unacceptable risks and costs. This says nothing about whether or not the protesters have failed to recognised the need for global security or for a just response against criminal dictators. The protesters simply did not agree that the stealth bombers and cruise missiles will have a positive impact.
What we now need from the anti-war movement is a positive contribution to a debate currently locked inside the polemic cages of the war-or-nothing scenario. People want a third solution, a fourth one or maybe a fifth, so that we don’t end up in a position where we are fighting another war that kills the people we might have been able to save.
We resent this stalemate hostage negotiating position where you must choose either the assailant or the victim. Problems of human affairs can rarely, if ever, be reduced to choosing between a yes or no answer. However, there is a serious disadvantage against the anti-war movement which has prevented its full articulation: lack of information. No one outside the US military command knows of how the war would conducted, what will happened after or whether Saddam will be deposed at all.
I also strongly disagree with John’s statement that ‘Australians have no personal experience of evil’. Apart from the Bali victims and their families and friends, there are many people in Australia today who have suffered in wars and under oppressions. The Australian soldiers’ experiences of the battles in the South Pacific are some of the worst war stories that could be told. There are Holocaust survivors, refugees from war torn Vietnam, the indigenous people who have lived under subjugation in their own land, and many more.
These Australians were not manipulated into taking anti-war stance. They know themselves what a war does. Some follow their wisdom, others are pushed by their own convictions. I don’t believe ignorance and simplemindedness is the appropriate description of the people who find war objectionable on the basis of their personal knowledge.
I do not believe that the process of negation can necessarily construe the positions of the protesters as endorsing or ignoring the continued murder of Iraqis by their government. The vast majority of the protesters would abhor the idea that the deaths at the hands of Saddam is somehow better than the deaths at the hands of a US paratrooper. But the protest was not about comparing the moral validity of the two appalling option. It was an objection against one particular course of action that this government has decided to take without providing, or even hinting at, any alternatives actions that we know exist.
There are precious few forums for serious political debates in Australia, and there aren’t many occasions where grannies and mums gather for a political reason. Given the current state of our body politic, people’s engagement in political activities must surely be encouraged, not deplored – especially when the Government is willing to interpret the people’s silence as a mandate for its actions.
Australian democracy has for far too long been starved of the nourishing milk of public discourse and the alienation of the people from their governments.
Three bones to pick with John Wojdylo
1) John makes the same assumptions of many lets-bomb-Iraq cheerleaders. It is simplistic to label all of the 10 million who marched as all being pacifists, leftists and Anti-Americanists. Many people – including my Liberal voting mother – are unconvinced that the case for war has been made. With that debunked, a lot of his historical and philosophical arguments collapse under their own weight.
2) His pseudo-intellectual arguments are exposed when he condemns Gabriel Kolko as an apologist for Marxism and Stalinist gulags without further discussion or evidence, particularly as Kolko’s thoughtful The crisis in NATO: A geopolitical earthquake? is about NATO and has nothing to do with defending Communism. This is nothing more than name calling.
3) I agree with Wojdylo that there are some uncomfortable crossover points with the majority of Australians agreeing with the turning away of Tampa and opposing the war against Iraq. Both may in part be a symptom of growing isolationism and a shunning of the “other”. However in my many attempts to convince people to support a more humane policy for asylum seekers I have found that using cold hard facts to counter the misinformation of the government was the best way to win hearts and minds. I also found I did not get very far with mere assertions that my stance was the morally superior one. I would suggest that John Wojdylo may like to try to do the same.
PS: On the other hand I thought The intellectual holocaust in our universities has just begun was absolutely brilliant. What a complex person our John is!
Michael Grau-Veliz in Sydney
The pro war undertones of John’s piece were not even masked. No one likes war and the following quote by Hermann Goerring explains why:
“Why of course the people don’t want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don’t want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
I can see why John wrote what he did, and it’s a reflection of why we have gotten into this situation in the first place. The pro war movement will have you believe that the freedom is only gained by war and bloodshed. That if you want freedom you have to fight for it. That a totalitarian government can only be defeated by force. They forget to mention, however, who puts these fascist totalitarians in power in the first place, or who allows them to flourish. What have these so called “liberators” been doing for the last 12 years? Why the sudden need to get rid of Saddam – does he pose a bigger threat than he did last year or the year before that?
On the other hand the peaceniks will have you believe that war is to be avoided at all cost but offer no plausible solution. Where have these protesters been hiding for the last 12 years? Where were they when the Kurds were facing genocide? Using John’s example, where were they in the Tampa and SIEV-X incidents?
I agree with John that we have become complacent and accustomed to our peace, but so has the rest of the Western world. Every type of atrocity is OK as long as it’s not on our back yard. It is easier to turn away from the atrocities of the world then to try to find solutions for them and as long as it doesn’t affect us – who cares?
This kind of behaviour has permeated all of our society, indeed it is the basis of our economy and culture of consumerism. As bleak as this may sound, until we find an answer to curb our own selfishness and greed conflict will always exist and situations like the one we are currently facing will keep popping up.
Paul Walter in Adelaide
I am sorry, I do not quite see why you value this John Wojdylo so much. That is one of the silliest articles I have ever read. He is a lay-down misere for an editorial job at the “OZ”.
He obviously missed the SBS documentary on Saturday that laid down in microscopic detail the full calumny of the Republican power-grab in the 2000 US election, for instance. He can’t recognise that the US acts as a de-facto global government wreaking the same havoc on an international scale as a banana dictator does locally.
Didn’t he read about the same Republican mindset, as described in US Senator Byrd’s speech at A lonely voice in a US Senate silent on war, especially the bit about the $6 TRILLION the Republicans have apparently robbed the global economy of since coming to power? This money was needed for the global poor, not a pack of corrupt fund-managers, media magnates, organised crime figures and armaments manufacturers. The faltering US economy is revealing at this very moment the result of massive diversions of investment funds and at a more intrinsic level, confidence, because of Bush and several preceding US administrations and their blindness, greed and arrogance.
US and other Western politicians and the interests they represented put Saddam there. They are most responsible ultimately; not people who have witnessed the dirty scene and dare to pass comment on it. The people REALLY responsible are now starting to falter and to choke on their own guilt and many others will suffer for their denial unless they are honestly confronted. Saddam is the symptom, not just the disease.
The West, and the US in particular, knew what he was and what he would do, and knowing this FULL-WELL kept him there. This was particularly true in 1991, after Bush Sen. urged the Iraqi people to “rise up”, and then callously abandoned them to cop Saddam’s venom at the end of that war.
If I deliberately allow my savage dog to wander the streets and he bites someone, it’s not ultimately the dog that is responsible – I am. Is Saddam the “dog” of powerless pacifists, or the armed powers who maintained him for their own sick ends then have the cheek to publicly blame the rest of us for?
What the demonstrators are arguing for, as ever, is for an acceptance of responsibility from the Globalist Oiligarchs ultimately responsible for the mess, instead of the usual fobbing off of blame and responsibility onto everyone else.
No, John, we won’t accept the US blowing the Iraqi people back to the stone age, and then finding ways for the rest of us to pay, yet again, for THEIR mistakes!
We read of the wonderful conclusion drawn by some that because of all this complicity we then SHOULD inflict suffering on thousands of Iraqi people! To question the behaviours and underlying mentalities that have driven acts like the 2000 US election gerrymander, and numerous foreign affairs antics driven ONLY by cold-blooded self-interest, is absolutely and utterly necessary in attempting to acquire a balanced perspective concerning unfolding events.
To not to have noticed these is to pretend blindness. To ignore them is to fall into the simplistic and criminal expediency of scapegoating, to avoid admitting error, as right-wingers do with Saddam.
David Palmer in Adelaide
John Wojdylo is a sadly misinformed propagandist. Just one example is a quote from his latest: “At least one other person saw what I saw, knows what I know, thought some of my thoughts that weekend. He is Adnan Hassan (pseudonym), an Iraqi refugee living in Australia: ‘On Sunday I watched the peace activists rallying for peace without mentioning my butcher, Hussein.'”
Here are excerpts from the speech I gave at the Adelaide rally, attended by 100,000 people according to the police estimate:
We also have a message for U.S. President George W. Bush. The game is up, George. We’re sick and tired of your games and deception. We don’t believe that dropping 4,000 bombs in the first 48 hours – as the Pentagon has announced it will do when Phase 2 of its invasion begins – will liberate the people of Iraq. It will only strengthen the legend of the dictator Saddam Hussein and kill tens of thousands of innocent people. You and your government have already helped destroy the lives of almost half a million children through the UN embargo, but Saddam the dictator is still there.
Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has told us that we should expect Saddam to lie – that the real issue is to contain him and to outwit him. Law enforcement not war is now underway to bring the criminal Bali bombers to justice. Saddam Hussein did not direct these criminals. And Osama bin-Laden does not live in Baghdad. 4000 bombs dropped on the people of Iraq in a 48 hour period will not lead to the capture and prosecution of all those who were part of the Bali bombing criminal network.
In no way did I or anyone present endorse Saddam Hussein. Just the opposite. Please explain to us, John, if the Bush administration is so intent on bringing democracy to Iraq why it has only provided $1 million of the $97 million allocated by the US Congress under the Iraqi Liberation Act of 1998? Why is the US planning to put in a military governor in Iraq for two years, against the wishes of the (US sponsored) Iraqi Opposition? And why do the Kurds to the north now fear that invading Turks – supported with US arms – will commit a new genocide against them? Is it possible that the situation is more complex than you portray it?
At the very least, you need to have a bit more confidence in democracy as something that comes from the people rather than a handful of politicians who label us misguided.
Peter Woodforde in Melba, ACT
John Wojdylo excelled himself. I particularly enjoyed: “As in Europe, especially Germany, where the movement is relatively strong in support of Arabs generally and Saddam Hussein in particular (this is surprising, but only on the surface), there were undoubtedly neo-nazis present in the Australian marches hoping for Saddam’s victory – meaning survival – and an American downfall.”
Come on John, who else was there? Yasser Arafat in mufti? Osama bin Laden? Martin Bormann? Alger Hiss? Julius and Ethel Rosenberg? Manning Clark with his order of Lenin? Skippy? Don’t feel restrained, JW. Give full rein to your imagination.
I take it that John Wojdylo occasionally gnaws through the leather straps and sifts this sort of chaff from the dozens of feverish, but extremely well-funded Republican Right and Likud-Irgun terrorist sites, all chiefly characterised, incidentally, by endless pushing of the virtues of ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
In fact, part of Wojdylo’s reaction to those who reject a massive Cruise missile bombardment of Baghdad – “For the people’s instinct – probably even will – is to avoid this path at all costs, avoid categorical conclusions, find ways to convince themselves that this conclusion which merely seems categorical can be safely subverted” and “Because maiming or killing at their hands is impossible to contemplate. Because they have never come to terms with the risks and sacrifices necessary for freedom – which here means that the Iraqi’s dream of liberation cannot be central in their considerations” – have clear echoes of those American and Likud terrorist extremists who ceaselessly deride the position of moderate and leftist Israelis and Americans. And occasionally kill them, too. Ask Yitzhak Rabin.
When Wojdylo rides a Cruise missile (or perhaps a Smart Bomb) into the suburbs of Baghdad, slapping his stetson, whoopin’ and hollerin’, I do hope some gallant CNN cameraman broadcasts his moral mission live to the world. We’d hate to see him miss the publicity, let alone the mathematical precision of such a flight. From hyperbole to parabola. Ride ’em cowboy! Make the world safe for dichotomy! Yee-har!
As to whether he’ll be able to keep shovelling out his personal Augean stable from the Other Side, I’m not sure.
PS: I’m extremely disappointed that Wojdylo has so far spared himself the task of linking Saddam and Robert Mugabe through a network of cricket-loving pacifists based in training camps in Pakistan, and can only hope he’s shaping up at the crease to smack their all their balls to the boundary.