Containing the Anti-War Movement


I feel compelled once again to be a skunk at the party, but it’s a role I’m growing into. Cindy Sheehan’s squatter’s camp has re-energized the antiwar movement, but just as it has done so, it has also re-energized the herd dogs of the Democratic Party who fear nothing more than an independent mass movement.

Cindy plopped down outside the Bush gopher ranch on a 98-degree day. The cops told her to leave. As tactfully as she could, Cindy advised them in less scatological terms to piss up a rope, putting the cops, the Bush administration, and the Democratic Party in a dilemma.

Neither the cops nor the admnistration wanted to be held responsible on camera for dragging away the grieving mother of an Iraq war fatality (her son, Casey). For a moment, they were hopeful that there would be an untimely end to this little action when Cindy collapsed from severe dehydration on the first day; but alas she re-hydrated and re-appeared the following day and began attracting mad media.

For the Democrats, of course, of whom exactly one elected offical (Maxine Waters) has deigned to visit “Camp Casey,” this presented quite another problem — the same problem that the whole movement against the war presented prior to the last electoral farce in 2004. The masses were moving to their left and threatening to expose this moribund Weimar formation as the waste of both money and oxygen that it has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be. But Joshua Frank did an excellent job recently on this site of describing the Democratic Party.

I want to talk about something more specific, and that is one of the tactics being employed by the partisans of this rotting political edifice to try and contain the newfound energy that exploded onto the scene at Crawford and threatens to fill the DC Mall with malcontents on September 24th.

And that is the “exit strategy” proposal drafted by Tom Hayden and being vigorously pimped by by policy-encrusted liberals all through cyberspace, the print media, and soon enough on television. This is the oral fomulaic appeal to “reasonableness and realism” of weak-kneed liberals every time a mass movement threatens to gain any momentum — we have to present a “reasonable” alternative (always a POLICY alternative, of course), and we have to face the fact that we can’t “move” “our” agenda without accepting a “realistic” (read: watered down) approach. You kiddies have acted up enough now; go on and play; leave the rest of this to Daddy and Mommy in Congress.

Republicans, of course, are only at risk of losing a tiny sliver of their base among the strictest libertarians over the war.

The Democrats are already grooming a few 2008 candidates, including the execrable Hillary Rodham Clinton who has stated her desire to beef up the war against Southwest Asia. Let’s not forget that her husband presided over an Iraqi holocaust that George W. Bush is still trying to match. The Republicans are secure for now with their white nationalist popular base. An active and increasingly militant left is a more immediate threat to the Democrats ­ who have prospered from Repubilican reaction for decades now by capturing social bases that feel they have nowhere else to go. That dilemma is real, but it is also predicated on the notion that to “go there” we need to contain ourselves in electoralism and pluralist policy fights that are engineered by corporations and NGOs.

That’s why Sheehan and others who propose the radical option of simply leaving Iraq are now being surrounded by the friendly faces of “progressives” who will try and redirect this newfound mobilization along the acceptable policy-debate paths.

Enter Tom Hayden with his “proposal” for disengagement in Iraq. Hayden’s proposal appeared recently in the LA Times, where he explained:

“The rallying cry of ‘out now’ expresses the belief that the Iraq war is not worth another minute in lost lives, lost honor, lost taxes, lost allies. But its very simplicity makes the demand easy to ignore or dismiss.”

Oh thank you, oh wise one, for instructing us on the finer points of political realism. And thank you for putting words in our mouths that have us express precisely the kinds of chauvinist horse manure being shoveled out of the DP stable. Most of us oppose the war because it is a cynical, amoral, imperial crime. To hell with allies and “honor.” And don’t worry. We will not be dismissed. Cindy Sheehan, one of those naifs who say “out now” isn’t being dismissed, now is she? Except by Tom Hayden, who in a patronizing tone, calls Cindy’s “bring them home now” position a “moral stance.”

Tom says that we “deserve a hearing,” and that this means we will have to propose an exit strategy of our own… which is actually Tom Hayden’s. By they way, Tom, we intend to be heard one way or another, unless you mean we deserve to be heard — with our respectful hats in our respectful hands — by the venal “leadership” of elected official-dum.

Your statement is a non sequitur, by the way. There is not anything about our deserving-ness that in any way suggests we have to propose some abstract, unenforceable, debatable-for-the-next-five-years “exit strategy.” But thank you oh so much for validating us in our deserving.

Tell the surviving families of those thousands of Iraqis whose corpses rotted under the rubble of Fallujah that they “deserve a hearing.” Where do you people learn to talk like that? Is there some kind of secret school for Democrats where they get a graduate degree in Weasel Wording?

Here’s Tom Hayden’s “plan”:

“First, as confidence-building measures, Washington should declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil. It must immediately announce goals for ending the occupation and bringing all our troops home – in months, not years, beginning with an initial gesture by the end of this year.”

Tom, old boy, I can’t help myself. This is bullshit.

Are you joking about this? Guarantees from the US? You been to Pine Ridge lately? Ask them about guarantees from the US government. Perhaps you can explain to some of us why this adminsitration would ever offer a guarantee to turn its back on the central goal of the whole Iraq invasion. Let me propose a different confidence building measure to reach out to Iraqis. We make the political cost so high in the US for continuing the war that it threatens the entire US state with destabilization… just an alternative suggestion, you understand.

More of Tom’s “exit strategy”:

“Second, the U.S. should request that the United Nations, or a body blessed by the U.N., monitor the process of military disengagement and de-escalation, and take the lead in organizing a peaceful reconstruction effort.”

Tom, are you having a mescaline flashback? The United Nations? What nationalities, pray tell, will be under those Carolina-blue K-Pots? Or does the UN employ angels? Moreover, why in the world would the US or the Iraqis need anyone to “oversee” a disengagment? Here you propose a plan that is allegedly going to conform to a set timeline, yet it is utterly dependent on the script being followed by actors over whom the US exercises little to no control. I can’t help remembering a similar notion that was enacted by Richard Nixon in 1969. He did get out of Veitnam, however, six years and a million dead bodies later with people clinging to the skids of UH1H helicopters.

Let me just say something about how to withdraw. This is my plan. Hey, if Tom Hayden is qualified to write up exit strategies, why not an old grunt like me, eh?

The Plan: The National Command Authority orders all US forces redeployed out of Iraq within one month and out of the theater in two months. Any commander that fails to meet the deadline will be summarily relieved, and replaced with a commander that will thereby be placed on a shorter timeline. I can promise anyone who has no experience of the military that this is perfectly feasible, and that with that kind of command emphasis, the mission can and will be accomplished.

Here, of course, is where we discern the liberal pre-occupation (pun intended) with “overseeing” disengagement and other such poppycock. Oh Gasp! they will delcare. What then will become of these simple-minded brown people who want nothing more than to drink each other’s blood? At the end of the day, a liberal can be every bit as much the white nationalist as any rock-ribbed Republican Confederate. They really believe that the United States is the beacon of civilization because we have sitcoms and theme parks, and that the brutality of the US military occupation is an aberration — the antithesis of our true nature. Under all this verbiage is plain, Anglo-American Kiplingesque white supremacy. Remember the “white man’s burden to civilize the dark races?”

Tom, here is a delivery from the cluetrain. Iraqis were doing algebra and astronomy when some of our European anscestors still believed that a bath would leave you vulnerable to evil spirits — number one clue. Having smart bombs doesn’t make you smarter. It just makes you meaner. Get over your chauvinist self. Number two clue — the primary catalyst for the intensifying violence in Iraq right now is… the US military presence. Tom, you say this yourself later on in your proposal, which only makes this protracted and abstracted “disengagement” thing all the more remarkable.

But, of course, Tom goes on:

“Third, the president should appoint a peace envoy, independent of the occupation authorities, to begin an entirely different mission in Iraq. The envoy should encourage and cooperate in peace talks with Iraqi groups opposed to the occupation, including insurgents, to explore a political settlement.”

So let me get this straight. The US authorities should be replaced… by a different US authority, remaned, of course, an “envoy.” And the the envoy would be the countryman of… the occupying military. This bait-and-switch is… a “political settlement.” Wow, I’m really getting the hang of this now. I’m beginning to feel like I might be able to CLEP out of Weasel Wording 101.

Tom reminds us that “[n]either the Bush administration nor the news media have shown interest in these voices [of the antiwar movement], perhaps because they undercut the argument that we are fighting to save Iraqis from each other.”

Huh? You yourself are proposing a plan with this assumption at its very core.

But even more astonishing is the attempt to lay the blame for this war at the doorstep of Republicans (and of course the news media). There is an entire party allegedly in opposition to the Republicans — your party, Tom — that hasn’t shown any interest in the voices raised against the war, until of course two things happened: (1) The polls shifted against the war, and (2) large numbers of non-Republican people became disenchanted with the utter and gutless capitialationism of the Democratic Party and started listening to actual leftists.

Some of us were saying all the way back when that Arkansas horseshit-huckster was in the Oval Office that Iraqis were being killed off by the hundreds of thousands in a war (and its sanctions) that started — by the way — in 1990 and has not ceased for one moment since. That war went on all the way through both terms of that sexully exploitative (It DOES matter!) prevaricator, who bombed Yugoslavian bridges and aspirin factories with the same enthusiasm that Bush the Younger has displayed in bombing Afghani weddings and Iraqi hospitals. Where were the Democrats listening to “these voices” then?

Here’s another voice the DP can listen to. “You’re over.” More and more of us are learning that we can never let you take us for granted again. And we can fight Republicans on our own terms… by any means necessary.

See you in September.

STAN GOFF is the author of “Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti” (Soft Skull Press, 2000), “Full Spectrum Disorder” (Soft Skull Press, 2003) and “Sex & War” which will be released approximately December, 2005. He is retired from the United States Army. His blog is at

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Stan Goff retired from the US Army in February 1996. He is a veteran of the US occupation of Vietnam, and seven other conflict areas. His books include Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti (Soft Skull Press), Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century (Soft Skull Books), Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church (Cascade Books), Mammon’s Ecology: Metaphysic of the Empty Sign (Cascade Books), Tough Gynes: Violent Women in Film as Honorary Men (Cascade Books), and Smitten Gate (a novel about Afghanistan, from Club Orlov Press).