King George is Gone; It’s Time to Organize!

When Barack Obama takes office on January 21, 2009, he will bring the hopes of millions of Americans into the White House with him. Foremost among those hopes he brings with him will be that he carries out his promise to withdraw the US forces from Iraq. Along with the hope to see the end of the US military adventure in Iraq is the belief that President Obama will end the war and occupation of Afghanistan. In fact, according to a recent AP poll, fifty per cent of the US population believes Obama will end that failed adventure. Yet, if we look at the appointments, nominations and words of Obama and his transition team since the election, it appears that his administration’s role is one that is supposed to redeem the face of the project for US dominance of the world.

When one peruses the transition team’s website, they can see what their intentions are regarding Iraq and Afghanistan. The plan’s for Iraq are summarized this way: “Under the Obama-Biden plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions.” The size of the force is undetermined as is its exact mission. Complementary to the plans for Iraq is the Obama team’s plan to “dedicate more (military) resources to the fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan.” Recently, antiwar organizer Ashley Smith of the International Socialist Organization stated the present situation rather succinctly: “The antiwar movement has an immense opportunity with the election of Barack Obama. His victory has raised expectations not only of an end to the Iraq war, but also an end to the Afghan War and the many other barbaric policies of the Bush Administration. However, the establishment and the corporative power brokers are pressuring Obama to rehabilitate American imperialism so that it is better able to dominate the planet against its regional and global rivals.”

At this point in the transition from Bush to Obama, there seems to be a wait-and-see attitude among the US populace. Folks who voted for Obama seem to be transfixed by the mere fact of his victory while some of those who opposed him are already making plans on how to get rid of him. Many of those who voted for him because he said he would withdraw troops from Iraq are unfortunately diminishing the importance of his statements calling for an expansion of the US military in Afghanistan and his public stances against Iran and in support of Israeli bellicosity. This wait-and-see attitude by these voters seems to be paving the way for a continuation of the war policies that were undertaken by the Bush administration.

If there was ever a time for a renewed vigor in the antiwar movement, that time is now. Leia Petty of the national student organization Campus Antiwar Network put it this way in an email: “National mass mobilizations give expression to widespread discontent and provide an opportunity to organize the unorganized…. The last national protest was nearly two years ago, meaning that many students in our organization and on our campuses have never experienced marching and chanting in the streets alongside hundreds of thousands of people. Protest is the primary expression of our demands and the building block of our movement.”

The past two years have been a quiet time for that movement. There have been no major national demonstrations since March 15th, 2007 when 40,000 people marched on the Pentagon. Prior to that was a protest of over 150,000 in DC (with another 100,000 on the West Coast) on January 27th of that year. Both of these protests took place in the wake of the November 2006 congressional elections that saw the Democrats take over both houses of Congress in an election that was essentially a referendum against the war. It was a referendum that was to be baldly ignored by the very folks who were elected to carry it out. Instead of a withdrawal plan, we saw an escalation of the war via the “surge.” This escalation brought about an increase in Iraqi and US deaths, while further dividing the country of Iraq into sectarian enclaves, displacing millions more Iraqis, and pushing the people of that country further into poverty. Now, almost two years later, there are more US troops in Iraq than there were before the 2006 elections and Washington is still trying to impose an agreement on the Green Zone government that pretends to promise a withdrawal by 2011, but in reality has more loopholes regarding that withdrawal than the current US tax laws do for the oil companies. In Afghanistan, the occupation grows more brutal daily, as US airstrikes kill and maim civilians and US Predator drones wreak their destruction and death in Afghanistan and, increasingly, in Pakistan as well.

During the weekend of December 12th and 13th, 2008, the national antiwar coalition United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) is holding it national meeting in Chicago. This meeting is certain to discuss the nature of the antiwar movement in the coming year. Already, the other national antiwar network ANSWER has called for a national protest in Washington, DC on March 21, 2009. The third national network, known as the National Assembly to End the War is circulating a letter asking UFPJ to co-sponsor such a protest. Some of the National Assembly’s members, like antiwar activist Marilyn Lewin of Boston will be attending the UFPJ conference as individuals and members of various local antiwar groups. When asked why she planned to attend, Ms. Lewin told me that “the long rift between UFPJ and ANSWER and the absence of mass mobilizations has been a serious setback. I will be attending the UFPJ National Assembly to call for UFPJ to join with ANSWER and others to form a broad, independent, ad hoc coalition to build mass mobilizations in Washington, San Francisco and other cities on March 21, marking six years of war in Iraq.”

In a continuation of its pointless refusal to work with ANSWER, UFPJ has so far refused to go along. Instead, the UFPJ leadership has called for a series of undefined, vague actions the week before. Separate actions make very little sense. The time for a coordinated mass national action by all elements of the US antiwar movement is this coming spring. The US military presence in Iraq will be heading into its seventh year. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House when it comes to this issue. Nor does it matter if Washington and the Iraqi Green Zone government have agreed that US forces will leave by 2011. As we have seen before, agreements like the Status of Forces Agreement mean very little when they don’t serve Washington’s needs.

It is extremely rare in US history that a president or Congress ended a hostile overseas military action without massive public pressure. Besides the fact that Iraq is considered too important to Washington’s plans, there are just too many pressures from those whose income and careers depend on continuing such adventures to end these things. If and only if the antiwar movement revitalizes itself and organizes the majority of Americans that oppose the war/occupation in Iraq will it be ended.

The same applies to the situation in Afghanistan. That mission has failed. The resistance against Washington’s occupation continues to grow. More and more Afghan civilians die every week from US bombs and missiles while the Karzai government grows weaker and weaker. This government, put into place to help the US project its power into Central Asia in order to control the Caspian Sea natural gas and oil, has less internal support than the al-Maliki regime in Baghdad. It is time for the occupying forces to end their murderous support of whichever warlord is willing to take Washington’s money. That nation’s people will only begin to have a chance to live without war or reactionary Islamist rule after US and NATO forces begin to leave the country. Not only should the various wings of the national antiwar movement organize a single demonstration in the spring of 2009, they should include a call for an immediate US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan in their demands.

The election of Obama after years of Bush and Cheney has created a historical moment. Those who voted for Obama hoping that he will end the war(s) and move away from the imperial aggression of the past decades can not merely sit back and wait for Obama and the Congress to do this on their own. Now more than ever those of us who oppose the US wars around the world and Washington’s ever-expanding military presence from Latin America to Asia must make our opposition known. That means we must take it into the streets, the halls of Congress, our workplaces and schools and our shopping malls and churches. In short, we must revive the antiwar movement with the same commitment and emotion that so many of its members gave to getting the GOP out of Washington. Along the way, we also need to bring along those who became involved politically for the first time during Obama’s run and who also oppose the US wars around the world. An important first step in this drive is for the organizations that consider themselves to be the leadership of the antiwar movement to work towards a single massive protest on both US coasts in March 2009. Anything less will be a squandering of opportunity on a colossal scale.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on November 28th, 2008 at 10:57am #

    sorry to disagree w. the conclusion that “barbaric wars in iraq/afgh’n” r bush’ barbaric wars.
    there r or may be 0ver 100 mn amers who wld attest that the wars were not brutal enough.
    they may not say, We want more barbaric/brutal wars in these two lands, but they do say tacitly and explicitly the two wars r ok;ie, were necessary but r failures.
    ie, troops r still there and not home or used to wage a few more ‘necessary’ wars. clearly to most amers (95%?) wars r ok but the failures r not.
    u can’t split uncle sam in two, three+ parts. u can only split (seemingly) politicians in two, three+ groups.
    the final say is still w. the uncle. still, i hope ashley is correct in saying or hoping the Left in US can influence obama to some degree.
    however, i am very doubtful the Left wld get anything from uncle sam. thnx.

  2. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 10:58am #

    There is no war in Iraq. There is an occupation. There was first an invasion (there was no Declaration of War as our constitution requires), a collapse of the government, a coup (if you will) and then the US occupied the country for the last 6 years until this day. Before that invasion the US regularly air-raided (there are accounts that that is still going on) for a decade; and put in place an embargo which led to over a million Iraqi death, many of whom are children. Several million have been displaced and left homeless.

    Now back to Obama. He has never stated he would stop the occupation of Iraq (never); nor the occupation of other sovereign nations throughout the world, and certainly has nothing against US unilateral invasions as a policy, with or without the UN, with or without a coalition, with or without a declaration of war. At least, I cannot find such a promise from his campaign during the primaries (or before) and the national campaign.

    He doesn’t represent a new American foreign policy. He may alter it slightly to conform to the Democratic version of the Plutocracy Doctrine, a blend of imperialism and exceptionalism, but that’s about it.

    In other words, we (those who want and demand change) are starting at GROUND ZERO with Mr. Obama.

    Let’s just get our facts straight as well as our wishful thinking.

  3. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 11:03am #

    We’re in worse trouble than I thought, the Socialist party thinks Obama is an “opportunity” for peace!!??

    This is not the socialist party of yore, it must be another baby boomer gone googoo with the cool-aid.

  4. ron said on November 28th, 2008 at 11:17am #

    Max, you make the same mistake as so many cynics. You mistake a perception of the desires for change represented by the grassroots element of Obama’s campaign as an endorsement of Obama and his capitalist politics. Instead of seeing vote for regime change in Washington as something to build on by mobilizing and moving many of the Obama voters leftward, the “left” cynics seem to prefer to dwell on what we know are facts– “He doesn’t represent a new American foreign policy. He may alter it slightly to conform to the Democratic version of the Plutocracy Doctrine, a blend of imperialism and exceptionalism, but that’s about it.” By dwelling on this and refusing to accept that there is a groundswell for progressive change in this country, the US left (if it decides to stick with the cynical-told you so program) will once again miss the boat. We are not at ground zero. We have moved forward a step or so.

  5. bozh said on November 28th, 2008 at 11:40am #

    moving obama’s voters leftwards is music to my ears. but how?
    american scholing, asvertisng, entertainment industry, WH, congress , senate, media, army generals, priests, ‘academics’, cia, fbi et al have by now almost in toto divested working class, indigenes, prisoners of their econo-military-political power.
    and inthe view that disenpowered people rejected health care, end of wars.
    when was a working person picked up for any important role in washington?
    i do not for second think/expect that the gang which eliminated working clas from participation in governance wld promote working class’ agenda.
    people may call such an honest appraisal of what is really going in US “cinicism”, but still remains mere namecalling that kids often do. thnx

  6. bozh said on November 28th, 2008 at 11:48am #

    yes, it is more accurate/adequate to call US presence in afgh’n and iraq “occupations”.
    with minor warfare. and, i too conclude, occupations will continue for decades.thnx

  7. bozh said on November 28th, 2008 at 11:53am #

    actually, as a member of vancouver org,, i have said nearly six yrs ago that the only payout for US invasion of iraq was to establish permamnet bases there; probably in syrian dessert, away from domestic pop; thereby establishing de facto a new US state in iraq. thnx.
    that’s how i see it.

  8. Don Hawkins said on November 28th, 2008 at 12:34pm #

    Whatever the system in this age just maybe unplanned. To many players looking for the answers. I could be wrong on the answer part. We will know very soon if this new guy is going to gave it a try and the try is saving human civilization. If we see cap and trade or not even that the plan is no plan. To make a long story short probably by the end of next summer if the President doesn’t come on TV for an address to the Nation or for that mater the people of Earth and say something like people of Earth we are in big trouble and we need to cut CO 2 emissions and fast we have until 2015 to level out the rise in CO 2 and we all waited to long so now we all must sacrifice and cut back on almost all that we do. We got to slow it down people as we rebuild a new World. Crazy stuff what I just wrote come people most of us know what has to be done. So say by the end of next summer it looks like more of the same just in a different way then what. I don’t think they whoever they is can stop us from getting information from the scientists but who knows. Bush and company did a good job of that the last eight years. Go to Monbiot dot com and read George’s last post. Is he right, yep. When Hansen writes he most of the time will say Herculean effort. It’s the company part of Bush and company that keeps most people in the dark. Still time but easy it will not be. Read Monbiot and tell me what you think, please a big 5 minutes. I want to know what you think on this and what Monbiot wrote.

  9. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 1:08pm #


    To clarify, I’m not a cynic. The cynics are found in the system that puts forth a black man who is deeply ensconsed in the power structure and pawns him off as a “change agent”.

    I’m not as naive as to think that the people who supported Clinton for 8 years regardless of his right leaning Reaganomics and brutal foreign policy are now going to move from Obama, who could very well be to the right of Clinton.

    Now we can debate that, but I would argue that we can have change if we are willing to foresake this pop notion that we can “use” what some people think Obama was about (progressive) as a means of launching a real progressive movement. People who were so gullable as to not see through this will take a while. Some will move more quickly, but for the most part, real change born of convictions are a long way off.

    We can change if we stop it with the Obama thing, and begin where we are to build what’s needed. Obama is a distraction.

    (Not that this has anything to do with your post ron, but as I hear that Obama is reading about FDR, I can’t help but wonder who FDR was reading when he was faced with the Great Depression? There’s more to this question than a simple parlor game. I don’t think our answers are found in the details of FDR, but in understanding universal principles.)

  10. ron said on November 28th, 2008 at 3:17pm #

    i agree–they are occupations. i do not agree that they will last a long time.

  11. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 3:44pm #

    As far as long time, let’s not hold our breath.

    US occupation has been non-stop since our inception. This is, I think, a fair and accurate accounting of US history. To think we will simply pack up and leave our 800 posts (including those in Afghanistan and Iraq) without a recanting of empire…certainly you would not go that far?

    If we could “peel” off the “progressives for Obama” (young, old or otherwise) I think you’d have to wrest the dynamics of power which so far have been heavily weighted in the hands of the plutocracy.

    The wild imagination that put Obama at the top of the list to become “progressives for Obama” will not simply be disappointed. They will apologize and stay in waiting until the Republicans come to the rescue as they did with Clinton. You know the game. The Republicans cook up some wild-ass story and get the “progressives” to circle the wagons around Obama. You won’t be able to yank those wagons from their circle for love nor money. Obama could be in the process of invading Sudan or Pakistan and those little shits will be telling the world how Obama never did [whatever the Republicans are yell].

    The dynamics work over and over. The important thing is that nothing changes. It is the same play we see with the elections. The discourse is controlled by empire. Progressives so bought into the Obama story that they forgave him every right-wing position (afterall better him than McCain, though they’re saying, at bottom, the same thing). Again, the plutocracy controls the rules and the outcome.

    Exceptions aside, the large throngs will not be part of a progressive movement. They are looking for an authoritative figure to do the heavy lifting. They are not ready for democracy and confuse it with a day at the polls. Even the house parties and canvassing are just a day out to help their “man” get elected. But where did Obama come from? Did he come from a movement? From the people? No. He is the product of a republican plutocracy; a plutocracy that has a steady grip on power.

    The maturity required to move beyond this play at democracy seems totally missing. Again, there are exceptions and these exceptions are your movement; these are what you’ve got to work with – don’t poke them in the eye by calling them “cynics”.

    What can be done, along with creating local movements around grass-roots agendas, is to create powerful attactors. Attractors other than personalities and pop idols. The attactors must be power alternatives and where possible co-created. A movement will begin from there.

    Never, ron, underestimate the power of those in power. To think they will simply allow the throngs to join you (or me) is just foolish. Divide and rule is an ancient and well tuned tactic used by empire rulers.

    What is most confounding is the extent to which even those who understand this went for the Obama trick. Old habits die hard….REAL HARD.

  12. Hue Longer said on November 28th, 2008 at 4:13pm #

    Progressives for Obama did not vote Obama in….Democrats did. Sure, many Democrats bothered to get out of bed because PFO’s encouraged them to, but if the PFO’s themselves didn’t vote, the results would be the same. People dug Clinton and they’re digging it all over again, good luck getting them to march on Obama. The only other people who’ll be marching with the PFO’s are the ones they told to shut up the past two years.

  13. Max Shields said on November 28th, 2008 at 4:49pm #


    I agree that Progressives who voted or have demonstrated support in one form or another would not have probably made a difference one way or the other (I have no data to support, but if we look at the dynamics leading up to the election, it’s hard to see a Progressive agenda leading the pack).

    It is important to recognize that what progressives find as 1) an opportunity to move forward on a progressive agenda or 2) to extract the Obama progressives from the Dem fray and to a real movement is largely a waste of energy.

    Progressives can see and hear. Those who choose to get behind a movement will; the rest will do what they’ve been doing – support Clinton II (or III depending how you look at it.) If you ask people about the choices Obama is making with regard to the economy or foreign affairs, they’re more than fine with the old Clinton Guarde. They thought that was just honky dory.

  14. Hue Longer said on November 29th, 2008 at 12:24am #

    Hello Max,

    I’m going to start a new organization for 2112; Progressives for Mobilizing Progressives for Obama to Stop Mobilizing For Obama and to Instead Vote and Mobilize for Progressives

    The acronym sucks, but the sell should be easy

  15. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 10:26am #

    whow, stop this obama thing already. we know well by now who he is by his books, writings from everyone from chomsky to street and by his ‘new’ cabinet, so no delusions there. occupations for sure in iraq and everywhere, but soon to be followed by bases within the us to stop people from rebelling. be prepared and not deluded by chances for ‘change we can believe’ in through demonstrations. all these protests have been well contained and taken care of by special einsatz truppen, already recruited in new orleans from blackwater cum suis. a new tactic for resistance needs to be found, not the old fun ones to infiltrate conservative conventions etc. all that street theatre is useless in a super controlled society. what was truly effective as understood afterwards was the complete refusal of the sixties youths to perform, their dropping out of society necessitated the strong rappel a l’ordre of the reactionary state. looking back to that period one should cull from it what was effective to deeply startle the elites. they know that societal disintegration by the feared masses is dangerous to them. a deepening disaffection of the population will prepare a perfect ground for refusal to conform in the future and to that end we should work.

  16. Ramsefall said on November 29th, 2008 at 10:48am #

    The multi-billion dollar US Embassy citadel in Baghdad clearly indicates Washington’s commitment to indefinite occupation while they perpetuate their attack on regional sovereignty and civil rights. War is still the primary US export. A minor downsizing in Iraq with soldiers strategically shuffled to neighboring escalations protecting US interests is the agenda — the Empire marches on with a fresh mascot and his pack of former administrative agents.

    I would like to avoid debunking ron’s assertion, for the pivotal importance of an active and expanding grassroots base is the only means to the communally desired end called change, but the progressive groundswell is too underdeveloped and dispersed in order to produce a candidate from their own ranks. Again, that is the key to bringing about radical change as experienced in countries like Bolivia; a movement behind another plutocratic player will fall way short of attaining any progressive objective. That’s not being cynical, that’s being realistic, it’s accounting for the inherent dynamics of this absolutely dysfunctional and corrupt system.

    While the election does indicate an historical moment regarding race and voter participation, both commendable, the reality is there was no major break from past behavior of duopoly support, there was no landslide victory and there was no candidate presented from the ranks of the people which represents real change. Mr. Jacobs is precise on his assertion to begin organizing even more diligently in an effort to expand and develop the anti-war movement, and thus its effectual power with the particular strategy of producing a candidate from those ranks in the 2012 elections. An anti-war, anti-empire, pro-civil liberty, pro-equality, pro-environment party needs to be created as an appendage to that movement, “Anything less will be a squandering of opportunity on a colossal scale.”

    Best to all.

  17. Petronius said on November 29th, 2008 at 10:57am #

    so much important chat about stopping war (good luck) and another presidential candidate of more liberal convictions and so on and so forth ad infinitum. here is where the task lies: ZNet – Disposable Youth , November 28.

  18. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 4:43pm #

    i have just learned from my wife th at i am smarter than an ape so she doesn’t need to tell me what to do.
    our own prime minister, harper also, looks smarter than an ape. so we got to be oK? ok, ok, this was a very silly joke.
    but i can’t cry all the time, can i? thnx