Also in Counterpunch.
The rapid response to US war moves against Iran has been an exciting start toward rebuilding the anti-war movement we so desperately need. Thousands took to the streets in more than 80 cities. It’s a great beginning. But, if we want a movement of millions we are going to have to reach everyday people outside of the existing movement, outside of partisan politics and outside of strictly moral appeals.
We start by waging peace because the anti-war movement is the main path to anti-imperialist action — or so the history of the Vietnam Era would suggest. If we want to grow from a radical movement of thousands to a disruptive movement of millions our job is to help people discover their own economic and political interests for opposing war and empire. In other words, we have to help people see war not simply as a morality play, or electoral politics, or as a separate “foreign policy” issue but as a power struggle — their struggle.
Ten anti-war messages in no special order:
- “We should never have been there in the first place.” By the end of the Vietnam War, this straightforward idea was popular anti-imperialism and it challenged the US role as cops of the world. It was stock wisdom among millions of everyday anti-war Americans. We should have never been in the Middle East, or anywhere else, in the first place.
- Empire abroad means empire at home. War and empire do not defend democracy but destroys it. It was the empire that undermined what little remained of representative democracy once the Executive Branch took over all war-making powers and everyone else fell into line. When the Military-Industrial-Complex and the secret police became major players in the government and media, democracy gave up its last ghost. Proof? We have not had a constitutional declaration of war since WWII. If the highest law of the land is routinely violated for 70 years — so much for the rule of law.
- Stop the Poverty Draft! The lack of decent wages, universal health care, and free higher education are the main recruiters for the poverty draft. The 1.2 trillion we spend annually for war enforces austerity at home by diverting funds and resources. Only the 1% get rich on war. The war machine thrives on and creates poverty.
- Hate and fear of the “other” is the culture of war. Hate and violence abroad and the culture of hate and violence at home exist in a vicious feedback loop. It’s not a coincidence that the hate demanded by the wars inflicted upon black and brown people abroad find a direct domestic parallel in the militarized penal system aimed at black, brown and poor and the attacks on immigrants of color.
- And make no mistakes, its war that drives climate change. Not only is the military the largest consumer of fossil fuels, its the enforcer of an oil empire. War captures resources and forces countries to submit to a global regime where the US dollar is the only acceptable currency for trading fossil fuels. Stand outside of the oil empire –refuse to pay imperial tribute — and its regime change time for you.
- Defend democracy and national sovereignty. Not only does the US routinely violate the national sovereignty of other countries but also attack legally elected governments. This is not debatable but plain fact — know the history.
- “We are sick of being lied to.” We have decades of proof that the war-makers lie — the Afghanistan Papers being the most recent. Every claim made by every political official should be judged in that light. The public record is clear — war is based on lies and deception. Remember: “In War Truth is the First Casualty.”
- Listen to anti-war soldiers and veterans. The greatest challenge to war is anti-war soldiers and veterans because they completely upset the empire’s narratives and are the most effective of all protestors. The peace movement from within the military’s ranks is a bridge between some hard-won, down and dirty knowledge about war and millions of people who do not currently define themselves as anti-war. Support About Face, Vets for Peace and Veteran’s Power.
- Empires rise and empires fall — without exception. American Exceptionalism has conditioned us to see the US as a moral force outside of history. That narrative blinds us to the dangers of an empire in decline. The liberal aspects of Exceptionalism are the hardest to see but they encourage us to understand war as a morality play with the US acting as a force for good in the world.
- Imperial wars are unwinnable wars. Eighteen years in Afghanistan and over 25 years of on-again-off-again war with Iraq prove that these wars are unwinnable. Unwinnable wars are just permanent military occupations — the hallmark of empire. Sooner or later the facts become obvious to the people under US control and they want their countries back.
What should be our most important anti-war narratives? Let’s start out right with the goal of bringing the US empire into view as a target for political action. We need stories that help reveal to millions of people the true nature of empire. We need stories that can help us organize actual constraints on the war machine. We need stories that help us to find the beginnings of freedom in the end of empire.
There was an anti-war movement under Bush which evaporated under Obama and now is back under Trump. Should a democrat win the presidency it will evaporate again. This may sound rational to some folks but the fact is there was no less waging of illegal and immoral wars under Obama than Bush and arguably Obama was even worse, he ramped up the war in Afghanistan and started like five more, blowing innocent women and children to bits on a daily basis. Obama made everybody pro-war by telling us his wars were good wars. Same with Clinton, nobody protested his illegal war of aggression against Serbia, nor noticed when his excuse for waging the war evaporated. Congress voted no on that war and so did the UN but Clinton went ahead and did it anyway and basically nobody protested. Nobody even remembers Even Sanders brags about his role in those war crimes and promises to do it again. So, the death of the anti-war movement is nearly perfectly correlated with which party has the administration. That does not bode well for the future. It simply means nobody is capable of independent though and they just knee-jerk react however the corporate media tells them to.
Thank you Greg. I am writing about this now and it should be out next week. Its very important history to learn from.
It seems to me that the more hated a republican president is, the more any democrat who replaces him can and will get away with. Bush was so hated for his wars and regressive policies that democrat voters assumed any democrat no matter what they do must be better. Omaba was able to be Bush’s 3rd and 4th terms while the population fantasized that he was fixing all the Bush messes. With overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it continues to be a powerfully held belief. In fact Trump just continued obama’s radical right wing policies on immigration, foreign wars of conquest, tax cuts for the rich, prosecuting whistleblowers, but now suddenly all the democrat voters are against these things, about which they never had a word to say under obama.
Now that Trump is easily 10 times more hated than Bush, just think what the next democrat president will be able to get away with. Any semblance of an anti-war movement will evaporate immediately and murder-inc will continue to be expanded without so much as a peep from the population. The next democrat will be a clone of Trump, they will start wars with numerous countries, possibly including Russia, they will step up deportations and continue to build the wall, the will expand corporate welfare, they will massively increase the war budget, and all of a sudden everybody will be for all these things they claim to be against today. Even Sanders cannot wait to start dropping bombs on innocent civiilans. And he knows his socialism talk is safe because he’ll be able to claim he tried but couldn’t get past congress.
It must be preferrable that Trump try to do these things with great resistance from the democrat legistlators, than the next democrat do these things with no resistance from either side of the aisle. Since both parties only want to do the devil’s work, gridlock is preferrable. I’m sorry Chomsky but I do not believe it’s okay to muder women and children by the millions for profit as long as you believe humans cause global warming. That scare tactic is used to bully everybody into compliance with otherwise extremely regressive politics. I’m surprised Chomsky is now one of the bullies but he is.
When Trump asks for extra war funding he gets push back and everybody is outraged. When obama asked for extra funds to escalate his campaign to murder women and children congress gave him even more than he asked for on the order of $100;s of billion dollars multiple times, more than Trump ever asked for or got. Obama spent more every year on killing people than NIH gets in 30 years. If that was reversed we’d have cured a lot of challenging diseases by now and we’d have far fewer enemies in the world.
What’s obama’s real legacy? Record levels of war spending, record levels of coporate welfare, unprecedented regressive domestic policies, record deportations, normalization of domestic surveillance, procecution of whistleblowers, interference with democratic elections and politics in every country on the planet, ongoing protection of death squad dictatorships, regime change and coups, record polarization, undermining labor movements, the rich got a lot richer the poor got a lot poorer, no consequences for the criminal enterprises that led to the 2007 economic meltdown, not one person held accountable, instead they got trillion dollar bailouts with not a penny for the record numbers of victims rendered homeless and destitute, and of course murder of women and children for profit normalized as foreign policy.
If Chomsky and his ditto-head zombie Michael Albert think that’s better, they do not live in the real world.
i am currently writing on this topic from a slightly different angle. You initial statement is insightful. “It seems to me that the more hated a republican president is, the more any democrat who replaces him can and will get away with.”