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A Strategic Analysis of Unity in the US Anti-War Movement

At 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 anti-war coalitions, 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 pre-emptively 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 anti-war movement.

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.

Iraq is now the achilles heel of the beast, the U.S. government's drive for empire. Battered, raw, exposed, this point must be focused on by 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.

Thus, 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.

In 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.

What 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.

Conclusion

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.

Virginia Rodino is a Director of Democracy Rising 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.

homepage: homepage: http://www.counterpunch.org/rodino06302005.html

Challenge the liberal Democrats on Iraq 03.Jul.2005 15:37

Lynn Porter

I just sent the following letter to the Eugene Register-Guard:

Rep. Peter DeFazio writes (7/2) that he "voted in favor of the Department of Defense budget bills for the following fiscal years: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and, last Monday, for the fiscal year 2006 bill." Yes, and that is the bad news. The 2006 "defense" budget bill included $45 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This vote makes DeFazio just as guilty as the lying homicidal maniac in the White House. What our troops are doing in Iraq, killing tens of thousands of Iraqis in order to steal their oil, is evil and it must stop. If DeFazio wants to "support the troops," he should vote against appropriations for the war and force president Bush to bring them home now.


more outreach, less squabble 03.Jul.2005 16:14

truthwatch

That was an incredible read, thanks Virginia. I think that once the global justice movement starts reaching out more to the anti-war forces in America, the ideals of alliance building will be reborn and a true progressive movement will emerge from it. But we need to reach out to "others" until the necessary coalitions are built. If we don't take on eachother's struggles (which are all carried out by factions of the same beast) we can never hope to achieve the kind of Revolutionary movement that will bring about true...change. We can no longer afford to "go it alone". We must reach out to ALL progressives who are fighting different fronts of the same identical battle for the same identical goal: justice.

Question 03.Jul.2005 16:57

--

Any new strategies other than large demonstrations? I mean, they're fun but . . .

or we could . . . 03.Jul.2005 20:05

practical matter

just cross mobalize for each others causes.

for example, i hear that the IDA action against the Heathman resturante went well. some activist noticed that the clientell of this resturant could use attention by other activists. anti-war or labor, for example.

i think that each group could consciously start inserting a second anti-war or anti-capitalism message in their action.

why not, we are all of in conflict with all of them? the people who harm the planet are the same ones who exploit labor are those who suppress diversity.

unity is a good idea !

Re: Question 03.Jul.2005 20:19

AmigaPhil

> Any new strategies other than large demonstrations?

How about this: The Summer of Truth


More protest posters: Bush, War, Crimes

Bush LIES - Impeach NOW !
Bush LIES - Impeach NOW !

Monoculture 04.Jul.2005 02:24

.

is a dead end.


You will note that none of these turkeys ever explains, beyond arm-waving slogan-chanting, what benefits grow out of unity, nor even what exactly they mean by "unity". None has said a word nor waved so much as a finger, about the suddenly pressing urgency. No time for questions; just do what I say.

asdf 04.Jul.2005 13:05

asdf

nice try "monoculture" at inverting the truth. you twisted police are so disgusting. there are no lines you won't cross...no grandmothers you won't trample on. you are ruthless and I personally look forward to your Empire's crash. And hard it will. then what will you do?

monoculture...um, I think that's what your masters are attemping to form as we type. what we want is a polyculture...something that you personally cannot stand, which is why you're doing the job you're doing right now, isn't it.

Re: Question 04.Jul.2005 19:50

--

Thanks for the great answers. I love the freeway blogging idea. Unity is a wonderful ideal, but I've cross-demonstrated for years and have found very little understanding of its value among those I'm with. I'm sure IDA would be thrilled if folks want to cross-demonstrate!

How about a large number of small commando groups who find ways to expose and slow down the war machine. I'm not necessarily talking about breaking the law, but until some groups starts thinking creatively, I'm taking a break. I don't know where to find those creative thinkers, though I believe there should be no shortage of them.

Pressure points 04.Jul.2005 20:50

George Bender

Think in terms of pressure points -- where is the war machine most vulnerable to opponents? Military recruitment. The U.S. military is stretched very thin, and recruitment for the military is running far short of the number needed to keep the war going. Organized efforts to fight military recruitment of high school students can make their problem even worse. See  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2005/06/320313.shtml for anti-recruitment contact info.


Anti-recruitment activities 06.Jul.2005 09:16

are interesting.

Anti-recruiting activities are interesting. Do you know who I can contact locally?

Recruitment 07.Jul.2005 00:02

War Resisters League

Portland War Resisters League
Conscientious resistance to war, whether by seeking alternatives to military service or by refusing to pay for militarism, is a unifying element between two groups now united as War Resisters League, Portland Chapter. The Military and Draft Counseling Project provides civilian advocacy for military personnel and those considering enlistment; and Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance provides community support for persons conscientiously refusing to pay for war. OCWTR maintains the Oregon Community Peace Fund, which uses refused taxes as a basis for grants and loans to activist organizations.

503-238-0605
2000 NE 42nd #224
Portland, OR 97213
 huntwork@teleport.com
 http://www.eugenepeaceworks.org


Eugene Peace Works
This very active local group closely follows the WRL agenda, with which it has been affiliated since the mid 1980s. Its roles in popular local initiatives such as the campaign to make Eugene a nuclear free zone, the Homes not Jails project, Media Watch and Cop Watch programs complement its equally ambitious activism on national issues such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, War tax resistance and Iraq sanctions. By hosting the 1992 National Conference, helping to coordinate WRL's 75th anniversary and Day Without the Pentagon, this local maintains close ties to the national office. Meetings are usually held Mondays at 5:30 p.m. upstairs in the Growers Market at

454 Willamette St.,
Eugene, OR 97401
(541) 343-8548

---------------------------------

The Military & Draft Counseling Project of War Resisters League, Portland Chapter

The Military & Draft Counseling Project is a non-profit organization which serves as a community resource on issues related to the Armed forces, draft registration, and military service and a response to the Pentagon's multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns.

We provide counseling and support to military service members and their families concerned about a broad range of issues- including separation from Delayed Enlistment, processing of other discharges, resolving A.W.O.L. charges, responding to harassment or discrimination. We also provide pre-enlistment counseling, legal and medical referrals, information about Selective Service requirements, Conscientious Objection and other alternative options.

The Military & Draft Counseling Project works in cooperation with a network of local and national organizations, and we can make referrals nationwide. We sponsor a speakers' bureau for giving classroom presentations in Portland-area schools, and we organize an annual Children's Peace Fair. Our services are free of charge, but donations and volunteer help are gratefully accepted.

Current volunteer projects:

1. speakers bureau: presentations in local high school classrooms
2. student outreach: distributing "bookmark" fliers to students before school
literature tables at schools
3. arranging for placement of ads in student and community newspapers
4. monitoring military recruiting practices in local schools
5. posting fliers on community bulletin boards
6. your creative ideas...

Contact us at: 503-238-0605. Get a second opinion before you sign up for military service or register for the draft. You may e-Mail us at:  wrl_pdx@msn.com


Yo, asdf 07.Jul.2005 00:23

.

Read the article before you comment.
Otherwise, it is hard to avoid sounding really, really silly.