It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Protest the Occupations and Wars of Washington

As Barack Obama’s troop escalation begins in Afghanistan and talking heads debate how many more troops the US should send, the leadership of what was once the largest antiwar organization (UFPJ) in the United States rejected a call for a unified antiwar protest on March 21st, 2009. Instead, they issued a call to go to Wall Street on April 4th, 2009 and encourage the war profiteers to move “beyond a war economy,” while toning down the demand to end the wars and occupations now to a demand to merely end them. Like antiwar organizer Ashley Smith told me in an email: “(That is) something Dick Cheney could support.” The implication of this call by UFPJ is that now that Barack Obama and the Democrats are in power, there is no longer any need to protest against war. Not only is this incredibly naive, it is downright dangerous for the future of the world.

As anybody who has paid the least bit of attention to the nature of the US economy over the past century, its very foundations rest on the production of war and materials for war. Also apparent to those of us who have been paying attention is that the Democrats are just as responsible for this reality as the Republicans are. Just because George Bush and his administration were personally reprehensible and their arrogance and disregard for principles most Americans hold dear was as obvious as the nose on Pinocchio’s wooden face doesn’t mean that the policies of the Democrats are substantially different.

Consequently, the antiwar movement would be foolish to think they have a government of allies in Washington, DC now. There may be a more personable bunch of folks ruling the country now, but the odds of those folks pulling out of Afghanistan or Iraq now instead of later without a major push from the American people insisting that they do so are about as poor as they were under the Bush administration. The time for the antiwar movement to demand that the Obama administration end the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is now, before its political ego becomes entangled in a military exercise that is ill-advised, poorly done, and just plain wrong.

Walking through New York’s financial district carrying signs expressing a hope that the trillion dollar war economy will go against its profit margin because it is morally wrong to profit from death is not a bad thing. It might feel good and even change some minds, but it won’t change the bottom line. And it is the bottom line that must be changed. Understanding this fact requires the antiwar movement to be united and specific. The demands are simple: Bring all of the troops back from Iraq and Afghanistan now. Not in 2010, or 2011 or 2012, but now. Both of these operations have gone on long enough, no matter what the generals tell Obama or the American people. Since the Pentagon hasn’t been able to accomplish what it wanted despite being militarily engaged for close to a decade in both countries, it’s high time that we insist that our timetable be put into effect.

Fortunately, a coalition has formed around this simple demand. The National Assembly to End the Wars and the ANSWER coalition have joined forces and are holding protests in at least three major US cities on March 21, 2009. Washington, DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco will be the sites of these protests. In addition to calling on the Obama administration and Congress to remove the troops from Afghanistan and Iraq now, the protests also address the issue of US support for the violent occupation of Palestine by Israel–another important issue that the UFPJ prefers not to highlight in their public calls to join their protest.

Unless and until the issue of Palestine is addressed in an honest and just way that does not merely echo the desires of the Israeli expansionists, things in the Middle East will remain volatile and dangerous. According to most public opinion polls, the majority of Americans understand this yet Washington continues to support Tel Aviv no matter what it does–murderous attacks on Gaza or illegal settlements in the West Bank, it doesn’t seem to matter. The US money and weaponry continues to flow. Additionally, in the wake of recent election results in Israel, the threat of an Israeli attack on Iran (with at least tacit US support) grows stronger. Unless the US government is put on notice that this is beyond the pale, the current relative calm in the Middle East and South Asia will become a thing of distant memory.

It is not my intention to disregard or disrespect UFPJ’s march on April 4th in New York. Indeed, if one can attend that protest and one of the protests on March 21st, please do. However, if one has to choose, the intentions of the March 21st protests are certainly more immediate and, if the world without war that UFPJ envisions is to ever occur, essential to that vision. After all, in order to move beyond the war economy, doesn’t it make sense that we must end the wars/military occupations currently taking place? If we don’t get this message out there, those who want to expand the war in Afghanistan and ultimately bring it into Pakistan on a much greater scale will assume they have the approval of the US public. The job of the antiwar movement is to let them know that this is not the case. March 21st, 2009 is the first national manifestation of this in the Obama era.

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.

7 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on February 21st, 2009 at 10:17am #

    withdrawing right now all of US troops from afgh’n and iraq wld amount to a tacit declaration that US did not know why it ever invaded the two lands.

    and it wld mean that all those highly priced/prized advisers, generals, cia people were less knowledgeable than a person like me who finished last in his class in each of the three yrs of my schooling.

    and if US wld in future ever clammor for one more war, wld warmongers be believed?

    US, i affirm, will stay in iraq and afgh’n and be at the helm. thnx

  2. Eddie said on February 22nd, 2009 at 2:36am #

    We need more articles like this one by Ron Jacobs. We are being lied to on a daily basis — just like in the Bush years — and War Hawks are gearing up with the “National Security Network” to sell us on why more war is needed. This can’t be combatted with one article a week or a month. We need to increase our focus on what the US is actively doing.

  3. Sarah said on February 22nd, 2009 at 11:17am #

    For those interested in attending the March 21st March on the Pentagon, go to

  4. Martha said on February 23rd, 2009 at 10:10am #

    Eddie, Googled “National Security Network” and that’s disgusting. I see Danny Schechter’s all over it but he’s been drinking Obama Kool Aid for some time. So NSN is going to ‘craft’ a plan and sell it to us that says Afghanistan war is needed?

    That’s one story. There are many more. It’s PNAC for the faux left.

  5. Eric said on February 23rd, 2009 at 11:03am #

    Terribly disaponting that the Left would trust a corporate democrat like Obama or Wall St to see the light and end these wars and occupations without a demand. The Ameriacn Left is not only irrevalent, it is gutless as well.

    Right now it is the poor and working class young that are being pushed into uniform by the economic draft caused by the poor economy of today. I bet if the comfortable collge and middle class Left were confronted by a draft they would get off their rears and demand an end to unjust wars and occcupations.


  6. Jacob said on February 23rd, 2009 at 6:49pm #

    “Right now it is the poor and working class young that are being pushed into uniform by the economic draft caused by the poor economy of today. I bet if the comfortable collge and middle class Left were confronted by a draft they would get off their rears and demand an end to unjust wars and occcupations.”

    If I understand correctly, by enforcing a national conscription of all young adults, they would begin to protest the injustices in those wars or reasons for war. What if they felt the cause was just, would they not protest? How much would you go to protest your way of life? Does it take great harm to focus the public mood? Does it take great personal catastrophe to turn the pacifists to warriors?

    I would be interested to see you expand on your point.

  7. Eric said on February 24th, 2009 at 7:06am #

    Hi Jacob,
    Thanks for your question.
    I do not advocate a draft. Although I do think that Obama’s handlers will try to call for one.

    These wars are wrong and destructive. I appreciate those who are protesting the war now. I hope that more people would call for an end to this war now even though they are not effected by it directly. People do however focus more of their attention on those things that effect them directly first. Elites have used the threat of grave harm to enlist public support for war. Weapons of mass destruction, Iraq. Whether a pacifist will become a warrior is for each pacifist to decide.

    There was mass protest against Vietnam because there was a draft. All youth were at risk. Its unfortunate but I belive that it would take a draft for some people to be more involved.

    I am 60 yrs. old. I am an African American man. I was active in the Black student movement and the anti -war movement.
    I have been politically involved ever since as much as I can. I have tried to, and I attempt to the best of my ability; to live by my beliefs.
    And yes, if they tried to draft my nephews and neices it would compel me to be more involved.

    Its time to declare victory and leave Iraq and Afganistan right now!