RIP: America's Anti-War Movement - by Stephen Lendman
On August 8, the libertarian Reason Foundation (RF) asked about the absence of anti-war sentiment in America, saying:
"The Obama administration is on pace to have more American soldiers killed in" Iraq and Afghanistan than Bush did in his first term.
Besides the shocking number of injuries, permanent impairments, physical trauma, and record number of suicides because of lengthy repeated deployments, iCasualties.org listed 630 Afghan deaths from 2001 through 2008 under Bush.
Since Obama took office, it's 1,112 (plus another unconfirmed two dozen or more on August 18) and counting. Deaths also mount in Iraq, though smaller numbers. Most get scant, if any media attention. As a result, RF asked:
"First, where are the antiwar protests? And second, where is the press?"
According to United for Peace and Justice's (UFPJ) Michael McPhearson, it's partly partisan politics. Many anti-war protesters were Democrats. "Once Obama got into office, they kind of demobilized themselves," and America's major media provided no momentum to reinvigorate them.
"Because he's a Democrat," said McPhearson, "they don't want to oppose him in the same way as they opposed Bush. The politics of it allows him more breathing room when it comes to the wars."
Of course, UFPJ also has been less anti-war active under Obama than Bush, not quiescent, but much less resonant than through 2008.
UFPJ "calls for an immediate withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan with a negotiated just settlement involving international parties, including regional neighbors" when condemnation is essential.
Moreover, it says nothing about war and occupation of Iraq, not enough about Afghanistan, the lawlessness of all US wars, why they're waged, other illegal wars against Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, support for Israeli belligerence against Palestinians, as well as denouncing them all as Washington-sponsored imperial aggression.
Failure to do so betrays the trust of its member groups and followers. All US wars are illegal. America is responsible for daily crimes of war and against humanity in every theater. Exposing and denouncing them is the first crucial step to arousing public anger enough to stop them.
Supporting justice and peace means doing it actively every day. It's why UFPJ was founded, but it strayed from its original mission. It's not treating Obama like Bush, despite his more extremist belligerent record. Who can know if it's not exposed, explained, and condemned.
Instead, RP called the approaching 9/11 10th anniversary "a sober time to weigh these issues" for anyone foolish enough to support imperial wars, adding:
"Mr. Obama can make the case here, as he does with the economy, that he is merely cleaning up and winding down the bad situation he was left by his predecessor."
Astonishingly, RP doesn't get it, so how can most Americans. Obama made the bad situation he inherited infinitely worse, tripling down Bush on wars, letting criminal bankers loot the treasury, and force-feeding austerity on working Americans when massive stimulus is needed.
At the same time, he, complicit Democrats and Republicans continue doling favors on Wall Street and other corporate favorites, letting them steal all public wealth until there's none.
The article's writer, Ira Stoll, edits the "Future of Capitalism" web site. Short of reforming years of predatory malfeasance, it has none. Perhaps wars as well one day if they end up destroying planet earth, freeing it for whatever lower life survives.
Though war is never the answer, so far, however, it's resilient, little challenged by popular outrage in America or across Europe.
In their August 16 article titled, "Who Will Save Libya From Its Western Saviours," Jean Bricmont and Diana Johnstone lament about "no popular movement in Europe capable of stopping or even slowing the NATO onslaught."
Shamefully, the comatose "European left has missed its opportunity to come back to life by opposing one of the most blatantly inexcusable wars in history," adding that "Europe itself will suffer from this moral bankruptcy."
So will Americans, failing to denounce the corrupt Obama administration for its multiple wars, including Libya, especially when waging them diverts essential resources away from vital homeland needs.
Even though a new Rasmussen poll shows 80% oppose waging war on Libya (a new low), it's not evident in street or other protests, so Obama is unopposed waging it and other wars.
Last October, Justin Raimondo told a University of Michigan audience:
"What happened to the antiwar movement? Remember all those marches, all those placards, those giant puppets and displays of moral outrage? (They're) vanished! Gone! Evaporated like morning mist!"
Though Bush is also gone, another uber-hawk replaced him "a new Caesar," less of an easy target, quoting Code Pink's Medea Benjamin saying:
"....it's hard to mobilize people under Obama. We have the same anti-war movement (but) not the same passion," though it's hard believing its comatose state resembles impressive past efforts.
Yet it's critical for that passion to be revived and sustained until America's addiction to war ends. Freedom and planet earth's fate depend on it.
America's Vietnam Era Anti-War Spirit
On April 22, 1971, a young John Kerry offered a glimpse of war's dark side never shown or discussed by America's media.
In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), he said, in part, that he came to discuss an investigation involving "over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans," who admitted committing Southeast Asian war crimes, explaining:
"stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, bl(ew) up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages (like) Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravages of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country."
Calling it a "Winter Soldier Investigation," he said "there is nothing in South Vietnam, nothing which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America." Linking America's involvement "to the preservation of freedom....is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy...."
"We saw firsthand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime....We rationalized destroying villages....to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very cooly a My Lai," and many others like it. "We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals."
"We have come here....because we believe this body can be responsive to the will of the people (saying) we should be out of Vietnam now...."
In disgust, he told Washington's WRC-TV that "I gave back, I can't remember, six, seven, eight, nine medals," protesting against America's Vietnam War involvement.
Like millions of angry Americans then, he wanted no more of what he hoped would end. That spirit's sadly lacking today.
In contrast, various interests and groups united in the 1960s and 70s against war, including students, workers, middle class households, academics, and others.
Gaining prominence in 1965, anti-war spirit peaked in 1968, strong enough for Lyndon Johnson to tell Americans in a nationally televised March 31 address that:
"I shall not seek, nor will I accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your president."
How could he with a 36% approval rating and only 26% pleased with his handling of the war. In fact, once Bobby Kennedy joined the race after the March New Hampshire primary (less than three months before his state-sponsored June assassination to remove him), he had no chance of winning, despite his Great Society accomplishments.
By early 1965, anti-war activism gained momentum when America began bombing North Vietnam. In February and March, protest marches rallied at the Oakland Army Terminal, the departure point for many troops to Southeast Asia.
In late March, University of Michigan faculty members held "teach-ins" to educate students about the immorality and political foundation of America's involvement. It spread to other campuses across the country, followed by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) escalating dissent nationally, including an April 17, 1965 Washington rally, drawing up to 25,000.
Numerous events followed, drawing thousands against war. In October 1967, a two-day march on the Pentagon attracted national media attention (practically impossible today), while resistance leaders urged young men to burn their draft cards.
Today, of course, America's military is all-volunteer, a major difference between now and then. In the 1960s, anti-war fervor erupted on army bases. In 1966, the "Fort Hood 3" gained prominence for refusing to serve in Vietnam.
Underground networks helped draft resisters leave the country. In addition, churches offered sanctuary. Anti-war activism among civil rights leaders provided more impetus, including Martin Luther King. In January 1967, his Chicago Defender article opposed the war on moral grounds.
On April 4, a year to the day before his assassination, he delivered his famous New York Riverside Church anti-war speech, unmentioned by America's media in annual Martin Luther King Day commemorations.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the anti-war movement gained more strength, especially after the January 1968 Tet Offensive and June 1971 Pentagon Papers release, showing the Johnson administration lied to the public and Congress.
Of course, it's true of all wars, but when American and other media are silent, administrations get away with murder, including Obama in six wars, besides proxy ones and supporting decades of Israeli crimes against Palestine.
Johnson and Nixon's lies were exposed, at least enough to matter. Ahead of Pentagon Papers revelations, an estimated 500,000 rallied in Washington in November 1969, fed up with war and its cost. The February 1970 My Lai massacre ignited more outrage.
Then on May 4, Ohio National Guard troops killing four, wounding another 16 Kent State University protesters ratcheted up anti-war fervor further, enough for Nobel laureates, former State Department officials, the ACLU, and other groups to demand withdrawal.
Anti-war activism became institutionalized, enough for Nixon, in January 1973, to announce ending America's involvement. In June, Congress followed with the Church-Case amendment, stopping all funding after August 15.
On April 30, 1975, Washington ended its involvement entirely with a humiliating Saigon embassy rooftop pullout. Those old enough to remember won't ever forget it.
It took sustained anti-war spirit, including in the military, to achieve what's absent today - a virulent disgust with war waged for wealth and power, never for liberation or humanitarian concerns.
It forced America out of Southeast Asia, what's critically needed today to end all US wars, denouncing them with enough fervor to prevent their resumption.
Short of that, Obama's imperial wars, permanent ones, will destroy another generation of America's youths, besides ravaging attacked countries entirely. They're also heading the nation toward tyranny and ruin because popular sentiment isn't outraged enough to stop them.
Besides issues of lawlessness and immorality, what better reasons for ending them, not later - now.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.