U.S. Politics

UNAC: A Real Anti-War Movement in the Belly of the Beast

By Glen Ford

With passage of a short and elegant plank in its Action Plan for 2012, the United National Antiwar Coalition is building a peace movement that is finally prepared to confront President Obama’s global military offensive, cloaked in “humanitarian” interventionist rhetoric. The language states: “End all threats of war and intervention against Iran and Syria! No to sanctions, blockades and embargoes!”

It is a simple expression of the singular mission of anti-warriors in the belly of the beast. That mission is to disarm the beast—not to quibble with the war machine about where best to deploy its overwhelming firepower, or to advise corporate warmongers on the most efficient killing-mix of live troops and automated drones, or to pick and choose from a Democratic administration’s menu of regimes that might be changed to make the world more amenable to Wall Street. Our task as Americans—our overarching responsibility, for which we are uniquely positioned and, therefore, solemnly obligated—is to dismantle from within the monstrous apparatus of imperial aggression. Period.

I was privileged to present the coordinating committee’s draft of the Action Plan to UNAC’s national conference in Stamford, Connecticut, this past weekend. “This action plan does not just target some U.S. wars,” said the committee’s statement. “It does not target the currently unpopular wars. It does not shy away from condemning wars that remain acceptable to half the population because the real reasons for them are obscured in the rhetoric of humanitarian intervention. It does not advocate that we avoid putting U.S. boots on the ground by mounting embargoes that bring economic devastation on the peoples of Iran. It does not condone war by other, more sanitized, means. It does not cheer on wars that minimize U.S. combat deaths by the use of robotic unmanned planes or the highly trained murder squads of the Joint Special Operations Command. It does not see war by mercenary as somehow less threatening to the peoples of the world and the U.S. than war by economic draft. It does not give credit to Washington for removing brigades from one country in order to deploy them in the next.”

The document demands an end to “all wars, interventions, targeted assassinations and occupations” and U.S. withdrawal from “NATO and all other interventionist military alliances.”

UNAC’s reasoning is rooted in the principle that all the world’s peoples have the inherent right to self-determination, to pursue their own destinies—the foundation of relations among peoples, enshrined in international law but daily violated by the United States.

American exceptionalism—the belief that rules of international conduct, or even the rules of history and human development, do not apply to the United States—is deeply entrenched in the popular American psyche and has long been the bane of the U.S. antiwar movement. It encourages Americans to think they have a privileged perspective on the world and a consequent right to preach, lecture and ultimately intervene in other people’s affairs—just as their government does. In antiwar movements, this national arrogance (deeply entwined with racism) allows self-styled peaceniks to behave like little imperialists, imposing conditions and caveats on their willingness to confront their own government’s aggressions. They reserve the right to pick and choose which U.S. violations of international law to oppose. Unmoored by principle and crippled by national chauvinism, such “peace” movements inevitably disband at the earliest opportunistic juncture.

UNAC emerged with the disintegration of United for Peace and Justice, which showed itself to be more of an anti-Republican formation than an antiwar movement. UFPJ disintegrated at the first whiff of the new Democratic administration, clearing the way domestically for a new imperial strategy: “humanitarian” intervention. At its founding conference, in July of 2010, UNAC tackled the first taboo of American foreign policy with a plank to “End all U.S. aid to Israel, military, economic and diplomatic!”—a direct confrontation with Israeli “exceptionalism.” Last week, UNAC broke decisively with Obama’s humanitarian “exception” to the rules of international behavior. There now exists a place for genuine anti-imperialists to gather and plot for peace—and that is a beginning. No repeats of Libya, no more equivocations in the face of U.S. carnage.

A luta continua—the struggle continues, in the belly of the beast.

Black Agenda Report, March 28, 2012