Click ON Title To Link To United For Justice With Peace Website. I Have No Political Sympathies With The Anti-War Strategies Presented By This Umbrella Organization. This Link Is Merely To Demonstrate At Least Part Of The Reason We Are At An Impasse In The Anti-Afghan War (And The Iraq War, As Well) Struggle.
What passes these days for the anti-war protest spring season has just been wrapped up and the results are, frankly, discouraging. Here are a few items to fill out the story of that pathetic showing. Locally, here in Boston there were two small demonstrations in mid-March around the 6th Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, one a stand out vigil sponsored by local pacifists the other another such effort this time with the ritual reading of the names of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. From what I can gather from the very few sources that I have found that covered the event (none in the mainstream press, at least that I saw) the “radical” ANSWER coalition’s March On The Pentagon on March 21st drew, at most, a few thousand. To top the season off a New York City rally against war and corporate greed that I did attend (and that also got minimal media coverage, as well) sponsored by the United For Justice and Peace (UJP), coalition drew, at most, a thousand or so. I should note that UJP, as an organization went out of its way, despite internal dissent, to NOT protest in the streets during the recently completed 2008 American presidential campaign (for fear of stirring up the red necks against Obama, I assume). So much for parliamentary cretinism of the second mobilization.
So what gives? Well, of course, we are in the age of the Obamiad and there are more than enough illusions in that presidency than one can shake a stick at. This despite that hard facts on the ground, as the mainstream reporters like to say, that Obama has upped the ante in Afghanistan by his escalation of troop levels to amounts similar to that of ex-President George W. Bush when he presented his “surge” strategy for Iraq that had anti-warriors howling in the streets. Recent developments in the aftermath of various European summits have also indicated that that same Afghan war has become, or will shortly with the increased American troop presence, become Americanized. Obama has plenty of Teflon, a chemical compound that old W never had. But there is more to it than that, at least for now, reflected in the worn out strategies that various anti-war coalitions have put forth in reaction to Obama’s current popularity.
I have addressed this issue of differences in the strategy and tactics of the Vietnam anti-war movement and the current Iraq/Afghanistan/ Pakistan fiasco a couple of time before in this space. I have reposted (and updated somewhat) those comments as I believe that we anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist anti-warriors (that is a mouthful, right?) face many of the same problems that we faced in trying to end that still continuing Iraq war and/or bringing down the Bush (and now Obama) government. And just for the record I aver now as I did then- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. / Allied Troops From Iraq And Afghanistan! Hands Off Pakistan!
Originally posted on November 6, 2006 (around the time of the mid-term Congressional elections that brought a wave of “progressive” Democrats to Congress.
“Where Have All The Protests Against The Iraq War Gone?
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 16, 2006
Below are some thoughts concerning the lack of major street protests against the war in Iraq despite the rise in opinion polls of opposition to the war which will apparently filter through the upcoming midterm election results. These thoughts are a response to an article in the “IDEAS” section of November 5, 2006 “Sunday Boston Globe” entitled-“Where Have the Protests Gone?” The theme of the article is the rather apparent contradiction between the rise of opposition to the war and the lack of response on the streets in comparison to various stages of the Vietnam War.
Some of those interviewed commented that the lack of a draft and therefore a general immediacy of the effects of the war on vast sections of the population as a reason. Others argued that the movement was alive and well but that the parliamentary route was the way to go. Others that the rise of high technology has changed the nature of left-wing political opposition. (You know, the Internet as an organizing tool, the cell phone, Sidekick, various social organizing sites, etc.) Yes, okay but we still have the damn hard fact of political life that the war continues unabated, will continue unabated and that unless we take action outside the parliamentary framework and off the Internet that will continue to be the case. In any case, here are a couple of points to consider.
The writer came of political age during the Vietnam War. Here are a few thoughts then from someone who came to protesting from a leftist political perspective the Vietnam War rather late (1968) and the Iraq War very early (early summer of 2002) who also wonders where the heck the protests have gone.
I am as enamored of the potential political uses of today high speed technologies as the next person but let us face it this is a very passive medium. One cannot create social change or create “community” in the privacy of one’s office or recreation room. In fact a very good argument can be made that current technological uses are making us more individualized, or as someone recently put it hyper-individualized, beyond the trends noted in the book “Bowling Alone In America”. There is no substitute for face to face organizing. One of the most interesting parts of organizing against the Vietnam War was when local PTA-type groups would ask me, a known radical at the time, to come and talk about the war. While these suburban matrons did not come away as devotees of Ho Chi Minh they did take what I had to say seriously. To finish the thought up in one phrase- if the revolution will not be televised neither will it be broadcast over the Internet.
A thought on the effectiveness of street protests. Most people I know believe that the huge anti-war rallies were decisive in ending the Vietnam War. Wrong. In the final analysis it was the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army that sent the United States packing. Please remember (or find a photo of) those evacuations from the roof top of the United States Embassy in 1975 as the American left scurrying like rats. I have, as others have as well, noted the many differences between Vietnam and Iraq but every week Baghdad politically looks more and more like Saigon 1975. That said, it is still necessary for the good of our political souls as well as an act of elementary political hygiene to hit the streets to protest this war- against the policies of both Republicans and Democrats.
While the initial strong opposition to the Iraq War was welcome, if surprising, I believe that it was (and is) more shallow that the opposition to the Vietnam War. Vietnam occurred in the, perhaps, unique context of the 1960’s. No only were there many movements going on or created like the black liberation struggle, women’s liberation and assorted anti-imperialist struggles but fights to create alternate cultural traditions in music, the arts and social life in general were everywhere. That most of these failed or still have not achieved their goals does not negate the effect that it had on the times. When there was, for example, a vibrant Student for a Democratic Society (SDS, one of the main villains for most conservatives at that time) in places like South Dakota you knew something was giving way at the base of society.
In contrast, today’s protesters have virtually no connection with past social and political struggles which could help to drive the movement forward. And to some extent, from my experiences, they willfully do not want to know these lessons. Taking to the streets en masse again in 2008 after the Democrats fail to get the troops out of Iraq is way too late. Additionally, almost forty years of relentless right-wing attacks that would have made Genghis Klan blush have made many fearful of challenging this government. But that is another story for another time.
I have noted the following point previously, but as we close in on the 89th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7th, it bears repeating. That revolution was truly the only time that I know of that an anti-war movement actually ended a war. Without going into all the details here or all the many causes for it the Bolshevik seizure of power from those in the Russian Provisional Government who were committed to continuing Russian participation in World War I on the Allied side graphically points out our dilemma. The Russian soldiers, aided by Bolshevik propaganda, voted with their feet to leave the trenches. The American troops should do the same. Who will help them?
Originally posted October 15, 2008 around the time of the 6th Anniversary of the United States Senate’s “green signal” for the Bush Administration to pursue its war aims in Iraq and during the height of the Obama love fest in the 2008 American presidential campaign.
October 11, 2008 marked the sixth anniversary of the United States Senate’s signing off on authorization for President Bush’s war on Iraq. That date and March 20th (the date of the start of the actual invasion of Iraq in 2003) seem to be the focal points for the spring and fall “anti-war” campaign seasons each year. As such one would have expected a huge outpouring of anti-war sentiment on Saturday to “keep fire” under the feet of the various so-called ‘anti-war’ Democrats in the struggle to end the war. Or, at least, to end the funding of the war that so many of them had promised to stop in the Congressional campaign of 2006.
Not so, at least at the local gathering here at the Boston Common. At most a few hundred protesters showed up, mainly the tried and true veterans of the movement. I found myself talking mostly to old anti-warriors from past campaigns. The rather ‘shocking’ part of this sad spectacle was that in the very first lead up action in opposition to the war in the summer of 2002, when the Bush Administration started seriously beating the public tom-toms for war, there were actually more (and varied) people present at the first local demonstration. What has happened to that vaunted ‘street’ anti-war movement?
Well, the short answer, as always in a presidential election year, is that the focus shifts to parliamentary politics. Especially true this year, as year Barack Obama, the Democratic standard bearer, is “committed” to ending the war in Iraq (and shifting the forces and resources to Afghanistan, as the small print of his position reads. But who are we to quibble over such a detail). Moreover, the main anti-war coalitions like Troops Out Now and United For Peace and Justice (or is it justice and peace?) have purposefully, as they do in every presidential fall season, refrained from mass demonstrations in Washington and other major cities so as not to upset people (read, mainly Democrats) with such wild and outlandish slogans such as immediate withdrawal from Iraq AND Afghanistan.
That is the real nub of the matter. The vast majority of the “movement”, such as it is, really believes that one of the lessons that should have been learned from the vast Vietnam War-era protest was to keep off the streets and let the parliamentary road work its ‘magic’ as the way to end the Iraq war. We know now, painfully, the results of that strategy- almost six years of non-stop war. And if we are at all honest no end is in sight. Of course, to be fair there are other reasons for the dwindling number of protests and protesters but let’s address the one reason that we have control over. A new anti-war leadership has to be thrown up and a new strategy of serious opposition has to be embarked on (The odd thing is that even the vaunted current commitment to the parliamentary road has not been seriously organized). In any case- until that day- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal of All U.S./Allied Troops and Their Mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan is still the order of the day. Forward.