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The Pitfalls of the Antiwar Movement in America

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I, myself, have learned to utterly despise the prolonged illegal war and occupation of Iraq. I have gone to many discussions, forums, and meetings on ending the war and occupation for months---years---now. All I can think of is fragmented thoughts that somehow when put together allow a person to find it impossible to not oppose this immoral and illegal war (as if war is moral or legal but if you read the infamous 2002 speech of Barack Obama it would seem a war can be moral and legal).

What I have come to learn is that it is in the DNA of America. We are a vicious, malicious, and aggressive nation and we raise our children to “defend this nation” viciously, maliciously, and aggressively with a “take no prisoners” attitude. We take lessons from Israel on how to exact power over innocent people (the Palestinians). And we most certainly do not oppose missions in the “war on terror” to payback those that attacked us on 9/11 unless the mission is un-winnable or damaging to the respect or standing of America in the world.

This is an inherent truth that the antiwar movement constantly disregards when it is crafting its actions and messages for the public whom they wish would get involved in opposing the illegal war in Iraq and fight for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

Noam Chomsky, in the book What We Say Goes, says in response to a question on opposition to the war among liberals that the war isn’t really opposed by liberals at all. He suggests that Americans are upset with the war because the occupation hasn’t gone well. He goes on to say:

…You could have found the same views in Russia during the occupation of Afghanistan. Actually, there was a very interesting article recently in the Toronto Globe and Mail by a former Russian soldier who is now a Canadian citizen. He describes how the soldiers felt in Afghanistan. We were trying to help the people of Afghanistan. We were saving them from the terrorists who were attacking them. We were risking our lives to bring them medical care. And somehow they didn’t appreciate it. We were trying to protect rights of women and make it a civilized society. He says that he now hears Canadian soldiers saying the same thing about Iraq. You can translate it word for word. I’ve been in touch with him. This is part of a bigger project comparing the attitudes in Russia toward the Afghan war, the Chechnya war, what appears in the press there and so on, with attitudes here and what appears in the press here about U.S. wars. Pretty much as I expected, it’s very similar.

Noam Chomsky details several polls released in the past one to two years that show Iraqis want us out because they believe we are contributing to the violence and sectarianism and that we are building permanent bases. He indicates that we are not even providing Iraq the support for an army because we will provide the support an Iraqi army would provide. Essentially, this solidifies our role in Iraq as that of an occupying foreign power.

Under the presupposition that those polls are enough to make anyone logically realize that out of respect for sovereignty (the same respect we would expect from every country across the globe), there is no reason for this war to continue on (if you can exhume yourself from the belief that America has the right to tell countries what they can and cannot do).

However, the people who are convinced this war is wrong and are working to end the war are dragging their feet or moving their feet in the wrong manner and have been for the past three or four years. (This is all in addition to the ignorance of public support for this war because many want to see this war succeed.)

Too many expect Hillary and Barack to end this war. If we are to believe that Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are antiwar candidates, than we must look them in the face and ask them if there is any urgency in their plans for American foreign policy to get our troops out of Iraq now. Since we know that in a debate neither wanted to commit to having all troops out of Iraq before 2013, we know that Obama or Clinton are not worthy of the label of “antiwar” because “antiwar” would mean that you were a candidate vigorously working through action and rhetoric to end the occupation and bring the troops home and also hold the rogue regime responsible for carrying out the illegal invasion accountable through impeachment.

Kucinich was an antiwar candidate. Obama or Clinton cannot be and never will be antiwar candidates. Nader is an antiwar candidate. McKinney is an antiwar candidate. Gravel and Paul are antiwar candidates. What are Obama and Clinton? Not antiwar candidates.

Yet, the antiwar movement refuses to support any of the real antiwar candidates and a large faction of the antiwar movement (the least active faction) has chosen to support Obama.

I have been told before, Obama may not say it in his campaign but we know he will bring the troops home as soon as he possibly can when elected.

Forgive me if that is not good enough. Forgive me if a man who self-censors himself and is supported by people who support the self-censorship of his agenda rubs me the wrong way. I’ve had enough of the right wing bellowing on Islamic extremism and Bush’s “mandate from Heaven.” I do not wish to support a presidential candidate who promotes activism and civics through telekinesis or ESP. Not my president.

The antiwar movement does not wish to have confrontations within the movement over what politician to support and what politician not to support. As a result, the antiwar movement becomes a non-issue for the Democratic Party because neither is threatened by the antiwar vote. Thus, the antiwar vote is a constituency that does not exist because if it did, it would not vote Democrat or Republican. It would be voting third party or for insurgent candidates if the movement could force itself to come to a consensus and support one candidate for president each election.

Plurality within the movement, however, prevents this from ever happening. It means that the movement is willing to confront people outside the movment to change their attitude toward the war but is not willing to confront people within the movement to change their attitude toward the war. The movement accepts it holds the moral high ground and then accepts that those outside of the movement need to get on board with the movement now or else. And that’s just how it is. It’s a movement of righteousness and pretentiousness.

The antiwar movement has grown into a movement that holistically rejects elections. This is good in theory and it is good especially if you are a 501(c)(3), but the people in power who are carrying out this imperialist agenda that is squandering our nation’s future are being voted in by fellow Americans and even fellow members of the antiwar movement.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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