It’s time the antiwar movement got off its tail. The lackluster organizing currently going on will insure nothing but more war and greater frustration. While one would be a fool to think any antiwar movement can force Washington’s hand into pulling US forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan before Inauguration Day 2005, I can guarantee that unless we start organizing again right now to stop this war, it will be like starting all over again the day after the inauguration, no matter who is the US president.
Why is the antiwar movement in disarray? The most obvious answer is the Anybody But Bush phenomenon. The personalization of the war around George Bush has created a misguided belief among many people who oppose the war and the imperial drive it represents that this war will somehow end if Bush and his cohorts are given their walking papers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. This war, as has been said many times before, is more than Bush’s war; it’s a war for total US domination of the world. That domination project is a project held dear by the leadership of both the Democrats and Republicans and is guided not by party politics but by the economic realities of the world capitalist system. This system is dominated by the United States.
Why is it dominated by the United States? To be brutally frank, the US dominates the world because of its military superiority. Sure, it got to where it is today through a combination of economic and military strength, but it sits at the top of the pile now solely because its military is larger, better equipped with the most deadly weapons, and trained to brutalize its opponents into total submission, Geneva conventions be damned. This fact does not change when a Democrat is in the White House. One need only look back to the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo in 1999 if they desire proof of this.
The Republicans have their Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The Democrats have their own take on how to maintain and expand the Empire. It is a plan that they call Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy. Its only discernible difference from the GOP approach is a greater emphasis on using international organizations like the United Nations and strategic alliances like NATO to keep those opposed to the US’s dominance suppressed. Utilizing a Wilsonian moralism, the Democrats’ document places the war on the world in terms that are not much different than the GOP’s Project for a New American Century. This one quote from the forward says it all: “Democrats will maintain the world’s most capable and technologically advanced military, and we will not flinch from using it to defend our interests anywhere in the world.”
So why are at least two of the primary antiwar organizations in the United States-MoveOn and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) promoting the idea that John Kerry in the White House will mark a significant change in US foreign policy, especially as it regards the war in Iraq? Furthermore, why are they joined by dozens of activist spokespeople, antiwar entertainers and other from the media world? Whether these groups and people state openly that US voters should vote for anyone but Bush or whether they tacitly encourage such an action, they are setting up the millions of US residents who sincerely oppose the war in Iraq and want the troops out of there now, not tomorrow.
What to do, then? To me, the answer is actually quite obvious. We need to organize around a clear set of demands that reflect a conscious anti-imperialism. This means that we should not get bogged down in discussions about the United Nations or NATO, nor should we fall for the argument that a US presence in Iraq or Afghanistan will bring democracy to those countries. After all, it isn’t democracy that the United States wants to install, it’s capitalism. Why else is Washington so keen on privatizing every industry and service in Iraq that was previously state-owned? If I were to present a potential set of organizing demands to a national antiwar organization, they would read something like this:
The US must begin the immediate and total withdrawal from Iraq, and must publicly set the date by which all US military forces will be removed.
An immediate cease-fire between US forces and those in the Iraqi Resistance.
An end to the imposition of Allawi and other US-picked administrators on the people of Iraq in order to insure their right to self-determination, and so that all political prisoners currently incarcerated by the US and its client regime can be released.
Elections in which all Iraqis can participate freely without the presence of any foreign troops, unless invited in by all those Iraqis involved.
The discussion of procedures to guarantee the safety and political freedom of those Iraqis who have collaborated with the US or with the US-supported regime.
The incorporation of the freely elected Iraqi government into the international community on terms freely negotiated by that government and the appropriate international institutions.
A similar set of demands could be applied to Afghanistan, with some tailoring to the situation in Afghanistan written in.
It is only when we in the antiwar movement decide to go beyond the stunted thinking of those in the US political and economic leadership that we will create the opportunity to end this murderous and destructive war. The politicians are unable to think in terms that transcend their paymasters, no matter how much they would like to. If we allow the agenda to be set by their politics and elections, we will fail. It is up to us to create a popular momentum that those in power cannot ignore. Only then will they feel secure enough to look beyond their corporate masters and actually do what the people want them to.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org