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Hidden with code "Submitted as Feature"
Commentary :: Organizing
response to feature article regarding anti-warmovement
19 Apr 2004
This piece if full of factual inaccuracies, but it's not worth itemizing or responding to them. It's clear that the author doesn't know very much about the people or the organizations he discusses and didn't bother to check his information. If he had looked into the matter a little, he might have learned that his position about slogans is very close to that of ANSWER. (Readers can check their website and most of their literature since the beginning of the Iraq war, and especially this statement by Brian Becker of the national steering committee: http://www.iacenter.org/troops-hme-why.htm).
(This is a response to this article; http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/20983/index.php )

This piece if full of factual inaccuracies, but it's not worth itemizing or responding to them. It's clear that the author doesn't know very much about the people or the organizations he discusses and didn't bother to check his information. If he had looked into the matter a little, he might have learned that his position about slogans is very close to that of ANSWER. (Readers can check their website and most of their literature since the beginning of the Iraq war, and especially this statement by Brian Becker of the national steering committee: http://www.iacenter.org/troops-hme-why.htm).

In any case, the organizations are not important. The more important questions raised here are the questions of message and strategy affecting the movement as a whole. To put it simply, some of us not only support people who are fighting US occupation, we think that we should be honest and say this, not censor and police ourselves and the rest of the movement.

We also believe that the US anti-war movement takes pride in building what has essentially been rather an "anti-troop deployment movement" that has meant simply a shift in the policies of US imperialism and not its ultimate aims or effects. The past three decades of post-Vietnam US military strategy have in general demonstrated a shift toward a policy that involves high and low intensity air warfare aimed at destroying civilian infra-structure, strangling economic sanctions, and neo-liberal economic policies that deprive peoples of their self-determination without ever putting US troops on the ground. It is not clear--to me at least--that it was even an achievement of the US anti-war movement to bring about troop withdrawal from Vietnam (or at least not clear that it was in any sense a result of the large unity marches under the slogan "Troops out now"), but if so, this is a rather disturbing legacy that the movement hasn't dealt with. It meant that the worst and most devastating US tactical war against Vietnam was waged over the two decades after the troops withdrew, and with near silence in the United States, and that the decade between Bush I and the end of the Clinton regime killed more than a million Iraqis, again with only minimal protest.

I'm including links to two recent articles by members of NECDP that address the question of support for the resistance. The first, "Is the US Anti-war Movement Pro-Resistance?" by Amer Jubran, is a challenge to the anti-war movement as a whole, along its entire ideological spectrum, both in its demands and in its tactics for achieving them. The second, "Support Our Troops or Support the Resistance?," by Marta Rodriguez, is a response specifically to some of the concerns raised here.

Article by Amer Jubran:
http:www.onepalestine.org/antiwar.html

Article by Marta Rodriguez:
http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_6586.shtml

What's striking to me in this debate is that in spite of the author's claim that his narrow --and narrowly policed--message is broad in its appeal, reaches out to working class folks, and engages people from different classes and races, it is in fact the continual refrain of the white middle class peace movement in the US. It doesn't engage most of the people who have any real experience either of US oppression (whether internally or externally), or who have any real experience of fighting it effectively.

On the matter of street tactics, readers who look at the article by Amer Jubran will find there a discussion that I'm sure many in the movement will share: the general pattern of demonstrators collaborating with police in permitted rallies and in scripted "non-violent civil disobedience" has brought us to a point where the movement has achieved the right to express itself in public and not much else.

Locally, the only post-Iraq war instance I personally have seen in which people even slightly pushed the envelope was in the immediate aftermath of the beginning of the bombing campaign. Protestors shut down Mass. Avenue and the Mass. Ave bridge twice on the day after the bombing, and again on the following weekend. These are not highly significant interventions because they do not involve well-chosen, strategic targets (e.g. ports); they are an incremental move beyond the existing script locally. (In SF, people achieved a good deal more, and yet still not very much.)

We would not even have done this much if we had followed the writer's advice and "respected the will of the organizers," who generally want to police everything from chants to tactics, and who in this case wanted to police us out of the streets, onto the sidewalks, and finally onto a large plaza to listen to endless speeches.

If we are going to break the script that involves either large permitted rallies and marches that are essentially a walk in the park on a sunny weekend, or small acts of symbolic civil disobedience in which people get arrested for the sake of getting arrested, we may have to cultivate some respect for spontaneity: there is no way to plan illegal actions with large numbers of people and still catch the police strategically unprepared.

One final point. The main instance the author cites demonstrating that the NECDP is a sectarian group is the protest on November 1st of a conference held at the Park Plaza hotel (site of the Israeli consulate), supposedly because it was organized in support of a two-state solution. Once again, he might have looked into the facts. NECDP did not call the protest because the conference supported a two-state solution, but because a war criminal was giving the keynote address (Amram Mitzna, responsible for the policy of crushing the bones in the hands and arms of Palestinian children for throwing stones at tanks during the first Intifada), and because the conference was generally organized to build support for the Geneva Accords (worse than Oslo) by building alliances between the Israeli Labor and US Democratic Parties on a sham rhetoric of "peace." I invite people to check the statement on the NECDP website and find out for themselves:

http://www.onepalestine.org/conference_protest.html

This work is in the public domain