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What WeDo Now

"As the Bush administration continues its illegal and immoral military invasion of Iraq, we must steel ourselves for the difficult days that lie ahead.. Our work for peace has only just begun."
from:  http://www.thenation.org
April 21, 2003
What We Do Now


[from the April 21, 2003 issue]

Over the past six months, we've witnessed the emergence of a global antiwar movement so large it has seemed almost possible that US war plans could be stopped. But now that the war has begun, even without UN sanction, the antiwar movement is at a crossroads. Following is a forum in which David Cortright leads off a discussion on what the peace movement's goals should be now and in the longer term; his essay is followed by three responses--from Phyllis Bennis and John Cavanagh, Bill Fletcher Jr. and Medea Benjamin. --The Editors

As the Bush Administration continues its illegal and unjust military invasion of Iraq, we must steel ourselves for the difficult days that lie ahead. We must also recognize that our work for peace has only just begun.

We should not retreat from our core criticisms of Bush's war or be intimidated into silence. This war was and is completely unnecessary. Iraq was being disarmed through peaceful diplomatic means. It made numerous concessions to UN demands and was in the process of destroying missiles and disclosing its weapons activities when the United States attacked. Unprovoked war against another country without the approval of the Security Council violates the UN Charter and is illegal under US and international law. Such a war can never be just.

The outbreak of war makes our work more important and necessary than ever. It creates enormous new challenges, but it also offers new opportunities. We must organize a broadly based campaign to address the causes and consequences of this war and to prevent such misguided adventures in the future.

We can start by recognizing the tremendous accomplishments of the past few months. We have created the largest, most broadly based peace movement in history--a movement that has engaged millions of people here and around the globe. Never before have US churches, from the Conference of Catholic Bishops to the National Council of Churches, spoken so resolutely against war. Never before have so many US trade unions supported the antiwar movement. In practically every sector of society--business executives, women's groups, environmentalists, artists, musicians, African-Americans, Latinos--a strong antiwar voice has emerged. Antiwar rallies and vigils have occurred in thousands of communities, and many cities have passed antiwar declarations.

The fact that this effort could not prevent war reflects not the weaknesses of our movement but the failures of American democracy and the entrenched power of US militarism. The Bush Administration has shown utter contempt for public opinion at home and abroad. It manipulated legitimate public concerns about terrorism to assert a false connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda and refused to tell the American people or Congress how much the invasion and occupation would cost until after the war was already under way.

Our short-term objectives will depend on how the war unfolds, whether it is a short, "successful" military campaign or becomes a drawn-out war of attrition with constant sniper or guerrilla attacks. We hope there will be few casualties, both for Iraqis and Americans, but we know that a quick victory will bolster the very policies we abhor. We urge our government to do everything possible to avoid unnecessary death and destruction. Our short-term political agenda should include the following demands and issues:

Protect the innocent. The United States should provide massive humanitarian assistance and economic aid for the Iraqi people and other vulnerable populations in the region. We should support the reconstruction and development of Iraq. This assistance should be administered by civilian agencies, not the Pentagon. We should also demand, or if necessary provide, an accurate accounting of the civilian dead.

Support our men and women in the armed forces. We regret that their Commander in Chief has sent them on an ill-advised and unnecessary mission, but we respect and thank them for their service. We urge special support for the families of service members and reservists who have been sent to the Persian Gulf. We call for greater efforts to address the medical problems that will result from service in the gulf. More than 167,000 veterans are currently on disability as a result of their service in the first Gulf War. We condemn the cuts in veterans' benefits approved by the Republican-controlled Congress and call for increased availability of medical care and other benefits for veterans.

Bring home the troops. We urge the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq as soon as possible. We oppose the creation of any long-term or permanent US military bases in Iraq.

No war or military threats against Iran. We oppose any attempt to coerce or threaten Iran with military attack. It is no secret that extremists in Washington and Israel favor a military strike against Iran as the next phase in the "war on terror." This would be a further catastrophe for the cause of peace and must be vigorously resisted.

No war for oil. We oppose any US effort to seize control of Iraqi oil or to demand a percentage of Iraqi oil revenues. Ownership of Iraqi oil should remain with the Iraqi people. Iraq was the first Arab nation to nationalize its petroleum resources, and it must be allowed to retain control over this wealth to rebuild its economy and society.

Peace in the Middle East. The United States should give active support to a genuine peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. We should pressure both sides to accept a peace settlement that ends the violence and creates two sovereign and viable states.

Support for regional disarmament. The Gulf War cease-fire resolution of 1991 specified that the disarmament of Iraq was to be the first step toward the creation in the Middle East of a "zone free from weapons of mass destruction." The elimination of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq should thus lead to their elimination throughout the region.

Our response to war and military occupation in Iraq must also include a longer-term vision of an alternative US security policy. The Bush Administration claims that the deadly nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction requires a radical new foreign policy of military pre-emption and the unilateral assertion of American technological power. This is the policy being implemented in Iraq. We must offer an alternative vision, one that takes seriously the terrorism and proliferation threat but that provides a safer, less costly and ultimately more successful strategy for countering these dangers.

The outlines of our alternative strategy are visible in the policy proposals we have suggested in the current debate over Iraq. We support the disarmament of Iraq, North Korea and other nations regarded by the international community as potential proliferators. We favor vigorous UN weapons inspections to verify disarmament. We call on our government to work diplomatically through the UN Security Council. We endorse targeted sanctions (restrictions on the finances and travel of designated elites, and arms embargoes) and other means of containing recalcitrant states. We endorse lifting sanctions and providing incentives as means of inducing compliance. We support the international campaign against terrorism and urge greater cooperative efforts to prosecute and cut off the funding of those responsible for the September 11 attacks.

At the same time, we recognize that disarmament ultimately must be universal. The disarmament of Iraq must be tied to regional disarmament, which in turn must be linked to global disarmament. The double standard of the United States and other nuclear states, in which we propose to keep these deadliest of weapons indefinitely while denying them to the rest of the world, cannot endure. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1968 was based on a bargain--the nuclear powers' agreeing to pursue disarmament in exchange for the rest of the world's renouncing the nuclear option. The longer the United States and its nuclear partners refuse their obligation to disarm, the greater the likelihood that the nonproliferation regime will collapse. The only true security against nuclear dangers is an enforceable ban on all nuclear weapons. Chemical and biological weapons are already banned. The far greater danger of nuclear weapons also must be subject to universal prohibition.

A global prohibition against all weapons of mass destruction is the best protection against the danger of terrorists' acquiring and using them. In effect, the disarmament obligations being imposed on Iraq must be applied to the entire world. All nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles should be banned everywhere, by all nations. This is the path to a safer and more secure future.

Of course, a ban on weapons of mass destruction would be meaningless without robust means of verifying and enforcing such prohibitions. A world of disarmament will require much stronger mechanisms of monitoring and enforcement than now exist. The policies we have supported for the peaceful disarmament of Iraq--rigorous inspections, targeted sanctions and multilateral coercive diplomacy--can and should be applied universally to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction. The UN weapons-inspection capability should be increased a hundredfold and deployed throughout the world to monitor and verify the universal ban on weapons of mass destruction. Nations that refuse to comply with verified disarmament requirements should be subjected to targeted sanctions and coercive diplomatic pressures from the UN and other regional security organizations. Nations that cooperate with disarmament mandates should receive inducements in the form of economic assistance, trade and technology preferences, and security assurances. These policy tools, combined with a serious commitment to sustainable economic development for developing nations, are viable means for helping to assure international compliance with a global disarmament mandate.

This is not a pacifist vision that eschews all uses of military force. The threat of force is sometimes a necessary component of coercive diplomacy. In some circumstances the actual use of force--ideally in a targeted and narrow fashion, with authorization from the UN Security Council or regional security bodies--may be necessary. In contrast with the policy of the Bush Administration, however, the proposed approach would allow the threat or use of force only as a last resort, when all other peaceful diplomatic means have been exhausted, and only with the explicit authorization of the Security Council or regional security organizations. In no circumstance would the United States or any other nation have the right to mount a military invasion to overthrow another government for the ostensible purpose of achieving disarmament. Rather, the United States would respect the Charter of the UN and would strive to achieve disarmament and settle the differences among nations through peaceful diplomatic means.

Our immediate challenge in implementing these short- and long-term objectives is to change the political direction and leadership of the United States. In the upcoming political debates we must devote our energies to building support for our alternative foreign-policy vision and creating a mass political constituency that can hold candidates accountable to this vision. Our chances of preventing future military disasters depend in the short run on removing the Bush Administration from office and electing a new political leadership dedicated to international cooperation and peace. This is a formidable political challenge. It will be extremely difficult to accomplish by November 2004. We must begin to organize for this challenge now, however, and we must remain committed to this objective into the future, planning now for the additional election cycles that will probably be necessary to realize our goals. We must also recognize the enormity of the challenge we face in diminishing the unelected power of the national security establishment, which functions as a shadow government regardless of who is in office. These great challenges will be met only by a sustained, massive citizens' movement dedicated to the long-term challenge of fundamentally reshaping America's role in the world. The work begins now, as the military invasion of Iraq continues. We have no time to mourn. A lifetime of organizing and education lies ahead.

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Response 1

by PHYLLIS BENNIS & JOHN CAVANAGH[from the April 21, 2003 issue]David Cortright has laid out many aspects of an agenda to help the US peace movement move from the immediate work of trying to stop this war, to continuing to broaden the reach of our movement into new constituencies. We would like to add some thoughts on the challenges we face in also trying to create a comprehensive agenda for a global peace movement at the same time that we broaden the US part of that movement. First, on the domestic front, we would supplement Cortright's ideas with a justice agenda such as that articulated in the United for Peace and Justice campaigns and in the many city council debates in the 162 cities that have passed resolutions against the war. Here two issues are paramount: protecting civil liberties, particularly involving the attacks on Arabs and other immigrant communities, and the broader threat to all of our constitutional rights; and shifting national priorities from the bloated military to meet domestic needs--especially at a time of city and state budget crises. In both these arenas, maintaining the link between the war drive and its domestic consequences has been critical in mobilizing important constituencies, particularly in communities of color, and thus helping to integrate the long-segregated US peace movements. We would also propose broadening our agenda now to reflect the reality of our emerging worldwide peace and justice movement. Especially since the globally coordinated peace actions in more than 600 cities around the world on February 15, the international character of our movement has been strengthened. Virtually everywhere around the world, peace forces are clear that this war is not about weapons of mass destruction or democratization, and that the issue is not simply war in Iraq today but the Bush Administration's reckless drive for empire and power. Building our ties with other parts of this international mobilization will help strengthen our own movement's "anti-empire" identity--such as including our government on the list of identified proliferators. It is also fascinating to note that in France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, the Philippines and many other countries (more than in the United States), the peace movements are made up of largely the same forces as the anti-corporate globalization or global justice movements, and, while demanding peace, they are pressing for a more equitable, just and sustainable global order. It will take some time for a unifying agenda for the "global peace movement" to emerge, but in addition to the excellent universal disarmament agenda that Cortright lays out, it might include the following: Emphasizing the primacy of internationalism and the centrality of the United Nations in all our work. That means claiming the UN as our own, as part of the global mobilization for peace, and working to empower the UN as the legitimate replacement for the United States empire we seek to disempower. Even now, as we continue to demand an immediate end to the war, we must emphasize the need for the UN, not the Pentagon, to take charge of the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. We are engaged now in building a global movement for peace and justice in a new kind of world--and we need a new global strategy that builds on but goes way beyond strategies to address security threats to people in the United States.

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Response 2

by BILL FLETCHER JR.[from the April 21, 2003 issue]The war is just two weeks old, yet the Bush Administration has accomplished the unprecedented isolation of the United States worldwide, even from several of its historic allies. This is not a matter of poor public relations but the result of widespread opposition to US foreign policy objectives. For the masses in the streets, this illegal and aggressive war defies credibility. The right is now trying to twist patriotism into a hammer against the antiwar movement, and I think Cortright is too cautious in his response. We must continue the pressure to end the fighting, and insist that opposition to this war does not reflect a failure to support the US troops but the opposite: We support them by calling for their immediate return home. By far the biggest challenge for the antiwar movement will be to expand our horizons to oppose the full measure of the Bush Administration's new National Security Strategy. That Saddam Hussein's regime is so unpopular in Iraq and around the world has made implementing the first stages of this pre-emptive war doctrine easier. While the Administration clearly hopes that a successful invasion and occupation of Iraq will allow it to reshape regimes elsewhere, the US antiwar movement must connect the madness and immorality of the current invasion with this Administration's new doctrine of empire. With all this in mind, the US antiwar movement needs to advance the following program: Immediate cessation of hostilities: Despite the fatalism being promoted by the media, the antiwar movement must insist that the Anglo-American invasion cease and that the UN be reintroduced as a peacemaking body. Oppose empire-building and fight for a democratic foreign policy: US aggression did not begin, nor will it end, with the invasion of Iraq. The antiwar movement must take on, directly, the Bush Administration's National Security Strategy. We must advance an alternative vision of the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world, not just because it will be safer and less costly, but because it is right. Remove weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East: Cortright says correctly that "disarmament ultimately must be universal," but neglects to explicitly mention Israel, which has undisclosed numbers and types of WMD. Steps need to be taken to make the Middle East a zone free of such weapons. Support for Palestinian self-determination: Peace will never emerge in the Middle East without the Palestinian people gaining their national rights and security. As long as the Israeli government is permitted to continue the occupation of Palestinian land and to suppress the Palestinian movement, the seeds of future terrorism and destabilization will be fertilized. Continue to broaden the antiwar movement: The Iraq war and the "war against terrorism" are being used to advance an extreme right-wing agenda. Domestic repression is on the increase, an antiworker economic strategy is being used to strangle the public sector and public services while strengthening the military, and the demonization of Arabs, Muslims and Central Asians has become commonplace. The antiwar movement must increase its reach in order to tackle these issues. At the same time we must expand the movement so that it is far more reflective of the diverse progressive social movements in the United States, particularly within communities of color.

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Response 3

by MEDEA BENJAMIN[from the April 21, 2003 issue]Ifind David Cortright's call useful but limiting. The most exciting aspect of the antiwar organizing has been its global reach. While in the anticorporate globalization movement we had already formed impressive ties with grassroots movements overseas, antiwar organizing has given us the opportunity to expand geographically to areas such as the Middle East, where we had less-developed contacts; to multiply our ranks with a dazzling array of new sectors, from city councils to women's and civil rights organizations such as NOW and the NAACP; and, most important, to merge the peace movement with the movement to fight corporate-dominated globalization. How do we build on this momentum? Organize, organize, organize. Let's organize more World Social Forums where we gather physically to meet and strategize. Let's send grassroots teams to the world's hot spots--North and South Korea, Iran, Syria--to link up with appropriate local and regional groups to prevent the next war, instead of sending human shields at the eleventh hour. Let's start a global campaign to democratize the UN by giving power to the General Assembly instead of the Security Council. Let's channel the bursting anti-American sentiment overseas into targeted boycotts against corporations profiting from war. Let's launch global, grassroots campaigns to get the United States to sign on to international treaties and institutions such as the International Criminal Court and the Kyoto Protocol. Working with local communities where US troops are based, let's start a Bring All the Troops Home campaign to stop the expansion of US bases and start dismantling some of the hundreds of existing bases overseas. Here at home, our greatest challenge is to make sure that our antiwar coalitions don't fall apart after the immediate crisis ends. This will involve linking opposition to the war to urgent domestic crises: teaming up with folks fighting service cuts to oppose the way military spending robs our schools, hospitals and housing programs; making common cause with immigrant and ethnic groups that have found themselves under attack in the wake of September 11; and working together with libertarians and conservatives to counter the erosion of our civil liberties. And while Cortright is right that we must organize to get Bush out of power in 2004, let's realize that the two-party system is not working, that the Democratic leadership has blood on its hands for sanctioning this war and that we must build a multi-party system--opening the space for truly progressive parties such as the Greens--for democracy to take root in this country. The past six months of frenetic organizing have taught us that we are indeed a formidable global force. It is through strengthening this global movement for peace and justice--a movement never before seen--that we can bring about sweeping changes in who makes decisions for our global community and in whose interests those decisions are made. It is through flexing the muscle of the new superpower--world public opinion--that we can, in the long term, challenge the dominant corporate and military powers that dragged us into this bloody war.

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The Vision Primary

[from the March 31, 2003 issue]The presidential contest has begun, as usual, with the "money primary," in which major donors choose their favorites and weed out other candidates, long before any citizen has an opportunity to vote. The "media primary" accelerates the process of elimination by imposing its own random prejudices on the field. The Nation will promote a rival contest--the "vision primary"--in which candidates are evaluated in terms of how forward-looking their ideas are. (The first of a series of candidate interviews, which is part of that process, begins on page 17.) Here are some elements of a proposed "visionary" agenda, against which candidates' programs can be measured: Economic and Social Justice. We need a universal healthcare system--one only government can construct--that will insure equitable access and control prices. America's ten-year experiment in letting insurance companies and HMOs manage the healthcare system has failed spectacularly. Both employees and businesses have suffered, because it did not contain fierce price inflation for drugs and medical care. We also need universal access to decent housing and education, as well as a national "living wage"--a required minimum floor that provides a basic living standard for all workers. Instead of whipping poor people at the bottom, the government should act as "employer of last resort," a form of safety net that would serve as an economic stabilizer in bad times, then recede in good times. And we need to do a better job of providing for older citizens: The scandal of Social Security is not its financial crisis but the shameful fact that half of the country has nothing else to rely on for their retirement years. Beyond these basic human needs, we must fix our broken cities and our criminal justice system, afflicted by a failed drug war. The much greater challenge is to reorder American capitalism itself, untangling the malformed power relationships that allow a relative handful of insiders and financiers to organize society for their benefit, abusing employees, communities and even shareholders while trampling on essential public values. For starters, a reform President would promote new civil rights legislation for workers, restoring their right to organize, and require independent representatives of consumers and workers on boards of trustees. An End to Empire. The Bush Administration has made military dominance the defining feature of its international policy, justifying it in terms of the "war on terror." But dominance has not made us more secure, nor has it resulted in a more stable and democratic world. Progressive candidates must speak bluntly about the perils of American imperialism and offer as an alternative a commitment to a global order based on the rule of law. Democrats need to challenge Bush for his systematic assault on global initiatives, from the Kyoto Protocol to the treaty banning landmines to the International Criminal Court. The goal of the United States ought not to be to hold power over other people but to help build common institutions for keeping the peace, eliminating weapons of mass destruction and assisting all people to build viable societies. The coalition forged after September 11 that has tracked down Al Qaeda networks in scores of countries is an example of the efficacy of such global cooperation. The rush to war in Iraq demonstrates the perils of the Bush doctrine of unilateral pre-emption. Even as it works to root out terrorism, it is essential that the federal government adhere to the principles for which the nation stands. In the domestic arena, we should not selectively impose on foreign nationals burdens that we are unwilling to tolerate for ourselves. In the international arena, we should not act as if we are immune in the long run from the rules of international law, which are essential to global peace and security. Secrecy, unfettered surveillance, unmonitored covert actions and kangaroo courts do little to advance the war on terror and much to erode the liberties for which that war is being fought. Democrats should be prepared to argue that we cannot defend American liberties by trampling on them. Protection of the Environment. Bush's relentless retreat from environmental protection should form a central component of every Democrat's campaign. The ease with which a reactionary President can gut regulatory laws to please his industry patrons is its own scandal. But it is time to sound the charge, not simply bemoan the retreat. A Democratic candidate should lay out an ambitious program for energy independence--an investment- and jobs-led effort to develop renewable energy and increase energy efficiency. This should be the centerpiece of a broader effort to detail an agenda for green growth: for investments that both stimulate growth and jobs that move us closer to a sustainable economy. Values-Centered Globalization. The moral dilemma of sweatshops--American consumers buy goods made in the global system's "dark satanic mills"--is a good starting point. Progressive candidates should hail the global movement for sensible rules to govern the world marketplace. In addition, they should be proposing concrete national legislation, directed at America's own multinationals, instead of waiting endlessly for global agreements. A modest first step would be an "international right to know" law that would require US companies operating overseas to provide foreign workers and communities with regular reports on toxic releases and environmental impact as well as their records on labor and human rights. Beyond fairness, there is the need to reconstruct the global system itself. Since the end of the cold war, successive administrations have championed a form of globalization that has associated economic progress with deregulation and privatization. But it is now clear that this has only resulted in worse conditions for many of the world's people. The challenge is in how to translate the productivity gains made possible by the spread of technology and industrialization into rising living standards everywhere, so that all working men and women can consume more of their own increased production. That means international financial institutions must be reoriented away from making developing countries safe for American finance and multinationals, and toward what might be called global Keynesianism. We need institutions that will do at the global level what the New Deal and European social democracy did at the national level in the last century: build credit markets that serve the needs of working people, insure that workers benefit from rising wages and are protected from exploitative labor practices, and finance public investment projects that bring healthcare and education within the reach of all. Bust-Up of the Power Club. The concentration of media ownership is a leading example, but the bloated size and encroaching control of mega-corporations is a general affliction, whether the villain is Wal-Mart or Citigroup, Big Pharma or corporatized agriculture. We need a progressive candidate who calls for reform of antitrust doctrine, which has been systematically stripped of meaning. The suspicion of bigness is a natural virtue of Americans; that skepticism toward the scale of mergers and takeovers should be restored in law. Strengthening of Democracy. The two-party monopoly that controls access to elected office can be broken up--or at least ventilated--with electoral reforms like instant-runoff voting. The freewheeling public debates suppressed by money politics and by media concentration could be liberated with public financing for candidates. Free airtime, same-day voter registration and an end to the disfranchisement of felons should be part of strengthening our democracy. This list is only preliminary, of course, intended to illustrate the possibilities and prod others into thinking big, too. We are not nave: Neither the political system nor the public at large is ready for most of these propositions, but they won't ever be until some citizens--and some office-seekers--take on the role of agitators and educators. The 2004 primary contest will reveal which Democrats are most likely to rise to that challenge. Democrats, in any case, are very unlikely

from:  http://www.thenation.org
April 21, 2003

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