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Nine Theses on Moving the Peace Movement Forward

by Betsy Hartmann Sunday, Apr. 13, 2003 at 7:27 PM

[Editor: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center (IRC) Editor's Note: This piece was commissioned under the auspices of the Project Against the Present Danger. Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org]

As the U.S. army occupies Baghdad, the peace movement
is faced with a series of strategic challenges,
challenges we must face openly, and challenges for
which there are no easy answers. We must develop
political strategies that draw on solidarity and
information from activists and analysts in diverse
social movements and incorporate those into our own

The following reflections are offered as a contribution
to the ongoing strategic debates within the peace
movement. They are based upon my own ongoing
involvement in the peace movement and informed by my
own thinking over the past several years about how to
build a broad-based progressive social justice movement
in this country, a movement that sees the connections
between national and international policies and a
movement that, while respecting difference, moves
beyond the narrow confines of identity and single-issue

1. We must sustain our resistance to the war. Even
though we have failed to stop the war, our collective
pressure may be able to prevent some of the worst
military excesses, and this could translate directly
into saving the lives of both civilians and soldiers.
Sustaining resistance means we need to remain
optimistic, and not to be depressed by the opinion
polls, which tell us over two-third of Americans are
for the war. Those figures change dramatically
according to how the questions are asked. We are not
alone: an estimated 200,000 people were on the streets
of New York in early March protesting the war, as well
as thousands more in other cities in the United States
and around the world. It is also important that people
in other countries see that there is resistance here,
in the "belly of the beast."

2. We must squarely recognize the class challenges of
this war and the resistance to it, and guard against
the arrogance of white, middle-class entitlement in
framing both resistance and a proactive program of
peace and social justice. This was brought home to me
when I attended a demonstration at Westover Air Force
Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, not far from where I
teach at Hampshire College. Families in front of their
houses were shouting insults at us, while men drove by
in flag-covered SUVs and trucks, giving us the finger.
The chasm was not only about attitudes toward the war
but social class; it felt like middle-class Amherst vs.
working class Chicopee. In a depressed economy, with
enormous gaps between rich and poor, joining the
military is often an economic, not a political or moral
decision. Students at universities and colleges across
the country serve in the reserves or the National Guard
because it is one of the only ways to pay for college.
How do we negotiate the class divide? We can shout,
"Support our troops, bring them home," but bring them
home to what?

3. If ever there were a time to integrate issues of
economic justice, it is now. Not only is it costing us
hundreds of billions of dollars to destroy Iraq, but it
will also cost billions more to pay any number of
corrupt crony corporations to rebuild it. In the
process, the Bush administration manufactures a false
sense of economic scarcity as communities all over the
country are forced to make massive cuts in education,
health care, and job creation. The peace movement not
only needs to expose these processes--exposing links
between Bush administration officials and crony firms
and showing how the war in Iraq is undermining economic
security at home--but it must also put forward an
alternative economic agenda that lasts beyond the
immediacy of the war. We are not only struggling for a
peace dividend, but a profound transformation of
business as usual.

4. Make the links between war at home and war abroad,
for the strength of the national security state depends
on a highly racialized internal and external enemy. For
over a decade now, the so-called war on drugs has been
a war on communities of color, and repression of
immigrants was intensifying well before the September
11th attacks. Unless the peace movement seriously
challenges the attack on the human rights and civil
liberties of all those deemed "Other," and defends the
rights of those forced outside the boundaries of
privileged white American citizenship, it will fail to
build an enduring alternative because the
militarization of domestic society is precisely what
has paved the way for militarism abroad.

5. We must also understand the link between war abroad
and Bush's war on women and reproductive rights. It is
a characteristic of fundamentalist regimes--and the
evidence suggests that we are moving closer to one in
this country--that women's sexuality and reproduction
become the target of state control, not only legally
and administratively, but symbolically. The Bush
administration has already made explicit its opposition
to reproductive rights for women at home and abroad
through its limits on funding for reproductive health
programs and its attacks on abortion rights. At times
of war, gender differences become further reified and
enforced, and male aggression and violence celebrated.
We must understand these connections, and link the
peace movement to the ongoing struggle for gender
equality and reproductive rights.

6. Monitor and expose the environmental consequences of
war. Even in times of relative peace, the U.S. military
is probably the single-biggest polluter and energy user
on the planet and in times of war the damage is far
more extensive. Moreover, as in the case of the Arctic
Wildlife Refuge, Bush will try to use the war as an
excuse for further environmental deregulation.

7. While our eyes are trained on the situation in Iraq,
we must remain vigilant and look elsewhere for
repercussions. Several months ago, prominent Israeli
academics circulated a letter warning of the
possibility that Sharon would use the opportunity of
war in Iraq to embark on a massive ethnic cleansing in
Palestine. We must consider what pay-offs members of
the "coalition of the willing"--or rather coalition of
the killing--have received for their support of
Washington. We can be sure the U.S. will turn a blind
eye to human rights abuses in those countries.

8. Be prepared for the next stage--the occupation of
Iraq. While the U.S. is already putting into place its
own proxy rulers, the peace movement here needs to
forge links and make common cause with progressive
Iraqi groups. We have to be ready to engage in an
informed way in the murky politics of humanitarian

9. Build a new, positive vision of peace and security
that eschews both American isolationism and imperialism
and strengthens the rule of international law. This
isn't the place to present an outline of a whole new
security agenda. But what would real security look
like? My short list includes:

Dismantling weapons of mass destruction in all
countries, including ours. Supporting institutions to
end the impunity of war criminals such as the
International Criminal Court and stronger institutions
for the protection of human rights. Promoting economic,
social, and environmental justice that reduces the risk
of conflict. Such positive visions are perhaps the
hardest thing to contemplate at times like these. But
we must look forward, and not allow the pictures of
tanks and bombs and death and destruction on TV to
colonize our imaginations, preventing us from imagining
a better world. We must stay firmly rooted in our sense
of possibilities despite the grim days ahead.

(Betsy Hartmann <ehartmann@hampshire.edu> is the
director of the Hampshire College Population and
Development Program and a member of the Committee on
Women, Population, and the Environment. This is a
revised version of a presentation she made at a public
forum at Hampshire College sponsored by the Five
College Program in Peace and World Security Studies on
March 24, 2003.)

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Spooky spookydoll Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 2:04 PM
its all good... irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 2:33 PM
Betsy Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 3:45 PM
Saddam was so last week irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:09 PM
Irpy Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:20 PM
Bad monkey Sheepdog Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:33 PM
Sheepdog Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:43 PM
Sheepdog - What I have to say is profound. You just don't want to hear it. Sheepdog Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:51 PM
sure BA, whatever irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 4:57 PM
so good thomaston Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 5:05 PM
Why do you want to leave Iraq Irpy? Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 5:06 PM
Read, won'tcha? Irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 5:18 PM
Irpy Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 5:22 PM
fine irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 5:31 PM
that and... irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 6:07 PM
BA Irpy Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 4:17 PM
Irpy Eric Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 7:08 AM
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Some suggestions Josef Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003 at 10:06 AM
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