Muslim Press has conducted an interview with Professor Diane Christian to discuss American policy in the Middle East and the Iraq war.
Here's the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: Dr. Christian, do you think Americans today approve of wars?
Diane Christian: Americans vary about war. Some, like me, are pacifists and believe it is always an immoral act. Some believe it is a proper and necessary if unpleasant duty. I think most Americans don’t realize how bellicose America is, how much war we have made, and make now. We have never recognized the horror of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. The film footage was classified almost thirty years and still is not really taught in American history, The movie Let There be Light made by John Huston about the psychic damage done to soldiers in World War II was similarly censored and suppressed.
Today I think most Americans would say they don’t want war. But many feel we should act as a righteous superpower—oppose tyranny and cruelty by war, and support our interests, and those of our allies. All the usual rationalizations.
MP: Where does the idea of "preemptive wars" come from? Is any country justified to impose preemptive wars on other countries?
Diane Christian: A preemptive war is rationalized as a moral first strike. Most defenders of “just war" say that you may counter an attack made against you to defend yourself but they require the attack and time counts. You have to be attacked. The preemptive war makers say the enemy will attack us and is intent on destroying us so we are justified in striking them first. It’s terrible. The Bush administration did this when they suggested Saddam Hussein would use nuclear weapons against us given time, so we were just in striking them to preempt their ability to attack. The preemptive position rationalizes paranoid fear and vicious behavior. It’s terribly dangerous. The appeal to fear and cruelty and irrational action is self-justifying and contradicts reason and international law.
MP: Was the Iraq war a preemptive war?
Diane Christian: Absolutely.
MP: Did the American people approve of that war?
Diane Christian: Too many did. Had there been a draft which touched all American youth as in the Vietnam War, there would have been more protest. Bush cynically said we had to fight over there so we wouldn’t have to fight here, and many bought the old bait. A terrible indictment of the ignorance and gullibility and callousness of Americans.
MP: What makes people like Osama bin Laden or George Bush to think they are righteous and their enemies are sinful?
Diane Christian: Vanity. Also greed for power. And ignorance.
MP: Do you think they use religion in order to deceive people?
Diane Christian: Yes, starting with themselves.
MP: How do you compare Iraq war's death toll with Saddam Hussein's killings during his reign?
Diane Christian: I don’t know the numerical toll of our war or of Saddam’s reign. I imagine our number is higher. One of the awful truths is that war doesn’t care. The numbers numb us.
MP: You have described the Iraq war as "the Rape of Iraq". Could you explain what you mean by that?
Diane Christian: I used that sexualized figure to challenge and refute the argument many made that we were liberating Iraq, that the poor oppressed Iraqis would greet us as liberators from the wicked cruel Saddam. Ridiculous. To bomb and violate and destroy is not to liberate, it is to rape. It is not an act of love but of violent power masquerading as love.
MP: How do you view the impact of Iraq war on the country as of today? How do you see the future of Iraq?
Diane Christian: Americans mostly now think the Iraq war wrong. Obama called it the wrong war; Trump brags (dishonestly) that he was always against it, and Clinton says her vote for it was wrong. But the horror and enormity of the damage done to Iraq, as is usually the case, is not addressed or reckoned or repented. The Iraqis, like the Vietnamese and the Japanese, will probably eventually establish a friendly position with us. Some, to America’s benefit, will enter and enrich our society. The nation of Iraq will struggle and suffer. We have done them terrible wrong and should beg their forgiveness.
Diane Christian is SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at University at Buffalo. Her more recent work of essays and poetry, Blood Sacrifice: reflections on war and murder (2004), explores Christian's views on "the ethics and rhetoric of George W. Bush's war in Iraq."