Is a Broader Peace Movement Here? One That Can Really Stop U.S. Militarism?

A new anti-war movement that can really challenge U.S. militarism is being born. People from across the political spectrum joined together opposing U.S. war and empire. In a letter organized by Come Home America they cite a combination of events that present a “historic opportunity to redirect U.S. foreign policy down the pathways of peace, liberty, justice, respect for community, obedience to the rule of law and fiscal responsibility.”

For too long Americans who oppose wars have felt powerless to stop the war machine. Not since the early part of the 20th Century has there been a strong anti-war movement that Americans from across the political spectrum could participate in. The Come Home America letter shows the beginning of such a broad-based movement.

No matter where you are on the political spectrum you will find people with your political philosophy. Signers include advisers to Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton; former presidential candidates of the Libertarian, Socialist and Green Parties as well as an independent, Ralph Nader.  Representatives of think tanks have all signed on.

To challenge U.S. militarism all Americans who oppose war need to become active. The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned of in his final speech to the nation has become deeply embedded.  The security budget (military, intelligence and homeland security) makes up 66% of discretionary federal spending and both parties agree that even this bloated, wasteful budget, at a time of massive deficit spending, cannot be cut.

The budget choices Congress is making, putting the military and security state before the needs of the people, reducing the debt and cleaning up the degraded environment puts a stark choice before the American people.  Everyone should now see war spending affects all of us. The U.S. spends $2,000 per person on the military, so a family of 5 is spending $10,000 per year on war.

In recent Congressional votes the potential of a right-left alliance to stop wars has been seen.  On June 13, 2011 the House of Representatives passed the Sherman Amendment to the military appropriations bill by a vote of 248-163. The vote to end funding of the Libyan War enjoyed strong bipartisan support, with roughly equal majorities from both parties. Earlier in the month, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced a bill demanding an end to the war in Libya. The threat of passage forced House Speaker John Boehner to offer a watered-down, but still critical alternative bill.  Again, the power of cross-partisan opposition to war was shown.

In the senate a cross partisan anti-war alliance is beginning to show.  This July 4th Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Tom Udall (D, NM) wrote a column in The New York Times urging an end to the Afghanistan War. They conclude: “It is not too late to change course in what has become the longest American war in history. In light of our considerable national needs, both security and domestic, we urge the president to bring our troops home at last.”

These recent events show challenging militarism may not be as hopeless as some imagine, but that to be effective the anti-war movement needs to be a politically independent movement that reflects the views of all Americans who oppose war, not just one side of the political spectrum.  A 2011 Reuters/Ipsos poll shows a majority of Americans prefer cutting military spending to reduce the deficit rather than taking money from Social Security and health programs. We must build an anti-war movement that challenges people from both parties who oppose us, while giving support to anti-war elected officials no matter what their party.

The letter describes a perfect storm of events that make this a good time to challenge weapons and war spending. At the top of the list is the faltering economy which can no longer sustain spending as much as the whole world combined on the military. The long-term debt like the short term deficit is in large part caused by war.  As deficits increase and Americans face austerity budgets, support for war spending will continue to decrease.

The limits of war have become evident. The most powerful military in world history cannot defeat people who seek to protect their country from foreign domination. Wasn’t this the lesson  from our own American Revolution?  More and more Americans see how the U.S. military operates through Wikileaks disclosures, the Abu Gharib photos and the thousands of kill squad photos of soldiers posing with dead Afghanis. These are not easy realities to face, but they are realities that explain how war undermines U.S. national security, creating more enemies daily.

The rule of law is consistently violated in U.S. wars, particularly Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution, which specifically states that Congress has the authority to declare war, not the president.  James Madison described this as the most important Constitutional provision but it is routinely ignored. President Obama has taken the nation to war in Libya and spending $1 billion on the Libyan attack without a congressional appropriation. Madison and other founders would be calling for President Obama’s impeachment over this unconstitutional act of war.  Tactics used in recent wars, including torture and widespread abuse of prisoners, further undermine the rule of law. We see alleged whistle blower, Bradley Manning, treated brutally before trial while the crimes exposed by Wikileaks go uninvestigated and unpunished.

More Americans see war is undermining U.S. national and economic security.  The growth of stateless terrorism will not abate as long as the United States continues waging wars which commonly feature torture, midnight raids on families and the killing of innocent civilians.  The mass scale suffering war brings is something Americans can no longer close their eyes to but must honestly face and mobilize to end.

Americans of all political viewpoints are encouraged to join this new American anti-war movement.  The first step is to sign on to the letter. It is a list that will be growing longer in the days ahead. 

We chose the name Come Home America because it is a unifying theme that brings all Americans together. While popularized by George McGovern in his 1972 presidential candidacy, the words ring true today:

From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America. From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America. From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick — come home, America. Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward. Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this ‘is your land, this land is my land — from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters — this land was made for you and me.’

The phrase has its founding in the historic speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opposing the Vietnam War. He called on Americans to unite against the violence our nation was spreading through war:

It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to come back home. Come home, America … I call on Washington today. I call on every man and woman of good will all over America today. I call on the young men of America who must make a choice today to take a stand on this issue.

The letter concludes, citing our founding president:

George Washington urged Americans to ‘cultivate peace and harmony with all’ and to ‘avoid overgrown military establishments,” which are “hostile to republican liberty.’ It is time for Americans to reject fear and militarism and embrace the highest, noblest aspirations of our heritage. It is time to come home, America.

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and is on the coordinating council for the Maryland Green Party. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.