Netroots and the Iraq War

by JOHN STAUBER

The Center for Media and Democracy is sponsoring a "Breakfast with the Troops" in Chicago on Sunday, August 5, 9 a.m. at the Yearly Kos extravaganza in the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.

Join Sheldon Rampton and me for coffee, pastries and a moderated discussion of how online activists can better support our troops in their own resistance to the war in Iraq. We’ll be discussing the war with Garett Reppenhagen, Aaron Hughes and other soldiers who are the backbone of Iraq Veterans Against the War, IVAW.

I’ve never attended a Yearly Kos. I’m looking forward to this annual gathering of the Netroots crowd, the online movement that has become a powerful force in Democratic Party politics and fundraising, liberal and left activism, and the news media. The Netroots emerged in 2003 from a convergence of on-line opposition to the Iraq war and the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, the current Democratic Party chairman.

August 5th’s "Breakfast with the Troops" is an opportunity for Yearly Kos attendees to converse with a constituency crucial to stopping the war, anti-war soldiers themselves. Coincidentally the 40th anniversary conference of Vietnam Veterans Against the War is also being held in Chicago the same weekend as Yearly Kos, and Iraq Vets Against the War will be attending. Appreciation continues to grow for the work and leadership of pro-peace Vietnam soldiers in stopping that war. The 2006 documentary Sir, No Sir! illuminates the activism of thousands of soldiers who demonstrated in the streets, organized war crimes tribunals, and often went to the brig for peace.

The "A-list" bloggers and political consultants Jerome Armstrong, who coined the term Netroots, and Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, after whose Daily Kos website the conference is named, wrote a 2006 book titled Crashing the Gates: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. In it, they noted the unique importance of the Iraq war as an issue among liberal bloggers:

The Netroots activist, much like the new generation of grassroots activist, is fiercely partisan, fiercely multi-issue, and focused on building a broader movement. It’s not an ideological movement – there is actually very little, issue-wise, that unites most modern party activists except, perhaps, opposition to the Iraq War, (although opposition to the war seems to be uniting the entire country as of late).

With the Democratic Party’s Congressional victories in November 2006, the gates have been officially trampled. Many of the blogger barbarians are now comfortably ensconced in the castle, a power within the mainstream Democratic Party establishment. Nevertheless, the US debacle in Iraq drags on unabated. The Democratic Congress has funded the war with no strings attached, and Hillary Clinton who is seen by many as the Democratic presidential candidate for 2008 has told the New York Times that "when" she is president she will keep US forces in Iraq but run a better managed, smarter war. How different is her position from the current Bush policy in Iraq enunciated in the Joint Campaign Plan that calls for US forces to impose "sustainable security" on all of Iraq over the next two years?

What’s up with the Netroots and the war? Is stopping the war still an over-arching issue that unites liberal bloggers? Or will the online partisans be taking their lead now from presidential candidates and Party strategists? What can bloggers do to hasten the end of the war and support our troops’ own resistance?

Join us for a discussion of these issues at our "Breakfast with the Troops," Sunday, August 5, 9am, in Chicago at the Yearly Kos.

JOHN STAUBER is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin and co-author of Weapons of Mass Deception and The Best War Ever. He can be reached at: john@prwatch.org

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