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A Call for Empathy: Rethink Pre-emptive Bush Doctrine

Friday April 04, 2003

Baghdad’s residents are being pounded by the U.S. military policy of shock and awe. Designed to be “the non-nuclear equivalent of the impact that atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on the Japanese,” the purpose is to “take the city down ... [until] they are physically, emotionally and psychologically exhausted.” President Bush describes this terrorism as liberation. 

Using the Bush Doctrine, another country could launch pre-emptive war against the United States. Since Bush is unelected and authoritarian, invokes false evidence, uses weapons of mass destruction (including depleted uranium, while threatening to use nuclear weapons), supports dictators and terrorists, violates international law, commits war crimes and menaces the global environment, another country could assemble a coalition of the willing to disarm Bush and liberate Americans. 

We do need to be liberated from Bush – though by active resistance and grassroots organizing, not war. 

Herb Caen once called San Francisco “Baghdad by the Bay.” If instead of Baghdad, San Francisco were attacked for Bush’s crimes, we would be the victims. Judging by the United States’ recent wars, we could picture some of the local targets in a war on San Francisco. 

During the first night, many government structures would be bombed and destroyed. City Hall, the State and Federal buildings, various courthouses, police stations and other leadership and command-control centers would be ablaze. Shortly thereafter, cruise missiles and massive bunker-busting bombs would fall on the Federal Reserve Building, the old Mint and the Transamerica Building, as well as on the Moscone Center, Civic and Masonic auditoriums and Embarcadero buildings – regardless of who was in them. 

Symbolic targets, including Coit Tower and the Ferry Building, might be bombed to demoralize us. Fire would be all around. Broken concrete, twisted metal and shattered glass would be everywhere. Smoke, dust and the stench of death would fill the air. 

Bridges would be bombed: the Bay, Golden Gate, San Mateo, Richmond-San Rafael and the Carquinez Straits. Based on military logic of cutting supply lines, disrupting communications and intimidation, bombs would target SBC and PG&E offices and stations; Sutro Tower and other antennae; television and radio stations; ISPs and technology companies. San Francisco International Airport, the piers and other targets of opportunity would be taken. BART, MUNI, Caltrans, the bus terminal and the Cable Car building would also be hit. Gas, water and sewer lines would be ruptured. 

We would be physically and electronically cut off. We would be scared. Some of us would be dying; others dead. 

Outside San Francisco, the oil refineries would be a major target. So would the Oakland Airport, industrial and technology companies, city halls and federal buildings, the Oakland Army Base and Alameda Naval Base, Fort Ord and other active and former bases. San Jose and Silicon Valley would receive heavy fire. The destruction and despair would be tremendous. Universities would not be spared; science and computer labs, weapons research and engineering centers, all would be decimated. 

Even if they were using smart bombs and precision missiles, we can extrapolate from U.S. warfare that there would be serious collateral damage against soft targets. Cruise missiles fired from ships would hit residential neighborhoods. Many people would be killed. 

The environment – air, soil, ocean, bay – would be terribly, possibly permanently, polluted with chemicals, toxic substances, poisonous gases, heavy metals and radioactivity. People would suffer inescapable mental and physical anguish for generations. 

Can you imagine the destruction and disarray, anxiety and terror, the blood and the crying? Can you imagine this in Baghdad by the Bay? Can you imagine similar scenarios in other American cities? Washington, D.C. New York. Los Angeles. Chicago. Boston. Despite the difficulty and distress, imagine what it would feel like. 

Then imagine Baghdad. And Basra, Nasiriyah, Mosul and other Iraqi cities. 

To those being bombed, the differences between Osama bin Laden and Bush are minimal. In the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, I mourn for Baghdad while I organize in the Bay Area. 

Dan Brook teaches sociology part-time at UC Berkeley.