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by Alexander Cockburn
Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002 at 11:06 AM
"Do we have an antiwar movement? We're getting there. We must be, because we're catching flak from the anti-anti war movement, Light Infantry division, staffed by Marc Cooper, Todd Gitlin, David Corn, and Christopher Hitchens."
Do we have an antiwar movement? We're getting there. We must be, because we're catching flak from the anti-anti war movement, Light Infantry division, staffed by Marc Cooper, Todd Gitlin, David Corn,
and Christopher Hitchens.
Marc Cooper, like Gitlin, has carved out a pleasant niche for himself, belaboring various left causes from a position purporting to represent robust common sense. It's a posture endearing to op-ed editors,
particularly if there's an insinuation that somewhere, way back, the author had left credentials. It's fair to raise the issue of credentials, since the prime line of attack by the Light Infantry is to belabor the credentials of the antiwar left, as dumbos, catspaws, dictator-lovers, cultists, practitioners of unmentionable vices.
Back of the start of 2000 Cooper publicly prayed to God to make that same year "free of Mumia". How precisely the year would be liberated from this
man on Death Row he tastefully left unstated. In the jibes at the Mumia cult that followed Cooper hiccupped bashfully that Mumia "probably" didn't
get a fair trial, then suppressed important facts about the fatal encounter between the journalist and the police officer, or even that the Mumia "cult"
probably saved his life by drawing attention to Mumia's situation in the mid-80s when no one cared a whit.
In a recent Los Angeles Times column Copper prays once more, this time for "an effective, attractive and moral opposition". And how can the antiwar
opposition become effective, attractive and moral? Cooper's recipe: condone the US rationale for continuing sanctions; accept as framework for
discussion of the war and military action the rationales offered by George Bush and his associates.
Cooper derides Ramsey Clark for calling the sanctions "genocidal". Would you march with Clark or Cooper? If you are hesitating read Joy Gordon's
chilling description in the November Harper's of how the US has been applying sanctions designed to kill children in Iraq, then make up your mind.
Todd Gitlin has made a career out of issuing advisories about the "hard left", the "Old Left" and other. Though Gitlin usually pretends that he's
trying to counsel the left towards improved conduct under the Gitlin Seal of Approval, I don't think he has much interest in the left, as anything other than raw material for his unctuous punditry.
In a recent Mother Jones Gitlin reports that at a rally outside the UN he spotted placards saying "No Sanctions, No Bombing". Snappy, you say. Exactly the message a peace movement might want to get across. Gitlin disagrees. His preferred placard would be the most heavily footnoted text since Lynn White Jr's history of the stirrup. Like Cooper, Gitlin craves
for respectability which means that he wants the placard to make it clear that (a) Saddam bears responsibility for his country's plight, (b), the
bombings of Iraq since 1991 by the US (tactfully described by Gitlin, echoing the DoD, as "no fly zone sorties") are okay. Tough placard to design, and pretty heavy, if you factor in the square footage required for
David Corn's most substantial piece of work to date is The Blonde Ghost, which could be described as a not unsympathetic account of Ted Shackley, a CIA supervisor of one bloodbath after another, most notably the Phoenix program. Corn has now taken to issuing cop-style intelligence reports reminiscent of FBI field advisories to Hoover, on the Workers World Party. stigmatizing the Workers World Party for its nefarious role in the DC and Bay Area antiwar demonstrations.
No need to dwell any longer on Hitchens, at least as a "left" commentator, speaking in good activist faith. When Hitchens libels the left (in modes excellently pilloried by Katha Pollitt) he now does so as one who has foresworn any left credential, and who is new born as a neocon, dispensing to the Washington Post anti-left prose whose frothing crudity eerily echoes
that of his erstwhile butt, Norman Podhoretz.
A recent Hitchens piece in Slate attacks the term "chicken hawks", while carefully avoiding the main point of its use now, which is to indicate that
many of the current civilian war-whoopers like Bush or Cheney shirked the call to duty back in the Vietnam period but are mustard keen on deploying others to the front lines. It now seems that G. Bush was an actual deserter from the National Guard. It's well documented on www.awolbush.com: that George W. Bush never showed up for National Guard duty for a period of approximately one year, possibly more, in 1972-1973. Some definitions: AWOL, absent for 30 days or less. Desertion, absent for more than 30 days
with evidence of no intent to return to duty.
General Hitchens invokes the "fairly good pay" of the Armed Forces, a view he should impart personally on his next tour of inspection at Fort Bragg, where members of the Special Forces get $25,000 a year, which is probably less than Hitchens' annual bar bill. As with Poddy, Hitchens' mind appears to have become clouded by the fog of warwhooping. He reviles his old chum Bob Kerrey, seemingly unaware that this particular war criminal favors attacking Iraq, then states flatly that "Lincoln became the first and last
president to hear shots fired in anger." While president? What about Madison, fleeing the advancing troops commanded by Admiral Sir George
Cockburn? TR too if you count the angers and joys of the chase. Hitchens invokes the "glorious Douglas McArthur". Is this written with a straight face? Hard to know these days with General Hitchens. He's offended that chickenhawk's original meaning was that of preyer on young people. Reading the above-mentioned article on sanctions, this seems appropriate.
So, having scouted out the anti-anti-war movement, now we can ask, what sort of an antiwar movement do we have?
Look back to the early 1960s. In 1962, a full eight years after President Eisenhower had decreed secretly that Ho Chi Minh could not be permitted to
triumph in open elections, the left was just beginning to educate itself about Vietnam.
When President Kennedy was sending the first detachments of US troops to South Vietnam and setting the stage for the assassination of South
Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem there was scarcely the semblance of an antiwar movement. In Oxford in 1962 I remember being incredulous when one of my radical mentors, the historian Thomas Hodgkin, remarked to me that the next big anti-imperial battleground would be Vietnam.
It wasn't until 1966 and 1967, that the left, particularly the Socialist Workers Party, managed to stage the big anti war rallies that that broke forever the pro-war consensus, and set the stage for more radical actions.
And by then there was that potent fuel for an antiwar movement, the draft, which prompted Stop the Draft Week.
By 1968 we had a worldwide anti-imperial movement; we had the May-June upheavals in Paris; we very definitely thought history was on our side. Not any more.
Today? We have the premonition of a big antiwar movement. Like the SWP forty years ago, the Workers World Party did much of the organizing of the
recent demonstrations, which doesn't mean the 150,000 or so who marched in the Bay Area and in Washington DC are dupes of Karl Marx, Ramsey Clark
and Saddam Hussein, but merely that organizing big demonstrations takes a lot of dedication, energy and experience. I have a dream, said Martin Luther
King, and so he did, but the Communists in the south helped him put flesh on that dream as they did the dreams of Rosa Parks.
Will there be a war with Iraq? To judge by the amended US resolution rubber stamped by the UN Security Council we can have one any time the commander in chief decrees it, with February/March 2003 as probably the earliest practical slot. A draft? No time soon. A calling up of the National Guard?
More likely, and already there are tens of thousands of reservists on duty, many of them no doubt chafing at their condition.
And if George Bush lets loose the dogs of war on the grounds that Saddam wouldn't submit to a full personal cavity search, will we see a new age of
protest? Certainly, if the war goes on long enough and Americans get killed in large numbers. There's a slab of the right that's denouncing America's imperial wars. That wasn't happening in the early Sixties. If the left
could ever reach out to this right, which it's almost constitutionally incapable of doing, we'll have something.
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