Swans Commentary » swans.com June 18, 2007  



A Rudderless, Co-opted Antiwar "Movement"


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - June 18, 2007)  The antiwar "movement" in the United States, headed by powerful and would-be charismatic people, often women, weaves a careful pro-Democratic and anti-Republican web. It tends to shun all parties that do not espouse the Democratic mantra, from the so-called hard left (e.g., ANSWER) to the so-called right-wingers (e.g., Ron Paul, Justin Raimondo, etc.). It is the antinomy of an antiwar-wide coalition, and it is threatened with, if it has not yet achieved, irrelevance. Self-defined Leftists who get into uncomfortable alliances with the pro-Democrat antiwarriors make a fool of themselves. True antiwarriors and pacifists must walk away from these uneasy alliances with Democratic hands that operate with good intentions, but erroneously, and build a proper antiwar coalition that embraces liberals, conservatives, and radicals, including people of all ethnicities, especially African Americans. The antiwar "movement" as presently packaged must be shelved and a new coalition must rise to the fore. To make the case, I'm going to use an e-mail I received from a "Leftist" criticizing my last article, "Welcome Back To Reality, Cindy," and go on from there. The point I am trying to interject in the feeble discourse that drowns us all is that we need to move on and forward, and skip away from the habitual.

Here is what Stephen and Polly Loughrane (sloughraneATcox.net) wrote (unedited):

so now we have neo-liberals?? taken off of neo-cons?? how original... so who are the neo-liberals?? people trekking towards the center cuz the norm is so extreme right wing??

don't take cindy's leaving as a total bash on any leftist leanings....they didn't start this hell of a messed up war...they just can't fix it either....when will you people realize who started this? and mismanaged it??

you're [sic] state of denial is in a word, AMAZING..

you must be getting a big paycheck....hope it eases the pain of losing your soul...

This rant helped me better understand why the White House host is the most inarticulate president in US history. It matches the level of discourse and logic that blows through the American prairies like a wildfire, self-defined leftists included, and ends ashes-like in my e-mailbox oftentimes. That this ranter cannot realize that the neolibs and the neocons are only two heads of the same Hydra proves that, mythology aside, he has little prospect of becoming Heracles or gaining Iolaus's presence of mind. I say "he," because only a testosterone-loaded male could end with a statement about "big paycheck" to "ease the pain of losing one's soul." Me wishes the Congress for Cultural Freedom was still in business, that Swans was Encounter and my name was Melvin Lasky -- at least, I'd get a fat paycheck.

Mr. Loughrane wants us to believe that the Leftists for Democrats and the Democrats themselves do not own this war. In doing so, this "Leftist" joyfully joins Hillary Rodham Clinton in arguing that the Iraq War is not a Democrats' war (or a leftist war, in his clouded mind), but is Bush's War. He willfully ignores that the Leftists who called to vote for the lesser evil -- the Deaniaks, the spiritual value-minded Kucinichians, the Cobbian Greens, et al. -- delivered their votes to a pro-war Democratic candidate. To say that this is Bush's War when the power brokers in the Democratic Party voted for giving the man carte blanche is like having a bartender give a free drink to his already drunk customer for a safe journey home. People, in their overwhelming majority, from left to right (if that distinction has any meaning), voted for this war. That it turned out to be a disaster, which was predicted by clearer and more rational minds, should not give the people a pass on their own responsibilities. The Democrats voted for war. They got their wishes. It has not worked out. Only failure is an orphan. So, now, they want to distance themselves from a quagmire they helped create. But they remain stuck into a fallacy: It was the right war but the wrong implementation, the wrong execution, the wrong logistics... Even The New York Times editorialized as recently as June 13, 2007 ("Good Choice for the Chiefs") that "A strong, independent chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff can help protect the country against badly conceived and managed military operations - like the disastrous misconduct of the war in Iraq." Badly conceived, badly managed, disastrous misconduct are not expressions that repudiate the war itself. It cannot be clearer.

For the reality-based inquiring minds it's worth recalling a few facts:

Seventy-seven out of 100 US senators voted for giving the administration the power to illegally invade Iraq. Of these 77 senators, 29 were Democrats -- that is, a majority of Democrats voted for the Iraq War Resolution. The House passed the Resolution by a vote of 295-133, with assuredly a majority of the Democrats voting against -- but here again the power brokers with a few exceptions (e.g., Pelosi, Bonior) voted in favor of it. Even Murtha, a favorite of the antiwar movement, voted Yeah. For the record, and just for the Senate, here are the names of the Democrats who gave Mr. Bush carte blanche and abrogated their own Constitutional duties:

Max Baucus (D-MT); Evan Bayh (D-IN); Joe Biden (D-DE); John Breaux (D-LA); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Jean Carnahan (D-MO); Tom Carper (D-DE); Max Cleland (D-GA); Hillary Clinton (D-NY); Tom Daschle (D-SD); Christopher Dodd (D-CT); Byron Dorgan (D-ND); John Edwards (D-NC); Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); Tom Harkin (D-IA); Fritz Hollings (D-SC); Tim Johnson (D-SD); John Kerry (D-MA); Herb Kohl (D-WI); Mary Landrieu (D-LA); Joe Lieberman (D-CT); Blanche Lincoln (D-AR); Zell Miller (D-GA); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Ben Nelson (D-NE); Harry Reid (D-NV); Jay Rockefeller (D-WV); Chuck Schumer (D-NY); and Robert Torricelli (D-NJ).

A few senators are no longer in office (e.g., Breaux, Daschle, Edwards, Harkin, etc.); one has become an Independent in Republican sheep's clothing -- Lieberman, who, it should be recalled, was the running mate of Al Gore in 2000. The ultimate "Liberal" of New York State, Schumer, is on the list; as are Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, -- all four running for president in the 2008 cycle, and each claiming that all options (meaning military) should remain on the table regarding Iran.

Had they known then what they know today, they all claim they would not have voted for the Resolution. This is pure horseshit. What's known today was known then, as the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) clearly demonstrated at the time, had the senators bothered to read it (only six did). Or they could have listened to Senator Byrd's (D-W.VA) speeches or the very cautious, and somewhat prophetic arguments of the senior senator of Vermont, Patrick Leahy, a man of great integrity, ethics, and modesty. He spoke twice on the floor of the senate: First, on September 26, 2002, and second, on October 9, 2002. Both speeches, which were carefully thought out and crafted, clearly showed the stakes -- the domestic politics at play, the serious doubts of the threat posed by the Iraqi regime, and the potential error-prone and costly consequences of a go-alone, unilateral, and internationally illegal US invasion. Vermonters are famous for singing to their own tune, but had the Senate carefully listened to that good man, who literally applied Ariadne's thread (making logical sense of a puzzle or dilemma) to the situation and the mess that would (and did) ensue, the Democrats would not own this war.

The NIE and Patrick Leahy, among a few other considerate senators, were no match for the favored outcome -- war -- because Regime Change in Iraq was a Washington consensus, a bipartisan affair whose roots can be found in corporatism, that very system that finances the elections and profits from its results. DLC and Blue Dog Democrats had embraced the policy in the 1990s. The Resolution was indeed a "slam dunk," and as Sen. Leahy said, he could count the votes!

Over 70 percent of the American people cheered for the war. After all, this was post 9/11, and we were going to kick a few deserving asses, especially Muslim-Arab asses. The "don't mess with America" syndrome was in full gear, abetted by a compliant, whoring media -- a natural, though pathological, behavior for a country whose violence, especially against The Other, the one that is not like us, is branded like a Texas longhorn in its DNA (cf. the Indian Nations, the chattel slavery, the Filipinos, etc., etc. etc. -- a never-ending list of violent, destructive, genocidal behaviors against nature and humans alike.). Is there a war the American people, in its majority, has not been led to cheer for, or cheered for on its own volition?

There, in the muddy middle, the "progressive," "leftist" antiwar "movement" (not scare quotes, just laughing ones...) has stood stodgily, advocating voting for Democrats in order to a) not begin the war in the first place, and b) end it as soon as possible, when the very same Democrats -- again the power brokers, not the spiritual cultural creatives à la Kucinich who have absolutely no leverage on the party apparatus -- were up to the task of Regime Change, and have no intention whatsoever to retrain their thought processes away from the only thing they know and from which they profit handsomely: Total domination. When will the "movement" stop kidding itself?

So, what is the Modus Operandi of the "leftist, progressive antiwar movement" that suckers so many self-defined leftists and often well-meaning progressives, liberals, idealists, peace activists, and whatever other denominations (think of Christians for Peace or Veterans of whatever war) to support the Democratic Party? In one word: Co-optation. All the organizations I mentioned earlier, from Democracy Now!, Code Pink, MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, etc., and all the celebrity dissenters have only one purpose: To keep the status quo going and going and going as long as the battery of fame, always directed toward gathering dissenters within the big web of the Democratic Party. Each organization has its own turf; they may compete here and there (especially for financial resources), but they endeavor to target all "liberal" segments of the vast divergent antiwar feelings that exist among the many groups that oppose the war for a variety of reasons -- religious, moral, political, anti-imperial, etc.

What these organizations, all non-profit, have in common is that they are white, middle-class dominated and they lead their respective flocks to the Democratic tent. The other commonality has to do with their restrictive and selective antiwar work. They deliberately shun any antiwar or pacifist groups that do not espouse the political line that demonizes the Bush administration and empowers the Democrats as the "solution," and they, being essentially a part of the humanitarian "left," do not accept the opponents to the Kosovo War and the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. In other words, they are selectively antiwar. A democratic war is acceptable in the name of their humanitarianism (e.g., Kosovo, possibly Darfur in the Sudan, where they keep advocating for military intervention). What's not acceptable is a Republican war led by the much-demonized Bush administration, which is otherwise an exemplary product of the system they defend. They are in the final analysis playing domestic politics, which is what war is much about.

Am I being too severe, unfair, or plainly incorrect?

Far from my mind is the attitude of throwing the first stone or accusing people of being sellouts or traitors to "the cause." Take Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!. I've never met her. I certainly prefer her news program to that of Jim Lehrer's PBS NewsHour. I am convinced that she is genuinely opposing the war and advocates social justice. Yet, she is highly selective in her choices of the guests that appear on her program. Same can be said of the UfPJ. It may be a coalition of 1,500 organizations, but its leadership veers toward the Democrats time and again. Simply look at the roster of speakers they invite to their demos.

The most socially progressive and antiwar community in the United States can be found in the African American population. Yet how many African Americans are found in the leadership of these antiwar, so-called progressive organizations? Obviously not many, whether in CodePink, UfPJ, MoveOn, DailyKos, Veterans of this or that war, et al. Who are the representatives of the black community that are invited to speak at an antiwar demo? Maxine Waters, Jesse Jackson, the ubiquitous Rev. Al Sharpton...all pillars of the Democratic Party. Once, an outsider and powerful speaker, Etan Thomas, was given the opportunity to speak. His speech was crisp and electrifying, but it was not a specifically "pro-Democratic" speech. Have you heard of him since? Blacks should be in the driving seat of the antiwar movement. They are mostly shunned but for a few democratic pallbearers.

The continual controversies surrounding UfPJ and ANSWER serve only one purpose: to keep dividing the movement instead of uniting it. Unity actually appears to be a lost proposition. How many times has Rep. Kucinich appeared on Democracy Now! or on the podium of antiwar demos organized by UfPJ? (Often.) How many times has Ron Paul, the Libertarian US Representative from Texas and candidate to the 2008 presidential election, appeared or been invited? (Never or seldom.) Go further: Why are Justin Raimondo or Alexander Cockburn never seen on the Democracy Now! stage, but the folks from The Nation, the "loyal opposition" to the Democrats who always end up voting for them, are recurrently invited? Is Raimondo not enough antiwar or not enough pro-Democrats? Is the muckraker from Petrolia on the Californian Lost Coast a lost cause (!), unworthy of the humanitarian antiwarriors?

And what are those humanitarian "leftists"? The other day, June 13, 2007, Vanessa Redgrave had center stage with her son Carlo Nero on Democracy Now!. Redgrave is a wonderful, sympathetic, and endearing figure of the human rights movement. At one point in the interviewing process, Redgrave said, "...for human rights work and humanitarian development, you have to negotiate. And the -- one of the problems is that there is a lack of will to negotiate and a preference for the bombs. It's a big problem..." She's obviously right on mark. Yet, earlier, in that same interview, she said:

The only time I have actually met him [Blair] was in fact when I was in a play, and it was the time of Kosovo. And at that time, it was a long-ago time. That was in early, that was in September of 1999. I had been in Kosovo a lot during the Serbian military and Milosevic's paramilitary's horror in Kosovo. Some of my friends had been murdered, many of them had been tortured. And I went and tried to get help. And, did manage to get some help, especially for the artists because you know, I knew a lot of actors and musicians, classical and modern, in Kosovo. And at that time, although the NATO's actions were, I think, the politics of those actions was just all over the place -- I absolutely was calling for and think it was right to call for, an intervention to stop the slaughter of all the Albanian Kosovars. And, so at that time, not only I, but I think the majority of people in Britain were proud of Mr. Blair, because he was both introducing human rights law into the British court, into the British system, which we very much applauded.

So, bomb or bomb not, that is the question? An antiwar position thus becomes quite selective. Justin Raimondo and Alex Cockburn, notwithstanding their erroneous take on the Jewish Lobby and Israel with their Washington acolytes, a cabal of high ranking Jewish American "begats," "a bevy of aggressive right-wing neo-cons hawks," being the prime instigators of the Iraq War, have at least remained consistent in their antiwar sentiments. So has Ron Paul. Still they are never invited or covered by those seemingly antiwar organizations.

This selectivity can be extended to other issues. Let's take one example, the environmental movement. One of the most knowledgeable environmentalists, who calls the shots as they actually are, is Jeffrey St. Clair of CounterPunch. I may strongly disagree with his stand on the Jewish Lobby, but I highly respect his knowledge on ecology (and, full disclosure, I have a cordial though sporadic relationship with him). When has St. Clair last appeared on Democracy Now!? For that matter, when has Martin Murie, a genuine antiwarrior and a varmentalist par excellence, whose parents can be credited with creating the modern environmental movement, been invited by Amy Goodman or Leslie Cagan?

This kind of selectivity is highly problematic. War is a bipartisan affair, rooted in the bedrock of American culture. There are no Republican wars or Democratic wars, only American wars. All the top contenders to the 2008 Democratic nomination want to keep boots on the ground for years, possibly decades -- and that includes Barack Obama, the I-was-against-the-war candidate. Only Gov. Richardson has made a pledge, which I do not think he could fulfill, to remove all troops from Iraq (for this, one needs to appreciate the oil conundrum that is besieging us). The people who are hard at work to demonize Mr. Bush and lead war dissenters to the Democratic tent, while quite possibly well intentioned, are doing a disservice to the antiwar cause.

They simply ignore the very fact that a substantial part of the Democratic Party is pro-war. They may shoot their arrows at Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, but they forget that while she's been consistently against this war, she simply does not have the votes to stop it. Sixty-one of her fellow Democrats represent Republican-leaning, Bush-carried, districts. She has to deal with the Blue Dogs and DLC Democrats. Even her initial bill with timetables could only obtain a majority vote through a $20 billion pork barrel giveaway and an assurance that the bill would be vetoed by the president. She has absolutely no majority antiwar constituency. Only when the Republicans start jumping ship will she be able to make a move. Joseph Galloway, the respected McClatchy (formerly Reuters) Washington correspondent does not get it. Like the Amy Goodmans of this world, all well intentioned and sincere, these people are fundamentally missing a simple fact. The Democrats are as much warriors as their Republican counterparts -- and they have the votes (pro-war votes, that is). This is an indubitable fact.

Cindy Sheehan understands. Stephen Loughrane and his ilk do not. As Phil Greenspan has said over and over again, the war will end when the costs have become too prohibitive and the boots on the ground stage mutiny. For the non-existing antiwar "movement" to have any kind of positive effect, it has to become a coalition of folks that extends as far left as the WWP to as far right as the Ron Paulians, with the religious, moral dissenters à la Kathy Kelly anchoring the middle and that eschews with respect and gratitude the pro-Democrat Medea Benjamins, Leslie Cagans, and Amy Goodmans, and all the nice white middle-class and celebrity dissenters. African American and Latino personalities must be sought out for positions of power, "leadership," (as much as I recoil form leaders and power) within that antiwar coalition. Since the US society is personality-driven, I would suggest that such a coalition could be headed by Danny Glover, Cindy Sheehan, and Andrew Bacevich -- a relatively radical African American, a relatively liberal woman, and a relatively conservative man. That would be a pretty balanced trio in comparison to the one mentioned above.

Is that scenario probable? I doubt it. But as long as it does not come to pass; as long as the antiwar coalition does not become non-denominational the movement will remain unreservedly irrelevant, its activists faced with two pro-war candidates in November 2008. Then the lesser-evilism tune will play its siren song once more.


· · · · · ·


If you find our work valuable, please consider helping us financially.

· · · · · ·


Internal Resources

The Rape of Iraq

US Elections & Democracy

Patterns which Connect


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery on Swans (with bio). He is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



Please, feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, please DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2007. All rights reserved.


Have your say

Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number (the city, state/country where you reside is paramount information). When/if we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.


· · · · · ·


This Edition's Internal Links

The Insurgent Word: Fragments - Gerard Donnelly Smith

The Founding Fathers' Fraud - Philip Greenspan

Tangled Web Of Life Or Worse - Carol Warner Christen

Walking The Dog - Humor by Peter Byrne

Artifacts - Poem by Martin Murie

Sundays In Hope - Poem by Marie Rennard

Polyhedron n.3: Moenia Mundi - Poem by Guido Monte & Francesca Saieva

Adam Sisman's The Friendship: Wordsworth & Coleridge - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

New Art And Imperialism In Dublin - Peter Byrne

Blips #52 - From the Martian Desk - Gilles d'Aymery

Letters to the Editor

· · · · · ·


[About]-[Past Issues]-[Archives]-[Resources]-[Copyright]



Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art13/ga232.html
Published June 18, 2007