Where to, the anti-war movement?

US election poll on Iraq war
The day before the recent mid-term elections in the US, I asked two American graduate students studying at the University of Queensland in Brisbane what their view of that election was, would they vote, and if so, how?

I asked what their view of the Iraq war was.

One, who normally votes Republican, was from ‘up state New York’ near Syracuse on the Canadian border. The other, who votes Democrat, was from a small town in Maryland. They were both in their early 20s and were friends.

They both said that they were not going to vote in the mid-term elections – one (the democrat) because he was fed up; and the republican because he had failed to get an absentee vote registration.

Both said that they disliked George Bush.

The republican said that he preferred the more moderate John McCain who was the reason he votes republican. This was despite the fact that, coming from New York State, he would not be able to vote for McCain, who is a senator from Arizona.

I said: “McCain, he is against the war in Iraq, right?” He confirmed this. But curiously, like McCain had done during the invasion and early stages of the Iraq war, the republican student now still supports the war. His republican idol had shifted ground but he had not.

The Democrat from Maryland said that he was from a small town, he still lived at home, and his father was a policeman there. He showed me a picture of his family home, which was a replica English Victorian mansion containing 6 bedrooms on a fairly large block of land surrounded by trees. Apparently the house had been acquired through ‘a very good deal’.
I am not sure what that meant, the father being a copper and all.

The Democrat had four friends from high school who had done tours of duty in Iraq. They all voted democrat and opposed the Iraq war before they left and now all voted republican. He said that his fellow students had been ‘brainwashed’ and now supported the war. When he said this, the republican student made a face showing disapproval of the democrat student referring to them as being ‘brainwashed’.

The mind boggles at how students who were anti-war could go to Iraq, see what happens there, be involved in the fighting, and return pro-war.

So neither student voted in the election that our Australian papers have termed a watershed with statements like this:

A Democratic majority in even one chamber could block Mr Bush’s legislative agenda and turn up the pressure on the White House for a dramatic shift in strategy on Iraq.” – Article in the AUSTRALIAN (from The Times) “Rumsfeld first casualty of US elections” by Tom Baldwin and Tim Reid – November 09, 2006.

One Brisbane peace activist put it this way:

The Democrats have won Virginia; which means they take the senate. Bush is now what is called a lame duck president. This is a historic shift, reflecting the strength of the on the ground (peace) movements in the US.

Former Premier of NSW and now Macquarie Bank lobbyist, Bob Carr commented:

It was a foreign policy election, it was about Iraq … by every test, it was a referendum on Iraq … a repudiation of a high risk war… this is extraordinary, it is remarkable, this is a defeat of of adventurism …”

Bob Carr (who is pro-nuclear) then went on to say:uranium-metal-of-menace-leave-it-in-the-ground.jpg
I fear, he is likely to embark on war with Iran, his vice-president has been studying events in southern Lebanon with a view to a war-plan with Iran … giving effect with theatre nuclear weapons.

I am thrilled by the Democrats winning not only the house (of representatives) but also the senate. It will be a retreat like that of Vietnam, with helicopters on the roof of the US embassy in Baghdad.”

What of the opinions of the American students, the peace activist, and Bob Carr?

They all presuppose that the shift to the centre means a repudiation of the war by the US government. There does appear to be a shift but where is it going?

Will the US government commit more troops or bomb Iraq and Afghanistan even more? Does a Democrat win in congress mean that there are even more Zionists in government in the US?
Will the coalition of the willing accept leaving Iraq as losers or will they just declare victory after Saddam is hung and exit?

  • We should remember that the leading Democrat for the 2009 Presidential elections, Hilary Clinton, supports the war in Iraq, so did her (Democratic) party.
  • There is no analysis by commentators quoted above of the US leaving Afghanistan or its support of Israel’s wars against Palestine and Lebanon.
  • There is little or no talk of reading the US election result as a repudiation of the “War of Terror” by the US.

While America waits for a Democrat government to curtail the extremism of the Bush presidency, all we can hope for in Australia is an ALP government to replace the extremism of Howard.

Gore Vidal may be right about America: ‘a one party state with two right wings, one Republican, the other Democrat’. The same could be said of the political parties in Australia.

Would even one of the pundits above suppport the other view of America, that of a Palestinian poet-refugee in Lebanon:

Burnt my trees
Jailed my sun
Killed my children
And drank their blood
Then ground their bones at McDonnell-Douglas
Only to offer them back to me
As a present
In a flour sack
To torture me all the rest of my life
This is America!

Where to?
I think that the election result in the US means that the majority want a way out of the war without losing their national pride.

They are tired of losing the war in Iraq. Now that the cost is mounting they are looking for alternatives. However they do not want a repeat of Vietnam which in the end was a cut and run, a defeat on the ground.

Many in the US (and Australia) are still in denial of the defeat in Vietnam.

Others (like the two students mentioned in the article above) are too young to have experienced what the Vietnam war meant.

Many do not even admit that the US were defeated on the ground by a strong and resilient people, preferring to think that it was a weakness of their own resolve. They blame their defeat in Vietnam on the media and liberals, and wish to forget the Vietcong tanks storming the gates of the US embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City). They long for a colonial past.

In the end, the New Left revolt of the 1960s and 70s came to little. And this may be part of the reason why many look to the centre for a way out of Iraq.

The anti-war part of the vote in the US is still a minority (about 30%). The remainder are not anti-war, they are tired of the human and material cost of the war that they are waging and want a better result.

The Left, who stand for improvement in human society, have been unable to limit the damage to the people in Iraq through the traditional method of organisation, protest.

In Vietnam, there was a strong Communist Party that could limit the damage done by the Americans.

No coordinated group such as this has emerged in Iraq.

Without this, all that the people suffering on the ground can hope for is that the Americans will tire as the road becomes more and more difficult.

We can only hope that the US congress will not seek the ultimate punishment for the failure of Bush and his right-wing cronies.

However history is not so kind to this point of view.

The Roman senate demanded the destruction of Carthage and all its people in return for the failure of Ceasar to defeat Hannibal.

Ian Curr
14 November 2006

One thought on “Where to, the anti-war movement?

  1. Mark Gillespie says:

    I think we should be celebrating the election victory of the Democrats in the US. Not because we think the Democrats are about to use what power they have to end of the occupation of Iraq – let alone Afghanistan, Palestine etc – but because the election indicated that the mood on the ground, amongst the people, is anti war. People are starting to see that this so called ‘war on terror’ is bullshit. That is a good thing.

    At the moment Iraq is more of an issue in the US than in Australia, but that could change. Already Howard has been much more on the defensive about the war. Media commentators are talking more about the crisis for the US in Iraq. Even right wingers like Bob Carr have suggested the best strategy for the US was to declare victory and then pull out. More and more respectable people are speaking out about Hicks and other related issues. The challenge for anti war activists is to work out how turn a growing anti war mood into an effective movement against the war.

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