With a New Antiwar Majority, Which Way Forward?
BY BONNIE WEINSTEIN
On September 24, 2005 people will come together to protest the war in Iraq all over the country. This will take place despite the lack of a unified call to action by the two major national U.S. antiwar coalitions on that day. Although both major groups, United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), have put out unity statements with the demand, “Bring the troops home now,” they have not been able to agree upon a single, unified demonstration in Washington, D.C. Instead, groups from all over the East Coast and Mid-West must choose which demonstration to attend.
At the root of this disunity between UFPJ and ANSWER is the issue of Palestine. UFPJ claims that if the issue of the Palestine is included, then pro-Zionist Democrats will be alienated. What they fail to acknowledge is that there are no pro-Zionist, anti-war Democrats. And ANSWER refuses to budge on uniting on a single demand.
This means the bulk of those who oppose this war and who want to see a unified action are being left out of the decision-making process altogether.
Is ‘Bring the Troops Home Now’ a sufficient basis for unity?
One demand, the most important one as long as the U.S. is carrying on its brutal war against Iraq, is in both groups’ call to action: “Bring the troops home now.” So, it is only logical that this should be the unifying platform for the September 24 demonstrations.
The “U.S. out now” demand pulls the rug out from under all the U.S. war efforts the world over. Making the U.S. government withdraw its troops would establish the right of self-determination for the people of Iraq. This is in the best interests of everyone concerned, including the majority of the American people, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the people of all the countries occupied by American bases or, like Palestine, which is occupied by U.S.-funded Israel.
Forcing the U.S. government to end the war by withdrawing its troops would be a tremendous victory for working people everywhere. It would give a boost to all struggles for self-determination the world over.
Support for the war is evaporating
The New York Times published an article by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt on July 5, 2005, entitled, “Pentagon Weighs Strategy Change to Deter Terror.” They write, “The Pentagon's most senior planners are challenging the long standing strategy that requires the armed forces to be prepared to fight two major wars at a time. Instead, they are weighing whether to shape the military to mount one conventional campaign while devoting more resources to defending American territory and antiterrorism efforts.” This debate is certainly spurred on by the decreasing enlistment numbers.
So while military leaders are debating whether to carry out two or more wars at a time, and how to do it, American troops are facing a steadily growing resistance by the Iraqi people to the occupation and the tremendous devastation this war has brought them.
The U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are based on lies fabricated by the U.S. government and supported by their two ruling capitalist political parties. The whole world knows this, especially the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The military ranks stationed in these war zones are learning it too. Just recently I spoke to a woman whose nephew had enlisted, left for the war gung-ho, and came home completely opposed to it. Soldiers within the military are balking at continued deployment and the futility they have experienced first hand on the battlefield.
The recent bombings in London were not surprising. The deaths of 100,000 Iraqi civilians since the beginning of “Shock and Awe,” could not be expected to lack consequences in the home countries carrying out this bloodshed! These deaths do not include over one million deaths suffered by Iraqi’s since the first Gulf war and through the ten years of U.S. sanctions. Nor does it count the future deaths due to the tons of depleted uranium that will poison the Iraqi people, and American troops, for years to come. Like the people of Spain learned, Americans and British people are learning that continued wars of aggression will bring terrorist responses.
The American people, including the troops and their families, are starting to feel the same fears that torment the Iraqi people. This is the future that this government has bestowed upon the youth of our time.
Life is not good in a war zone for either side.
Increasingly, our troops are beginning to speak out about what they saw and were forced to do. The prospect of endless war has real implications for them. They didn’t join the military to fight an unending war. They joined to train for a job they would like to have as a civilian back home. That is what you get when you shape your recruitment to appeal to those who are most desperate economically. But this promise can backfire when the military is unable to offer a civilian life to its soldiers until the war is over, and then tells them that it’s an unending war!
It is sure to create soldiers unwilling to wait forever to be civilians again and who will demand to be brought home. Even the draft won’t save this war, because it will be an army of the unwilling and no war can be won with that kind of army.
Unity in the antiwar movement is the best hope for those under the U.S. gun. A united movement stands the best chance to win its demands. It would represent a real victory over the beast that threatens the entire world.
The misnamed ‘war on terror.’
The most profound evidence of the growing antiwar sentiment is the refusal of young people to enlist in the military. Every branch of the military is experiencing great difficulty recruiting.
The American antiwar movement can take advantage of the recruiters’ problems and hinder them from getting new cannon fodder for imperialism. The “Out now!” demand undercuts the U.S. war machine. The existence of, and constant exposure of American atrocities such as torture in Abu Ghraib, and the lies that have been told to get us into the war are helping convince young people not to enlist.
A massive antiwar movement organized in a united fashion so that our activities can be coordinated, so we can reach out to everyone who has never marched or protested before, is the crucial next step. A united and coordinated antiwar movement can magnify the resistance to enlistment and the to this war. It can help educate young people and their families and friends about the reality of war. It can demand that our schools cut all ties to the military such as recruitment campaigns directed at students and programs such as the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC.)
It can demand that schools offer classes that expose students to the real results of air-to-ground bombing, cluster bombs, land mines, napalm and depleted uranium that guarantee maximum “collateral damage.” It can demand school field-trips to veteran’s hospitals to see first hand the results of war. It can organize a united cry from every segment of society demanding that the troops be brought home now and the war ended immediately!
The leaders of today’s antiwar movement are in agreement with this basic demand. The war in Iraq is the motivating force behind the antiwar protests. Watching your kids being hunted in the schools to fight in this war is a motivating force. Watching the war budget steadily increase while all social services are being slashed is a motivating force. Receiving a coffin filled with the dismembered body-parts of your child is a motivating force for demanding an immediate end to this war.
That is why this demand is such a powerfully uniting force. It will be what brings the masses of people out to protest on September 24 whether there is one demonstration in Washington, D.C. or two.
Two separate demonstrations in Washington, DC on the same day will create an artificial and incomprehensible disunity. Everyone will be marching to demand that the troops be brought home now. A united demonstration obviously will maximize these combined efforts and the enthusiasm this unity will bring will compel more to come out and join in.
ANSWER and UFPJ can get around their tactical differences easily by simply guaranteeing the right of all sides to say what they think—including the Palestinians.
The war is getting costlier and deadlier. Masses of people want to protest together and those who will come out are by no means united on all of the issues that face mankind today or even all the issues related to the war. The important thing for the leadership of the movement is to harness this antiwar momentum and call for a unified action. It should also set up a mechanism for debating, discussing and working out political and tactical differences among all those in the movement in an open and democratic fashion while uniting to protest the war September 24, 2005.
Bring the Troops Home Now!
‘I’ll Tell You What’s Hard’
By Bonnie Weinstein
Cindy Sheehan, President of Gold Star Families for Peace was recently introduced to antiwar protesters in San Francisco as a mother who lost her son in Iraq. In response to that introduction she said, “I only wish I had lost my son in Iraq. Then I would not stop looking for him until I found him. But he wasn’t ‘lost,’ he was murdered by this unlawful and immoral war!”
At an interfaith rally for peace in Lexington, Kentucky Sheehan lambasted Bush for saying that it’s “hard work” comforting the widow of a soldier who’s been killed in Iraq. “Hard work is seeing your son’s murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you’re enjoying the last supper you’ll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both,” she said.