June 30, 2005
"All Roads Lead to Baghdad"
A Strategic Analysis of Unity in the US Anti-War Movement
By VIRGINIA RODINO
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,
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
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
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.
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
She's from Maryland.
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