PEACE RANT: The peace movement needs to stand up and take some responsibility and some credit.

by on September 2, 2010 · 3 comments

in Civil Rights, History, Organizing, Peace Movement, Reader Rant, War and Peace


by Molly MacGuire

The peace movement of this past decade was George Bush’s tea parties.

Amidst the gnashing of teeth and stomping of feet by peace movement types – people like me – expressing our frustrations, distrust and exasperation over this whole change in Iraq, there is something that has to be brought up. Whether it’s just the appearance of the end of US combat after the 7 year war, or there has been a significant shift in American military power, there is something that I think has been overlooked.

The peace movement, the anti-Iraq war  campaign that has been around since 2002, – and more broadly the left,  needs to take some responsibility for what has just happened (the draw-down of US forces).

We also need to take some credit.  I went to too many demonstrations and walked in too many marches against the Iraq war to not want to say to the country and the world now, that I – we – had something to do with this historic moment.

In all the discussion amongst progressives and pundits about Obama’s speech, the military private contractors, the 50,000 remaining troops, the lack of a strong central Iraqi government, our dead, their dead, our troops going now next door into Afghanistan, there has been a real lack of acknowledgment that we are very responsible for this historic moment.

And we can acknowledge this moment without celebration – for I certainly don’t feel like celebrating.  But acknowledging our role in this event that has just occurred we should.

What are we acknowledging?

We need to stand up and take responsibility and credit that we – the peace movement – helped force the US government to withdraw 70% of the troops that were in Iraq at the peak of our military presence.

Because of the strength of the peace movement, candidate Barack soared in popularity back during the Presidential campaign. Because of his popularity and stance against the war, he did well in the early primaries. He became the anti-war candidate. And against formidable odds, Barack Obama, the anti-war candidate won the Democratic nomination.

Democrat Obama went up against Republican McCain – the “war” candidate.  McCain wanted to stay in Iraq for another hundred years if that’s what it took to finish the job.  He also wanted to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.”

But by 2008, the American people – the voters – had had it with the war in Iraq. They – we – voted for and elected the anti-war candidate.  That was certainly a victory for the peace movement  – a lot because our position on the war and the occupation had come to represent a majoritarian position of the country.

And now? Now, the American ruling establishment has been forced by a variety of factors – not least because of the peace movement – to make a change in Baghdad. The peace movement was a major factor in developing a division within the power elites over our course in Iraq.  One faction wanted to stay, and continue to duke it out, allowing private contractors to reap, and the other faction wanted to withdraw – or at least withdraw formally – perhaps in appearance only. One section wanted to “win” – and the other wanted something different, and Obama came to represent that view – and the view of the majority of  Americans – which was to ‘get out of Iraq.’

The peace movement, the left more broadly – we were the tea parties of the Bush era.

We never had the support and resources of large corporations and a leftwing FOX News – like those of today, but we were Bush’s tea parties. We called him names, wanted him impeached. We waved our signs, had our mass rallies, marched every March – the anniversary of the invasion, … and we were pretty much ignored by the mainstream media.  There’s no leftwing ownership of the mass media – that’s all hype! The left doesn’t have a Robert Murdoch, the owner of much of mainstream press these days.

We hounded Bush like the tea parties hound Obama. The atmosphere that we helped to create during the last years of the Bush era allowed for the candidacy of Obama.  He was our creation.

So, stand up, acknowledge that you who marched and made signs all those years to get us out of Iraq has forced the US ruling class to remove most of its troops from Iraq. Period.

Yes, yes, yes, many were moved next door. But that’s a different issue. And we need to keep the pressure on the administration over Afghanistan.  And there’s all those private contractors, the “rebranding”, but you have to admit that “officially” – and that is really a major point – combat operations are over for American troops.

Let’s take some responsibility here. Goddam it. We marched and demonstrated for too many long years.  We need to understand what we did politically, historically.  We are partially responsible for this moment of the change of official American policy towards Iraq.

Let’s see some credit where credit is due. Don’t sell yourselves short, you peace mongers.

We did have an affect and today is the official acknowledgment of that.  Take a moment, all you who contributed to the idea of ending the war in Iraq, and thank yourself for me, thank yourself for all of us.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar RB September 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

I agree that the peace movement had part in ending the conflict in Iraq. Those who protested the war rightly hammered the Bush administration on their reasons for this conflict and helped change public opinion. It has been a good lesson in democracy.

However, the last two years without any loud war protest, makes the movement appear anti Bush rather than anti war. It has been hard to see any difference in Obama’s policies vs Bush’s policies in Iraq. Both policies relied upon a troop surge not a withdrawal, as desired by the peace movement. Lastly, our ‘Peace President ‘ is repeating the policies use in Iraq in Afghanistan. Our ‘Peace President’ is using occupation, troop surges, and funding corrupt local governments in Afghanistan.
Really the only difference between Bush’s and Obama’s war policies is that the left supports Obama’s policies with their silence.


avatar Shane Finneran September 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm

I disagree with the point of this article. I’ve done a fair amount of peace protesting myself, and I don’t think we’ve won any sort of victory with this Iraq “withdrawal.”

For starters, I don’t think that America elected Obama because of anti-war sentiment. The economy was on its way down the toilet during election season, and in my opinion it was the dollar signs, not the peace signs, that made the difference at the polls.

And by the way, Obama’s campaign message was not one of peace. He made it clear that he’d continue occupying Iraq and would escalate Afghanistan. So if it was peace that Obama voters were after, they weren’t really paying attention.

Which seems to be what Obama is hoping for with this “withdrawal” talk. The occupation of Iraq continues, with something like 10,000 American mercenaries and 60,000 American civilians joining the 50,000 American “non-combat” troops in country. If that’s a withdrawal, I’d hate to see an advance.

In the meantime, we’re bulking up in Afghanistan. We’re sending more Predator drones on assassination missions in Pakistan. Torture that happened just a few years ago has gone unpunished. Rendition continues.

If this is victory for the peace movement, I’d hate to see defeat.


avatar Dave Sparling September 2, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Cindy Sheehan tried to wake up the sleeping lazy masses but because of that marriage of world corporate media to the MIC just before Gulf War One, Americans though WAR was just a cool video game. Turn on the TV evening news, see live pool coverage of General Swartzcoff pointing his stick at some cool maps on stage, telling everyone all was well and going good. Throw in some cool video of laser guided bombs blowing stuff up and WAR was as safe as a game. Heck this even led to Ollie North as a “IN BED WITH REPORTER” as Cheney/Rummy/Blair sold us the DELUXE SHOCK&AWE VIDEO GAME called the Iraq Crusade.

Sure some people protested these wars, but only showing soldiers talking to Ollie North and zero BLOOD anywhere near the scene, only proved one thing. Never again would politicians and Military Leaders blame the loss of a war on Vietnam style reporting. Now it is cute girls in steel pots showing soldiers in clean uniforms squatting and pointing big guns.


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