Note from the editor

From the Editor

By the time you read this, the war may be over. Or it may be turning into a protracted, ugly conflict, with house-to-house fighting, biological and chemical weapon use, and heavy casualties among combatants and non-combatants alike.

Publishing a quarterly magazine has a few drawbacks. As I write this, it is a few days before we send the Journal off to the printer. US troops crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq last week, and the Pentagon commenced its massive “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad. Resistance has been encountered, and casualties mount on both sides.

Today, despite setbacks, the pundits still expect a short war. This is a seriously uneven match, after all; Saddam Hussein enjoys little real support.

But one of the lessons we’ve learned from the environmental movement is that massively intrusive measures almost always have unintended consequences. A desert river would seem to be no match for a megaton concrete dam, but the Colorado nearly ripped out Glen Canyon Dam a few years back, and the concrete cork’s demise is inevitable. Tiny fruit flies in an orchard might seem utterly vulnerable to fleets of planes spraying nerve toxins, but the flies always win, given time.

The stronger the force the US uses to take Iraq, the more likely it is that the blow-back will be profound and unpleasant. The world is outraged at the United States. Outrage is especially on the rise among Arab nations, who may well loathe Saddam Hussein, but who loathe perceived interference in Arab affairs even more. Need we be reminded that the majority of those who committed the acts of 9/11 were Saudis, who felt the mere presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia was an affront deserving deadly response? Most people do recognize a difference between the people of the United States and the government of the United States. But some, as we have learned in the last two years, don’t.

Despite the fine hopes of an overwhelming majority of the world’s people, troops are now committed. We failed to prevent this war. If you’re one of those people who’s been calling your Senator, writing letters to the editor, carrying signs or putting candles in your window, you may well be feeling a bit powerless right now, as if nothing you did or said made any difference.

But you’d be wrong. As the first bombs fell on Baghdad, the US Senate - hardly a hotbed of opposition to the current resident of the White House - said “no” to a keystone of the Bush administration’s energy policy: drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The measure was hidden in a budget bill, voted on in the first week of a war, cast as an alternative to dependence on foreign oil imports, and it still lost. This was a significant defeat for a theoretically popular president in the first stages of a war, delivered by members of both parties. If that’s not testament to the power of an aroused, organized public, I’m not sure what is. The next few months will be trying, but our only way out is to keep our voices raised, even if US victory is swift and the “Coalition of the Willing” becomes a “Coalition of the Drilling.”

In our last issue, we misstated the application deadline for the 2003 Brower Youth Awards. The correct deadline is June 1, 2003. For more info, call Cindy Arch at (415) 788-3666 x 160 or email We regret the error, and encourage young environmental leaders to apply.

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