Personal Voices: Time For a New Anti-War Message

I've been to the protests, called my Senators and e-mailed my friends, but now I'm having my doubts.

The peace movement's call to "Let the Inspections Work" is becoming about as effective as duct tape against biological weapons. We're weeks away from an invasion of Iraq and we're still hoping the UN will save the day. My biggest problem with the peace movement's pro-inspections message is that it accepts the Bush administration's version of events -- that UN inspections are about preventing terrorism by an evil dictator.

Saddam's weapons were never the real issue behind Bush's drive to war. If they were, the Bush Administration would have found reason to "inspect" and then invade Pakistan -- a country that not only helped the North Koreans get nukes but also risks losing control to anti-American fundamentalists in its military.

Bush laid clear his real motivation for war in his National Security Strategy last fall: to support global American military domination and our continued access to oil from the Middle East and Central Asia.

The cry to "Let the inspections work" not only fails to explain Bush's designs for the region, it leaves us with little to say if the Security Council approves war based on Hans Blix's findings. Besides, UN weapons inspections are hardly a hopeful vision. All they can do is maintain the status quo.

The result is an anti-war movement based mostly on fear, not hope. Our side is actually running an ad that implies that the invasion of Iraq will lead to nuclear holocaust. By way of contrast, think back to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. It was about just that -- a dream for the future -- not the Jim Crow nightmare of his present.

Organizing the public through fear and anger is like giving sugar to 3-year-olds: It gets explosive immediate results and many diminishing and depressing returns.

The peace movement needs not only to paint a vision of a better world, it needs to propose a strategy for achieving it.

Because hope is something you do, not something you have, the American people have to be involved in building it. How? By campaigning to make our country independent of Mideast oil while creating millions of jobs in the new clean energy economy.

Americans understand that our reliance on Mideast oil increases our vulnerability to terrorist attacks, wars, and economic turbulence. They know that oil isn't behind all of the problems in the Middle East but that it exacerbates enough of them to demand a response.

Experts say that Mideast oil independence will require a national hydrogen infrastructure to power fuel cell cars at a cost of about $150 billion. Bringing down the cost of clean energy technologies, like solar, wind and biomass to generate the necessary hydrogen fuel will likely cost another $150 billion.

Needless to say, oil independence has enormous traction politically. Presidential candidates Gephardt and Kerry have paid lip service to oil freedom -- they just haven't yet put their money where their mouths are.

Given the timidity of the Democrats, it may be up to the Party's grassroots -- especially the anti-war movement -- to give the candidates the courage to do not just what's right but also what's smart. As for the peace movement, switching messages from "Let the Inspections Work!" to "Energy Freedom!" won't be easy. But we're better off doing it sooner rather than later.

Karin Rosman is an educational consultant in El Cerrito, California. She can be emailed at

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