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  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,

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.

She's from Maryland.

 

 

 

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