Building the Antiwar Movement: March 21 and Beyond

By Carole Seligman

We present in this section of Socialist Viewpoint three articles and the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations (NA) call to action March 21, that address the critical issue of rebuilding the movement to end the U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. While the struggle to stop these wars began before the U.S. launched its March, 2003, “shock and awe” bombing attack with a massive worldwide demonstration of 10 million protestors (February 2003), both wars and occupations continue unabated, with millions of Iraqis and Afghanis dead, wounded, or refugees from their homes. These basic facts, plus the casualties sustained by American soldiers, the grievous wounds of the war, the huge number of veterans with post traumatic stress disorders, and the trillions of dollars of tax monies that pay for these wars and occupations have combined to convince a majority of Americans to oppose the wars.

So, one would assume, conditions are right for the rebuilding of a massive, independent, non-exclusive antiwar movement, unified to build huge street demonstrations demanding that the U.S. get out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The authors of the three articles and the NA call that follow all advocate that perspective, from different points of view, (local, national, and historical) and explain what the obstacles to its advancement are at this time.

The main problem is a fairly deep misunderstanding within the antiwar movement of the meaning of the election of President Barack Obama, who began his campaign for President opposing the Iraq war. During the course of the campaign, Obama began advocating shifting resources from the Iraq war to the war on Afghanistan. This should have been a great warning signal to antiwar activists who had illusions in the antiwar credentials of Obama. After the Democratic Party victory, any further illusions in the antiwar credentials of the Obama camp should have been destroyed by the reactionary appointments he has made as well as announced plans to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops into Afghanistan.

Older antiwar activists saw the same phenomenon in the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, when some of the leading antiwar activists called for “Part of the way with LBJ” in his campaign versus rightwing Republican, Barry Goldwater. Later the slogan became “Hey, hey, LBJ; How many [Vietnamese] kids did you kill today?” Clearly, the same false hopes for change and for peace are clouding the judgment of many sincere antiwar activists in the United for Peace and Justice coalition, particularly in its leadership.

The three articles below and the National Assembly call to action March 21 give some answers to these illusions and advocate a strong independent antiwar movement that struggles to get the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, no matter who is in the White House, no matter which ruling class party is carrying out the wars.