Waiting on a President to Do the Right Thing

We live in a nation where the media writes more about professional athletes taking drugs than they write about the country’s Vice-President admitting that he authorized and supports torture.  We also live in a nation where the latest escapades of a pop star get more media coverage than the dismantling of our founding documents by the ever-growing police state.  It’s not that the media care about the pop star or the athletes, either.  Their reportage is done with a spite that approaches joy in seeing these people they have turned into heroes fall.

We live in a nation where candidates for the nation’s leadership position lie to their base to get elected and then do the bidding of their billionaire corporate and banking backers once they have won.  We also live in a nation where the majority of the population wants an end to the occupation of Iraq, universal health care, and a decent living for all.  Yet, most of the organizations that organize for these demands hitch their wagon to the two-party corporate system that makes the fulfillment of these demands impossible, thereby insuring that business as usual will continue.  As long as these groups continue to speak for us without listening to what we have to say, the occupations will not end, there will not be universal health care, and a decent living will not be had by all.

Recently, the national antiwar network UFPJ held a convention in Chicago and decided not to co-sponsor a unified antiwar protest in Washington, DC in Spring 2009.  Instead, they decided to have a march on Wall Street to protest the recession.  While this is certainly an issue that needs to be addressed, one wonders why UFPJ chose this spring to make this statement.  To top it off, UFPJ is calling for this protest on April 4th.  The choice of dates is little more than an emotional ploy to take advantage of that date’s symbolism.  After all, it is the date Martin Luther King, Jr.  made his antiwar speech against the Vietnam War in 1967 and also the date he was murdered a year later.  According to sources who attended the Chicago meeting, it is the impression of a sizable minority of the delegates to to the UFPJ convention where this decision was made that UFPJ does not want to protest the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan while Barack Obama is president.  In addition, they do not want to make the link between the wars/occupations and the recession as clear as they ought to be.  If this is the case, then the Pentagon generals’ jobs are secure, and the business of hegemony, death and torture will suffer not.

There are those who opposed George Bush wars who are calling for patience.  They tell us that Obama deserves a chance.  This is true.  However, if the antiwar movement is not going to oppose the occupations undertaken by Washington, it seems quite likely that those who support the occupations and the so-called war on terror will succeed in their desire to continue those endeavors.  After all, they are not waiting to see what Obama does. They are moving forward with their plans.  It’s important to remember that the natural inclination of the imperial regime in Washington is not towards world harmony, but towards world hegemony.  That is what the system of capital needs to survive.  A new president not only can’t change this essential fact, it is rare that one can even make the drive for hegemony a bit more humane.  Furthermore, it doesn’t matter if this drive for hegemony is challenged by outside states and other actors.  The fact is, the system pushes for expansion and control until it collapses.  Given the adaptability of the system and its constant movement the most likely cause of such a collapse would be inertia.  Inertia is something the caretakers of capitalism can not allow.  That’s why there are imperial wars and that’s why there are government bailouts of banks and industries.  The economy must move, even if it doesn’t move smoothly and even if it destroys the livelihoods and lives of millions of people living under that system.

Waiting for Obama to be the good guy all those who voted for him want him to be is pointless.  Organizing ourselves to end the occupations and the accompanying murders, torture, and destruction makes a hell of lot more sense.  Obama, Bush, Clinton, Cheney or any other individuals are not the problem; they are merely the face of a system that requires war and poverty to survive.  To be an antiwar movement a movement must oppose the wars and occupations of that system.  It’s not enough for a candidate to say they will bring the troops home while he is running for office and then turn the decision over to the Pentagon and the industries it is in cahoots with after he is inaugurated.  If a group that considers itself antiwar believes this, then they do not deserve to be called antiwar.

Like I said before, as long as these groups continue to speak for us without listening to what we have to say, nothing will change.  As long as self-avowed leadership organizations like UFPJ refuse to unite with other segments of the antiwar movement and work all-out to end the occupations now and not in 2012, the antiwar movement will never be effective.  Even if you voted for him, if the man in the White House is not ending the wars and occupations you are against, then that policy must be opposed.

Given the recent decision by the 100 or so UFPJ delegates to reject a spring 2009 unified protest against Washington’s war and to move away from protest politics that might be seen as against Obama (the future face of Washington’s policies), it might be time for the antiwar rank and file that have appeared by the tens of thousands at protests in DC and elsewhere to create a new movement that does want to end the occupations and wars before the end of 2009.

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 collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net






Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. He has a new book, titled Nowhere Land: Journeys Through a Broken Nation coming out in Spring 2024.   He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com