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The Seductive Arguments for War

The arguments for war in Syria sound so familiar.

They used chemical weapons.

I remember napalm, phosphorus, Agent Orange.

These are crimes against humanity.

I remember the World Court’s ruling that the Vietnam War itself was a crime against humanity.

Diplomacy is not working. He has already killed 100,000 of his own people.

I remember the failure of democracy as Americans demonstrated and voted against the war, electing presidents who promised to end the war only to expand it.

We have to do something. We cannot just let these acts stand. Our conscience demands it.

I remember deciding in 1970 that I had to do something to make the Vietnam War stop. I remember believing that my conscience demanded truly effective action.

We must make Assad pay for this transgression, cause him harm, so that he won’t think he can just get away with this again.

I remember hearing that we could stop the Vietnam War if we raised the cost of waging it by rioting in the streets and bombing military recruiting offices.

We will do limited, targeted military intervention to stop Syria’s capacity to use chemical weapons.

I remember deciding that I would do limited acts of sabotage to stop the war. I would use thermite devices, the same ones used in Vietnam, to weld the wheels of the weapons trains to the track.

I remember how these little destructions I imagined expanded almost immediately into war against the government, blowing up an armory, robbing a bank.

I remember saying that I didn’t expect that anyone would be killed and being told that I should have known better, should have known that if I ran around with people with guns, someone would get killed.

I remember realizing that I had been riding a high of pent-up anger released at last, the relief that came from feeling finally to be doing something – anything – to feel useful instead of powerless.

I remember being asked where that “anything” I would have done to stop feeling powerless might end. In the Oklahoma City bombing, maybe? I wanted to protest that I am decent, I would never have done something so evil

I remember knowing in my heart that once I was inside of a war, I had no judgment, just like the architects of Vietnam.

I remember being asked how I could possibly think that it was right to “go to war to end a war”, and seeing that the idea of a little bit of war is utterly delusional.

Most of all, I remember listening to real people talk about the pain and loss they had lived through as a result of my “limited” war.

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About Katherine Power

I didn’t set out to be a terrorist. As a student activist, I moved from protesting the war in Viet Nam to waging guerrilla war to overthrow the government….

Recent and Upcoming Appearances and Publications
1/15/2014 Complexity and Social Change, Occupy Radio
10/31/2013 Surrender, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
10/25/2013 Surrender, Taos Community Theater, Taos, NM

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