January 13, 2003

TURNING POINT
A crossroads for the antiwar movement – and Antiwar.com

Antiwar sentiment is on the rise, but is the antiwar movement? A steadily increasing number of Americans oppose invading Iraq, and a full two-thirds want to see a "smoking gun" before we set a course for empire. Around the world, opposition is overwhelming, not only in the Middle East (except Israel), but throughout Europe. The United Kingdom is especially boiling over with rage at Blair, not only from the Labor left but also from the "Britain first" right. The image of Tony Blair frantically wagging his tail and begging for a bone from Washington is universally unappealing. A number of demonstrations are planned over the next two months, and, here in America, where the majority oppose a unilateral attack, it seems as if a day hardly goes by without the announcement of a new coalition of antiwar groups, one more "mainstream" than the last.

A recent article in US News gives us a somewhat oversimplified but basically accurate picture of where the antiwar movement is at, if not where it is going. Basically, two main coalitions have formed, one with the somewhat incongruous moniker of "Win Without War," and the other an amalgamation of the Usual Suspects grouped around another acronym wreathed in mystery: A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). WWW sounds promising:

"David Cortright has seen his share of protest movements. As a soldier in Vietnam, he organized 'GIs for Peace,' and later he opposed the Reagan administration's policy in El Salvador and ran the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy. So when the 56-year-old walked into a meeting last October before an antiwar rally in Washington, he did not go in wide eyed. 'It was frustrating because there were 70 or 80 groups in the room, and the meeting went on endlessly, covering all kinds of issues: Palestinian-Israeli problems, racism in the U.S., the rights of gays and lesbians,' sighs Cortright, speaking from the Goshen, Ind., office of his coalition, Win Without War. 'I thought, 'That's nice, but we got a war to oppose here.'"

Cortright is so right. Does every rally have to feature a long spiel about how we have to free Mumia Abu-Jamal? (As for gay rights hey, dude, it's another Saturday night in San Francisco as I write this, and, lemme tellya, I have all the rights I need. Sheesh!)

In order to start reaching and educating the American people – who still, for example, somehow connect Saddam Hussein with 9/11 – the antiwar movement must divorce itself from the ritualistic incantations of the contemporary Left and adopt a single-issue perspective. While there are a few problems with WWW what are we "winning" without war? The "right" to disarm any and all nations on earth? this new coalition, funded by Hollywood celebrities, is a giant step in the right direction.

Cortright is himself a lesson in how a patriotic peace movement might be conjured: as a member of the armed services during the Vietnam war, he had a crisis of conscience and began to do antiwar organizing within the military try that one on for size, all you peaceniks out there! It's easy to organize Nude Marin County Ladies for Peace, but try subverting the War Machine from within!

As for ANSWER, I won't repeat here what I've said about them in the past, except to add that supposedly "left" writers such as David Corn have served as a transmission belt for the smears of the neocon right, and seem upset by the good aspects of the group as well as the bad. Corn avers:

"One slogan being used by Win Without War is 'Keep America Safe' – a sign its creators are hoping to encourage opposition to a unilateral invasion without bemoaning US interventionism, appearing soft on Saddam or terrorism, or coming across as harsh critics of America at home and abroad."

Yet the idea of keeping America safe is an implicit criticism of global interventionism: it implies that, as Pat Buchanan a war critic neither WWW nor ANSWER would deign to cite, by the way – put it on MSNBC the other day: "They are over here because we are over there." America is not safe because our foreign policy does the opposite of what it is supposed to accomplish: instead of ensuring our national security, it endangers us.

ANSWER opposes all U.S. intervention abroad, including the crippling and deadly economic sanctions imposed on Iraq: too bad it is controlled by nutso lefties who mourned the fall of the Berlin Wall and cried real tears when Kim Il Sung died. But the critique of Corn, amply refuted by Alexander Cockburn, wants to throw out the anti-interventionist baby with the supposedly "anti-American" bath-water.

While side-liners and wannabe "leaders" such as Todd Gitlin complain about ANSWER's far-left sectarianism, that's all they do. I don't see them getting their hands dirty organizing an alternative. Nor do they have the foresight to see that mass rallies like the Marxists who are so good at organizing them – are a thing of the past. Future protest movements will be judged on their breadth: a rally of over a thousand in Iowa is worth more than 100,000 in Washington or New York.

Spawned by Hollywood left-liberals, WWW recognizes that one 3-minute television spot is worth far more than 100,000 leaflets, or the same number showing up at some rally where the pro-war media gravitates toward the most extreme uncharacteristic elements. The US News piece mentions that they plan to run ads in February, and cites Cortright: "We will continue to deliver a mainstream, patriotic message. We are not trying to solve all the problems of the universe."

But what, exactly, is a mainstream message? Both Corn and US News counterpose WWW and ANSWER as opposite wings of the same movement, characterizing the latter as somewhat exotic and far too radical to gain any mass influence. Yet the News also cites ANSWER spokeswoman Sarah Sloan, who describes her group's perspective as follows:

"ANSWER, she explains, was founded after September 11 to oppose the creation of what it calls a new American empire. 'ANSWER opposes U.S. domination all over the world,' says Sloan. 'There are so many different groups involved.'"

This is a very American sentiment. You couldn't get more mainstream. The founders of the American nation rebelled against an empire, and their descendants are loath to set up one of their own.

These two wings of the antiwar movement do not have to conflict, and a division of labor seems to be naturally occurring. The far-left is busy organizing mass marches and trying to rope people into a bewildering array of sectarian dead-ends, while the mainstream antiwar forces, a coalition of secular liberals and religiously-based activists (NCC, Catholic Worker, Pax Christi, and others), are organizing more decentralized protests and waging a campaign in the media.

The idea of decentralized action to stop this war before it starts is one that I hope WWW will take up with the requisite skill and alacrity of a good Hollywood scriptwriter. Here's one scenario: thousands of Americans, all over the country, organize hundreds of educational events designed to teach the American people the facts about what war will have to mean: the casualties, the costs, and, most importantly, the post-war responsibilities that will weigh us down and drag us into bankruptcy, both morally and fiscally.

Win without war? The antiwar movement must ultimately ask the question: just what is the U.S. government intent on "winning"? "Victory" in Iraq means we will be the proud possessors of a conquered country but what in heck are we going to do with it? Do we really want or need an empire? When my father, a veteran of World War II, sits moldering in a Veteran Administration hospital getting gangrene in his foot, do we really need to be spending billions to make sure a "liberated" Iraq has adequate healthcare?

These are the issues any antiwar movement worth its salt must raise, and yet they don't fit neatly into slogans. The American people have been fed a lot of misinformation, otherwise known as war propaganda, and you have to admit that the War Party has done a damned good job of it. There's a lot of debunking that needs to be done. We specialize in that here at Antiwar.com.

This website is the online equivalent of a daily teach-in on the subject of Iraq and the dangers of foreign interventionism generally. Antiwar.com is the vanguard of a decentralized protest that originated, to a large extent, online, and has every potential to become a catalyst for a new kind of antiwar movement, one that transcends the narrow constraints of "left" and "right." This site represents an exemplary action, one that points to a broader movement that is more than just pro forma "patriotic." As I have emphasized in this column, and as the editorial staff has underscored in the choice of linked commentary, a truly successful antiwar movement will give voice to the accusation that an American Empire would have to be profoundly un-American.

The antiwar movement is growing by leaps and bounds, moving beyond the Left, and our audience has been growing along with it. It is a slow weekday at Antiwar.com when we get a mere 20,000 unique visitors, with more than a third coming from outside the United States and a growing number coming from outside the Anglosphere, especially the Middle East. We are breaking through the war propaganda of both sides, with news and views from all points on the ideological spectrum – except for that narrow band of it inhabited solely by the War Party.

Our campus visibility is especially high, and our student outreach program has done fantastically well: I've lost count of the number of speeches I've made at various college campuses, and more are scheduled. Media appearances by Antiwar.com writers and spokespeople – television, print, and radio – are on the upswing. We're in the process of redesigning the site, nothing radical but a gradual evolution to a more convenient format. To top it off, we've even had the honor of being smeared by the more frothy-mouthed warmongers, notably the ex-commie-turned-raving-rightist David Horowitz & Co., who avers that he has "declared war" on Antiwar.com.

The War Party has multi-millions at its disposal, and a head start of years, and yet they still haven't managed to pull this one off quite yet. Horowitz, for example, feeds off the neocon trough of foundation money, pays himself a huge salary, and smears anyone who opposes this rotten war as a "fifth columnist" for Saddam. We, by contrast, have almost no access to foundation money, and, unfortunately, haven't attracted the big money from Hollywood patrons.

Antiwar.com is entirely dependent on contributions from plain old ordinary Americans, who give lots of relatively small but heartfelt donations: grassroots folk. We can't go to some foundation with murky connections to the Military-Industrial Complex for money to pay for the extensive security we need to fend off hackers and boy! Do we attract them, or what?! or the phone bill, or the pittances we pay our writers and staff. We have to raise $20,000 each quarter just to stay alive.

Let me tell you straight up: if we don't raise enough money to make it through this quarter, one day soon you are going to log on to Antiwar.com and come up with an error message: Not Found! I kid you not. The Hollywood glitteratti have yet to discover us hey, you guys, what's up with that? and I can't just call up Shirley MacLaine or what's-his-name and ask them to cut us a six-figure check.

I like to console myself by thinking that this isn't really begging, although it sure seems very similar. I like to think that we've earned the relatively paltry sum Antiwar.com needs in order to keep bringing you the most professional pro-peace journalism on the internet, served up piping hot in time for your morning coffee. I can only hope you agree.

Last time we raised a total of $22,000. Either we match that, or we go kaput. It's as simple as that. The decision is in your hands. You can make an online contribution here, or mail in your contribution to the address below.

Remember, your contribution is 100 percent tax-deductible. In deciding whether to donate, think of it this way: would I rather give my involuntary "contribution" to the War Machine, or to the Peace Party? If the latter, then go here now.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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