How the Peace Movement Can Win | The Nation


How the Peace Movement Can Win

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This plan poses enormous challenges. Who will make the decisions, what will be the Iraq/Iran message, who will deliver it and by what means? The independence of the 527 committees is based on an organizational separation from the political parties. But the message will likely be consistent with, if not identical to, the candidates' message, influenced by the same hawkish consultants. Yet the peace movement has an opening to exert its influence: it can demand a role in the independent campaign as a condition of enlisting its legions of local peace activists. The challenge will be to draft an antiwar formula that unites the peace forces and progressive Democrats rather than one that depresses vast numbers of antiwar voters.

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Tom Hayden
Senator Tom Hayden, the Nation Institute's Carey McWilliams Fellow, has played an active role in American politics and...

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The left should recall and applaud the long resistance of tiny Cuba to the northern Goliath.

The man who helped spark Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement fifty years ago would have championed today’s activism, from the Dreamers to Occupy to Ferguson.

Beyond the issue of message, there's the question of whether the independent campaign is controlled from the top or is open to the thousands of volunteers already devoted to antiwar efforts in their local communities. Matzzie is a brilliant field organizer in his early 30s, trained in the post-1960s staff-driven methods of groups like USAction. Most of these organizers have little knowledge of Iraq, foreign policy or peaceful alternatives to the "war on terror." Their backgrounds tend to be in labor or consumer organizing or door-to-door canvassing for donations. Typically, they are results-oriented (number of phone calls made, voters identified, "hits," etc.) rather than community-oriented. Ideally, Matzzie will map out a battle plan calling for cooperation where local groups already have strong track records (like New Hampshire, Iowa and northern Illinois, to take three examples) and new initiatives in areas lacking an active base. A final question to be finessed is whether the independent campaigns will invest in a long-term local strategy, including simple things like leaving contact lists behind with local groups, or whether they will pull up stakes and vanish on election day.

The peace movement can succeed only by applying people pressure against the pillars of the war policy--public opinion, military recruitment and an ample war budget--through marching, confronting military recruiters and civil disobedience. The pillars have been eroding since 2004. The tactics that are most likely to accelerate the process are greater efforts at persuading the ambivalent voters. This is where the interests of the peace movement converge with Matzzie's operation.

A massively funded voter-identification and -registration drive and a get-out-the vote campaign have enormous potential to tip not only the presidential election but also the scales of public opinion. Rather than merely pounding away at a simplistic message--Republicans dangerous, Democrats better--such an effort would require, as a foundation, resources to educate voters and involve them in house meetings. The house-meeting approach allows for voter education and participation on a scale that cannot be achieved by hit pieces or TV spots. It is also critical for cultivating grassroots leadership capacity for election day turnout and beyond. Voters may be persuaded by a narrow end-the-war message, especially if Giuliani is the Republican candidate, but they will also need the ability to answer questions about the interconnected issues of Iraq, Iran, energy, healthcare and the threat posed by neoconservatives.

Only in this way will the peace movement succeed in expanding and intensifying antiwar feeling to a degree that will compel the politicians to abandon their six-year timetable for a far shorter one. In the worst-case alternatives, Giuliani and the neocons will roll to a narrow victory despite a platform of promising war, or the centrist Democrats will prevail without a mandate for rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq and negotiations plus containment toward Iran.

The coming war is a political one, to be fought at home. There will be a yearlong showdown that will determine the presidency and the climate of opinion. If the Republicans succeed in electing the next President, the Iraq War will continue and probably expand. If they lose the presidency, they are already positioning themselves to charge the Democrats with "losing" Iraq and ride that theme to a comeback in 2012.

The key dates in this coming domestic war will be:

January 2008 onward: the budget. There will be attempts to limit or reverse Bush's supplemental demand of $200 billion for a war that has already cost more than $470 billion. CAP recommends a goal of cutting the request in half. Two-thirds of Americans favor a reduction of some kind, and 46 percent favor sharp reductions. It appears that the best that can be hoped for in this battle is to rebuke Bush, reduce funding for the war and make the budget vote so painful that Congress members will never want to cast one again. There is no reason to support $5 billion to $10 billion for the sectarian torturers operating under cover of the Interior Ministry, for example. Already a high-level military commission has called on Congress to scrap the Iraqi police service as hopelessly corrupt, a position reflected in HR 3134 put forward by Representatives Maxine Waters, Barbara Lee and Lynne Woolsey. This simple focus on the Frankenstein monster fostered in Baghdad might generate a movement against using taxes for torture and thus begin to unravel the occupation.

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