Consider the gathering storm:
- a powerful and persistent faction of hawks, centered in Vice-President Cheney’s office, is pushing for a military strike against Iran in the coming year.
- the orchestrated campaign for continuing the “surge” in Iraq, led by Gen. Petraeus, succeeded in restoring the nerve of the Republican Party, and defeating the Democratic strategy of seeking Republican defections.
- The well-coordinated attacks on MoveOn were designed to destroy the group’s proven ability to raise millions of dollars for anti-war messages and, in general, Democratic candidates. Seventy-five Senators, including the likes of Barbara Boxer, rushed to denounce MoveOn, thus helping the effort to de-legitimize the organization;
- Ari Fleischer, the former Bush spokesman who warned Americans to “watch what you say”, now eads an organization that spent $15 million to promote the war as patriotic;
- Pro-Israel and Christian Right groups are attempting to raise $200 million for a campaign calling for war with Iran;
- Rudy Giuliani, currently the Republican front-runner, has selected neo-con godfather Norman Podhoretz as his national security adviser.
- David Horowitz is spending millions of dollars to demonize pro-peace professors and organize the campuses against what the neo-cons call Islamo-fascism.
The neo-cons and hawks of all stripes are fighting back. They already have succeeded in gaining political traction for the escalation in Baghdad, counter-punching the Democratic critics into a corner, planting major stories of “success” in the media, and gaining top positions in Giuliani’s presidential campaign. Their campaign for war in Iran [Podhoretz says he “prays” for it everyday, an apparent message to the Christian Right] is on track.
Their top priority is to isolate the anti-war movement and its Democratic allies as “too extreme”. In 2002, when most of the American people were frozen by the 9/11 experience, it was a matter of trying to prevent the development of anti-war sentiment. In 2007, however, the neo-cons face a more daunting challenge, how to undermine the American majority favoring rapid withdrawal from Iraq.
As Podhoretz, Horowitz, and writers like Dinish D’Sousa, constantly emphasize, the real war is at home, with the left and liberals who they believe to be the modern equivalents of “fellow-travellers” during the Cold War era.
Their major target is MoveOn, with its vast resources and credibility. But ever in search of potential demons, they lately have been smearing and attacking Code Pink. The Canadian neo-con ally, Premier Stephen Harper, has ordered Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright stopped at the border last week.
The tactical purpose is clear, to make certain anti-war groups radioactive, or too hot to handle, thus damaging their efforts to push the mainstream along, forcing them from offense to defense. If they succeed in their plans for Iran, they believe Republican presidential chances may be enhanced in 2008.
All this suggests that anti-war activists face the challenge of being equally strategic. Impressive turnouts will be needed October 27. Coalition-building will be a priority [already many busloads of black congregations will be joining the Chicago event, Katrina victims will be turning out by the thousands in New Orleans, and protesters in Tennessee will be converging on the nation’s major depleted uranium facility – welcomed by the Mayor]. Unsettled, however, are to key questions needing broad consensus among the diverse multitudes of marchers:
- what is the most effective public message for the anti-war movement in the run-up to the bombing of Iran, and what should the movement be doing in the hours, days and weeks after such an attack?
- What is the most effective approach to the 2008 election if the choice is between a Republican extremist and a moderate Democratic hawk?
The marchers on October 27, in twos and threes and larger workshops, will be considering the future of a movement at a crossroads.
TOM HAYDEN is the author of Ending the War in Iraq [Akashic, 2007].