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News ::
Capuano on Peace Movement (english)
20 Dec 2002
Modified: 04:09:08 PM
Congressman Sees War in 4 to 6 Weeks; Says Peace Movement Will be Marginalized [plus comments from Sacton and others]
Thursday | December 19, 2002

Congressman Sees War in 4 to 6 Weeks; Says Peace Movement Will be Marginalized

Michael Capuano is the Congressman from Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. He voted against the Iraq war resolution, after perceiving a large groundswell against the war in his district. Recently he met with a number of peace activists, to essentially tell them they will be marginalized when the war starts.

One of the attendees of the meeting put together a memo, from which most of the following points were taken. Capuano said he expected the war to start within four to six weeks, that it would last about three weeks, and that Bush would emerge a hero.

He said that as soon as the war starts, he could support no organization that did not feature “We support our Troops” as a leading part of its message.

He went on to say that opposing the war in Iraq was now a lost cause, and given the tremendous surge of popularity for Bush that he expects to emerge from the war, he expects progressives in Congress to lay low and not criticize the war once it starts.

He says he expects criticism will resume once the shooting stops, and the Iraqi government has collapsed. According to the memo, “Capuano believes that the Administration intends to occupy Iraq, but will not characterize its intentions as such. Publicly the Administration will announce an intention to leave Iraq and to rebuild it. The peace movement in Capuano’s view must then put the lie to the Administration’s statements. “

”Capuano further believes that if pressure is not put on the Administration to withdraw, the Administration may feel entitled to use Iraq as the stepping stone toward further military action in the region. That is - US military withdrawal from Iraq is the best guarantee against more US Middle East wars.”

The reaction to this has been to put the peace movement in something of a quandary. A lot of people are not willing to give up on moral witness, i.e. demonstrating that the war is morally wrong, regardless as to whether this position can command mass support or not. Others, including a old friend who wrote a thoughtful email, suggested that Capuano has a good point about further occupation, and that the platform on which to build a movement large enough to affect policy, the key issue would not be "stop the war" but "no occupation, no further war."

To me, there is little danger of repeating one mistake of the Vietnam anti-war movement, which was to initially vilify the troops who went to Vietnam. Today, it is important that all of us make clear from the beginning our commitment to save the lives of our soldiers—which means we cannot oppose things that will protect them. However, we can say their lives are being wasted for no consequence—that this military action in the Gulf will not help the war on terrorism, but will prolong it for a generation.

There is also the issue of radiological weapons used by the U.S. in the form of depleted uranium. Some feel the Iraq battlefield will be a much more deadly and sickening place for American troops than it was in 1991. The issue is that alpha radiation (the kind given off by depleted uranium) is not dangerous externally, but leads to tumors when lodged in by dust in the lungs.

So, my own feeling is that sacrificing Americans for an unnecessary war is wrong, and those who do so need to be held to account. This is an argument that can be made before, during, and after the war.

Toby Sackton | December 19, 2002 11:32 PM |


Once again, the Democrats will not fight today so that they
may pledge to fight at some indeterminate date. What transcendent cowardice. They deserve to be the minority party.

Posted by amento on December 19, 2002 11:51 PM

Well there's plenty here who will refuse to criticise the US regime or its soldiers on the grounds that it might "marginalise" them among the war-hawks.

There was a draft for Vietnam. Of course the teenage boys forced into a terrible war deserve no condemnation --but the people who will fight this war are volunteers who knew what they were getting into. They are all of them war criminals (or rather will be war criminals) by their actions and participation in a criminal invasion.

The judgement of Nuremburg is against them. "Just following orders" is not enough to save them, any more than the Nazis.

"We support our troops" what a truly disgusting and craven retreat. A peace movement without morality. What a thought.

Posted by DavidByron on December 20, 2002 12:08 AM

Let's all work to make sure there's several hundred thousand people in DC & SF for the protests on Jan 18.

Marginalize that!

Posted by Bob Morris on December 20, 2002 12:51 AM

Capuano=Capitulate. This is depressing, but no doubt typical of what's coming from progressive Democrats.

Why don't we just say that we fully support the troops, the Defense Department, the military industrial complex,and pre- emptive first use? However, the peace movement, led by Rep. Capitulate, IS ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY GOING TO INSIST ON A PEACEFUL CLEANUP OF LEFTOVER RADIOACTIVITY AFTER THE PLANET IS BLASTED INTO A ROCK. There can be no compromise on this essential point. The peace movement can't afford to jeapordize its legitimacy within the system by attempting to preserve the human race. However, it can win broad support by asking that humans clean up after themselves so as not to poison the next civilization that will emerge in 3 or 4 billion years. This is an issue that both left and right can agree on, and maybe even FoxNews will do a spot.

I look forward to strong leadership from Rep. Capitulate on this issue.

Posted by mike larkin on December 20, 2002 01:28 AM

To support or not to support our troops?

As someone who has more than one fairly close friend in the service, I have to say I lean towards wishing them a safe return from whatever happens. Based on my conversations with my friends, I know they are not eager for war any more than I am, yet they have no desire to spend significant amounts of time in the stocks (or face death) for refusing orders.

If that means I support our troops than so be it. I don't support our generals and I certainly don't support our president, but I supose on some level I do support our enlisted brothers and sisters. I support them as people, as fellow citizens, as friends. I will not likely support what they are ordered to do, but once the conditions or war a breached (which 'the troops' have no control over) it's rather a moot point. Bringing up Neuremburg in this context is highly fatuous; being a solder in a war does not automatically make one a war criminal.

Quite a complex issue.

Posted by Josh on December 20, 2002 01:29 AM

The only avenue for a peace congressman is to insist that the UNSC offer another unanimous vote before we go to war. It's hard to tell if this is simply brinksmanship but it feels pretty real to me.

Posted by Eric M on December 20, 2002 02:08 AM

The Dems have obviously refused to learn their lesson -- they're still trying to play the Republicans' game, by the Republicans' rules. Still afraid of being "marginalized," as if their own cravenness hasn't already accomplished this.

It does make one think, though. The eventual result of this whole fiasco might be to redraw the map of American partisanship. I wonder how many people ten years down the road will really want to be affiliated with a GOP identified with anti-democratic war criminals, or a Democratic party that provided only token resistance while licking their boots at every turn.

Posted by Doctor Slack on December 20, 2002 09:59 AM


"Volunteers?' You obviously don't know very much about America. The people who "volunteer" for the army, are for the most part from America's underclass, victims of its "free- market-damn-the-poor" philosophy. The army is often the only way for them to escape poverty, get a job, get an education. A disproportionate number of them are African- Americans. To call them war criminals is disgusting and immoral. The African-American soldiers were also disproportinately victims of the Vietnam war, because unlike their white middle-class counterparts, who had many more options to avoid serving, they didn't have any.

In fact, I would argue that one reason so few pundits talk about the casualites of American soldiers this war will cause, is precisely because most of the victims will be Black. So most Americans just don't give a shit. They are the ideal cannon fodder. This is just another expression of the inherent racism of American society and its war-mongerers.

Posted by aronst on December 20, 2002 10:18 AM

In fact, I would go even further. One "lesson" the politicians learned from the Vietnam War, is that drafting white middle class kids is a sure fire way to create a powerful and effective anti-war movement. Some of these kids have parents tied into the power elites. These parents won't be very happy to see their kids die for no good reason. So they will use their political influence to fight the war any way they can. The mass Vietnam anti-war movement wasn't some great "moral" awakening of Americans, but was, in fact, what it's right wing critics claimed it was - a great draft-dodging movement by people who were trying to shift the burden of serving in the war, on others. The fact that they were also morally justified in oppossing the war doesn't change that. The proof is, that same anti-Vietnam war generation is now gung-ho on Bush and his "war on terrorism" and "war on Iraq." They don't have to pay the price with their own children, so what the hell, "let's nuke 'em."

So the politicians learned well: if you want war (and most politicians do), you have to create a system where the soldiers come from the least powerful, most disenfranchised sector of society. It was precisely for this reason that the draft was abolished and the "volunteer" army was put into place.

Posted by Aron Trauring on December 20, 2002 10:31 AM

Aron: I'm strongly inclined against blaming the soldiers for this war or calling them "war criminals." In fact I'm inclined against blaming the generals as well, many of whom gone to unprecedented lengths to oppose this war. But David is right to say that someone who kills civilians should be held accountable for that decision regardless of whether they were ordered to do so. I share his contempt for the "Nuremberg defense."

In any case, basing the antiwar argument on the threat to American soldiers is a relatively weak argument. The war may not be as easy as Wolfowitz imagines it, but the American technological and logistical edge is so heavy that American casualties aren't likely to be extensive enough to sway public opinion. The economic effects of war, the increased threat to American security likely to result, the fact that the war is being pursued WHILE AL-QAEDA REBUILDS TRAINING CAMPS IN AFGHANISTAN... all are far stronger lines of argument.

Moreover, taking the "danger to our soldiers" tack abrogates the responsibility of bringing to public attention the people who are really likely to suffer most in all this -- the Iraqi civilians.

Posted by Doctor Slack on December 20, 2002 10:38 AM

The Congressman is basically saying once the war starts the movement ends, which is precisely the opposite of the case. He also overstates the importance of a 'we support the troops' theme. This is all understandable in the sense that from his position, these things are true. Any Member will have great difficulty at the outset of conflict taking a four-square position against it.

It doesn't pay to get too steamed at elected reps. The nature of the game is that they don't get too far out in front of their constituents. Ranting about their lack of courage glosses over the state of public opinion. Mobilizing voters to direct their representatives towards the light is the way to go.

The prerogatives of the movement are entirely different. The outbreak of conflict is precisely the time to get in your face, message-wise. We don't have to stand for election. There are smart and stupid ways to do this. Obviously stupid is to vilify those who serve in the military, or to indulge in infantile anti- militarism. The focus is on the decision-makers and the bankruptcy of their policies.

The answer to support the troops is simple. Support them by bringing them home. Only a nut would say they should be left to walk around Iraq without enough bullets -- the sort of accusations the War Party will float.

Another way to support troops is to take note of the history of ill treatment of veterans, once the shooting stops, particularly in the matter of health care. The DU issue is salient here, as a commenter notes.

The importance of anti-military feeling in the Vietnam period is being overstated here. It is not completely without truth, but a lot of legend has been added. I was there (in the movement, not in Vietnam). The overriding issue was not the views of the peace movement in re: military service, but the wisdom of the war. Everybody knew that it was war that killed our service people, not peace protesters.

A side point: the notion of a U.S. military constituted from 'the underclass' is bullshit. Without doubt, the enlisted ranks are more working class than not, but the working class is not the 'underclass,' whatever you think that is.

Posted by Max on December 20, 2002 11:27 AM
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Looking for a lil more info on Capuano Meetin (english)
20 Dec 2002
I'd like to get in touch with Toby Sackton who posted this story and find out when Capuano met with the peace activists and whom he met with. I find Capuano's comments to be very interesting and if I can get in touch with anyone involved with the meeting I'd loveto talkwith them (and Capuano) for a potential article in the Dig.

Joe Bonni
Weekly Dig
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