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The Long Goodbye of Antiwar Protest 

It’s been a case of the long goodbye for what’s left of the peace movement in the U.S. On Saturday (January 26, 2019), a small group, very small by historic peace actions go, protested in front of the White House.

Watching the protest and interviews with protest participants on The Real News Network was almost painful. Medea Benjamin’s insightful observations, and a few other people’s, about the ongoing coup against Venezuela were just about the only sane and adult comments in the “room.” Across the globe, the vast majority of governments lined up behind the U.S. administration in its attacks against the people of Venezuela and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.  The fallen zeitgeist of peace was as clear as it was after September 11, 2001.

Maduro is not blameless in what has happened in Venezuela, but that nation’s demise is a complicated matter with many domestic missteps along the way, particularly connected to the lack of domestic economic diversity. Venezuela has enormous fossil fuel reserves, along with other highly valued minerals, which makes it open to the predatory wolves of the global market. Look to Iraq as an example.

Then there are the media outlets across the U.S. and Europe pushing for this bald-face regime change in Venezuela. Imagine a major newspaper or other news outlet in the U.S. or elsewhere suddenly proclaiming that some unknown entity ought to be supported as president of the U.S. Imagine again, sanctions brought to bear against the U.S. for failing to heed that regime change advice. Suggesting that U.S. wealth be tied up by legal stratagems and handed over to the newly selected president would automatically be seen in the media as a case of high treason.

Why bother with the CIA or NSA, or other intelligence agencies when regime change is now handled in plain sight? It used to be that the process was slow, sort of like watching a kettle come to a boil, but this is now the stuff of a post 9/11 world and an Orwellian thought process that is truly disconcerting. The government tells us who we are at war with, and woe to those who buck the tidal wave of warmongering. It was as if they gave the merchants of war a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York City and the sycophants of endless war were the cheerleaders of the confetti brigades.

A comment on The Real News Network piece observed that the disarray in the peace movement reached its apex during the Obama administration when people were sucked in by the empty rhetoric of hope and change and promptly left the streets and ignored Obama’s expansion of the war in Afghanistan.

The long march of the acceptance of regime change through war and subterfuge began long before the Obama administration. Regime change followed upon the heels of World War II and the Cold War. The U.S. championed dictators who toed the U.S. foreign policy line and cared little for issues such as human rights and economic development that would benefit masses of ordinary people.

The September 11, 2001 attacks put regime change on the fast track and a series of nations were placed on one axis of evil list or another and mayhem broke out. Syria and Iraq come to mind as do Venezuela and Iran now. The axis transforms into the troika and few are paying any attention.

Perhaps the cliche fits that when a movement hits rock bottom, then the only way is up. But cliches are always weighed down by the reality on the street and that reality is anything but hopeful. This society has been carefully taught to accept war as a necessity, and not even a necessary evil. Journalist Chris Hedges wrote that War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002). Instead of something to be avoided at all costs, they have sold us a bill of goods about the trillions of dollars that are wasted on wars instead of on social programs. For those of us who were on the streets during the Vietnam War and continued on through the present-day’s endless wars, the writing has always been on the wall. They can fool most of the people most of the time about war. It’s not even seen as sexy to protest war anymore.

 

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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