Is the anti-war movement dead, needing CPR, or ever existed?
Clearly in the beginning it was strong. Congress knew what millions of Americans and people throughout the world knew, that the war was base of lies and fraudulent testimony; only Congress went along with it to prove how ‘tough’ they could be in an election year.
But what has happened? When was the last time we’ve seen a real demonstration? And I don’t mean Spring fairs with Frisbee throwing and chants of Kumbaya? Why no shutting down of the entrance to the Pentagon (other than for the obvious security hurdles)? Why no shutting down of major routes going into DC? So many ‘why no….’ Lessons should be learned from the pro-immigration movement in their previous May Day shut-downs.
Unfortunately, the peace movement itself is a major player in the war. Let’s take an example from Baltimore. For years, there’s been a peace vigil every Friday at rush hour at a particular site. The organizer told the Baltimore Sun that he knows that this will not affect the end of the war. The only purpose it serves then is to satisfy egos and justify doing something or anything. But where is this vigil? It’s in front of the Homewood Friends Meeting House (Quaker) in the most liberal section of the city. It is also just blocks away from Johns Hopkins University, a right wing school but in a very ‘progressive’ neighborhood. The only radical thing they’re calling for is to honk for peace. No calls for wholesale impeachment of Congress, including most Democrats. No calls for war crimes trials against all responsible from the Bush/Clinton/Bush administrations. Why aren’t they in the working class sections of the city, or in the inner city, or in the staunch conservative sections of the County doing a regular vigil? Aren’t they the people one must attract to build a grassroots movement against the war? Not in an area where opposition to the war already ranges in the ’80s to ’90s percent.
Although this vigil, and so many like it throughout the country, may appear to be part of an anti-war movement it is also contributing to the war effort. Here’s how. In a ‘democracy’ like ours, the ‘voices’ of all people are encouraged. When the war parties can point to a constant vigil that remains polite and pathetically innocuous, the war advocates can say, “See. We are a country that encourages peaceful demonstrations. Aren’t we a great nation worthy of emulation throughout the world?!” In reality, because the movement with these vigils is so ‘peaceful’, they give credence to an overall system that engages in massive crimes against humanity. To this day, not a single elected Congress member or Senator from Maryland calls for immediate withdraw, impeachment, and trials. That includes Congressman Cummings, past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, who claims to be against the war but hasn’t been shy about voting for whatever the Pentagon has wanted. And unlike the defeated Democrat Congressman Wynn of Maryland, Cummings does not even support impeachment. This long-standing vigil has had no practical effect in all its years.
One can counter and say it was the peace demos against the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights marches that helped to end the war and bring certain levels of legal equality to all Americans. The reality is is that it was the military rank and file in revolt that was the major impetus to ending the war and the water hosing of innocent black children and the unleashing of dogs on bystanders by Bull Conner that galvanized the nation in support of civil rights. It was the brutal murders in Mississippi and Kent and Jackson State that woke up the nation as well as middle class body bags returning home. Singing Kumbaya might relieve tensions and put people in a better consciousness, but it’s the violence that people react to that affects change. And yes, there are counter examples. Ghandi, people power in the Philippines, and standing up to the tank in Tiananmen Square are notable for a non-violent approach to standing up against oppression. But even they would not have been effective for radical change if they were not reacting to violence by the British, the Marcos regime, and the Chinese authorities, respectively.
We should not deny that both methods have affected change. Relying on just one approach, though, in our fight to end this war is simply not enough. Disobedience, civil or otherwise, needs to be part of the movement. When the electoral and legislative process fails to end the war, what options do we have left? Changing the Party and face in the Executive Branch will only be cosmetic. The wars will go on, occupation of Iraq will remain permanent, and we will still maintain military bases all over the world.