The Challenge for Our Movement

Turning Sentiment into Social Power

We in the anti-war movement declared from the inception of this horrific war on Iraq, “No Blood for Oil.” The Bush Administration and media blowhards ridiculed our slogan. But the mad doctor of the free market, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, just spilled the beans in his new memoir. He wrote, “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows; the Iraq war is largely about oil.”

The US has now scattered the sands of Middle East with blood, blood of over one million Iraqis, blood of 3,800 American soldiers, and countless tears of heart-stricken parents, siblings and children from Baghdad to Syracuse. All this blood shed for empire, for oil, for the corporate powers that dominate our government, society and world.

The Bush Administration has turned Iraq into a living hell. They laid waste to the country, drove nearly 5 million Iraqis from their homes, divided Iraq’s people against one another to rule the country, and thereby triggered a civil war. And General Patraeus has the gall to declare the surge and the occupation a success.

This is not success but catastrophe and every day the US occupation continues it gets worse. But our rulers are not done; they are preparing new lies to justify a war on Iran. We are hearing the same litany of accusations; Iran’s government oppresses its people; it has weapons of mass destruction; it is a threat to peace and security; it is interfering with the internal affairs of Iraq; it is a terrorist regime.

The stench of hypocrisy in DC is overwhelming. The US not Iran is the main threat to peace and security in the Middle East. For god’s sake, the US is the country interfering with Iraq’s internal affairs through a military occupation. The US has a giant stockpile of nuclear weapons and is the only country ever to use them. The US has initiated war on Afghanistan, Iraq, and backed Israel’s war on Lebanon and occupation of Palestine. It has engaged in state terror throughout the region for imperial control of oil.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said during the Vietnam War, the US government “is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Our task is not to change regimes in any other country. That is up for the people there to do. Instead our task is to build a mass movement to stop our own regime’s imperial wars and its attacks on us here at home.

And it is in our interests to do so. At the very same time the US government has pursued a war abroad, it has pursued one at home. It has shredded our civil liberties, scapegoated Arabs and Muslims, arrested and deported immigrant workers, and wasted billions that could have aided the black people of New Orleans after Katrina.

Imagine what we could do with the half a trillion dollars spent on the Iraq war. We could reconstruct our decaying cities in upstate New York, we could guarantee quality education, national healthcare, jobs, and we could save people from losing their houses to foreclosure.

But our so-called opposition party, the Democrats have failed to challenge the Bush administration’s war at home or abroad. Save for a handful, the Democrats voted for the war; they refuse to cut funding; they refuse to demand an immediate withdrawal of all US forces; they refuse even to impeach the war criminals in the Whitehouse

All of the main presidential candidates stated this week that they could not guarantee withdrawal of all troops by the end of their terms in 2013! And a large number of Democrats are actually backing Bush’s drive to war on Iran. Just this week, Democratic frontrunner Hilary Clinton voted to classify Iran’s military as a terrorist force, essentially giving Bush a blank check for war. Even worse, in an act of colonial hubris, they voted to escalate Bush’s divide and rule strategy by endorsing the partition of Iraq.

Nonetheless, a great awakening is taking place. Now a majority opposes the war in Iraq and want progressive social change at home. The question we face is how to transform that sentiment into an organized force to end the war.

First and foremost we have to stick to our demands—immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces from Iraq; no war on Iran; care of veterans when they come home; reparations for the Iraqi people; and money for our social needs.

Second we have to rely on ourselves. We should take inspiration from the 50,000 black people that marched to free the Jena 6 in Louisiana. That demonstration led directly to the release of Mychal Bell from jail. Such protest—from the union fights of the 1930s to the movements of the 1960s—is the only way we have ever won our demands. Only by our independent grassroots struggle can force the masters of war in Washington to listen and obey.

So we have to organize, agitate, and fight. We must organize chapters of the Campus Anti-War Network to build a mass student movement to end the war. We must organize chapters of US Labor Against the War in every workplace! We must organize more GI Coffeehouses like Watertown’s Different Drummer Cafe around military bases. And most importantly we must organize chapters of Iraq Veterans Against the War across the country to build a new GI resistance inside the military itself.

We are just at the beginning of the fight to stop the US war machine, but only our independent mass struggle will force our government out of Iraq and begin the battle for a new society that puts people before empire and profit. As the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglas declared, “Without struggle there is no progress!”

Ashley Smith is a writer and activist from Burlington, Vermont. He writes frequently for Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review. He can be reached at Read other articles by Ashley.

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  1. Hatuxka said on October 1st, 2007 at 8:01am #

    Mearsheimer and Walt put this into better perspective. The evidence they provide is much more heavily pointing toward the Israel Lobby as far as the coming of the Iraq war, documenting how their (and their close relatives the neocons) drumbeat for war in Iraq mirrored the Israeli govt. line. The point is brought home in the later chapter on Iran, showing how the oil industry was powerlesss in the face of the lobby when it came to being able to do business there: the oil industry wanted to it, Iran wanted it, the lobby did not. You know the outcome.

  2. Deadbeat said on October 1st, 2007 at 1:38pm #

    Once again we have yet another writer quote Alan Greenspan as “spilling the beans”. There seem to be a real concerted effort on the “left” to divert attention from the even the remote possibility of considering the role Zionism has on U.S. policy in the Middle East.

    Again, Alan Greenspan lacks any real credibility on the issue of Middle East policy. See the recent article that debunk the Greenspan perspective on CounterPunch.

    Why anyone on the left would want to embrace Greenspan is beyond me. Greenspan is one the biggest contributor to inequality in the United States.

  3. Ashley Smith said on October 1st, 2007 at 1:47pm #


    Did you read the article? Quoting Greenspan is a means for confirming our entire argument that the war was for empire and oil. On the zionist lobby, I think you have it upside down and backwards. The US control middle east policy. The dog wags the tail, not the other way around. Check out the article below.


    No, it’s the dog that wags the tail
    The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt

    Reviewed by Mark LeVine

    Ever since the London Review of Books published the controversial findings of University of Chicago Professor John Mearsheimer and Harvard Professor Stephen Walt’s research into the power of the Jewish – or Israel – lobby in the United States, the two men have been demonized as anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic.

    Now that the full product of their research has been published as The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, it has generated even more controversy because of its detailed, well-footnoted argument that unquestioning US support for Israel goes against core US strategic interests and continues because of the undue influence and power of the so-called “Israel lobby”.

    The book is being severely criticized because it seems to confirm long-held anti-Semitic beliefs about undue Jewish political power. But in reality, the authors’ premise and conclusions are all wrong or, more precisely, backward.

    Mearsheimer and Walt seem to know little about the Middle East, Israel’s role in US foreign policy, and what are core US goals and strategic interests in the region. They argue that this is a case of the “tail wagging the dog” – a small client state and its allies in the US leading the US government to engage in policies that are manifestly against its interests because of undue political power.

    But this is nonsense. In fact, it is the other way around. The United States has been using Israel to fulfill its policy objectives for decades, from its role as a regional “pillar” (along with Saudi Arabia and Iran) in US containment strategies against the Soviet Union in the 1970s up until last summer, when the administration of President George W Bush encouraged a disastrous proxy war with Hezbollah as a way of testing the weapons and tactics of Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, in the event of a US attack.

    Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s book is also naive. It assumes that US political and economic leaders, especially those close to the Bush administration, want to build peace and democracy in the Middle East, and that therefore supporting Israel’s occupation of Palestine hurts this cause. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. As I showed in great detail in my last book, Why They Don’t Hate Us, and my new book on the Oslo peace process, An Impossible Peace: Oslo and the Burdens of History, the US has never supported democracy and peace in the region.

    Instead, its strategic goals center on the perpetuation of continuous but manageable levels of conflict, punctuated every decade or so by major wars, as the way to ensure relatively high oil prices, control over key petroleum reserves or at least denying China uncontrolled access to them, a disproportionate level of arms spending across the region (by far the highest in the world, with the majority of funds spent on US weapons systems), and the continued survival of the authoritarian regimes that ensure the perpetuation of a system that has generated more than a trillion dollars in profits to US oil and arms companies just since September 11, 2001.

    This pattern was made evident most recently by the announcement of a US$20 billion arms sale to the Saudis, which was naturally compensated for by a $30 billion sale to Israel (much of it paid to US arms companies by the US government in one of the largest corporate-welfare schemes in history, under the guise of “aid to Israel”) and at least $20 billion more to Egypt (much of that also in the form of aid paid directly to defense manufacturers) and other allies. That’s $70 billion for US weapons manufacturers in the next decade or so, just to keep the “balance of power” in the region.

    Viewed this way, the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, by all accounts one of the main fulcrums of the larger problems of the region, would be a strategic disaster for the United States. It would lead to lower oil prices, less spending on arms, and a loss of whatever slim levels of legitimacy is possessed by Arab dictators and monarchs, and open up the chance that the people of the region would decide to spend their money on other things than overpriced US weapons, consumer debt, and high-end real estate.

    The authors have it wrong: it’s not Americans who are suffering from undue influence of the Jewish lobby; it’s Israelis and Palestinians along with Iraqis and the citizens of most every country of the region, and now the families of US servicemen and women deployed in the conflict zones of the “arc of instability” in the Middle East and Central Asia, who are suffering so that some of the most powerful and wealthy corporations in world history can continue to reap hundreds of billions of dollars in profits without anyone questioning why this system continues and whose interests it actually benefits.

    One thing is for sure: aside from the “Jewish lobby” (for whom the book is a godsend of a fundraising tool), the two groups most happy about the publication of book are the oil and arms lobbies, unquestionably the most powerful, and invisible, lobbies in the United States.

    The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy by John J Mearsheimer and Stephen M Walt. Farrar, Straus and Giroux (August 27, 2007). ISBN-10: 0374177724. Price US$26, 496 pages.

    Mark LeVine is professor of modern Middle Eastern history, culture and Islamic studies, University of California-Irvine, and author of Why They Don’t Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil (Oneworld, 2005).

  4. Sam said on October 1st, 2007 at 8:29pm #

    Sorry but I have to correct your information. The Jewish lobbies are not Israel, and they are the proverbial dog here.
    Here’s an example. Lieberman is a US senator, however his policies are more extreme than even the likud (vis a vis Iran, Syria, Iraq etc..)
    is it a coincidence that he is a jew?
    Also, during the Israel mass bombing campaign against Lebanon last summer, the US Media, the congress and government were more supportive of the campaign than Israelis themselves. It all boils downs to having strategically placed assets in the media, government and Finance – Again that’s your dog.
    Also, all Jews in Congress consistently supported the war (from start to surge) except perhaps Russ Finegold (which I regard as an decent exception).

    The Jewish Lobbies prowess became evident in the extortion episode of the swiss banks during Clinton’s era (Norman Finkelstein – The Holocaust Industry) . Also please note that many of the extremists organizations of the Jewish settlers are American born. Which tells me that much on the conflict is fueled by American zionists and their infrastructure in the US (not Israel).

  5. Shabnam said on October 2nd, 2007 at 10:03am #

    The war in Iraq is not only for oil. The slogan “No blood for oil” has been pushed by those clever Zionists who want to hide the bloody hands of pro Israel hidden in waging wars in the Middle East and Africa, Sudan.
    I think everyone agrees that the united States have always followed its interests in the international politics. Britain, US and other colonial and imperial powers believe in what Churchill said “Britain does not have enemy or friend but INTEREST?” Why US does not follow the rule of the games of great power at a time that its power has reached to far distances?
    I am afraid to say, Mr. Smith, that I disagree with you and Mark Levine when writes:

    ,” The United States has been using Israel to fulfill its policy objectives for decades, from its role as a regional “pillar” (along with Saudi Arabia and Iran) in US containment strategies against the Soviet Union in the 1970s up until last summer, when the administration of President George W Bush encouraged a disastrous proxy war with Hezbollah as a way of testing the weapons and tactics of Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, in the event of a US attack.”

    If we believe US is following its interest: why US does not want to recognize Iran, a natural ally and regional power for centuries, as an important strategic ally in the middle east, central Asia and beyond not only for her natural resources but also for its influence in Muslim world, over a billion people, especially among Arab population in the middle east, Asia and Africa and cultural influence beyond Iran’s border in central Asia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, ….. up to India where the largest community of Shiite is located? Why US does not want to recognize Iran, not Israel, as an ally that can be the most beneficial to American empire in the middle east and central Asia, the most important region in the world with the highest energy reserves against Russia since Iranian cultural influence is well alive among the Central Asian countries and Iran has close and natural relationship with the states in this region. Why is that?
    Why George Bush is so foolish that can not see Iran and not Israel as an ally of the United States against natural enemy, Russia, since Iran has suffered and lost vast territories from imperialist Russia and Iran is the last country to trust Russia, for good reasons, why?
    Russia and Israel are benefiting from the Zionist war not the United States or Iran. In fact, the United States has lost the most from the Zionist war so far and has lost its credibility beyond repairs. Do you think, as Mark Levine wants us to believe, is Iran or Israel which can bring stability to the region because Iran, contrary to the propaganda machine of the Zionists has been accepted by majorities of the Arab States as a peaceful nation, don’t listen to the lies of the Zionist media. You can listen to Amir of Qatar, Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani who said: “We have good relationship with Iran and Arab States and all Arab States are against any military aggression on Iran.” Mr. Smith who is the beneficiary of an attack on Iran?
    As matter of fact Condi rice, servant of the Zionist interest spends a good deal of time to disturb the relationship of Iran with Arab states on Zionist behalf instead of searching for the interest of the American people.
    The Zionists have tried so hard to present Israel as positive and promoter of American interest. This is not true at all. Articles after articles have criticized the foreign policy of the United States dealing with Israel and have exposed dangers that Israel and its Zionist Lobby have for American interest around the world but no one has listened to. Why?
    When Mearsheimer and Walt’ paper was published, of course it could not be published in US a “democratic country” because of the Zionist Lobby, in Britain attracted attention not because these individuals are revealing something that no one knew, but because of who these people were. In fact the paper was very boring because we knew it all for years.
    The reason behind Zionists pro Israel against Iran is that establishment of the Zionist state on the Palestinian
    Land has brought nothing but bloodshed and violence and massacre of the indigenous population by the most brutal means and has been intensified by invasion of Iraq with the most destructive weapons based on lies and deception to improve the situation through “MAP CAHNGE” to eliminate “enemies” of Israel to “legitimize” the Zionist state because Israel has become illegitimate more than ever in the eyes of the population not only in the region but beyond. It is the existence of Israel, not the interest of US in danger. This fact cleverly has been hidden by the Zionists pro Israel including NOAM CHOMSKY from American people.
    Last night on PBS, for the first time, a presidential runner – Mike Gravel, told us that “Iran war is pushed hard by the ISRAEL LOBBY and they are willing to use nuclear weapon to destroy Iran.” He was very alarmed and told American audience that this is not OUR interest.
    Mr. Smith:
    I want to know when a presidential candidate tells Americans this is not our interest, and then WHO’S INTEREST THIS WAR SERVES?

  6. Hatuxka said on October 2nd, 2007 at 10:32am #

    The attempt to portray Israel as a tool of U.S. policy is perverse and disingenuous. It is furthermore an innately dishonest Chomsky (an admitted zionist) line of reasoning: Every ruthless and savage act the Israeli government engages in is, he tries to argue, done at the behest of the U.S. Assassinating Hamas leaders (whose focus is on opposing the occupation and the state of Israel and not on the U.S. except to the extent we allow or support Israel), does what for us? Annexing Palestinian lands does what for us? Bombing Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure over the capture of two Israeli soldiers does what for us? The reviewer the author quotes does not address any of the evidence presented by Mearsheimer and Walt. M & W basically say that Israel never really had any true usefulness during the cold war, but at least then a semblance of a case could be made that a U.S. alliance with it served a purpose (they were not a Soviet client state (and so provided a strategic balance), as were Syria and Egypt, who had no else to turn to) but since the end of that era, no remotely plausible case could be made for our unstinting endorsement of everything they did until post-September 11, when unconditional U.S. support for Israel could be sold as supporting a fellow victim of islamic terrorism and thus we had a similar fight. This was bizarre reasoning because as they document so well a major beef Bin Laden had against the U.S. was our tacit support for the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians, which as a fact has been buried by media pundits and dismissed by the go-to pro-Israel Middle East experts allowed to speak on TV. All the arguments made by Mark LeVine are unsupported, conspiracy-theory level diversions from what is truly in evidence, and it is a disservice to the peace movement to choose to follow this line. That the oil industry is by implication made here now covertly supporting attacks on Iran as they supposedly did in Iraq is a ridiculous scenario to extoll in the face of the well-documented, public, un-covert campaign for the Iraq war, possible future war against Syria and now war against Iran by the Israel lobby.

  7. Chris Crass said on October 2nd, 2007 at 3:26pm #

    I find myself wondering how many of these commenters work for the CIA…