What Should the Anti-War Movement Do Now?
A Proposal from the ANSWER Coalition
It is an absolute responsibility of the anti-war movement to make an honest and straightforward assessment of the current situation and to craft a strategy that can really make a difference. Every serious organization, and especially those with the greatest mobilizing reach, must be asked to avoid posturing, make an assessment and develop an action plan that will change the political landscape in a decisive way.
This document does not seek to address or detail the political differences between organizations and groups. They exist and they have been detailed often. At this moment, there needs to be an effort at clear perspective that focuses on one simple question: What will end the war and occupation of Iraq and what should the US anti-war movement do?
It is clear that the anti-war movement is not sufficiently strong at the moment to bring this criminal and despised war to an end. Every organization must ask why is this so and most importantly what can be done to change the situation immediately.
The first question to ask and answer is: Can a people's movement in the United States overcome the commitment of the White House, Congress and the Pentagon to authorize, extend and finance the war and occupation in Iraq?
If you or your organization answers the question negatively then the rest doesn’t really matter. Perhaps, individuals can bear witness and continue to protest, but it will be little more than an individual statement.
If the answer to the question is yes, however, we must assess various factors and craft a strategy that will be fundamentally different from the current path of the anti-war movement.
Historically, wars come to an end either because one side wins and one side loses, or the people rise in revolution (usually as a result of a military defeat or pending defeat), or both sides exhaust each other over a protracted period.
What is the military situation in Iraq? The US cannot achieve military victory in Iraq. Its multiple opponents in Iraq are not militarily strong enough to decisively defeat the US military in the short term. If the Iraqi population, however, were able to overcome sectarian divisions introduced with the US occupation it is possible that Iraq could witness a repeat of a nationwide uprising such as the 1958 Revolution that drove the British military out of Iraq. But the flames of division are being whipped up every day and function as a deterrent to such a spontaneous national uprising against the occupiers. Finally, the US military is stretched thin but is clearly able to continue the occupation for some time, and the anti-U.S. opponents in Iraq are not exhausted yet by the protracted conflict. If anything they are gathering strength and energy as the occupation forces cannot take the strategic initiative away from guerrilla forces.
Given this complex reality, or realities, we believe that the U.S. antiwar movement must take strategic and bold initiatives that change the political climate in this country. To succeed, these initiatives must be based on a correct assessment of where we are.
The ANSWER Coalition wants to offer its own brief assessment of the political equation in the United States. We are also offering a proposal to all of the major anti-war coalitions and groups and to all of those organizations that function on a local level
Assessment of the political situation as it regards the Iraq war
1) The people of the country have turned decisively against the continuation of the war. Most recognize that the war was based on lies and most no longer believe the president and the generals when they assure them that victory is still possible.
2) The military situation is worsening rather than improving in light of the so-called surge. The number of US war dead in May 2007 spiked to the third highest month since the initial invasion in 2003. The numbers of Iraqi dead is about 3,000 each month. Two million Iraqis have fled the country and another two million are internal refugees.
3) The US is unable to secure its political control over the region as is evident by what is happening in Lebanon, Iran and Syria and its intensified destabilization campaign towards the Palestinian people.
4) The Bush administration is increasingly isolated, at home and abroad, because of its failure in Iraq and its inability to regain the military initiative even with tens of thousands of more troops. The Pentagon anticipates occupying Iraq for decades, as it has Korea and other countries.
5) More and more U.S. soldiers, marines, veterans and the families of service members are either disillusioned or completely opposed to the continuation of the war and occupation.
6) The Democratic-controlled Congress voted overwhelmingly to extend and finance the war and occupation. The calculation of the Democratic Party leadership and the vast majority of its elected officials in Congress is based on avoiding at all costs taking responsibility for a pullout from Iraq which will be perceived as a defeat for the United States in this strategic oil-rich region. They believe that they can secure an electoral advantage in 2008 by having the war drag on and have the public hold the Republicans responsible for the war. Moreover, the Democratic Party is feeding from the same corporate financing trough as the Republicans and they share the Bush government’s broad objective of U.S. domination in the Middle East. Congress, under the current circumstances, is completely committed to not ending the war in Iraq in the next two years and probably for much longer than that.
Assessment of the weakness and strength of the antiwar movement 1) There have been a growing number of anti-war protests on the national, regional and local level during the past six months.
2) The antiwar protests are being joined and, in some cases, initiated by the people who have not been involved in past demonstrations.
3) A growing sentiment of opposition and disgust to the war, occupation (and the politicians) is building among rank and file service members and some officers.
4) A large amount of energy and activity was directed at Congress with the hope that the Congress would heed their constituents' desire to end the war. When the Congress instead voted against its constituents and with Bush to extend the war there was a huge wave of anger, frustration and desperation but with few available or recognized channels for effective action.
5) Although the antiwar sentiment is growing among the general population, the size and intensity of the demonstrations, protests and acts of resistance does not at all measure up to the vast magnitude of feelings against the Iraq war among the general population.
6) The single biggest reason for this dichotomy is the fact that the anti-war movement is badly splintered rather than working together or in a united fashion so as to marshal, stimulate and mobilize a truly massive outpouring of the people.
Proposal to build a truly mass outpouring of the people
If every anti-war coalition and organization came together on a particular day, and with enough advance notice, under the simple demand End the War Now it would be easily possible to mobilize one million people. The political mood in the country exists to make this happen.
So as to facilitate the greatest degree of coordination between organizations to build a massive outpouring, the ANSWER Coalition is not unilaterally setting a date for this potentially million-strong march and rally. However, we recommend holding it sometime in November of 2007, or on March 22, 2008--the fifth anniversary of the war." In order to have such a huge demonstration, enough time must be given to allow the organizations and coalitions to come together and for intensive national outreach and organizing.
This period of time between now and the demonstration would not be a period of quiet, it would be a time of intensifying anti-war activity and education at the local and regional level culminating in this mass action. Unfortunately, unless the political relationship of forces changes inside the United States or in Iraq, the war and occupation will continue through November and beyond. We are proposing a specific tactic that can contribute to shifting the equation.
The aim is not just one more demonstration but the largest antiwar demonstration in US history.
A mobilization of one million people marching on Washington DC would be the best possible trigger for an avalanche of grassroots organizing throughout the country and among service members and their families and veterans. It is time for something bold and broad. Something that sends an unmistakable message to the powers that be that the people of the United States have entered the field of politics in such a way as to become an irresistible force.
Each group and movement should maintain its political independence. Each group can inscribe on its banners a variety of slogans or ideas or demands but what will allow us to unite for the largest mobilization of all the people is the simple unifying demand. Whatever differences that exist between groups, and there are many and they are important, are not sufficient justification for preventing us from coming together in a show of force that will change the direction of this country. The lives of too many people, all victims of a criminal war, are too precious for our movement to tolerate anything that prevents us from reaching our potential to end the war in Iraq. With determination, maturity and mutual respect our diverse anti-war movement can unite.
We would like to hear from everyone in consideration of this proposal. If you, your friends, or your organization support the proposal for a unified mass demonstration aiming to bring 1 million people onto the streets of Washington DC, please join with us and sign on, which you can do by clicking this link or visiting http://images.answercoalition.org/cms/. This movement has grown strong because of its grassroots base. Let’s hear from everyone who supports this exciting possibility.
During the next week, people like you and thousands of others can circulate this proposal, discuss it with your organization, family and friends, and be part of the effort to make it a reality. We look forward to hearing from you and working together.
Proposal by the A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) Coalition, May 31, 2007