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An Interview with Cindy Sheehan: The Antiwar Movement and Independent Politics

By       Message Joshua Frank     Permalink
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When the admirable Tiberius upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."

-- Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire


Joshua Frank: Cindy, we are in the armpit of another election season and it seems that the mainstream antiwar movement is rallying behind the Democrats once again, hoping if the Dems can just recapture the House that the Republicans will finally be held accountable for all their horrible faults. Impeachment will follow and the war will end. What do you think? Where do you stand on all of this?

Cindy Sheehan: I hold very little hope that, due to the utter corruption of our electoral system, and the Republican reign of terror and fear against the American public, the Democrats will even take back one or more Houses of Congress.

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Even if the Democrats take back the lower House, the potential Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has already said that impeachment would not be "in the cards." Rep. John Conyers (D-Mi) has also backed off of impeachment rhetoric. Since Bush has said over and over again that the troops aren't coming home while he is president, it is up to us to make sure that his presidency is cut short.

We all know that the Vietnam War ended when Congress cut its funding. There is a bill that has been sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern, (D-Ma) HR4232 that cuts funding to leave our troops in Iraq, but he has very little support and even a smaller chance of getting it to the floor for a vote. I believe that most representatives don't support the bill because they will be accused of "not supporting the troops." I believe that it is not supporting the troops to leave them in that nightmare.

Although I admire the Democrats on many issues, when it comes to war and peace, most get their pockets lined by the same corporate interests.

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No matter which party has control of Congress come November, we the people have to keep the pressure up to stop the current course our country is taking.

Frank: You are currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Progressive Democrats of America, a pro-Democrat organization that calls for reform of the Democratic Party from within. The PDA consistently ignores progressive antiwar alternatives to the Democrats. Do you think that such a position could actually hurt the antiwar movement? Should we instead be supporting antiwar candidates who want to hold both parties accountable?

Sheehan: I think that the PDA endorses candidates based on their entire platforms. Of course, I only care about candidate's record on the war and what they say about peace. I prefer to call our movement a "peace" movement, because "antiwar" is too narrow.

I think it would be great if we didn't need a PDA, if all Democrats were progressive peace candidates, but we know they are not.

I would vote for a Republican if they were calling for the withdrawal of troops and for impeachment, and I definitely think a viable third party could rein in the "two" parties we have now.

We will never have a viable third party, though, as long as we vote out of fear and not out of integrity. Instead of voting for the "lesser of two evils" we should be voting for a candidate that reflects our "beatitudes" and not the war machine's.

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Frank: The PDA may endorse candidates based on their entire platform, but they still won't support antiwar candidates that are not Democrats -- and they've received a fair amount of criticism for that position. Do you think that such a policy may be a problem for those who want to build an independent antiwar movement that seeks to challenge both parties?

Sheehan: Yes, well the group is called Progressive Democrats of America. They have had no problem with me endorsing third party candidates. I completely support a viable third party. I don't know if PDA's position is holding up an independent antiwar party as much as the mainstream Republican and Democrats are.

I think reform of the Democratic Party could only reinforce antiwar efforts and all progressive causes in general.

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Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State (more...)
 

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