“He who laughs
Has not yet heard
The terrible tidings.”
That was the dark prophecy of the radical German playwright Bertolt Brecht, a former Santa Monica resident, written in the shadows of the Holocaust.
Today, in the 15th year of the Long War, an anxious America needs a peace-and-diplomacy platform from the Democratic Party convention but also, more importantly, a new, more effective peace movement. That’s a challenging order, given public anxiety over the war on terrorism and the need for a peace-and-justice alternative. Polls show a consistent majority in opposition to another ground war, with its attendant US casualties and budget deficits. On the other hand, Americans strongly support military intervention if it will defeat ISIS without spiraling into another futile war.
Given that public skepticism toward intervention, there are nearly 200 House seats and 20 in the Senate that can be pressured from the grassroots toward peace and diplomacy. They should call for:
- resistance to Trump, and those he represents, who back the expanded use of torture;
- closing of Guantánamo in the final days of Obama’s presidency;
- preserving the US-Iran nuclear agreement and the rapprochement with Cuba from the forces hoping to revive conflict;
- naming climate change as a national security threat and fighting the lobbyists for denial and greater drilling;
- and, in the general election debates, mobilizing against Trump’s Strangelovian fantasies of deploying nuclear weapons in South Korea and Japan.
In the campaign—and, if Hillary Clinton wins, during her presidency—Senator Bernie Sanders’s legions should be outspoken against regime change and demand that a new peace-and-diplomacy bloc be forged in Congress.
The threat of nuclear brinkmanship and war can stir the anger and questioning of a new peace movement, as happened in 2003 before the Iraq War. Later, as it became clear the war was unwinnable and unaffordable, this new peace movement mounted political pressure, with demonstrations in the hundreds of thousands on more than ten occasions. Led by Representative Maxine Waters and a growing number of congressional dissidents, this movement became the backbone of popular resistance, from the streets to congressional suites.
That movement helped propel Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential primaries, as Hillary Clinton well remembers. The organizers demanded that goals and timetables be set for American withdrawal, forcing the return home of 90 percent of US troops—until the resurgence of Sunni-Shia sectarianism helped the rise of ISIS and forced the United States down the path of drone warfare, redeployment of Special Forces, and even some ground troops. Another escalation is the present danger. Until the balance either on the ground or in American politics shifts again, we could sink into a new Dark Age.