The Vast American Anti-War Movement
by Chris Bowers, Wed Jun 22, 2005 at 05:07:20 PM EDT
There was a very real antiwar movement early on. In the months before, during and immediately after our invasion, hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to oppose the intervention. Then chaos, followed by insurgency, enveloped Iraq, and the need for a constable to restore some order became indisputable. Those who had opposed the war -- this columnist included -- argued that the occupation would be less of a lightning rod if conducted by an international force under U.N. aegis. But the Bush administration insisted on U.S. control (a decision that grows less explicable with each passing day), and other nations with real armies made clear that they wanted no part of what was becoming a bloody occupation.
Confronted with a choice between U.S. occupation and chaos, millions of Americans -- chiefly liberals and Democrats -- who'd been against the war decided to give occupation a chance. In the streets, demonstrations dwindled; in Congress, Democrats (save for a handful) did not call for withdrawal. With unprecedented discipline, Democrats who had opposed the war lined up behind the candidacy of John Kerry, whose position on the war was muddled at best. The question of the occupation fell off the liberal agenda. At the Take Back America conference, a national gathering of liberals held this month, the issue barely came up at all.Meyerson's view of a "movement" seems reasonable enough to me, although I think his conclusion that there is not anti-war movement is wrong. For Meyerson, one of the centerpieces of a movement would be vast, public demonstrations. However, I think he should consider what the concept of a demonstration actually is. Historically, demonstrations have not just been a large show of support for a particular idea or policy position, but an actual demonstration of the methods and people that are intended to make the idea or position a reality. By this definition, the anti-war movement could hardly be most vast than it already is. In fact, I would estimate that around 98-99% of Americans are participating in it.
While demonstrations on the scale of 2003 are no longer as large or as prevalent as they once were, it is important to remember that the purpose and function of the anti-war movement has changed since then. In 2003, short of an internal Labour Party revolt against Blair, we knew there was really no way we could stop Bush from going to war. In the months immediately before the war, the purpose of the anti-war movement was simply to declare, on the record of public consciousness, that we did not agree. I know that is why I participated. Rather than "Stop the War Now," our rallying cry was "Not in Our Name."
Now, the purpose of the anti-war is different than it was back then. While there might not be massive rallies of the sort that there were two years ago, our demonstrations are as long as ever. Right now, the purpose of the anti-war movement is to withdraw from Iraq. Since we are facing a government that would ever seriously entertain the idea of withdrawing our military from Iraq, the anti-war movement has instead succeeded in convincing almost the entire American public to withdraw from Iraq. Because it is doing nothing by way of enlistment, by way of encouraging others to enlist, and by way of real material support for American troops, every single day the American public is engaging in a massive, non-violent demonstration against thee Iraq war. Almost every American has made it very clear that they wish to end this war, and their preferred means of doing so is simply to not participate within it. Steve Gillard notes the degree to which almost every American is objectively anti-Iraq war through our collective inaction:People on the right and left want some deus ex machina to save Iraq, but we have., collectively, come to a simple conclusion:
Iraq is not worth dying for. Not for the warmongers on the right or the liberal hawks on the left.
It's bad the soldiers are trapped there, but we have made it their problem, No one is willingly going to join them, and 5,000 have deserted so far.
When you ask liberal hawks to enlist, they are offended by the question.
When you ask conservatives to enlist, they are offended by the question.
And America's parents are NOT sending their kids to die in Iraq if they can, at all, help it. No one blows up IED's at Wal Mart.
We have a volunteer army with fewer and fewer volunteers, and people reenlisting only to save their friends. There is a time limit to their ability to be in combat. They cannot serve forever. They will have to be replaced. And fewer and fewer are willing to replace them.Even among those Americans who support he war in word, through their inaction the vast majority of them actually oppose the war in deed. They are not enlisting. They are not calling on others to enlist. They are not creating or participating in a grassroots aid program to soldiers in Iraq. They are not actually doing anything to support the Iraq war and, as such, are objectively anti-war. Resources are needed to fight this war, and withholding your personal resources is the equivalent of withdrawal.
I come from a liberal Catholic background. Growing up, I was told that there was no difference between your deeds and your actions. I still believe that. It is time for all of America to realize how anti-war we actually are. Simply put, almost no one in America wants to fight this war, and almost no one in America is fighting this war. No matter what it says, the American public is anti-war and has already withdrawn from Iraq. We demonstrate this every day, both en masse and in public.