That was the assessment of one of the participants in our learn-in on opposing U.S. war against Iran on Saturday, March 3, in Chicago.
The participants in the learn-in set out to change that. In the course of a few hours, we reviewed results from an online survey we asked people to fill out before the event, discussed how we can address the opinions revealed in it, and how all that might inform our “No Iran War!” activism. Finally, we came up with next-step action plans.
Most of the people who took the survey think the situation is urgent; less than a quarter thought the conflict will blow over without war, and over half of them expect an act of U.S./Israeli attack on Iran during this election year (if not in the next few days or weeks). In contrast, a third of them felt that people they knew weren’t even thinking about it at all.
This sense of urgency was reflected in one comment we received from a survey respondent: “As a member of the Chicago chapter of Veterans For Peace, I see war with Iran spreading much more to involve many other nations than Afghanistan or Iraq. U.S. continues its imperial continuous warfare no matter who is in the White House. We The People must find a way to stop this insanity that eventually will be suicidal for Israel and inevitably for the U.S. and the whole world—”
People who took the survey were very focused on two possible consequences of war: Iranian casualties and the possibility of the war spreading to other countries. In contrast, nearly 40% of them felt that people they knew just see war as a cost to be borne, and another 20% felt that people they knew weren’t even thinking about it at all.
As people commented on possible consequences of war, they exposed a disconnect between what really matters and what the general public is currently thinking about:
“I think we should concentrate on showing people what war really looks like – all the death and destruction – and what a possible nuclear attack anywhere looks like.”
“People need to be educated, but getting people to think is extremely difficult with all the propaganda being spread on the news.”
One of the consequences of war on Iran that people have a difficult time confronting is the use of nuclear bunker busters. The use of such weapons would be devastating. Robert W. Nelson highlighted this in his article FAS Public Interest Report-Low-Yield Earth Penetrating Nuclear Weapons. He writes,
the use of any nuclear weapon capable of destroying a buried target that is otherwise immune to conventional attack will necessarily produce enormous numbers of civilian casualties. No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even as small as 1 percent of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout.
THE REAL NUCLEAR THREAT
The results on this question were especially stark. NO ONE who took the survey felt that Iran alone posed the greatest threat to use nuclear weapons; 70% felt the greatest threat was either the U.S. or Israeli or the U.S. and Israel equally. In contrast, most of them felt that people they knew, if they had thought about it at all, were likely to see a threat coming from Iran; some thought people recognized the threat coming from Israel. They indicated they didn’t believe people placed great store in a U.S. nuclear threat.
In the course of our discussion, we examined statistics about the actual level of nuclear weaponry in the United States, Israel, and other countries (LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_nuclear_weapons ) and learned about way in which the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is premised on disarmament by ALL countries (LINK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Non-Proliferation_Treaty ). We recognized a need to get more people to see that Iran is not the problem — the U.S. is!
This was consistent with the stress that one survey respondent stressed on grappling with the role of Israel, saying: “The actual relationship between Israel and the US. Who is calling the shots on who? …it’s very important to understand that our country (the US) is the one with the power in the relationship with Israel, and not the other way around. It is wrong, though supported through Iran’s media and by other US orgs, to say that this is about ‘Israel’s war.’ The US ‘WOT’ has always had Iran in its sites.”
For more information, see Muhamed Elbaradei, “The Age of Deception”
IMPACT OF WAR ON “REGIME CHANGE”
Over SEVENTY PERCENT of the people who took the survey recognized that “as deaths and damage from external violence (e.g. bombing) increases, the civilian populaiton coheres more behind their government, despite whatever disagreements they might have with it. They expressed a sense that most people don’t recognize this.
In the teach-in, we reviewed a post-WWII study that showed that allied bombing did NOT serve to encourage the German people to resist the Hitler regime:
“British planners underestimated the powers of resistance of the German people and did not take into account the fatalistic frame of mind that a civilian population acquires after numerous air raids. There is no evidence that area bombing produced any political pressure on German leaders or contributed much to the collapse of the German economy. There were no mass demonstrations against the government or any other form of popular activity. Civil disobedience was insignificant. Far from discouraging loyalty to the Nazi state, bombing tightened political ties and led to political apathy while individuals were obsessed with finding solutions to their own personal problems. The civilian population became dependent on the functioning Nazi relief organizations. Raids had only a minor effect on the overall economy and practically no effect on war production. Absenteeism from work did not substantial increase because of bombing. Many workers simply continued to work in routine fashion. The German armament industry sustained a steady increase in munition production until June 1944. Allied bombing widely and seriously depressed German civilians. However, depressed and discouraged workers were not necessarily unproductive. The British attempts to destroy the German workers morale had failed.”
We concluded the teach-in by agreeing to mobilize people to take the “No Iran War!” message to the March 18 antiwar march in Chicago , and other upcoming Chicago-wide mobilizations, and to develop ongoing outreach, including to specific interest groups as well as a broad social media campaign.