Open Letter to the U.S. Antiwar Movement
As tensions escalate with regard to Iran — Israel again insisting that it cannot brook delay much longer — and the clamor growing for U.S. intervention in Syria, the antiwar movement is once again confronted with this critical challenge: What more can we do to mobilize the critical mass needed to stay the hands of the warmakers and pull us back from the brink to which the U.S. government has led us with its ever more threatening ultimatums?
To be sure, there are a number of factors which cause both Washington and Tel Aviv to hesitate:
- Divisions at the highest level in the U.S. government and among the American public with respect to the wisdom and feasibility of launching a strike against Iran.
- Divisions at the highest level in the Israeli government and among the Israeli public with respect to the wisdom and feasibility of launching a strike against Iran.
- Lack of evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon, is close to having one, or even intends to build one.
- War weariness of the American people, as shown by the latest New York Times poll (3/27/12), which found 69% of the American people have now turned against continuation of the war and occupation of Afghanistan.
- Deep concern with the cost of yet another war or two, especially with the debt and deficit problems being so acute, and the economy still in crisis despite the Pollyanna assurances to the contrary.
- Recognition that an Israeli attack on Iran “would lead to a wider regional war, which could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead, according to American officials.” (New York Times, 3/20/12)
- Logistics considerations that make U.S. intervention in Syria infinitely more difficult than was the case with Libya.
However, despite these factors, which do inhibit the warmakers to a degree, it is clear that we cannot rely on them to prevent the outbreak of new wars, with all the deaths and destruction which would result. For this, there can be no substitute for the intervention of the American people on a truly massive scale.
Antiwar organizations and activists are in motion on a number of fronts: demonstrations and rallies, vigils, petitioning, Pledge of Resistance, adoption of resolutions, lobbying, letters to the editor, press releases, forums, town meetings, teach-ins, etc. We in the New National Assembly to Bring the Troops Home Now greatly appreciate all such activities.
At the same time, we give priority to mobilizing in the streets as the central strategy. We point to the Vietnam antiwar movement, which was the broadest and most effective of any such movement in the nation’s history, primarily due to the massive demonstrations it organized, for example, bringing over a million people into the streets of Washington D.C. and San Francisco on a single day in April 1971. The U.S. peace movement has also been greatly inspired in recent years by the way millions took to the streets in Egypt and Tunisia in demonstrations that brought down dictators in these two countries.
Moreover, the antiwar movement needs to follow the example set by the civil rights movement, not only because of the way its marches and demonstrations in the '60s had tremendous impact in advancing the fight for justice and equal rights, but also because the legacy continued over the subsequent decades, including the actions being taken protesting the despicable and brutal murder of Trayvon Martin. No other form of protest can match the visibility and power of masses demonstrating in the streets.
As we contemplate the perilous days that lie ahead, we have to ask what our movement would do if the moment arrived when President Obama asked Congress for approval for unleashing air strikes against Iran. The impulse would surely be to mass gigantic numbers in Washington to prevent such a vote, with the Occupy movement perhaps playing a key role and, hopefully, the labor movement, communities of color, women’s movement, students, faith groups and other progressive forces joining in.
The question would be: Who would issue the call for such an action best calculated to generate the broadest response? Would we all be marching together or would the divisions that have plagued the movement, especially since 2005, continue to undermine it, sending us off in different directions, thereby benefiting the warmakers?
One thing we can be sure of: the best way for our movement to draw in the broad forces would be if we presented a united front. If the broader forces are approached by a number of different formations to participate in what could be competitive events, they could abstain from all of them and simply organize their own protest actions. That would, of course, be better than nothing, but not nearly as powerful as a united action.
The New National Assembly and its predecessor National Assembly have long advocated the formation of an all-inclusive national antiwar coalition, which would allow for free-wheeling, democratic discussion and debate, arriving at a plan of action which could unite the movement as a whole, while allowing affiliated groups to organize supplementary actions not competitive with the coalition’s action plan. No such coalition presently exists and we do not expect one to crystallize in the months ahead.
What we do think is possible — in fact, indispensable! — is for key leaders of the movement to meet together in the near future and reach agreement on how best to coordinate protest actions going forward of the most massive kind possible. Going it alone by any group or groups is no substitute for such coordination and cooperation.
No one can dispute that a united antiwar movement would be in a stronger position to prevent the outbreak of another war than a divided movement. As the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. We most sincerely hope that the necessary will for unity carries the day. Please let us know if you agree.
Coordinating Committee, New National Assembly to Bring the Troops Home Now