Blood on Our Hands?

The hypocrisy is so obvious it’s almost not worth mentioning, but when Admiral Mullen stated on July 28, 2010 that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may “have blood on his hands” because his organization leaked thousands of documents detailing US and NATO atrocities and coverups in Afghanistan I couldn’t help but be astounded by Mullen’s self-righteous attempt to shift the blame for the murderous debacle in Afghanistan away from the Pentagon and its civilian supporters.  Only those who refuse to accept the connection between a doomed policy of Washington in Afghanistan and the soldiers sent to carry it out could deny that it is Mullen,  his military cohorts and those who fund them who have blood on their hands, not Assange.

This lot includes Congress and Wall Street, and, unless we do something about it, the people of the United States.  The politicians and the military have been given long enough to end the war and occupation of Afghanistan.  Indeed, they have been given more than long enough, yet there is no progress.  Even if one agrees with the supposed goal of creating some kind of client state in the country, they would have to agree that instead of progress the situation has worsened.  For someone who never agreed with Washington’s desire to prop up a cooperative regime in Afghanistan, the time to do something to end this war is way past due.

But, say those who spent years in the streets opposing the US military adventure in Iraq (an adventure which continues), what can we do?  All those protests from 2002 through 2008 didn’t do a thing.  While this is not the place to argue the effectiveness of those protests, suffice it to say that the fact that Obama campaigned on a promise to withdraw the troops from Iraq is evidence that those protests did have some effect.  Of course, the fact that he has yet to fulfill that promise (or a myriad of others) does suggest that the protests against the war in Iraq were not as effective as many had hoped.  In fact, the more cynical among the protesters do have a point when they question their point.

However, it was not the protests that were pointless.  It was the politics behind them that limited their effectiveness.  The leadership of United for Peace and Justice–the largest of the antiwar organizations that opposed the Iraq war–was too close to the Democratic Party.  This connection made a genuine and immediate end to the war an impossibility for a number of reasons.  Foremost among those reasons are the fact that Democrats in Congress were voting to fund the war while its friends in the UFPJ leadership were supposedly opposing it.  In addition, UFPJ never truly trusted the grassroots.  During their conventions, grassroots proposals for more militant actions against the war that had the support of a majority of the delegates were rejected by the governing board.  Instead of challenging the Democrats to include an antiwar plank in their platform in 2004 and 2008, UFPJ accepted the Democratic leadership’s rejection of such a plank and lent their support to the Anybody But Bush (ABB) campaign in 2004 and at the least tacitly supported the Obama campaign in 2008.  When viewed objectively it is easy to see that the ABB campaign was not an antiwar campaign but just another way to get disaffected liberal and progressive US voters to support war supporter John Kerry.  As far as the Obama campaign went, millions of US voters opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan worked for a candidate who waffled on his opposition to the US presence in Iraq while clearly stating his intention to escalate the US war in Afghanistan during his campaign.

So, what can someone in the United States opposed to the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq do?  What can someone in the US who wants to wash the Afghans and Iraqi blood  from their hands do?  These are the questions one must ask.

Recently, over 700 antiwar organizers and citizens met in Albany, New York under the auspices of the National Assembly to End the US Wars and Occupations.  The purpose of this meeting was to assess the lackluster state of the antiwar movement in the United States and to come up with a program  to revitalize it.  The Assembly has been in existence for a few years now and currently represents the only national attempt to coordinate the activities of dozens of other local and national organizations interested in ending the wars and occupations.  From US Labor Against the War to the Campus Antiwar Network  and from Black Agenda Report to Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace, a broad swath of the movement was represented.  After hours of debate and discussion, a program was agreed upon.  The highlights include a renewed determination to link the job, social services and education cuts to the ongoing war funding and an increased effort to unite the antiwar movement and grassroots organizations fighting the aforementioned cuts.  To this end, the National Assembly endorsed several actions coming up in the next few months, and issued a call for a week of local and regional protests against the ongoing war in Afghanistan from October 7 – 16, 2010.  In addition, the Assembly called for antiwar citizens to support and build Remember Fallujah Week during November 15-19.

Perhaps the most important call emanating from the meeting was a plan to build nationally coordinated teach-ins in March of 2011 to mark the eighth year of the Iraq War and a plan to organize bi-coastal mass spring mobilizations in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 9, 2011. In addition, a plan to block ports shipping military supplies from west coast ports in coordination with immigrant rights and union workers on May Day 2011 was also endorsed, as was a call for immediate response protests should the US or Israel attack Iran or if Israel attacks another aid flotilla.

Will this renewed desire to jump start the US antiwar movement work?  It may, but only if those of us who have allowed the cynic in us to take over get off our tails and back into the streets.   The opposition to the war is at its highest since it began.  Recently, Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch posed the question as to whether or not leaks of atrocities make any difference in terms of ending a war. Although the occasions are few when they have in recent history, the current time is a historical moment that must be taken advantage of.  The failure of the electoral system to address the desires of the US people for an end to the wars and occupations is all too obvious.  It’s time to give determined mass protest another try.  Doing nothing is no longer a choice.

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:




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: