the start of this week about 100 representatives and leaders of the
anti-war movement met in Washington, DC to discuss primarily how to create
the strongest internal unity, particularly regarding the September 24
national anti-war mobilization to be held in Washington, DC.
Facilitated by a prominent African American minister, an African American
imam, and a Native American civil rights activist, the discussion
sometimes delved into negative past interactions between the national
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and
Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER); possible communication
disconnect between local member groups and the leadership bodies of these
coalitions; and the potential neglect of the global justice movement
(given that the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings
are taking place in Washington that same weekend, and events already are
being planned by anti-corporate globalization groups such as the
Mobilization for Global Justice, 50 Years is Enough, and Jubilee 2000).
Much of the 3-hour meeting, however, focused on the possibility of
unifying around a common theme for the anti-war calls to action, and the
marches and rallies for that weekend of action.
In order to justify the following proposal for future political direction
of the anti-war movement, it is necessary to assess the barriers and
opportunities the movement faces at this moment.
In very recent months there have been exciting, almost unbelievable
occurrences that open up major space for the movement. The Downing Street
memos present the necessary evidence that clearly demonstrate the Bush
Administration's deliberate misleading of the U.S. Congress in order to
preemptively attack Iraq. Incredibly, the memos have inspired previously
reticent bipartisan members of Congress to begin inquiries into possible
impeachment of Bush and his neocon cronies.
Opinion polls now show that upwards of 60% of the U.S. population is not
in favor of the occupation of Iraq. When public support fell to such
numbers in the Vietnam era, the tide soon turned successful for the
Military recruitment is in severe crisis. ABC and other mainstream news
sources report that the regular Army missed its recruiting goals for three
straight months entering May, falling short by 42% in April. The Army was
16% behind its May goal of 80,000 recruits in fiscal 2005.
The Marine Corps missed its goal for signing up new recruits for four
straight months entering May and was 2% behind its year-to-date goal. It
is aiming for 38,195 recruits in fiscal 2005.
These precipitous declines in new recruits, particularly the decrease in
numbers of people of color, is worsened by the often spontaneous yet
highly organized counter-recruitment campaigns being borne in towns big
and small, and on college and high school campuses across the country.
These crises have forced unconvincing, whitewashing public assertions from
Bush and Cheney that the U.S. military is somehow winning in Iraq and
bringing democracy to Iraqis. Although still sorely lacking in volume and
substance, corporate media are increasing their coverage of the problems
facing the Bush Administration and its military.
All of this undoubtedly presents a system full of cracks. This is the
system of U.S. imperialism, whose path is paved by U.S. military plunder,
intervention, and threat across the globe: from Iraq to Palestine, from
Venezuela to Cuba, from Syria to Lebanon, from North Korea to Haiti, from
Latin America to Africa.
Each of these targeted countries and regions comprises an arm, a leg, a
bone, an organ of U.S. imperialism. Put together they embody an ugly,
beastly creature, some parts of which are stronger than others.
Importantly for us here and now, the weakest body part of all is that of
Iraq is now the Achilles heel of the beast, the U.S. government's drive
for empire. Battered, raw, exposed, this point must be the focus of the
anti-Imperialist Left in the United States: Efforts must continue to
strike away at this concentrated weakness.
It is a crucial moment and a critical decision. Not because the Haitians,
the Palestinians, the domestic poor and abused are any less deserving of
liberation, but because ultimately a victory of the Iraqi people against
the U.S. war machine is a victory for liberation struggles around the
globe. A military defeat in Iraq will infuse confidence into struggles
everywhere, as it did when the U.S. military was forced to withdraw from
Vietnam. And the U.S. military is indeed losing, despite the unconvincing
bravadura recently displayed by Bush, Cheney, and the other warmongers.
the focus on Iraq and bringing the troops home is ultimately strategic,
"strategizing" being a mode of practice in which a unified Left must
re-adopt in order to win back the gains and confidence it lost through
reactionary right-wing assaults since the McCarthy era.
Bearing the weight and responsibility of all the deserving struggles in
the world disadvantages the Left at this moment for two reasons. Most
importantly, it creates severe barriers to entry into the movement,
ultimately limiting the numbers of people we must be mobilizing in the
streets. Taking noble and justified stances such as unconditional support
for the Iraqi resistance and Palestinian right of return shuts the door of
engagement between the movement and groups such as
Iraq Veterans Against the War and
Military Families Speak Out. These groups, as we learned in Vietnam,
must be the backbone of today's anti-war movement in order for us to
succeed in our quest for peace.
Taking on too many themes and messages also casts a negative light on the
movement by the corporate mass media. The Fourth Estate has become
increasingly unable to competently develop and present any message beyond
a 10-second sound-byte, instead mocking those who try to build cohesive
and comprehensive communication.
addition, forcing a laundry list of the numerous targets of U.S. Empire
onto each demonstration and event necessitates complex ideological battles
with potential members of the anti-war movement. Instead of narrowing the
entry point at the start, we instead must open the door widely, building
the trust that will in turn open minds and hearts, and it is when we are
side by side on the streets that we can more successfully make the tedious
effort of politically dialoguing with new recruits to our movement,
explaining connections, history, agendas, and positions.
can be seamlessly integrated are the concerns and issues of the global
justice, anti-capitalist movement. Costs of the war and occupation of
Iraq, the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz, and the anti-imperialist nature
of the anti-war movement are aspects congruent to both movements. A fusion
of the anti-war and anti-capitalist movements in the United States will
unquestionably strengthen both, boosting the U.S. Left immeasurably.
Calling for "Bringing the Troops Home Now" is not dumbing down the
message. It is being patiently and wisely strategic. In a game of chess
against a master -- and we are indeed facing a most organized and
efficient systemic evil -- we can win only by being as methodically
focused as our opposition.
The immediate urgency for unity within the U.S. anti-war movement demands
that we build the largest, broadest mobilizations possible -- with the
unquestionable long-term intention to 1) build trust among ourselves; 2)
educate about the absolute linkages among global struggles; and 3) make
the promise to continue hacking away limb by limb that of the Imperial
Beast. Only when we unify strategically and deliberately for the long-run
can we create the glorious world we all know is possible and necessary.
is a Director of Democracy Rising (www.DemocracyRising.US)
and a member of the Administrative Steering Committee of United for Peace
and Justice. The arguments put forth in this essay solely reflect the
thoughts of the author.
Articles by Virginia Rodino
Will the US
Anti-War Movement Impeach Bush?
* How US
Anti-War Activists Can Help Topple the Empire