Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....
- Name: Bruce K. Gagnon
- Location: Bath, Maine, United States
Friday, September 13, 2013
In the days following Obama’s recent request to Congress to “delay a vote” on authorizing his Syria attack many peace groups were sending emails around declaring victory. In many respects it was right for people to celebrate the fact that the House of Representatives was going to resoundingly defeat Obama’s “red line” military strategy. Even the vote in the Senate was becoming more contested than anyone ever imagined possible. Here in Maine our Republican Sen. Susan Collins, always a loyal supporter of the Pentagon and endless war, came out against the Obama Syria plan. That indicated something larger than normal was happening.
But the left must be fair before we quickly declare this as our victory. The truth is that during the Obama administration’s time in office, the peace movement across the US has been a weak and fading shell of what it was prior to George W. Bush’s “shock and awe” attack of Iraq in 2003. Since Obama took office he has successfully demobilized the peace movement and other progressive organizations, as legions of “liberals” who once declared themselves peaceniks have taken their protest signs and their peace group memberships back home and locked them up in a closet.
In recent months, as Obama’s rhetoric and CIA-directed war against Syria escalated, these same liberals have been reluctant to emerge from their self-imposed isolation. The powerful Democratic Party front-group MoveOn was slow to jump into the Syria issue, only deciding to poll their online members during the last two weeks. By that time it appeared that an Obama attack on Syria was inevitable.
By the time MoveOn, and some other liberal organizations, got into the Syria issue there had already been significant efforts underway by some right-wing forces to organize against an attack. Amazingly we heard Republicans in Congress sounding very much like left wing anti-war activists in their opposition to an attack. Right-wing radio “shock jocks” like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Michael Savage were correctly opposing the attack for reasons very similar to ours – it was illegal, dangerous, destabilizing, too expensive, would be wrongly supporting terrorist groups like Al-Qaida and their principle funders the Saudi Arabian “royalty”.
It is obvious that grassroots right-wing opposition to a Syria attack was paying off in Congress. Leading anti-war Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) was reporting that Republicans were 10-1 opposed, while Democrats in the House of Representatives were 4-1 in opposition.
Certainly, some of this opposition by Republicans was part of their long-time anti-Obama strategy. But it would be wrong to conclude that was the primary motivation for their strong opposition. I saw enough interviews of ordinary American citizens from conservative communities who were saying, “We can’t afford these endless wars. Our communities are falling apart. We can’t keep doing this.” Their conservative representatives in Congress were hearing these messages loud and clear.
We should embrace those messages and those who spoke them – no matter what political party they belong to. We also have to give conservatives credit when they have in the past harshly critiqued the traditional liberal base for not standing against wars when Democrats are in power with the same ferocity as they have when guys like Bush-Cheney ran the government.
So in my mind this initial victory has been a win for all the American people. It’s not only a victory for the left, or the peace movement, per se. We could not have slowed down Obama’s drive for a dangerous and destabilizing attack on Syria without the solid support of the right wing across the nation. We should be quick to acknowledge that.
I for one see this as something to build on. I would hope that people from the left and right have learned important lessons from this current episode. Clearly it is in the interest of all the people that we put a leash on the war appetite of the military industrial complex. Hopefully all of us can better understand that on foreign policy issues “we the people” must reign in the corporate dominated military empire whose interests are not in alignment with those of the general public.
Hopefully the nation develops more confidence in itself from this remarkable display of people’s power. We are going to need each other as this battle is far from over.