Celebrity critiques of war are misguided

    Joining the ever-growing list of celebrities speaking out against a potential war with Iraq is Dave Matthews, lead singer of the popular Dave Matthews Band. In a short letter to fans on the band’s official Web site, Matthews entertains what could only be called delusions of grandeur. He, much like other Hollywood-types, forgets that his popularity in pop culture does not translate to the general public’s desire for his opinion on political matters. A talent in music, acting or fraternizing with the rich and famous does not a critical political mind make. They most certainly do not live in the real world, and when they speak out on real-world matters, it’s painfully obvious.

    Matthews starts his letter by asking, “”What is the motivation? Regime change? Shouldn’t that be up to the people of the region and the people of Iraq?”” To even ask this question is idiotic. To think that the citizens of Iraq — as if they had rights — could bring about regime change is laughable. Matthews seems to have missed that dictatorial regimes are not the same as democracies. In a democracy, people are free to “”petition the government for a redress of grievances,”” thanks to that wonderful thing we call the Constitution. In Iraq, they hardly have anything that mirrors American freedom or rights backed by a believable constitution.

    Even Tom Brokaw, an NBC nightly news anchor not known for conservative points of view, admitted this in a recent appearance on the “”Letterman Show”” on Feb. 6, reflecting on many interviews he has had with numerous Iraqis. Iraqi people “”are afraid to say anything because the wrong thing gets them not only in trouble, but probably executed,”” Brokaw said. “”The record is pretty complete on that.””

    He also related accounts of Iraqis being watched by “”observers,”” courtesy of the ever-loving Saddam Hussein. They would speak loudly when praising Hussein, otherwise speaking softly to reveal their true feelings, Brokaw said. In one of the soft moments, an Iraqi said, “”Do you think that the Americans will get here before Christmas?”” This question was followed by the man shouting, “”Saddam Hussein is our leader and our uncle and we will die for Saddam Hussein!”” Referring back to American troops, he said, “”We’ll be very happy to have them come here as quickly as possible.”” And when the speaker started to draw a crowd, he said, “”I don’t think we want to risk this,”” referring to the risking of his life by speaking out against Saddam.

    Matthews also turned to another myth in Hollywood folklore in his message: Hussein is not a threat. “”The only real threat from Saddam Hussein is to his neighbors, and none of them support a U.S. invasion,”” he opined. If only his word went far enough to dissuade Hussein from invading Kuwait again, like he did in the early ’90s, or to prevent Saddam from waging war on the lower and upper provinces of his nation in the name of a little thing called genocide (as he has twice done). It is amazing to think that anyone could see Hussein as a non-threat, especially after Osama bin Laden expressed his support for the Iraqi regime in recent audio tapes.

    Matthews then writes, “”Is [a war] to stabilize the Middle East? Wouldn’t it only do the opposite by causing further death and suffering in a country that has had more than its share?”” Saddam wants to wreak havoc and destabilize the Middle East in any situation, not just as a response to a U.S.-led invasion. Doing it merely as a response to being attacked has no relevance because he has shown, through his bellicose attitude and previous actions, that he will follow this course no matter what.

    Matthews continues, “”Saddam Hussein is a genocidal maniac, but he is not al Qaeda.”” Writing after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations a few days prior, in which he provided evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda link, Matthews seems to have paid no attention, nor cared.

    “”Is [Hussein] our target because he is easier to identify than the illusive [sic] terrorist network?”” Matthews asks. He must have missed Bush’s recent State of the Union, in which we were informed that we have disposed of dozens of high-ranking al Qaeda operatives all over the globe who had felt “”American justice.””

    Challenging those who feel that the liberation of Iraq is the true goal of a war, Matthews goes on to write that, “”It is certainly not to liberate the people of Iraq, who suffer under Hussein’s rule, unless we call killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis liberation.”” But of course the American military is not planning the death of “”hundreds of thousands”” of Iraqi civilians.

    Contrary to Matthews’ belief, numerous stories have stressed the strenuous bombing campaign that would be aimed at military targets, not civilian ones, and for good reason since collateral damage would serve absolutely no purpose in affecting the heartless Hussein.

    “”The U.N. weapons inspectors must be allowed to do their job thoroughly, and any military action should be internationally agreed upon,”” the songwriter concludes.

    Yet it’s become glaringly obvious that the weapons inspectors haven’t been able to do their job. This became especially clear after Powell revealed a not-so-startling phone conversation between two Iraqi officials conspiring to muck up inspections in his U.N. presentation.

    Toward the end of his undoubtedly heartfelt letter, Matthews says, “”I fear that our true motivation is about oil and our own flailing economy.”” I assume he is not referring to the same economy that is growing at over 3 percent, where unemployment is dropping and interest rates are at 40-year lows — all after the collapse of the technology sector and 9/11.

    And as for oil, any suggestion that we want to take over Iraq’s oil is absurd. Any doubters should look back and realize that the U.S. government didn’t monopolize the oil resources back when Bush’s father, former President George H.W. Bush, had easy access to Middle Eastern oil fields in the early ’90s after the Gulf War. Keep in mind those are the same fields that Hussein torched and U.S. troops stayed after, cleaning up the mess.

    So next time Matthews, or any other celebrity for that matter, wants to speak out against a war in Iraq, they must do their homework. This is the public arena, and coming across like a joker is no joke.

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