Whither the Anti-War Movement?

by Nick Rivera.


At the risk of drawing the ire of both Democrats and Republicans, I’d like to direct TMV readers to an interesting YouTube  clip that I recently discovered.

Back in May of this year, the RT television show, CrossTalk invited a panel to discuss the bewildering absence of the anti-war movement since the election of Barack Obama, debating whether the anti-war protests during the Bush Administration were genuinely anti-war or merely anti-Bush. Panelists included Angela Keaton, Development Director of antiwar.com; Thaddeus Russell, Historian and Author of A Renegade History of the United States, and Michael Heaney, Assistant Professor of Organizational Studies and Political Science at the University of Michigan.

A lot of interesting ground is covered during the 26 minute discussion, including references to Vietnam War and the role that the draft and the great numbers of casualties played in galvanizing the anti-war movement that arose during that war. Yet, perhaps of the most interesting insight came from a critique of the ‘Left’ made by Thaddeus Russell–himself a liberal–about ten and a half minutes into the discussion:

The point I want to make here today–and I think this is very important–is, it’s really about what happened with the Left and liberals, which is that they merged their identity with the head of empire during the campaign and since. And that is why they have left the anti-war movement in droves–because now they are part of the empire. They have become part of this global effort to remake the world in our image. And that is really the tragedy. The Left and liberals in this country need to really take a look close at what they did with Obama and begin to psychologically distance themselves from him. They need to start saying ‘Not in our name!’ Which is what they used to say during Bush and during Vietnam and they no longer say . . .

I’m a man of the Left. I was raised by socialists in Berkeley. I’ve always been on the Left. But I stumbled upon antiwar.com about three years ago and was blown away. I said ‘This is what the Left should be doing! This is what the Left should be saying!’ Libertarians and sort of paleocons–but especially libertarians like antiwar.com . . . like Ron Paul–have been the leading voices of the anti-war movement. They’ve been the most principled–the most consistent–no matter who’s president. They’ve been saying again and again and again, ‘These wars are disasters. The Empire must end.’ And the Left shuns them because they think they’re either shills for corporations or they’re racists or they don’t care about people. How can they not care about people if they are the leading voices against killing people in our name? So I think that what Angela’s saying is very important. I think the left-wing groups that used to dominate the anti-war movement should welcome need to welcome these very principled, very strong-willed people into the movement because they’re our allies, and they are the best allies right now.

It is sad to consider that our national debate–or lack thereof–over war is driven primarily by partisanship.

I used to marvel at the level of hypocrisy exhibited by large numbers of Republicans during the run-up to the War in Iraq–how some of the congressmen and cable news pundits who were the most vocal critics of Bill Clinton’s interventions in the Balkans turned out to be the staunchest defenders of George W. Bush’s intervention in Iraq. Within a period of less than three years, leading members of the Republican Party and the modern conservative movement suddenly morphed from staunch critics of elective wars and nation-building to defenders of such things.

But, alas, it turns out that the Democratic Party is no better. President Obama has stepped up our military involvement in Afghanistan and has continued the drone missile strikes (many of which have killed innocent civilians) in Pakistan. He has ordered our military intervention in Libya without a formal declaration of war or even a resolution from congress–something that even President Bush was not brazen enough to do–and we hear nary a peep from Democrats.

To be sure, there’s been plenty of criticism of Obama’s foreign policy offered by Democratic Congressman  Dennis Kucinich and by liberal columnist & blogger Glenn Greenwald, yet few liberals or Democrats seem to care about these stories.

And who could blame them given all the other important issues that are deserving of their attention? I mean, why divert precious time and resources covering an issue that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, the nefarious Koch brothers, or those “racist” Tea Party protesters?

Afterall, it’s only war.

UPDATE #1: It turns out that Dennis Mikolay, a columnist for the Atlantic Highlands Herald, wrote a similar article a couple of weeks ago.

UPDATE #2: In addition to the article by Dennis Mikolay, I strongly urge TMV readers to read the article written by David McElroy a couple of days ago. He covers some of the issues that I addressed and provides additional context with regards to the Obama administration’s argument that it didn’t need congressional approval to wage war on Libya (Glenn Greenwald also addresses this issue in a previous article that I linked to above).

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