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The Future of the Peace Movement

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Kevin Gosztola
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Like the Freedom Rides and Freedom Summer, we need to build toward an "Iraq and Guantanamo Summer" in which thousands of activists fan out to communities across the country on both educational and civil disobedience campaigns - to take the message to the war makers that the peace movement is everywhere and is willing to take greater and greater risks until the killing and torture stops. –Michael Foley

…if peace activists are serious about reining in the forces of militarism, they should recognize that a movement composed of small, independent peace groups and large numbers of unaffiliated individuals is simply not up to that task. To attain organizational cohesion, strength, and programmatic direction, the movement needs a powerful national peace organization, with a mass membership. Only then will it be in a position to effectively challenge the masters of war, impress the politicians, and set the United States on a new, peaceful course in world affairs. –Lawrence S. Wittner, serves on the board of Peace Action

A Time for Pause and Reflection [PART 3]

What will become of the peace movement will depend on how the movement responds to the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, how it picks up and continues to pick up momentum with the election in full-swing, and if it can get Americans looking to vote involved in the movement. Momentum, an encouraging response to the unfortunate anniversary (meaning Americans react angrily to it), and using the election to boost the peace movement will all be possible if the peace movement follows some tips.


Educate your group on all the important details of the war in Iraq, on all the details of fraudulent recruitment, on all the lies surrounding this "war on terror", etc. and arm yourself with facts that you can fire off when necessary.

And understand who is being spoken to and tailor the message for those Americans.

Zoltan Grossman in a piece published on CounterPunch.org written two years ago Grossman offered some insight on the failure to frame the discussion effectively and handle several poor arguments being made by people who think the war should continue. She says:

Specifically, the arguments that U.S. troops should be redeployed to neighboring countries, and that the chaos in Iraq could lead to a civil war or Shi'ite theocratic rule, are now being reinterpreted to justify rather than end the war. In this shifting political environment, the peace movement should be extremely cautious that its original arguments against the war do not become a justification of a new phase of the war, or even fodder for a new war.

She goes on to discuss the civil war argument, the redeployment argument, and the Shiite bloc argument. These arguments are still trotted out by Democrats and are the justifications many supporters of Obama or Hillary or just plain Democrats use to justify supporting bills in Congress that only bring home combat troops, set the date for withdrawal one to two years from now, or worse, allow for the creation of permanent bases in Iraq. All members of the peace movement should study and commit to memory Grossman’s article, which has a plethora of facts for making the case to bring our troops home.

In addition to Grossman’s article, I suggest reading Scott Ritter’s Waging Peace and adopting the “firefighter standard”, which means if firefighters are receptive to your message then most likely the majority of Americans will be. Scott Ritter offers this standard because firefighters are “ranked number one in terms of jobs that garner respect of the general public.” A firefighter’s traditional love for country and community will force the peace movement to articulate a clear and concise message that can go up against the pro-war movement’s message of “Gods, Guns, Gays”, which is very good at trouncing the peace movement’s vision.

Scott Ritter cites this “standard” because of what he witnessed in Seattle during the WTO protests of 1999. From his book, Waging Peace:

While the Seattle police department responded to a mostly peaceful demonstration with alarming brutality and excessive force, the Seattle fire department showed why firefighters remain among society’s most respected servants. When ordered by the mayor of Seattle to turn their fire hoses against the crowds of demonstrators in order to disperse them, the firefighters refused, and in some cases stood side by side with the demonstrators, arms folded in defiance.

This respect for the rule of law leads Ritter to suggest that the peace movement articulate a pro-Constitution message for ending the war. As he says, “win over the firefighters, and you win over society.”


In meetings with likeminded individuals who wish to take action, role play so that when you are engaging people on the street and pushing them to take action you will be able to pull them in and join your efforts.

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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 OpEdNews.com
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