Open Letter to the U.S. Antiwar Movement

Open Letter to the U.S. Antiwar Movement

source:  New National Assembly

As tensions  escalate with regard to Iran — Israel again insisting that it cannot brook  delay much longer — and the clamor growing for U.S. intervention in Syria, the  antiwar movement is once again confronted with this critical challenge: What  more can we do to mobilize the critical mass needed to stay the hands of the  warmakers and pull us back from the brink to which the U.S. government has  led us with its ever more threatening ultimatums?

To be sure, there  are a number of factors which cause both Washington and Tel Aviv to hesitate:

  • Divisions       at the highest level in the U.S. government and among the American public       with respect to the wisdom and feasibility of launching a strike against       Iran.
  • Divisions       at the highest level in the Israeli government and among the Israeli       public with respect to the wisdom and feasibility of launching a strike       against Iran.
  • Lack of       evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapon, is close to having one, or even       intends to build one.
  • War       weariness of the American people, as shown by the latest New York       Times poll (3/27/12), which found 69% of the American people have now       turned against continuation of the war and occupation of Afghanistan.
  • Deep       concern with the cost of yet another war or two, especially with the debt       and deficit problems being so acute, and the economy still in crisis       despite the Pollyanna assurances to the contrary.
  • Recognition       that an Israeli attack on Iran “would lead to a wider regional war, which       could draw in the United States and leave hundreds of Americans dead,       according to American officials.” (New       York Times, 3/20/12)
  • Logistics       considerations that make U.S. intervention in Syria infinitely more       difficult than was the case with Libya.

However, despite  these factors, which do inhibit the warmakers to a degree, it is clear that we  cannot rely on them to prevent the outbreak of new wars, with all the deaths and  destruction which would result. For this, there can be no substitute for the  intervention of the American people on a truly massive scale.

Antiwar  organizations and activists are in motion on a number of fronts: demonstrations  and rallies, vigils, petitioning, Pledge of Resistance, adoption of  resolutions, lobbying, letters to the editor, press releases, forums, town  meetings, teach-ins, etc. We in the New National Assembly to Bring the Troops  Home Now greatly appreciate all such activities.

At the same time,  we give priority to mobilizing in the streets as the central strategy. We point  to the Vietnam antiwar movement, which was the broadest and most effective of  any such movement in the nation’s history, primarily due to the massive  demonstrations it organized, for example, bringing over a million people into  the streets of Washington D.C. and San Francisco on a single day in April 1971.  The U.S. peace movement has also been greatly inspired in recent years by the  way millions took to the streets in Egypt and Tunisia in demonstrations  that brought down dictators in these two countries.

Moreover, the antiwar  movement needs to follow the example set by the civil rights movement, not only because of the way its marches  and demonstrations in the ’60s had tremendous impact in advancing the fight for  justice and equal rights, but also because the legacy continued over the  subsequent decades, including the actions being taken protesting the despicable  and brutal murder of Trayvon Martin. No other form of protest can match the  visibility and power of masses demonstrating in the streets.

As we contemplate  the perilous days that lie ahead, we have to ask what our movement would do if  the moment arrived when President Obama asked Congress for approval for  unleashing air strikes against Iran. The impulse would surely be to mass  gigantic numbers in Washington to prevent such a vote, with the Occupy movement  perhaps playing a key role and, hopefully, the labor movement, communities of  color, women’s movement, students, faith groups and other progressive forces  joining in.

The question  would be: Who would issue the call for such an action best calculated to  generate the broadest response? Would we all be marching together or would the  divisions that have plagued the movement, especially since 2005, continue to  undermine it, sending us off in different directions, thereby benefiting the  warmakers?

One thing we can  be sure of: the best way for our movement to draw in the broad forces would be  if we presented a united front. If the broader forces are approached by a  number of different formations to participate in what could be competitive  events, they could abstain from all of them and simply organize their own  protest actions. That would, of course, be better than nothing, but not nearly  as powerful as a united action.

The New National  Assembly and its predecessor National Assembly have long advocated the  formation of an all-inclusive national antiwar coalition, which would allow for  free-wheeling, democratic discussion and debate, arriving at a plan of action  which could unite the movement as a whole, while allowing affiliated groups to  organize supplementary actions not competitive with the coalition’s action  plan. No such coalition presently exists and we do not expect one to  crystallize in the months ahead.

What we do think  is possible — in fact, indispensable! — is for key leaders of the movement to  meet together in the near future and reach agreement on how best to coordinate  protest actions going forward of the most massive kind possible. Going it alone  by any group or groups is no substitute for such coordination and cooperation.

No one can  dispute that a united antiwar movement would be in a stronger position to  prevent the outbreak of another war than a divided movement. As the saying  goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way. We most sincerely hope that the necessary  will for unity carries the day. Please let us know if you agree.

In unity, Coordinating  Committee, New National Assembly to Bring the Troops Home Now

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