United States

Getting the US Out of Iraq—
Some Reasons for Optimism

By Carole Seligman

The majority of the American people are now opposed to the war in Iraq and want the U.S. to get out, to withdraw our troops. This was thought to be an impossible situation just a year ago. People said that the American people would never actively oppose the war unless there was a draft. But, the people are already having an effect, despite the weaknesses of the organized antiwar movement.

The power of the antiwar position is already showing some results. More and more of the congressional representatives and senators, Democrats and Republicans, who voted for the funds to support the war, are now speaking out against it, now that they know that the people are against it. Not that they are calling for the immediate unconditional withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq, far from it. But they are engaging in public relations activities that make them seem antiwar and they’re trying to do a public cleaning of their blood stained hands.

Another indication of the growing antiwar movement is that the Army has failed to meet its monthly recruitment goals for two months in a row. All branches of the military are stepping up their recruitment campaigns and pouring funds into recruitment. They need more meat for the war grinder, more fodder for their cannons.

One reason for the military’s problem in recruitment is what the news media is calling “The Mom Factor”. This is simply that mothers discourage their children from joining the military. Go moms!

I think we can credit Cindy Sheehan and other parents of soldiers who have been killed, wounded, or are still serving in Iraq, who are bravely speaking out and trying to keep other kids safe, despite a torrent of abuse from organ-ized rightwing war mongers. Many other moms can’t listen to a mother mourning the loss of her son, blaming the president of the country and the congress people who went along with the war and just voted to escalate it, without thinking very seriously about their own children’s safety. And the mainstream media is acknowledging that mothers are harming recruitment!

There are also a growing number of active duty soldiers and Iraq war veterans who are speaking out publicly and urging young people not to enlist, not to go to Iraq. There is active organizing against the war within the military services, including a petition for the redress of grievances related to the administration’s use of lies to justify the attack and occupation of Iraq, efforts to encourage soldiers to resist deployment to Iraq, soldiers attending antiwar demonstrations in uniform and otherwise using their rights to free speech and assembly to oppose the war. Protest and resistance has even reached into the ranks of military officers, such as Ehren Watada, now facing a second trial for his opposition to the war on the grounds of its illegality.

If you read the lists of soldiers killed in Iraq that are published in many newspapers and on some nationally televised news programs, you will notice that most of the American soldiers killed in Iraq come from small towns, suburbs, and rural areas. I have a theory. I cannot prove it, but I think it has merit. I think the reason for this unlikely phenomenon, that the most casualties come from the least populated areas of the country, is actually a negative a reflection of what the antiwar movement has been able to accomplish so far. Let me explain. The internet makes news, pictures, and casualty lists of this war more accessible to people all over the country than any previous war this country has fought. But direct contact with massive demonstrations of antiwar protesters has only occurred in the big cities. That is because the biggest acts of opposition to the war have all taken place in the big cities. This is not to say that important organizing is not happening in small towns. It is. But, the antiwar demonstrations of tens and hundreds of thousands represent a powerful pole of attraction, a source of power, an alternative to the government and it lies.

They show young people, who are deciding what to do as they graduate from high school, that enlistment in the military services is not a good choice if you value your own life and safety, or if you care about your fellow human beings in other countries. What I am saying is that people in the big cities have been exposed to many massive street demonstrations that have provided information and examples to potential military recruits. Most importantly, they have shown that large numbers of their fellow workers and students oppose the war.

What they do very concretely is show that there is strength in numbers. This truism, strength in numbers, is a deep and powerful idea. It is the essence of working class political action. After all, the war makers, the capitalist class, who are only a tiny number of people, have a monopoly on weapons. They have command of the financial resources of the country. They control all branches of the military and the bases all around the world. And they control the government, the state power, and the communications industry. This ownership of wealth and control of the state is the source of their power. They profit from war, from the manufacture of war materiel, the destruction and re-building of bombs, bullets, tanks, and planes. And because they profit from it, war is a constant fact of everyday life.

What do we have? We have ourselves and the fact that the overwhelming majority of our fellow human beings, the working class, have real, material interests in peace. That is the power of massive demonstrations. They can demonstrate our power, which is in our numbers. They show in action people vs. profit.

All the antiwar groups recognize the problem we are confronted with: How to activate and mobilize the huge numbers of people who are now opposed to the war? How can we bring the pressure of the majority to bear on the war itself? Can the United States government be forced to get out of Iraq? I believe that if the movement is able to overcome its artificial divisions and come together to build gigantic mass demonstrations, this will engender a chain of events that can stop the war. It can lead to worker action to stop the movement of war materials. It can lead to organized, coordinated, soldier action to come home.

This would not be the product of one demonstration, of course, but the potential result of a growing mass movement that actively involves more and more working people. It took ten years to build such a movement during the Vietnam War, not that that will be the case now. After all, hundreds of thousands of Americans do remember that their actions helped to end that war.

Right now, all the major national antiwar organizations and coalitions recognize this problem (of how to activate the antiwar majority) and are taking steps to solve it. They are setting dates for important, unified, massive actions. Dates to coincide with General Petraeus’ report on the “success” of the Iraq war escalation (the “surge”) on September 15th (an A.N.S.W.E.R. initiated coalition call); and Sept. 29th, (a Troops Out Now initiated call); and October 27th, which both the United for Peace and Justice Coalition and the Act Now to End War and Racism Coalition (A.N.S.W.E.R.) have called for as massive regional demonstrations for bringing the troops home now. There is no reason why these protests should not be the largest antiwar actions in this country. All the pre-conditions are there. All that is needed now is for everyone to pull together, unite in action, to stop this war. This can be a first step. It can be done. We can do it!