What if there were a way to prevent a war on Iraq, know with certainty what the Iraqi government is up to, increase funding to a wide range of important programs, and let the Bush administration know that there are limits to its power? What if a single coordinated action could accomplish all of that?
I think that one can. Here’s my plan. It requires that you sacrifice some time, that you devote yourself fulltime to this for a matter of weeks or months. And it requires putting your life at risk. But it is guaranteed to work, and nothing else has a chance.
Stop the protests wherever you are. The opposition has their signs about “Rich White Kids” prepared. The media have their cynicism primed and ready. Enough already. Go home and start packing a bag.
Stop pouring your last dollars of funding into struggling schools and crumbling apartments in your wealthy country. Hundreds of billions of dollars are on the line here. These dollars will go to bombs or to books and bricks. Now is the time to stop the bombs. Later we can spend much more money.
Stop your important work. It isn’t more important than this. Thousands of people are about to be killed, and the effects on many countries will be disastrous. We won’t see these people on our television sets, but they will moan in pain when their limbs are blown off. Their children will wail when their parents bleed to death. This is what must be stopped, and there is only one way to stop it.
Our rich white kids and other concerned protesters cannot stop it here in our Western cities. The Iraqis cannot stop it. Imagine a mass movement of civilian Iraqis intentionally putting themselves in harm’s way. Our war leaders would turn that into anger at Hussein and bomb the people without hesitation.
Now imagine a convoy of airplanes carrying American, European, Australian, African, Canadian, South and Central American protesters to Iraq to stand in solidarity with Iraqis. Each of these people would bring useful gifts and working clothes. Each group of these people would bring a large transparent tent with a bull’s-eye on the top of it. These tents would be erected adjacent to the most likely military targets.
We cannot quickly mobilize the poor in the United States to oppose this war. They are too busy living from day to day. And how would they stop it, anyway? By using the ideal slogan, the perfect chant, the winning poster or costume? By putting themselves in American jails? It won’t work.
It’s time for the rich white kids to turn their identity to advantage. The Pentagon won’t bomb them. They know this. Progressive foundations with enough money for plane tickets and supplies know this. It’s time to put these kids and everyone else who wants to come along, young and old, rich and poor, into the targeted areas.
This has to be big to work. We need to create an Olympic village of people of all ages and races from around the world in the desert of Iraq. But the leaders of this village must be Iraqis. This won’t be Woodstock. We’re not bringing a party. We’re bringing an offer to sacrifice our lives, to support those lives ourselves in the meantime, and to offer assistance to our hosts.
The outcome must be not only calling Bush’s bluff, but building meaningful friendships between Iraqis and non-Iraqis. Those friendships can lead to openness between Iraq and other countries and to meaningful disarmament talks. No army of spies or inspectors can achieve the same result.
That’s the plan. We send a delegation to propose it to the Iraqi government and people. We mobilize on a massive scale. We spend our personal savings. We fail our classes and quit our jobs. We disrupt our engagements and get on a plane. We meet back here next year, if we live, and establish decent schools for all from preschool to graduate school. We pay for it with our peace dividend.