The State of the Anti-War Movement

by C. G. Estabrook

Ten years after the US invaded Afghanistan, the anti-war movement in America looks remarkably similar to what it was in 1972 – ten years after the US invaded South Vietnam. In each case, more than two-thirds of the American public oppose the war, but the press and ‘educated opinion’ – hence the ideological institutions, notably the universities – support it. Our rulers’ task, in cases 40 years apart, is therefore to make sure that democracy is ineffective.

The American ascendency is in fact more effective at doing that now than they were then: they learnt something from the earlier experience. (See, e.g., Michael Crozier et al., The Crisis of Democracy [1975] – the crisis being that allowing democracy in the US would interfere with elite plans.) But they also learnt that the US public will not allow things like the carpet-bombing in Vietnam: note the secrecy (from the US public of course – they’re not secret from Afghans, Pakistanis, Somalis, Yemenis et al.) of Obama’s drone attacks. 

There are other differences. The wars are very different: Vietnam was not important to the US except as a demonstration war – an illustration that countries are not to be allowed to develop independently, without coordinating their economies with US control. (And the US established the point by killing four million Asians, despite those who claim the US lost in Vietnam: its complete war aims were not achieved, but the important point was made clear to all – look at the SE Asian economies today.)

Afghanistan (“Pipelinistan,” as Pepe Escobar says) is much more important to the US elite than Vietnam ever was. It’s the keystone of the region that the US State Department in 1945 said contained “the world’s greatest material prize” – Mideast oil. Today the US government is threatening, invading, and occupying countries from North Africa to the Indian subcontinent, and from Central Asia to the Horn of Africa – a vast circle with a 2,000-mile radius – the Greater Middle East. (The US military calls it “Central Command.”) Control and not just access to those energy resources is what the US government demands: the US in fact imports very little oil from the Mideast, but control gives the US government an unparalleled advantage over its oil-hungry rivals in Europe and Asia. We’re killing people in the Mideast and North Africa because China needs oil, and our government wants to control where they get it. Our government says that we’re conducting these vastly expensive wars to stop terrorism and protect civilians; but it’s obvious that, instead, we’re killing civilians and creating terrorists.

Finally, the US is a very different country today. In 1972 it was a wealthy and prosperous society, with a self-confident middle class. Forty years of Neoliberal counter-attack to “the Sixties” have seen wages and standards of living stagnate or decline, even before the crisis of 2007/8 – out of which the rich 1% prospered and the 99% declined even further.

And in these circumstances, the US population is subject to the greatest propaganda manipulation in history, because of the failure of US propaganda in the 1970s, when 70% of Americans saw the Vietnam war as “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” not “a mistake.” In his My Struggle (1925/6), “Adolph Hitler suggested that the Germans lost the First World War because they could not match Anglo-American propaganda achievements, and he vowed that next time Germany would be ready. It had a big impact on future developments” [Noam Chomsky].

Barack Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope that “the greatest casualty of that [Vietnam] war was the bond of trust between the American people and their government.” (Paul Street, who quotes the remark, comments, “as if the deaths of millions of Indochinese and 58,000 U.S. GIs were secondary and as if popular American skepticism towards the designs of the U.S. foreign policy establishment isn’t a sign of democratic health.”) Obama sees his job accurately as to restore that “trust between the American people and their government” in regard to his war-making as well as his exploitative economic policy – although his account of the war is a lie.

The first task of the anti-war movement in 2011 is to overcome its co-option by the Democrats in the elections of 2006 and 2008, and dispel the propaganda fog of the Obama administration. Obama’s killing in the Mideast and Africa is more widespread, efficient, and brutal than Bush’s ever was, but the policy remains what it has been for more than a generation.  The anti-war movement must make that clear to the American people – and that it’s being done in our name.

C. G. Estabrook retired as a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana;he conducts “News from Neptune,” a weekly hour of political commentary on Urbana Public (IL) Television – and can be reached at carl@newsfromneptune.com.


C. G. Estabrook conducts “News from Neptune” on Urbana (IL) Public Television.  He can be reached at carl@newsfromneptune.com.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 30, 2015
John Grant
The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015
Jeff Taylor
Iowa Conference on Presidential Politics
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald