War or Peace?

Local notables take their stands.

OK, up to 30,000 locals recently marched against going to war, but where do the areas political and artistic leaders stand? Democratic former Gov. Booth Gardners wife joined the march, but he didnt. He thinks that to back out of a war now would be disastrous. Novelist Tom Robbins, in contrast, is so violently opposed to what he calls Americas pimple-faced arrogance that he yearns to see us get our butts kicked.

Seattle Opera general director Speight Jenkins, in the middle of a fund-raising drive that has him talking to people of all political persuasions, hasnt come across a single person in favor of the war. But former City Attorney Mark Sidran says 12 years of sanctions havent disarmed Saddam Hussein.

Below are selected remarks from Seattle-area notables, including those with special insight as well as the well-known.

Booth Gardner served as Washingtons governor from 1985 to 1993:

Bush has to go to war. They value face in that part of the world, and hes made all these noises about going to war. If he

doesnt go to war, that part of the world will pull our tail from time immemorial. Hell lose face. They wont take him seriously. Theyll take advantage of every opportunity they can to create problems because they know that Bush wont follow up.

Tom Robbins is due to release his eighth novel, Villa Incognito, in April:

Quite probably the worst thing about the inevitable and totally unjustifiable war with Iraq is that theres no chance the U.S. might lose it. America is a young country, and intellectually, emotionally, and physically, it has been exhibiting all the characteristics of an adolescent bully, a pubescent punk whos too big for his britches and too strong for his age. Someday, perhaps, we may grow out of our mindless, pimple-faced arrogance, but in the meantime, it might do us a ton of good to have our butts kicked. Unfortunately, like most of the targets we pick on, Iraq is much too weak to give us the thrashing our continuously overbearing behavior deserves, while Saddam is even less deserving of victory than Bush.

Dont get me wrongI dont want American soldiers killed. But I dont want Iraqis killed, either. Im just not one of those people who believes that American lives are more valuable than the lives

of others.

Jonathan Raban is the author of, among many books, Arabia: A Journey Through the Labyrinth:

If the Bush administration actually tried to encourage the spread of theocratic terrorism, it couldnt be going about it in a better way. What this administration betrays in its every statement is a terrifying ignorance of the history, the character, the culture of the region that they are about to invade. It leaves me feeling simply scared shitless.

I have zero belief in the idea that Iraq can somehow be reconstituted as a beacon of democracy in the Arab world. I mean, look at Afghanistan, and look at where we have left Afghanistan.

[Iraq] was a flimsy fiction in the first place when the British brought it into being in 1921. It was a collection of scattered and hostile groups of Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Jews, and all sorts of other groups. It is only held in place now by Saddams military and secret police. The natural tendency of things would mean that Iraq would simply atomize at the point it is invaded.

Resat Kasaba, a Turkish native, is a University of Washington professor of international studies:

I am concerned that the aftermath of the war will be very, very complicated and messy, and I havent seen a clear plan of how the U.S. and its allies are going to deal with the fallout. For example, its likely that if it looks like northern Iraq is on the way to becoming a separate Kurdish state or turning into some kind of chaotic relationship among various Kurdish tribes, the Turkish army will move in to keep those groups from fighting each other, and more importantly, from influencing the Kurdish communities in Turkey. If the Turkish army does that, its very likely the Iranian forces will do the same from the east (they also have Kurdish communities that straddle the Iraqi border).

In the meantime, if Saddams regime feels cornered, what he will really try to do is to turn this into an Arab-Israeli conflict.

Rabbi James Mirel leads a reform congregation at Temple Bnai Torah:

While recognizing that there are dangers out there, real dangers, my perspective is that a superpower like the United States demonstrates its strength primarily by avoiding military conflict. When a superpower goes to war, I believe its a sign of weakness.

If were the protector of our allies in the region, like Israel and Turkey, I think they benefit much more from diplomacy than military action, because theyre the ones in the line of fire.

Barry Goren is executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle:

We need to do this. Theres a threat to us from the current regime in Iraq. [Israel] is not the primary focus of what Im thinking about. But I do think the Israelis will benefit from a regime change in Baghdad, just as I feel like we will. My sense is they feel theres some chance there may be an attack on them but I think they feel prepared for it.

Its dragging on too long. If were going to act, I think we need to act.

Yahya Algarib is a family advocate at the Iraqi Community Center:

All the Iraqiswere so confused. We need Saddam Hussein removed, and, at the same time, were worried about our people. We saw a lot of people dying in the Gulf Warall civilians dying for no reason. Saddam Hussein is still in power. Now if they really want to have a second war with Iraq, where is it going to be? Just in the south of Iraq? Because last time, they could have moved to the capital, but then they stopped for political reasons. Now is it going to be same, or is it going to be real, and they will move into Baghdad?

Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, now a Democratic party activist on Whidbey Island, was discharged from the military after revealing she was a lesbian:

For many of us who were in Vietnam, who saw the demonstrations, who felt the demonstrations were targeting us for being the bad guys, it brings back a lot of feelings but also the realization that the time to protest the war is before it begins. Without having national and international support, it puts us in the position of being the bad guys. We have to be very sure were doing it for the right reason, and not to have it as a self-serving, beating-on-my-chest testosterone war.

Speight Jenkins is general director of the Seattle Opera and a Vietnam veteran:

I am against the United States going it alone. It strikes me as an unfortunate thing if the United States suddenly becomes, for the first time in my lifetime, a major aggressor. This weve never done. God knows Vietnam was a disaster, but Vietnam, at the beginning, seemed perfectly reasonable. If there were a specific link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, then I think theres a lot more threat. Thats the link you need.

Former City Attorney Mark Sidran: "The argument comes down to whether you can contain [Hussein] or not without war."

photo: Robin Laananen

Mark Sidran is a former city attorney and former mayoral candidate:

Theres a certain perspective on this the historical context of bad guys who are big liars who have shown a propensity to invade their neighbors and to kill people who disagree with them or to use gas on ethnic minorities. I guess the argument comes down to whether you can contain him or not without war. I dont know. Apparently 12 years of sanctions and containment and various inspection regimens havent been able to disarm him.

You know, I was telling someone that a wonderful billboard would be a picture of Hitler and Saddam Hussein with a caption that says, Give Peace a Chance.

nshapiro@seattleweekly.com

 
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