An open letter to the anti-war movement
The anti (Iraq) war movement not being my personal focus (I'm a Latin America solidarity organizer), I offer these words with the sincere belief that the anti-war movement is the most important social movement in America and with the hope that it can win. I think that the movement is approaching a unique historical juncture and must choose to either take advantage of the current moment or fail.
It was heartening to see upwards of 20,000 students, union members, church people and others march through my city of Portland, Oregon this past Saturday. Anti-war activists did an amazing job organizing Portland's largest anti-war protest since the 2003 invasion. I am certainly not writing this letter to condemn large, permitted rallies. I believe that they could be an important part of a broader, campaign-based and tactically diverse anti-war movement.
Everyone on Sunday felt good being around so many other people who seemed to share the same basic rationality of opposing the war. Big permitted demonstrations provide an important space for a variety of people to see the size of their movement while at the same time demonstrate that size to the non-protesting public at large. It also provides a space for more mainstream people who oppose the war, but might not be ready for arrests, to participate in the movement. Maybe the experience will even move some people from being mere marchers to being committed activists and organizers.
But I must say that these marches mean next to nothing if they are not part of a broader and more confrontational (not violent) strategy centered on direct action.
What I mean by direct action is any action taken that in and of itself accomplishes the change you want to see.
The counter-recruitment campaign, for example, is a great idea. This campaign has the goal of stopping military recruiters from getting access to our youth. No more fresh bodies for the war machine means no more war.
Direct action means bringing the war home. Without a draft, a relatively large number of people experience the Iraq war as an abstraction. In the absence of a draft, we need to develop strategies that remind our fellow Americans every single day that we are in the midst of a brutal, illegal and immoral war. If your senator won't call for an immediate pullout from Iraq, we need to fill their offices with civilly disobedient bodies until they change their mind (kudos to those who did this yesterday). We need to strategize for no "business as usual" until the war is over.
Finally, we need to work with organized labor and communities of color. The 2005 AFL-CIO national convention passed a resolution calling for U.S. troops to come home now. This presents a serious opportunity to work with unions in our fight to bring American soldiers—mainly working class, union family kids—home, safe and alive. The same goes for communities of color. Instead of asking them to join our movement, we need to ask them how the anti-war movement can work with their communities, in solidarity with their fights.
This alone isn't going to stop the war...but it might if combined with a dozens of other similar campaigns. I encourage the anti-war movement to begin strategizing for a new level of action.
I offer this letter not as a directive or detailed strategic plan, bus simply as a conversation starter so that we can work together and develop a strong and tactically diverse anti-war movement that is a daily reminder to all Americans that we are at war and need to put an end to it.
The rest of the world and well over 50% of Americans are waiting on us. We must seize this moment.