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Nine Theses on Moving the Peace Movement Forward

by Betsy Hartmann Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 2:27 AM

[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]

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> 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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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 20 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Spooky spookydoll Monday, Apr. 14, 2003 at 9:04 PM
its all good... irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 9:33 PM
Betsy Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 10:45 PM
Saddam was so last week irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:09 PM
Irpy Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:20 PM
Bad monkey Sheepdog Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:33 PM
Sheepdog Bush Admirer Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:43 PM
Sheepdog - What I have to say is profound. You just don't want to hear it. Sheepdog Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:51 PM
sure BA, whatever irpy Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2003 at 11:57 PM
so good thomaston Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:05 AM
Why do you want to leave Iraq Irpy? Bush Admirer Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:06 AM
Read, won'tcha? Irpy Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:18 AM
Irpy Bush Admirer Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:22 AM
fine irpy Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 12:31 AM
that and... irpy Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 1:07 AM
BA Irpy Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2003 at 11:17 PM
Irpy Eric Thursday, Apr. 17, 2003 at 2:08 PM
Towelheads?!?!? Zarah Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003 at 3:24 PM
Some suggestions Josef Saturday, Apr. 26, 2003 at 5:06 PM

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