Stopping the Drive to War

James Weinstein

Oppo­si­tion to war against Iraq has grown steadi­ly in recent weeks, both at home and abroad. The Jan­u­ary 18 demon­stra­tions in Wash­ing­ton and San Fran­cis­co attract­ed hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple, more than even the biggest anti-Viet­nam War march­es in the 60s. The polls show that more than two-thirds of Amer­i­cans oppose the Bush administration’s plans to uni­lat­er­al­ly attack Iraq.

Still, the media all but ignore the unprece­dent­ed activ­i­ty against the war. In Chica­go, for exam­ple, the City Coun­cil passed a res­o­lu­tion oppos­ing uni­lat­er­al action by the Unit­ed States by a vote of 46 to 1. Some­thing like this was incon­ceiv­able in the 60s, yet the Chica­go Tri­bune buried this news in a para­graph hid­den in a more gen­er­al sto­ry, and the New York Times gave it three inch­es in a col­umn of short items. Since then, the num­ber of city coun­cils that have passed sim­i­lar res­o­lu­tions has risen to 50 (with Cleve­land being the most recent at this writ­ing). This is tru­ly amaz­ing, yet it has pro­duced not even a rip­ple on the pages of the country’s lead­ing newspapers.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the media have pre­ferred to play up the in-fight­ing among a small num­ber of for­mer stu­dent pro­test­ers who are appalled by the fact that a few sec­tar­i­an groups have been the most active orga­niz­ers of the big march­es in recent months. Yes, it is unfor­tu­nate that speak­ers at some of the big demon­stra­tions often talk about mat­ters not direct­ly relat­ed to the Bush administration’s plans and ratio­nale for war. 

Intel­li­gent orga­niz­ers against the war would stick to the point in order to gain max­i­mum sup­port. But the more impor­tant point is that the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who attend these protests total­ly ignore the sec­tar­i­an dis­trac­tions. Mean­while, the carpers, instead of being thank­ful for the ded­i­cat­ed orga­niz­ing by the sec­tar­i­ans, con­tribute noth­ing but cold water to the move­ment against the war.

It is dif­fi­cult to tell how effec­tive the oppo­si­tion to war will be. The Bush admin­is­tra­tion already claims that inter­na­tion­al oppo­si­tion is of lit­tle con­cern, and so far Bush and his man­agers have total­ly ignored the pro­test­ers and polls that indi­cate max­i­mum con­cern and min­i­mal sup­port for war. 

In his State of the Union address, Bush sim­ply repeat­ed unproven claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruc­tion which threat­en the Unit­ed States. He did not explain how this could be so when his own experts admit that Iraq’s armed forces and mil­i­tary hard­ware are now at less than one-third the strength they were in 1991, when they were eas­i­ly beat­en. Nor did he explain how Iraq had become an ally of al-Qae­da, when Saddam’s sec­u­lar régime has been a sworn and con­sis­tent ene­my of the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ism of Osama bin Laden and his followers. 

Of course, Bush dwelled on the evil acts com­mit­ted by Sad­dam, while neglect­ing to admit that the Unit­ed States was sup­port­ing Iraq at the time many of these crimes were being per­pe­trat­ed. Nor did he men­tion that, accord­ing to Amnesty Inter­na­tion­al, at least a dozen oth­er nations have been guilty of the same or sim­i­lar crimes, and that most of these nations are con­sid­ered friend­ly by the administration.

We don’t know if the dri­ve to war can be stopped. But we do know that the move­ment to pre­vent it — and espe­cial­ly the oppor­tu­ni­ty to edu­cate the pub­lic about the administration’s impe­r­i­al ide­ol­o­gy — must be encour­aged in every way.

Those who attempt to use this move­ment for some nar­row sec­tar­i­an end are no threat. Their efforts against the war should be appre­ci­at­ed, their dis­trac­tions ignored. Our ener­gies should be direct­ed at gain­ing the atten­tion of polit­i­cal forces too timid to oppose the admin­is­tra­tion by demon­strat­ing that we rep­re­sent major­i­ty opin­ion on this issue.

Bush and his managers have totally ignored the protesters and polls that indicate maximum concern and minimal support for the war.
James Wein­stein found­ed In These Times in 1976. He also found­ed the jour­nal Social­ist Review and the Mod­ern Times book­store in San Fran­cis­co. Wein­stein is the author of sev­er­al books, includ­ing The Cor­po­rate Ide­al in the Lib­er­al State, 1900 – 1918 and The Decline of Social­ism in Amer­i­ca, 1912 – 1925. His final book, pub­lished in 2003, was The Long Detour: The His­to­ry and Future of the Amer­i­can Left. He died in 2005.
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