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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 6/15/17

Can the Peace Movement Survive?

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They're young, feminist, and antiwar. But Rehumanize International, a women-led, non-profit organization headquartered in Pittsburgh, is also pro-life, and that's what got them removed as a co-sponsor of the July 1 "Pittsburgh March Against War."

The May 23 decision was made by the Pittsburgh Peace Roundtable, a coalition of progressive and socialist groups that is organizing the march. A Roundtable statement said that Rehumanize was dropped as a co-sponsor because "The coalition aims for a march focused on opposing U.S. wars and imperialism and desires messaging that fits this theme. Upon closer examination, we have found the outspoken anti-choice viewpoint consistently expressed by Rehumanize to be inconsistent with what we desire to accomplish as a group."

Wrong. What the antiwar movement desires to accomplish is to end war. Dropping Rehumanize will impede that goal. Shortly after the May 23 vote, Aimee Murphy, Executive Director and founder of Rehumanize, sent the Peace Roundtable an e-mail. She wrote that she was disappointed by the Roundtable's decision. She believes that Rehumanize could help broaden the peace movement by bringing in groups and individuals the peace movement has not been reaching, including millions of Americans who are pro-life.

She's right. The antiwar movement needs everyone it can get. The task ahead of us is staggering. After nearly sixteen years, the US is still at war in Afghanistan. US troops are in Iraq and Syria. The US is assisting Saudi aggression in Yemen. Our unmanned drone aircraft kill innocent civilians in Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Somalia. At present, antiwar activism (which largely sat out the Obama years) is a teeny-tiny movement. Can peace activists afford to exclude people and groups who want to end US wars?

This is the third time this year that Rehumanize International has been excluded from an antiwar march. Rehumanize was also excluded from the January 21 Women's March on Washington and the New York City Women's March to Ban the Bomb to be held on June 17. Rehumanize got the bad news from New York and Pittsburgh in the same week.

Organizers of the New York and DC marches echoed Roundtable concerns, Peace Roundtable internal e-mails accuse Rehumanize International of concealing its pro-life character when it joined the Roundtable; harassing women outside abortion clinics (which Rehumanize calls being "sidewalk advocates for life" or, more whimsically, "sidewalk sidekicks"); and redirecting women seeking abortions to so-called "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" which masquerade as abortion providers but which pressure women not to have abortions.

Some Roundtable members have flatly declared that they refuse to work with a pro-life organization under any circumstances. In fact, since the May 23 Pittsburgh vote, two groups have proposed written statements that, if adopted, would expressly bar pro-life groups from co-sponsoring the Pittsburgh March Against War.

Rehumanize deserves our support because Rehumanize shares our commitment to peace. Many members of the Peace Roundtable do not believe this. They believe that Rehumanize pretends to be an antiwar organization in order to "infiltrate" peace groups so as to advance an antiabortion agenda.

Although antiwar activism is not its sole focus, Rehumanize is unquestionably against war. The reason Rehumanize opposes both war and abortion is because it follows a "Consistent Life Ethic," the brainchild of Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. This means that Rehumanize also opposes the death penalty (as many of us do too), euthanasia, and stem-cell research. Its consistency separates Rehumanize from "pro-life" hypocrites on the Right who care only about fetuses and to hell with everyone else.

Defenders of women's reproductive rights are no less principled and consistent. They believe that attacks on women's right to choose are attempts to control women through force. They regard both war and attacks on choice as acts of violence. The only difference is that attacking the right to choose is a form of violence directed specifically against women.

The peace movement's job is not to settle the abortion debate, even were that possible. The peace movement's job is to end war. We do not have to become pro-lifers to work with Rehumanize. I happen to be pro-choice. But I will partner with Rehumanize or any group that is hostile to war.

Our movement is not going to agree on everything. Not all of the members of the Peace Roundtable even agree on what ought to be noncontroversial: commitment to democracy and human rights. The antiwar movement rightly condemns US war crimes in Syria, but some Pittsburgh peace activists routinely deny the war crimes of the Syrian dictatorship. If we can work with apologists for Bashar al-Assad, then we can work with pro-lifers.

President Donald Trump. The antiwar movement has got to decide who our real enemies are: President Donald Trump (who wants to bump up military spending by $54 billion) and the Pentagon--or pro-lifers? If we refuse to march with pro-life allies, then we are saying that we are willing to have militarists prevail.

I worry about a pattern forming. Will the peace movement exclude one group after another after another? What will happen when libertarians and paleoconservatives turn up at our meetings? Both are antiwar but pro-capitalism. Will they be turned away by the socialists in the peace movement?

The answers will determine whether the peace movement remains tiny and irrelevant or whether we become a broad-based, welcoming, and effective force to end war.
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Charles Pierson is a lawyer and peace activist in Pittsburgh. He contributes regularly to CounterPunch on subjects such as Yemen, Pakistan, war, armed aerial drones, and US military spending.

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