hope may be at a premium as the U.S. scoffs at Iraq's offer to allow weapons inspectors and continues to shill for war, but it does exist. Just ask the vast network of non-violent revolutionists who, throughout the current crisis, continue to strategize for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by citizen action and carrot-and-stick diplomacy to stop weapons of mass destruction.Pacifist resisters warn that a military attack, with its inherent civilian losses, is completely redundant as a means of creating democracy, and all the more tragic since the means clearly exists to slowly strangle the dictatorship without force of arms.
One of these mechanisms involves pushing for much more strict containment than the UN is enforcing at present. According to David Cortright, a research fellow in peace studies at the University of Notre Dame and president of the Fourth Freedom Forum, a huge non-violent swipe at the regime could be achieved by giving economic incentives to Jordan and Syria to control what goes into Iraq.
Currently there is no international monitoring, and weapons from eastern Europe flow into Iraq through these Mideast countries, while contraband oil to the tune of $1.5 to $3 billion a year (in violation of UN sanctions) flows out.
It would be cheaper and more effective for the U.S., he says, to subsidize Syria and Jordan for the trade they would lose if their borders were less porous than it would be to take military action. And it would be more politically achievable. "It's more realistic for the U.S. to persuade these countries to undertake a program of enhanced containment than to buy into a war," he says.
Finding the glimmers of possibility is, after all, what avoiding war is all about. One such opening is offered by Iraq's national referendum on October 15. Iraqi exile Laith Kubba, a member of the Iraq Institute for Democracy in Kurdistan and a program officer for the National Endowment for Democracy, is trying to interest the French and German governments in sending monitors for the vote. "This is a small window of opportunity, but worth taking," he says, speaking from his office in Washington. "We could flood the country with international monitors so that people have the opportunity to vote Saddam out and give the regime a face-saving way of leaving." Not to mention preventing a deadly invasion.
While he doesn't know whether the European countries will honour the request, his group is using the opportunity to organize exiles for symbolic balloting in front of Iraqi embassies throughout the world. "Instead of "Bomb him out,' we say "Vote him out.'"
In terms of the potential for mass organization within Iraq, civil disobedience tacticians say it is vast, though the clock is ticking.
"Where most people get blocked about non-violent resistance is in believing it's about one person waving a placard in downtown Baghdad," says Jack Duvall, co-author of A Force More Powerful and a leading figure in the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict. "It's not about doing something proactive that gets your head shot off, but doing things that repression doesn't easily address."
The first step, he says, is to eliminate the fear. "Here's a classic example. Let's say the word is spread that on a particular day no one will wear red. So everyone goes to the market that day and no one is wearing red. Suddenly people realize the scope of opposition is immense. They begin to identify their own potential. There are hundreds and hundreds of these tactics."
Could this be done in Iraq? Duvall says it was successful in Serbia when students -- using the writings of preeminent non-violence theorist Gene Sharp -- overthrew Milosevic. But it does take time. Despite the fact that civil disobedience is a well-developed art form, policy makers in Washington seem uninterested in making it a foreign policy objective in Iraq.
"One has to rely on the society itself to promote changes, and the rest of the world community can provide moral and symbolic support, but it can't get into the business of regime change without being prepared to occupy the territory, as was done with Nazi Germany and Japan after the second world war," says Princeton international law professor Richard Falk.
Strangely, until this year when violent solutions were finally rejected by the Iraqi opposition, occupation was actually the desired goal.
According to Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution, "There are some in America who take the attitude: "Keep your friendly dictators in power to provide stability and protect certain economic and political interests.' The task is not one of getting rid of an individual to be replaced with a more friendly dictatorship."
It's a point of view also held by Erik Gustafson of Education for Peace in Iraq: "The removal of Saddam Hussein doesn't mean the end of dictatorship in Iraq. You have to build the framework now for civil society. Look at the history there -- coup after coup after coup. There are three provinces in the north (Kurdistan) outside of government control, and yet there's no democracy in those regions."
In fact, his views are supported by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group that deplores the lack of U.S. funding for democratic institutions in a post-Saddam Iraq.
The need to give heart to Iraqi civilians is why Cortright is contemplating food drops into Iraq on a massive scale. "Sending food in airdrops would give a political message from outside that we support the people," he says. "If supported at the same time by radio broadcasts, it could be helpful to challenge the propaganda of the regime."
While activists have no illusions about immediate citizen upheaval in Iraq, they are buoyed by the fact that the film version of Duvall's and Peter Ackerman's A Force More Powerful will soon be screened under Saddam's nose. The film, made by Steve York, details the fine points of the strategies used by pacifist revolutionaries over the last century. It will be broadcast in northern Iraq. Plans are also afoot for satellite transmissions of the film into Iraq from bordering countries.
"Frequently, when broadcasts are made, they are embraced almost as training devices," says York. "The majority of the Iraqi population will be able to see images of tyrants being non-violently toppled." But he feels he's in a race against time. "It should be realized that non-violent solutions, like wars themselves, take time. It took five years of war to get rid of Hitler."