Vision: An Antiwar Movement That Puts Peace Over Politicians
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It's worth recounting just how Democrats have rewarded their antiwar supporters. In 2006, riding public anger over the war in Iraq to take back control of the House for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats had a mandate for change – and then turned around and consistently funded the war they claimed to oppose. The most congressional Democrats have done is offer a resolution requesting a “plan” for ending the war in Afghanistan, all the while dutifully approving the funds to fight it.
We know how Obama has governed after likewise cynically riding antiwar sentiment into the White House.
Once casting themselves as brave opponents of the warfare state, many Democrats have rejected their rhetorical support for peace just as thoroughly as their once-upon-a-time opposition to the Patriot Act. When Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich offered a measure condemning Obama's illegal, undeclared war in Libya and demanding a withdrawal of all U.S. forces within two weeks, he was joined by more Republicans than he was his fellow Democrats. Nancy Pelosi, channeling every right-winger during the Bush years, even claimed lawmakers who opposed the president's unilateral war policy would send the “wrong message” to the U.S.'s NATO allies. The former speaker of the House is seemingly more concerned about hurt feelings than dead civilians, taxpayer money or the Constitution.
Even the recent House vote to block the president from spending funds “in contravention of the War Powers Act” – meaning Libya – received more votes from Republicans than Democrats. Who says elections don't change anything?
Democratic voters who genuinely believe in peace should know that ending the U.S.'s addiction to war requires more than spending a few minutes in the ballot box. The only change voting has brought in recent years is the party approving the money for war and the name of the president requesting it.
If voting isn't changing things – and it's not – it's time we considered changing our tactics.
Obama, after all, whose campaign cast him as the most peaceful of the major party candidates, has committed acts of war in no less than half-a-dozen countries (that we know about): Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Under Obama, the U.S. aids and abets Israeli war crimes to the tune of more than $3 billion a year in military aid, all while vigorously fighting international attempts to hold accountable those responsible for the slaughter of civilians in Gaza. And Guantanamo Bay? Still open.
But Obama has done more than disappoint the antiwar movement: he's actively attacked it, using the power of the state to harass and intimidate peace activists, 23 of whom have had their homes and offices raided by the FBI. The pretense? That a group of pacifists may have provided “material support” to terrorists, a charge so slippery and ill-defined that the ACLU warns it can include a conversation on the need to embrace non-violence.
More war and the threat of prosecution to intimidate those who oppose these wars – or expose them, in the case of alleged WikiLeaks whistle-blower Bradley Manning: that's what Obama's election has wrought. Was his rise to power really such a progressive victory?
Occasional rhetorical flourishes aside, Democrats and Republicans reliably back the killing of poor people on the other side of the globe in the name of “regional stability” and perceived U.S. national (read: corporate) interests. As they've made painstakingly clear over the years, neither is a friend of peace, especially when one of their own is making war.
If change is to come to U.S. foreign policy, it won't be thanks to any politician, but to direct action and organizing of the sort that won African Americans and other minorities their civil rights. We already have public opinion on our side -- 2/3 of Americans consistently say they want to get out of the wars. We now have to make the voice of the silent majority heard.