Peace Movement Paralyzed


The war on Iraq has dragged on for almost five years now. The American people have learned a great deal about their government in the process. Perhaps everything that could be said about the war has been said–not once but many times. There is in fact little room left for analysis–but enormous room for action.

The greatest lesson, which is understood and voiced even by segments of the mainstream media, is that the Democratic Party is every bit as thoroughly and completely a party of war and empire as is the Republican Party–and perhaps even more so. From the senatorial vote for the war in October, 2002, when the Democrats were in control, to the prowar campaign of John Kerry in 2004 endorsed by Dennis Kucinich, to the election of a Democratic Congress in 2006 which promised peace but has continued to fund the war, the Democrats have been complicit every step of the way. And they now promise troops in Iraq until 2013–at least. Lobbying the Democrats or electing more of them has come to naught.

Whatever we may think of tactics to move the antiwar project forward, it would clearly be immoral and unethical to elect a Democrat in 2008. To do so would make us complicit in the Democrats’ complicity in this war.

The second most important lesson is that the strategy of endless street demonstrations, vigils, lobbying has been played out and has now run into a brick wall. By themselves these cannot do the job, and with that recognition they have declined in size and spirit. But more of the same is all that United For Peace and Justice, thoroughly in the clutches of the Democrats, and ANSWER can offer.

That means that the only route to end war and empire is through electoral activity outside the structure of the war parties. But there is as yet precious little activity in this direction, even though time is running out. Instead the antiwar movement seems to be wandering in a fog, incapable of taking this step.

It is time for this to end. And not in some abstract call for “independent” electoral action but in the real world. So what does the real world offer?

There are three alternatives on the horizon right now. First, the Green Party has the organization to put a genuine peace candidate on the ballot in a majority of states–and perhaps in all of them. (It is unfortunate that the Libertarian Party seems moribund at the moment, but it lost a lot of its following when most inside the Beltway libertarians betrayed their principles and opted for the war.) Second, Ralph Nader has the stature, integrity, following and electoral apparatus to get on the ballot in all 50 states and the D.C. –perhaps on his own, but definitely with the assistance of the Greens. (For this reason there is and will be a dirty tricks effort by the Dems to prevent Nader from getting Green Party support, a combination that has them very frightened. Todd Gitlin and his ilk are already very busy on this project.) Third, there is Ron Paul who also has the stature, integrity and following to mount a serious campaign outside the Republican Party whose nomination he is unlikely to win. (But should Paul win the Republican nomination, then an entirely new dynamic will emerge and the Republicans will be returned to their paleoconservative, libertarian roots, emerging as the antiwar party as they were before World War I. I assume here that Paul will not win the Republican nomination, but that will not be known with certainty until after the New Hampshire primary.) Third, there are other national leaders who can put together an electoral peace movement or be part of one. Cindy Sheehan and Cynthia McKinney come to mind. So there are some real world alternatives right now to the “duopoly,” as many like to call the two war parties.

The most powerful antiwar and anti-empire movement would be an alliance of Greens and Libertarians under the leadership of Nader, Paul, Sheehan and McKinney and perhaps others. Barring that, we should make use of all the real world options available. I would hope that they would sit down for coffee sometime very soon. It is time to abandon the old ways of thinking, which are all embedded in the Cold War, and to form new, unexpected and surprising alliances adapted to the present time. Let us put an end to war and empire and then try to resolve other differences in the spirit of peace and liberty.

JOHN V. WALSH can be reached at





John V. Walsh can be reached at