"I'm not a brave guy," says Tom Nagy.
October 1, 2002 8:53 AM   Subscribe

"I'm not a brave guy," says Tom Nagy. And Bill Quigley is "scared of flying." But like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, they're doing something braver than almost anybody else would: They and other pacifists are going to Baghdad to put themselves in harm's way in the event bombs start dropping. I think this is brave, but I still don't think it's a good idea. Do you? And is this something that happens all the time, that I've missed, or is it, well, remarkable?
posted by soyjoy (38 comments total)
Brave, no. Treasonous, possibly. Idiotic, definitely.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:58 AM on October 1, 2002

It's remarkably dumb by my standards, but I'm sure that others will not agree and view him as a hero. I think that the potential for him achieving a sort of pinnacle of patsydom are good to excellent. Saddam will no doubt be more than happy to use him for propaganda purposes, throw him in prison as a spy, or strap him on top of a potential military target. He certainly had no compunctions about using civilians as human shields in the first Gulf war.
posted by MrBaliHai at 9:02 AM on October 1, 2002

It's certainly brave, mr_crash_davis. It's probably idiotic too. Apart from the possibility of Saddam using them for propaganda purposes, or worse, I doubt their presence there would affect the US military's decision to send inthe bombers.

Still, they are doing something for a cause they believe in, at great personal cost to themselves. Good luck to them.
posted by salmacis at 9:06 AM on October 1, 2002

salmacis - what you said

The volunteers will work in Iraq with humanitarian agencies such as UNICEF and the Red Crescent Society.

Treason? How so?
posted by tr33hggr at 9:07 AM on October 1, 2002

I think it's a remarkable example of evolution in action. Doesn't matter how hard you try, the genepool is going to get chlorinated on a regular basis...
posted by Alwin at 9:07 AM on October 1, 2002

Remarkable? Remarkably stupid.

While I'm not a supporter for the war what do these people hope to achieve? Sure they'll get press and attention (hopefully that's their main goal), but that is all. As mentioned before Saddam will jump to use this as a propaganda purpose.

Remember him being the "friendly uncle" to the western kids still stuck in Baghdad when the war started in '91?
posted by PenDevil at 9:08 AM on October 1, 2002

Sure it's brave, kudos to them. But, what is it going to accomplish? It will get their names in the papers and a MIFI thread, but is it going to stop a war and save the Iraq people? No.
posted by Bag Man at 9:10 AM on October 1, 2002

"Saddam will jump to use this as a propaganda purpose"...

...as opposed to Bush using everything else which goes on these days for propaganda purposes...?
posted by skylar at 9:11 AM on October 1, 2002

I think the retired Air Force Colonel said it best..."It represents a gross misunderstanding of modern war."
posted by pallid at 9:14 AM on October 1, 2002

skylar: touche', but I don't see President Bush putting aid workers around targets to prevent them being bombed, at least not yet.
posted by PenDevil at 9:15 AM on October 1, 2002

I seriously doubt these people's presence will deter an attack, but at least they'll be there to record what happens. Every person who visits Iraq is one more person who knows what's really going on--which is Voices in the Wilderness's aim. Regardless of success, these people are my new heroes--I'd like to see someone just try to give the "pacifists are a bunch of cowards" argument again.
posted by hippugeek at 9:22 AM on October 1, 2002

...as opposed to Bush using everything else which goes on these days for propaganda purposes...?

What is the point of this comment? There's always someone who will twist everything around to include Bush in every thread... somehow, some way. I don't get it.

Yea, they both use propaganda... congratulations, well done. They both have driven cars at some point... add that to the list.
posted by Witty at 9:25 AM on October 1, 2002

Kind of sounds like the Friends' Service Committee, but with press releases and accompanying media brouhaha.
posted by whatnot at 9:32 AM on October 1, 2002

Why don't we do an exchange, everyone who wants to come over here from over there can come, and everyone from over here who wants to go over there can go.
posted by cell divide at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2002

This goes to the old storied tale of laying in front of the bulldozer that is going to demolish the house (in a Ford Prefect sort of way, of course).

The motivation behind such action may be wholesome, but the action, I fear, is simply an example of our shock-jock, Fear Factor, Jenny Jones society. The more outrageous, the better. Or so the masses believe.

Probably a better idea would be to spend the money that they're tossing into airfare and living expenses into creating a campaign within the States.. research into the law to see what really can be done to prevent the President from doing something utterly stupid. March on Washington. Campaign against anyone up for re-election in November of this year that supports Bush's policies, painting them as crazed war-mongerers.

Instead, people opt for the 15 minutes of fame.

And while I'm on the subject, is there any popular (public, as in private citizenship) way to demand a referendum, popular vote, or anything to address something the government is doing and force a vote one way or another?
posted by rich at 9:37 AM on October 1, 2002

Press/attention by Americans who oppose the war is a reasonable goal. Speaking as someone who does not live in the USA and has little contact with its citizens save through its media, it is rare to hear that there are Americans who don't want this war to happen.
They won't stop a war by being there, surely, but they will at least call attention to the fact that the decision to blow things up is not a unanimous one.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2002

Clarification: I mean it is rare to hear there are Americans opposed to war in the mainstream media. Obviously you can browse through here or any number of alternative sources and find many such people...the viewpoint just doesn't usually make it onto CNN, etc.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2002

I guess my point, Witty, is that Western democracy is great, and it's obviously something to be glad of in the light of dictators such as Saddam Hussein, but it's not perfect. After all the misery he's created, the accusation of being a propaganda merchant is really one of the weakest criticisms one can shoot towards Saddam Hussein. He's a pretty poor propaganda merchant in comparison with most advertising execs, much of the US Government and the UK cabinet.

Meanwhile we criticise some people who are going out to Iraq as international witnesses to see the war with their own eyes, outside of the propaganda which the rest of us will be subjected to? People who will help UNICEF and the Red Crescent mopping up the blood of civilians while the rest of us watch the war on TV? Oh, they're brave. They're more brave and more adventurous than most of us will ever imagine. I just hope George Bush will mention these guys in his next speech. Then we can resume our discussion about propaganda.
posted by skylar at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2002

"I'd like to see someone just try to give the "pacifists are a bunch of cowards" argument again."


"He...has bought emergency medical evacuation insurance that could help expedite his rescue from Iraq."

Why isn't he prepared to stay all the way through? Not only has he got a plan in place to get out when things really start to heat up, but his plan entails being rescued, which means someone else has to put their own ass on the line to bail him out for being such an idiot.

That's pretty cowardly, if you ask me.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:47 AM on October 1, 2002

Yeah, but he bought the 'emergency medical evacuation insurance'. If some insurance company took his money, then he's not really to blame for putting other asses on the line. It's not the same as an idiot who does something stupid such that the police/fire dept. have to come rescue him--these people took his money in advance, knowing full well what he was about to do.
posted by Fabulon7 at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2002

I think the retired Air Force Colonel said it best..."It represents a gross misunderstanding of modern war."

Yes (sigh). The nature of modern war is to kill people that we can't see at the touch of a button. "Precision bombing" is an oxymoron. A good thing to remember when the chickenhawks talk about fighting Saddam without targeting civilians.

I admire these folks at the same time that I think they are foolish. But the folks like Bert Sacks who are smuggling medicines into the country are indeed holy fools. If a child lives who otherwise would have died of dysentery or diarrhea, how can anyone say that what he is doing is wrong? If you can look the parent of a dying child in the eye and say he doesn't get needed medicine because Saddam Hussein is an evil man, then I despair for your humanity.
posted by norm29 at 9:55 AM on October 1, 2002

skylar: I don't think anyone was accusing Saddam of being a propaganda merchant, rather that he would more than likely use them as such. I think that's a fair conclusion.

I just don't see what that has to do with Bush. While I respect your explanation of your intentions, I'm just not comfortable with the "well if he does it, then I can do it too" argument.
posted by Witty at 9:56 AM on October 1, 2002

Also there's the question of whether Saddam will let westerners move around Iraq freely just before an attack from the US.
It's the perfect oppurtunity to get some spying in. Quick! Someone call the CIA!

I bet they'll be picked up at the airport deposited at the Baghdad Hilton with Peter Arnett (or whoever is playing his role this time around) and told not to stick a foot out the door.
posted by PenDevil at 10:01 AM on October 1, 2002

No, I think the argument is "if you are going to complain about Dude A doing it, complain about Dude B doing it too."
I agree, this really has nothing to do with George, but to argue that someone's actions might be used by Hussein in a propaganda war is a little hollow, because it's not like this Saddam is unique in turning these kinds of activities into PR platforms. I think that was the point of the comment.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:04 AM on October 1, 2002

norm29 - I feel the same way, admiring these folks while feeling they're foolish to do this. But I whether they deliver medicines or not, whether they get killed or not, their presence there does in a way fight directly against "the nature of modern war." Knowing that someone we've "met" in print, whose values and upbringing are at least putatively close to ours, is under the dropping bombs working alongside the civilians will inevitably undermine the us-vs-them video-game mentality that the warmongers will be trying to foist on us. That said, it seems that effect will be minuscule as compared to their potential loss of life, or, yes, providing Saddam with more hostages to use as he sees fit. That's why I have such mixed emotions about this.
posted by soyjoy at 10:07 AM on October 1, 2002

Well, it beats going to Thailand for a sex holiday, and it's probably less imperious than joining up w/ a missonary society. It seems to me that this people will at the very least make good ambassadors on our behalf in Iraq. Godspeed you, activist pacifists!
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:09 AM on October 1, 2002

Wouldn't it be a lot braver on the activists part if they stayed away from Baghdad & instead served as witnesses/human shields for the Kurds and the Shi'ites when Saddam tries to massacre them, as he does on a regular basis?
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2002

This is a John Ashcroft wet-dream.
A chance to slaughter peace activists without our pesky constitution getting in the way.
posted by 2sheets at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2002

Brave? No. Stupid? Yes. I'm not supportive of going to war with Iraq and I'm sure their hearts are in the right place (or they're just high, you decide), but these people are really fucking dumb.
posted by bucko at 11:30 AM on October 1, 2002

I'm a pacifist. There's these guys just down the street from where I live. Gang members who kill one another on a semi-regular basis. I should go down the street next time I hear gunshots and stand between them. Right there in the crossfire.

That'll show'em! not!

How about I pour gasoline on myself and light a match? Would that help?
posted by ZachsMind at 11:43 AM on October 1, 2002

How about I pour gasoline on myself and light a match? Would that help?

Probably not, but I don't think anyone alive during the Vietnam war protests will ever forget the image of Buddhists monks quietly immolating themselves in the streets. Not a particularly productive protest from our western point of view, but no one has denigrated their level of commitment.

I think we may be confusing tactics with personal ethics. Under what circumstances will non-violence work as an effective tactic? That sort of question is open to debate. But these folks seem to be saying that they feel personally compelled by their own ethical beliefs to act in this way, regardless of its tactical effectiveness. That's a different kettle of fish.
posted by norm29 at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2002

Pacifism is a political philosophy with which I disagree, but one that has an honorable history and some solid theoretical roots. Draft dodging I do think is cowardly, because the premise of the draft is a decision that national needs trump personal qualms or preferences. One cannot accept the freedom and prosperity of citizenship without accepting the obligations which attend it.

Rather than fleeing to Canada or faking a disability, accepting one's conscription notice, and then refusing to serve, and doing the punishment (imprisonment, etc.) for so doing is something about which I am ambivalent. Although accepting the punishment does not excuse the offense, it certainly isn't "cowardly" to go to prison, where the perils and indignities are certainly comparable to those of serving in wartime, at least the way the US military currently fights wars.

As far as these Iraqi sojourners go, so long as they are not actively helping Sadam defend himself, I guess they are not committing treason. What they are doing (I suppose) is simply free speech by another means, and a fairly "brave" example of that, given that they are and supposedly will stay in harms way. That said, of course, they have to bear the burden of their chosen speech, including dying under fire or bombardment they find themselves in the wrong place. Certainly, the Air Force and Navy shouldn't waste a second in trying to avoid them as targets, nor should their survivors have any complaints or claims against the US for their death.
posted by MattD at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2002

"He...has bought emergency medical evacuation insurance that could help expedite his rescue from Iraq."

Why isn't he prepared to stay all the way through? Not only has he got a plan in place to get out when things really start to heat up, but his plan entails being rescued, which means someone else has to put their own ass on the line to bail him out for being such an idiot.

That's pretty cowardly, if you ask me.

File that little rant under either ignorance or outright lie. Either way, it's pretty stupid.

Medical evacuation insurance is designed to pay the costs for someone's transportation home if they become sick or injured overseas, and more importantly, covers repatriation of mortal remains. As such, it's exactly what you'd expect someone to do if they were bravely going into a potentially dangerous situation, as these pacifists (unlike our Chickenhawk friends) are doing. It isn't some plan where you pay for The Green Berets to come chopper you out of the flaming wreckage of Saddam's palace.

So no, these folks aren't cowardly in the least. They are American heroes.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:04 PM on October 1, 2002

Woohoo! I found the button!

posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:13 PM on October 1, 2002

"We are asking people to be able to say they have had a good life and this could be their last year."

I admire them, but think this is the wrong action to be taking....
They really think that their mere presence will stop Bush from bombing the hell out of Baghdad? and if they're willing to die, why not die killing Bush and his hawks so that the war never starts? or something that would prevent it to begin with...
posted by amberglow at 2:27 PM on October 1, 2002

They have an opinion, good for them.
But I'm not sure, as the man said, they have the smallest understanding of modern warfare.

Unless we're going back to carpet bombing and I missed it. . .
posted by tiamat at 2:41 PM on October 1, 2002

I thought 9/11 would make us reconsider just how much respect we should have for people who are willing to die for their beliefs ...
posted by fuzz at 3:52 PM on October 1, 2002

This reminds me of a line from a Dar Williams song:
Peacemakers go to the same place as soldiers
If you're gonna make peace, you've got to find the pain
I do their action is both brave and misplaced. If they really want to make a difference, they should stand in villages, hospitals, schools, and the like. Roads and bridges are essential targets in a military operation. Power plants... perhaps not. I have a hard time believing that important military and governent installations rely on the same grid as general public/private interests. At any rate, the right thing for these guys to do is to go where the true civilian, non-military targets are.
posted by namespan at 10:58 PM on October 1, 2002

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