The rapid response to US war moves against Iran has been an exciting start toward rebuilding the anti-war movement we so desperately need. Thousands took to the streets in more than 80 cities. It’s a great beginning. But, if we want a movement of millions we are going to have to reach everyday people outside of the existing movement, outside of partisan politics and outside of strictly moral appeals.
We start by waging peace because the anti-war movement is the path to anti-imperialist action — or so the history of the Vietnam Era would suggest.
If we want to grow from a radical movement of thousands to a disruptive movement of millions our job is to help people discover their own economic and political interests for opposing war and empire. In other words, we have to help people see war not simply as a morality play, or electoral politics, or as a separate “foreign policy” issue but as a power struggle — their struggle.
Ten anti-war messages in no special order:
1) “We should never have been there in the first place.” By the end of the Vietnam War, this straightforward idea was popular anti-imperialism and it challenged the US role as cops of the world. It was stock wisdom among millions of everyday anti-war Americans. We should have never been in the Middle East, or anywhere else, in the first place.
2) Empire abroad means empire at home. War and empire do not defend democracy but destroys it. It was the empire that undermined what little remained of representative democracy once the Executive Branch took over all war-making powers and everyone else fell into line. When the Military-Industrial-Complex and the secret police became major players in the government and media, democracy gave up its last ghost. Proof? We have not had a constitutional declaration of war since WWII. If the highest law of the land is routinely violated for 70 years — so much for the rule of law.
3) Stop the Poverty Draft! The lack of decent wages, universal health care, and free higher education are the main recruiters for the poverty draft. The 1.2 trillion we spend annually for war enforces austerity at home by diverting funds and resources. Only the 1% get rich on war. The war machine thrives on and creates poverty.
4) Hate and fear of the “other” is the culture of war. Hate and violence abroad and the culture of hate and violence at home exist in a vicious feedback loop. It’s not a coincidence that the hate demanded by the wars inflicted upon black and brown people abroad find a direct domestic parallel in the militarized penal system aimed at black, brown and poor and the attacks on immigrants of color.
5) And make no mistakes, its war that drives climate change. Not only is the military the largest consumer of fossil fuels, its the enforcer of an oil empire. War captures resources and forces countries to submit to a global regime where the US dollar is the only acceptable currency for trading fossil fuels. Stand outside of the oil empire –refuse to pay imperial tribute — and its regime change time for you.
6) Defend democracy and national sovereignty. Not only does the US routinely violate the national sovereignty of other countries but also attack legally elected governments. This is not debatable but plain fact — know the history.
7) “We are sick of being lied to.” We have decades of proof that the war-makers lie — the Afghanistan Papers being the most recent. Every claim made by every political official should be judged in that light. The public record is clear — war is based on lies and deception. Remember: “In War Truth is the First Casualty.”
8) Listen to anti-war soldiers and veterans. The greatest challenge to war is anti-war soldiers and veterans because they completely upset the empire’s narratives and are the most effective of all protestors. The peace movement from within the military’s ranks is a bridge between some hard-won, down and dirty knowledge about war and millions of people who do not currently define themselves as anti-war. Support About Face, Vets for Peace and Veteran’s Power.
9) Empires rise and empires fall — without exception. American Exceptionalismhas conditioned us to see the US as a moral force outside of history. Exceptionalism is a master narrative of war that blinds us to the dangers of an empire in decline. The liberal aspects of Exceptionalism are the hardest to see but they encourage us to understand war as a morality play with the US acting as a force for good in the world.
10) Imperial wars are unwinnable wars. Eighteen years in Afghanistan and over 25 years of on-again-off-again war with Iraq prove that these wars are unwinnable. Unwinnable wars are just permanent military occupations — the hallmark of empire. Sooner or later the facts become obvious to the people under US control and they want their countries back.
What should be our most important anti-war narratives? Let’s start out right with the goal of bringing the US empire into view as a target for political action. We need stories that help reveal to millions of people the true nature of empire. We need stories that can help us organize actual constraints on the war machine. We need stories that help us to find the beginnings of freedom in the end of empire.