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Hayden Criticizes MoveOn for being Silent on Wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; MoveOn Responds

Peace activist Tom Hayden argues that most powerful grassroots peace movement isn't pushing Obama on U.S. wars. Update: MoveOn sends a response.

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If there were significant pressures from networks like MoveOn in their Congressional districts, the opposition vote might have approached 85.

Appropriations chair David Obey in essence granted Obama a one-year pass to show results in Afghanistan. If the war appears to be a quagmire by then, he claimed, the Democrats will become more critical. Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered the same message; according to the Washington Examiner on May 6: “There won’t be any more war supplementals, so my message to my members is, this is it.” Pelosi’s words were carefully parsed, saying that the White House would not be allowed another supplemental form of appropriation, which is different from an actual pledge to oppose war funding.

This one-year pass means that the grass-roots peace movement has a few months to light a fire and re-awaken pressure from below on the Congress and president. In the meantime, here are some predictions for the coming year:

IRAQ: Will Obama keep his pledge to withdraw combat forces from Iraq on a 16-month timetable, and all forces by 2011? At this point, the pace is slowing, and the deadline being somewhat extended, under pressure from US commanders on the ground. Sunnis are threatening to resume their insurgency if the al-Maliki regime fails to incorporate them into the political and security structures. The President insists however, that he is only making adjustments to a timetable that is on track. Prognosis: precarious.

AFGHANISTAN: Will the Obama troop escalation deepen the quagmire or be a successful surge against the Taliban by next year? Another 21,000 troops and advisers are on their way to the battlefield. Civilian casualties are mounting, causing the besieged Karzai government to complain. Preventive detention of Afghans will only expand. US deaths, now over 600, are sure to increase this summer. Taliban may hold out and  redeploy in order to stretch US forces thin. Prognosis: escalation into quagmire.

PAKISTAN: US policies have driven al Qaeda from Afganistan into Pakistan’s tribal areas, where US is attacking with Predators and turning Pakistan’s US-funded armed forces towards counterinsurgency. Public opinion is being inflamed against the US intervention. Prognosis: an expanding American war in Pakistan with greater threats to American security.

IRAN: With or without US complicity, Israel may attack Iran early next year, with unforeseeable consequences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prognosis: crisis will intensify. 

GLOBAL: US will fail to attract more combat troops to fight in Afghanistan and Pakistan from Europe or elsewhere, causing pressure to increase for a non-military negotiated  solution. Prognosis: Obama still popular, US still isolated.

BUDGET PRIORITIES: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will deeply threaten the administration’s ability to succeed on the domestic front with stimulus spending, health care, education and alternative energy. Prognosis: false hope for “guns and butter” all over again.

Editor's Note: Here's a response from MoveOn.org:

We appreciate Tom Hayden's attempt to start a discussion here about the progressive posture on security issues, and we even understand his attempt to use MoveOn as a foil.  We agree that it's time to confront the organizing challenges of building an effective peace movement in the Obama era, and we expect MoveOn and MoveOn members to play an important role in this.

In order to have a productive conversation, however, we have to make sure the facts are correct. Tom's characterization of our democratic process is inaccurate; the Top 10 issues we focus on were both nominated by and chosen by MoveOn members. Even more erroneous is Tom's description in the lead of his piece of Justin's conversation with the President.  Our Executive Director, Justin Ruben, never "indicated that MoveOn would not be opposing the $94 billion war supplemental request, nor the 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, nor the increased civilian casualties from the mounting number of Predator attacks."  The article by Ari Melber which Tom referenced as a source does not say that Justin said this. That particular conversation was about MoveOn members' current organizing focus on energy, health care, and the economy.  And our belief that the administration should "go big" on progressive policies in these arenas.