Responses to The GulfWatch Papers
prompted by ‘The GulfWatch Papers’
Hulbert and Alastair McIntosh eds)
in ER 87. This issue is
price £5. 95, from
22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF.
It happened I was in Minneapolis airport at the time of the Gulf War victory
dlay announcement and the entire place took off in a celebration of drinking and
pseudo-military marching. A few days later on the Ides of March I heard a radio
talk-in from Milwaukee and wrote a poem which I enclose, giving a very different
aspect of American opinion. If it’s of use to E.R., use it. In Missouri, there
were as many anti-war protest crosses on garden lawns as yellow ribbons tied to
J. R. Grant
The Town Talk From Milwaukee
National Radio Network,
March 16th, 1991
the good round American voices,
the aftermath of brutal war;
the need for it; disowning deaths,
half a dozen distant places with it;
plots between the Government,
business, and the oil barons; the Press,
ready tool to facsimile false news...
the movement of half a million men,
round the world ‘to crack a fourth-rate power’
‘Bombing the living daylights out of Iraq,
unknown civilian casualties,
thirty thousand feet.’ These powers of war,
disassembled, as the country triumphs,
no evil, seeing no evil: where
conscience of the nation strips on the air,
colours from the flag, the beefy Marines
their glory, the flight-crews’ nightmares… voices
history professors and wounded vets
umpteen wars, alongside apologists,
figures and media men,
quorum for debate. 0 America,
black proportion in the armed forces’ —
cuts in Veteran Aid now going through’ —
will remember this day, when Caesar died,
all Calphurnia’s dreams were not enough;
the town talk in Milwaukee ripped aside
ephemeral aspects of your glory,
see its true vision, to hear its true voice.
on you for publishing anything as intellectually dishonest as The GulfWatch
course there is ample legitimate scope for criticizing the way in which the war
was conducted but, if you are going to denounce the war as such, then you owe it
to your readers to say what we should have done given the situation which
confronted us. If, as I suspect, the answer is: let Saddam do as he pleases,
then you should have had the courage to say so.
you for your letter.
is clear that the views you express are strongly held. Should you want to
develop them into a longer piece for publication in Edinburgh Review I’d be
pleased to publish it. I would ask for a reply to it from Alastair McIntosh or
I, however, disassociate myself from the notion which you put forward that the
GulfWatch Papers imply a position of ‘let Saddam do as he pleases’. My own
view is that one of the underlying causes of the Gulf War was that western
governments were happy to ‘let Saddam do as he pleases’ even when there was
clear evidence of his atrocities against the Kurds. It was only when economic
interests were threatened that the scramble for the moral high ground began. My
enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend: I am no more inclined to the
view that one should let Bush do as he pleases than I am to the view that one
should let Saddam do as he pleases.
don’t know what western governments should have done after Saddam Hussein
invaded Kuwait. What I do know is that wars should be witnessed and discussed,
not run as a kind of video show. If you want to participate in that discussion,
I welcome that participation.
are a good sport offering me the hospitality of your columns.
do not pretend to be an expert on Middle East affairs, still less am I an
authority on military matters. But, yes, it is an issue on which I do feel
strongly. The thought of Saddam acquiring one fifth of the world’s supply of
oil and then launching a nuclear assault on Israel is not a prospect that I
relish. I also consider that your issue was extremely biased. So far from Bush
being the bloodthirsty ogre that you make him out to be, he chose to stop short
of Baghdad (which he could certainly have taken) and allow his enemy to remain
in power rather than incurring any further casualties. There can be few such
precedents in history (it is rather as if the Allies had stopped short of taking
Berlin in WW2).
think you owe it to your readers to present a less one-sided view of the
conflict and, yes, I would be grateful for an opportunity in due course to
register my protest.
you for copying me your correspondence with Murdo concerning the GulfWatch
papers being published in Edinburgh Review.
I have known you for some 16 years now and hold you in high esteem as a person
of integrity, I was truly sorry to learn of your feelings. There are occasions
with certain types of people when one delights at such criticism — it suggests
one’s work has aptly hit a nerve — but this was not how I felt on reading
personal perspective on war is one of complete pacifism. This has drawn me
towards Quakerism, and like a number of Quakers I see it as incumbent upon those
of us who adopt pacifism to combat violence through many aspects of our working
lives. While running GulfWatch I was very much aware of the need to be
accountable in this respect and therefore wrote the enclosed piece ‘Let us
Gather Blossoms under Fire’ which was subsequently published by the Fellowship
for Reconciliation and a small Scottish Catholic theological journal. I enclose
it now in answer to your criticism.
is my understanding that Alastair Hulbert’s position on pacifism is somewhat
different from my own and therefore I would not like to give the impression that
this response applies to him also. I think he would justify what we did rather
more along lines of a political theology, drawing attention to hypocritical
aspects of international relations without which the occasions which gave rise
to an event like the Gulf War may not have come about.
LET US GATHER BLOSSOMS UNDER FIRE
An Encouragement in Time of War to Those Prepared to Give Peace a Chance
Believing in non-violence and trying to live it can be a little rough at a time like this. Anger readily flashes our way as the intent behind the politely clad question, ‘So what would YOU do about Saddam?’, gives frightened and confused people a focus to round on. If you cannot have a go at Saddam personally, try a pacifist, a ‘foreign looking’ person ... anyone on whom the psychology of fear and insecurity can be vented…
… This points to a new world order which the bitter legacy of violence constantly postpones, and that is why war is always wrong. So let us be unafraid to proclaim nonviolence! Let us start living it, even just a very small start, now. Let us, in our hearts as Alice Walker’s poem suggests, gather blossoms in the midst of war.
thanks for your letter and enclosure. I always knew you were a do-gooder but I
never realized that you were a Quaker. That puts things in a rather different
light. It shows, at any rate, that you are not just another trendy anti-American
a la Chomsky? Pacifism is a position I can respect and, from the
autobiographical piece that you enclosed, you have demonstrated that you have
had the courage of your convictions.
pacifism has little relevance to politics and to the real world where our
options usually involve violence of one sort or another. I could not help
wondering whether you had ever thought of preaching pacifism to your Arab
friends, more especially to those of the PLO (since Arafat is here quoted with
respect)? If there were more pacifists like you among the Arabs, Israel would
not now be the armed fortress that it has become and is likely to remain so long
as that beleaguered country is surrounded by those who are itching to perpetrate
the Second Holocaust. Please do not misunderstand me. I dislike Shamir and have
always supported Peres and the moderates. However, I thought one of the few
sensible statements in your Gulfwatch papers was that reply by the counselor at
the Israeli Embassy to that fatuous letter from Alastair Hulbert.
of the drawbacks of pacifism is that it tends to make one self-righteous. After
all, the Gulf War did gain three-party support in this country. Yet the whole
tone of your GulfWatch Papers was to suggest that it was a wicked conspiracy by
besotted militarists! That being said, perhaps we can agree on the following two
The American Military, hypersensitive after the experience of Vietnam, insisted
on keeping Allied casualties to a minimum and ending the war as speedily as
possible. The upshot, unfortunately, as you rightly point out, was a gross
over-kill of the enemy, civilians as well as soldiers. For the same reason the
Allies stopped short of complete victory leaving Iraq in appalling chaos and
Saddam still in power.
The Allies deserve your censure for the fact that Saddam was in a position to
launch his aggression. The West regarded him as less of a threat to their
interests than the Ayatollahs and Islamic Fundamentalists and reckoned they
could do business with him. They should, of course, have paid more heed to the
Israelis who all along understood that he was the main enemy and who - mercifully
for us — destroyed his nuclear potential by a preemptive strike.
much I hope is common ground between us. The reason why, in writing to Murdo, I
called the GulfWatch Papers dishonest journalism is that nowhere does it discuss
what policy you would have pursued. So, let us suppose we had let Saddam take Kuwait, what then? Would you have wanted us to
defend Saudi Arabia? Presumably not. So now, on this scenario, Saddam is in
possession of one fifth of the world’s supply of oil. And let me remind you
that Middle East oil is not just of concern to the Americans; many third-world
countries depend on it and there is no shame attached to acknowledging that it
is of vital interest to us all. Saddam, then, is now poised to carry out his
declared threat to ‘incinerate Israel’. Do we still sit on our hands?
see, this is the ultimate paradox of pacifism. It leads to appeasement and
appeasement leads to the triumph of militarism.
Edinburgh Review would welcome any further contributions to this debate — also, comments, responses, criticisms in general. Write to: 22 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LF.
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