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Stop the Wars! All Troops Home Now!

About the Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition (STWC)
We call for an end to the criminal wars on the peoples of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq...
read on

A Foundation for strategy

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A FOUNDATION FOR STRATEGY

"A Foundation for Strategy" sets out a broad perspective on the antiwar movement and its direction; it analyzes the ongoing war and interests that are advanced by it. The text written in 2006 represents the perspective of its individual signatories and not that of the coalition as a whole.

More than three years after George Bush declared victory in Iraq. We are reminded on a daily basis that stiff resistance to the occupation continues with no end in sight. Far from describing a mopping up operation in Iraq, as we were told was happening in the aftermath of the “victory” in May 2003, daily press reports describe the continuing horrors of the occupation of Iraq. Since March 20, 2003 over 550,000 Iraqis have been killed along with well over 3600 US soldiers. Many thousands more have been injured and displaced. The mounting US casualties are being felt in homes throughout the country. Mass opposition to the war is continuing on a world scale with no end in sight. The antiwar movement is making a difference and more of the initiative is now in our hands. This article has been submitted in an effort to provide a political analysis of the War in Iraq and its impact here in the U.S. which we have found useful as a point of departure for discussions around some of the fundamental issues being debated in the antiwar movement, both regionally and nationally. There is an urgent need for a discussion on building a broad-based mass movement in the streets against the war that is democratic, non-exclusionary and politically independent. This article seeks to provide a political foundation for a mass action strategy to end the occupation of Iraq based on immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries and that recognizes the unconditional right to self-determination for Iraq and other countries under attack. We feel that developing a policy orientation along these lines would advance the unity and strength of the antiwar movement.

War on Terror: A War Against Us

The leading edge of Washington’s current assault against working people is carried out under the banner of the “War on Terror” which has been used to justify the doctrine of “preemptive war” and the policy of “regime change”. The “war on terror” is not an aberration but only today’s form of conducting the ongoing drive for profits, control of resources and markets, and the necessary political domination that follows. The “War on Terror” has shown itself to be a war of terror that serves to drive down our living conditions, attack our unions, and terrorize our immigrant community. In the name of the “War on Terror”, tens of thousands of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrants have been targeted for roundups and political sweeps resulting in mass arrests, jailings, and deportations. Many thousands have been picked up and held, with little or no access to lawyers or their families, and incarcerated based on retroactive minor offenses or without any charges at all! The “War on Terror” is a war against workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, a war against Palestinians, Haitians, Colombians, Filipinos, and other peoples. The “War on Terror” has provided the ideological underpinning for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as attacks against working people worldwide. “Winning” this “War on Terror” means maximizing profits, super-exploiting workers, and further undermining our right to discuss, decide, and act in our interests both here and worldwide. “Winning” this “War on Terror” means persuading working people of the legitimacy of these attacks. For this reason it is important to develop an educational campaign discussing the role of the “War on Terror” in the overall assault against working people and the oppressed. That which we do not resist and mobilize to stop, we will be forced to accept.

In response to this overall assault, a global polarization has developed. The imperial war makers in Washington and their counterparts in Europe and Asia are encountering the rising resistance of working people throughout the world who do not accept intervention in the Middle East, or anywhere else. Because of this deepening polarization, the war makers are further away than ever before from imposing US domination over targeted regimes in Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba. The resistance of the Iraqi people to the occupation will continue to take its toll and weaken U.S. prospects in the drive for profits and domination. The resistance of the Palestinians has not been broken and will continue. And even in Afghanistan, the U.S. is still far from achieving the goal of consolidating a stable protectorate. So many of us are becoming “us” because we see these peoples under attack not as beneficiaries of some kind of “democracy building” project as Washington would have us believe but as victims of imperialist aggression and therefore potential allies who are suffering the consequences of this assault on our lives, living conditions, and human rights.

War in Iraq- Central Political Flashpoint

The war in Iraq and the drive against working people in the Middle East have taken center stage in world politics. This confrontation between the masses of the Middle East, and the armies and mercenaries of Washington and London represents the central political flashpoint in the world today as Washington continues its drive to control the oil resources and politics of the region. The stakes are high. At no time in recent history have the U.S. war makers been bogged down with so many troops committed to such a long war that has inflicted so many U.S. casualties, has consumed so many resources, so extensively polarized the world, while yielding so few results in advancing US influence and control. Meanwhile, we have seen that as they attempt to tighten their grip on Iraq and dominate the masses of the Middle East, the war makers are losing their grip on the rest of the world, and that includes their ideological grip on us right here in the US. As the debate unfolds, expectations for troop withdrawals, among working people and other segments of society, are only increasing and few are convinced that a permanent occupation is desirable, necessary, or reflects their interests. Support for the war will further erode with time while the existing polarization will deepen. History is being made and the war makers stand to lose more than Iraq as the occupation unfolds. It would be useful to discuss a quotation from George W. Bush, the chief representative of the war machine organized by both parties in Washington: “Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity, and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the War on Terror…” This statement clearly demonstrates that the war in Iraq has been at center stage in U.S. politics. As Bush states, the war makers in Washington have drawn a line in the sand and have declared that a victory in Iraq is central to their overall strategy.

Reasons for the Occupation

Millions in this country now understand that the occupation of Iraq has nothing to do with defending the safety or security of working people at home or abroad. The campaign of the Bush administration to sell the war in Iraq as the central front in the “War on Terror” did not meet with any significant success in garnering support among working people. The campaign of the US government and the media conglomerates to sell this war as one of liberation has worn thin. Far from liberation, the U.S. government, and the billionaire families it represents, have sent hundreds of thousands to serve as an instrument of domination, torture, and abuse, under orders demanding “hard duty” in the service of the drive to control the oil and politics of Iraq. The war makers in Washington seek to consolidate a US-dominated protectorate and establish permanent military bases in order to project their power throughout the region. They seek to extend their domination over the politics of the region, and to protect the flow of Middle East oil. They seek to extend US control over OPEC and the world's oil, natural gas supplies, and vital sea-lanes. They seek to preserve the US dollar as the currency for oil transactions. A stable client regime in Iraq would enable them to eventually turn control over Iraq’s nationalized oil wealth to US oil companies in their quest to monopolize domination of this natural resource. In pursuing these goals, the occupation regime has carried out policies that have deepened sectarian conflict in an overall effort to divide and weaken the country while increasing its dependence on the US. The war makers seek neither freedom, nor democracy, nor the welfare of working people in the Middle East, but rather, a re-division of the Middle East and its resources at the expense of their rivals in Europe and Asia. American corporations, such as Halliburton and Bechtel, have received the bulk of the multibillion-dollar "reconstruction" contracts in war-devastated Iraq, icing out rival companies, even in Britain.

Devastating Consequences of U.S. Intervention

As the government in Washington and its allies in the media are selling “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), we must not forget and continue to explain that in the 1990–91 Gulf War, the US and its allies unleashed a massacre, killing 150,000 Iraqi farmers and workers, many of them soldiers seeking to surrender or fleeing the battlefield. Then, for 13 years, Washington and other powers--including Paris and London--imposed a brutal economic embargo, denying food, medicine, and other essentials to the Iraqi people, leading to famine, disease, and the death of literally hundreds of thousands of children. Ever since Bush declared, "The day of your liberation is near,” millions of Iraqis have experienced first hand what that “liberation” meant. As promised, in March of 2003, the Pentagon perpetrated a terrifying blitzkrieg on Baghdad, designed to “shock and awe”. In the first days, the US and its allies fired more than 3,000 bombs and cruise missiles. The initial bombardment incinerated many as the flames rose over Baghdad, and those who survived have suffered the humiliation of raids on their homes, the depraved abuse at Abu Ghraib and other prisons, and the day-to-day realities of living under military occupation. The U.S-led attack damaged water and sewage systems as well as the country's fragile desert ecosystem. It also left unexploded ordnance and mines that continue to endanger the Iraqi people and the environment. Iraqis suffer the health effects of the use of depleted uranium weaponry. The Pentagon estimates that U.S. and British forces used 1,100 to 2,200 tons of weaponry made from this toxic, radioactive metal during the March 2003 bombing campaign. Many scientists believe that this is the source of “Gulf War Syndrome”, as well as a dramatic rise in child birth defects in Iraq. Continued U.S. incursions into Iraqi cities have inflicted massive casualties, destruction, and the displacement of many thousands. The siege and bombardment of Falluja alone, a city with a population of 360,000, left the vast majority of residents homeless or living in other localities with friends and relatives. As long as U.S. troops occupy Iraq, the resistance will continue. The occupation is fueling the conflict. The U.S. occupation is the problem, not the solution. Iraqis will not accept continued U.S. military and political domination of their country. The devastating consequences of the occupation will only deepen as the occupation continues.

Potential for the Social Movement

As the casualties continue and the lies surrounding the occupation become more and more apparent, political space has opened up for gaining a wider hearing for the antiwar movement and mobilizing broader sectors of youth and working people against this criminal occupation. There is massive opposition to the war here in this country and throughout the world. Millions right here want to End the Occupation of Iraq and to Bring the Troops Home Now! The immediate question before us is: How can we mobilize the people who agree with us that the troops should be withdrawn immediately? A strategy needs to be developed that can reach these millions and weld them into an organized and powerful force. A mobilization of the massive opposition that already exists would serve as a pole of attraction capable of winning over many who are undecided, or even those who support the occupation. The resulting deepening of the polarization that has already developed will in turn leave its mark throughout society and indeed for future generations. We need to come together and clearly outline an educational strategy to explain the reasons for the war and how to get this message out broadly. A broader campaign is necessary to answer the lies of the government and their partners in the media and convince our allies that we are making a difference. A tempo of education and mobilization needs to be established that can take full advantage of the potential that exists at this juncture in history. Our current tasks revolve around popularizing a discussion and debate about the reasons for the war, how we can mobilize to stop it, the role of the “war on terror”, and the overall assault against working people and the oppressed.

We are at a new juncture that has not appeared in many years. We have the opportunity to galvanize broad opposition to a major war, the likes of which this country has not seen in over 30 years. It is necessary to adapt in a timely way to the situation, to make use of lessons learned in past wars, and to develop an understanding of what distinguishes this situation from earlier ones. Recent historical experiences include activity against the U.S. interventions in Central America, Panama, Lebanon, Granada, etc. in the 1980s, the 1991 Gulf war, Haiti, Colombia, the Balkans, etc. in the 90s, and the period before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. In none of those cases were all the following elements present: 1) A sustained US occupation with US forces taking daily casualties and no end in sight; 2) Massive and increasing opposition to the current war policy and sustained antiwar activity nationwide; 3) Rising dissent in the armed forces; 4) A stagnant economy for working people and a declining standard of living.

In this context, coordinated, twice-yearly, national street protests, planned well in advance, can emulate the antiwar tradition that was so effective during the Vietnam era. It is now possible for antiwar action coalitions to also involve unions, high schools, campuses, veterans, immigrants and other communities of the oppressed, as well as clergy and religious groups. It is necessary to be clear on what is possible and necessary right now. We cannot expect huge antiwar demonstrations followed by a collapse of the movement in disappointment with its failure to stop the war, as in January-March 2003. We cannot expect the disappearance of the antiwar movement from the streets, as during the 2003-2004 election campaign. We can expect a sustainable public antiwar movement in the streets, against the institutions supporting the war, as long as the occupation continues. In the current period, we can expect the movement to take on a more youthful character as more and more young people come into contact with the war either through direct experience, the protest activities and intervention of the antiwar movement, or through their friends and families. We can expect the continued participation of an older generation of activists who went through the experience of Vietnam.

The energy of young people, their openness to new ideas, and their special role as cannon fodder in the criminal adventures of the government in Washington, gives them a special role in the antiwar movement. History has demonstrated that youth have played an important role in many successful social movements and are less likely to be burdened with the outlook of those who have lived through the experience of a long period of defeats. Youth are often the source of a fresh outlook and can point toward new possibilities.

The War at Home

The war has social consequences and is itself an extension of the war against working people and youth right here in the U.S. While billions are spent to kill, people are left homeless, deprived health care, education, and many other vital needs. Communities throughout the country have been devastated by the drastic cuts in infrastructure and social services. The long term consequences of the massive war expenditures and attacks against oppressed social layers will have consequences that will be felt for many years to come. Allies from social layers of the oppressed can and have been brought into the fight. Links have been made with African American communities which have experienced the effects of institutionalized racism demonstrated starkly during, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The demand to “Fund Human needs – Not War and Occupation” is easily understood and widely supported among antiwar activists and more broadly in the communities of the oppressed. The need for justice for Katrina survivors has been supported in the antiwar movement as well as other movements. The National Organization for Women has supported mobilizations against the war. Opposition to the war is widespread and deeply felt in communities of immigrants and there have been links made and a crossover of organizers from the antiwar and the migrant rights movements. This interconnectivity will deepen and add fuel to the fire of other developing social movements.

Divisions Among the War Makers

A fierce debate is unfolding within the establishment over how to proceed, and a growing number of political and military tops now believe that their interests would be best served by organizing an orderly retreat from Iraq, sooner rather than later. They seek to minimize their losses and prevent the kind of military collapse that characterized the end of the Vietnam War. They are calling for a “redeployment” of forces. This current has increased its influence since the elections. Concerns about troop morale, long-term social impacts, declining world influence, and financial costs, have led this current to different conclusions. On the other hand, if the U.S. war makers “cut and run” from Iraq, their control of some of the most important oil reserves on the planet, in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, will be undermined. From the standpoint of their interests, the war makers are now faced with a choice between two evils, neither of which will advance their power in the short run. A defeat in Iraq, the removal of all foreign troops, mercenaries, and bases, would weaken their overall ability to conduct their assault on working people in the Middle East and greatly increase the political price they will pay when they conduct future invasions. Attacking other nations that defy U.S. edicts will be associated with much higher risks. Despite posturing from the Democrats, neither political party in Washington seeks to defend the interests of working people, either here, in the Middle East, or anywhere else. Both seek to develop a policy that defends the overall interests of the imperial war makers in their drive to extract profits and control the resources of the planet. The vital oil interests at stake along with the consequences of a loss in power and prestige could continue to bog the U.S. down in Iraq for several years to come.

Type of Movement Needed

Only a mass movement that includes youth, workers, women, people of color, immigrants, seniors, veterans, and soldiers can stop the war machine. For that reason, it is necessary to develop a mass action strategy. Fundamental social advances that have benefited the working masses have generally been achieved through mass social movements. Mass movements have generally called into question the legitimacy of an established social order by demonstrating that there are large numbers who see aspects of the system as unjust and oppressive, and are willing to do something about it. Many lose some of their fear as they join together with thousands of others who see a need to get involved and act. More options for what to do and how to stay involved can be discussed. A key element of this approach in today’s context is organizing peaceful, legal actions in the streets to encourage maximum participation by those who are considering becoming involved. Such actions can demonstrate to the world the size of the opposition and its willingness to act. The action of the masses can win victories and make history. Mass action draws in new participants and inspires confidence. This will attract more soldiers and vets who see their peers at these actions, helping them to realize that they are not alone if they oppose the occupation, and reinforcing their right to discuss the war within their military units and organize opposition there. A mass action strategy has been demonstrated historically to be the most effective in the effort to politicize, activate, and organize the forces necessary to achieve our goals. As the occupation continues, the polarization will deepen along with a growing radicalization, the consequences of which will change the political landscape and influence future generations. As working people and oppressed social layers see the government and the major institutions in this society opposing their interests, more possibilities will appear for uniting, winning victories, clearing the road toward empowerment. The war makers stand to lose more than the war in Iraq as the occupation unfolds. This process will steadily increase the political price the war makers must pay to maintain this criminal war and eventually force an end to the occupation. In general we should be organizing around the goal of immediate withdrawal of all foreign military and mercenary personnel from Iraq through activities that seek to involve as many folks as possible. Small groups of determined heroes or well-connected gurus cannot get the job done in the long run.

Non-exclusion

The principle of non-exclusion is central to movement building. Narrowing participation goes against the historical experience of successful social movements and leaves the antiwar movement vulnerable to the agenda of the war makers and thereby subject to derailment. This is especially important now, as the Democrats seek to justify the continued occupation of Iraq. As the party that controls both houses of Congress, the Democrats are in a stronger position to advance “lesser evil” politics. Exclusionism provides the basis for inflicting more damage on the movement than any perceived problem created by the presence of an objectionable political current. A healthy movement that can stand up, unite the masses, and gain respect must be based on the strength of its political arguments and tactics. Exclusionism and administrative methods for resolving political differences resolve nothing in the long run and represent a “cure” that is worse than the purported “disease”. Lying hacks and political scabs will continue to be part of the social movement, as has been the case in social movements throughout history. They must be fought politically, through democratic debate and decisions, not through organizational obstacles. Obstacles must not be placed in the way of activists and potential activists who see the urgency of getting involved. They must be encouraged and welcomed as participants, organizers, and decision makers. Non-exclusion is an important element of a mass action strategy. Organizational forms should flow from today’s social realities, the movement building possibilities, and the tempo necessary to take advantage of the current situation which is far more favorable than any we have seen in years. Without question, the opportunities unfolding require a weekly rhythm of activity on the part of the coalitions that are leading this campaign. In the vast array of groups that function in local communities the tempo will vary.

Democracy

Decision making for a mass movement needs to be democratic. The tendency for small group decision-making at invitation-only meetings is a reflection of campaigns in isolation. Our goal is not to organize an exclusive club but to organize an inclusive, mass movement. As our movement grows, and the possibilities improve, so grows the need for open planning meetings to be announced, publicized, and open to all who want to participate. Democratic decision-making and broad conferences to call mass actions, where different strategies can be debated and voted on, have always maximized our social impact and strengthened our ability to effectively coordinate actions regionally and nationally.

Political Independence

The mass movement against the Vietnam War generated its greatest successes when large numbers adopted a perspective of independent political action and established a direction for the movement independent of support for the two parties or war, exploitation, and oppression: the Democrats and the Republicans. Building an independent antiwar movement, that does not get its marching orders from the Democratic Party, is an important element of a successful movement building strategy. In November 2006, it was the electoral base that shifted the elections not the other way around. “Lesser evil” politics and electoralism still have a strong grip on the minds of many, as discussed by Cindy Sheehan in her May 29th letter:

"…I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system? However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."… "If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?"

The Principle of Self-determination

The demand for immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces does not include any demand that implies the right of the war makers to intervene in other countries, nor does it include demands for negotiations, partial or phased withdrawals, UN intervention, conditional withdrawal, the substitution of proxy armies, etc. Only the demand for immediate withdrawal is consistent with the principle of self-determination and sovereignty. Anything else represents peace in the abstract and cannot lead to an end to the occupation of Iraq or an end to the war. The drive for profits is the foundation of the policy of the imperialist powers, whether in relation to other countries or in domestic policy. None of the occupying powers has a “civilizing mission” or any right to interference in the affairs of the Middle East, Afghanistan, or anywhere else. An occupation of Iraq under the auspices of the UN, or another foreign coalition, will do nothing to further self-determination or sovereignty. The Iraqi people themselves must resolve that question. No one else can do that. All of these armies serve the interests of their respective national elites and not of Iraqis.

On the question of reparations, a useful, concrete, and productive campaign for reparations could only be organized after all Coalition troops are withdrawn. Only then would it be possible for an independent assessment and outlook to develop, leading to a concrete campaign for reparations that respects the sovereignty of Iraq.

In recent years, the question of self-determination for the Kurds in the region has taken on more significance. The Kurdish population living within the boundaries of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran has historically suffered national oppression. We should support the right of the Kurds to self-determination and point out that the occupation of their land by US troops undermines support for their cause in the region and opens them to US domination and control of their resources. The recent intervention of Turkey against Iraqi Kurdistan, underscores the need for the antiwar movement to watch this conflict and draw the appropriate lessons. In evaluating support for the legitimacy of various political expressions of the Kurdish independence movement, we should not underestimate the role of foreign influence in Kurdish national politics. In the 90s, the US engaged in a proxy war against Iraq using members of the allied Iraqi National Congress and Kurdish fighters. The antiwar movement should recognize that US intervention in the Kurdish independence movement has served to divide and weaken it, and the movement should recognize that US intervention in Kurdish national politics disrupts the fight for self-determination and the rights of working people.

The invasion of Afghanistan and the toppling of the Taliban regime had nothing to do with defending our security as working people, improving the status of women, or furthering the self-determination of Afghanis. The continued occupation has only succeeded in deepening the resistance to the client regime and its U.S. sponsors. Opposition to the occupation in the U.S. will only deepen as more and more people come to support the right of Afghanis to determine their future.

The sharpening of the conflict in Palestine, and Western attempts to strangle Hamas, reflect a weakening of their influence in the region and reaffirm that there will be no resolution of the crisis in the Middle East without respecting the right of self-determination for the Palestinian people.

A critical task faced by the antiwar movement today is establishing an alliance among those who agree on a movement building strategy. A strategy of mass action that demands non-exclusion, democratic decision-making, political independence, and unconditional support for the self-determination of nations oppressed and exploited by imperialism. Building a layer of active organizers around this strategy and organizational policy remains a central task. When the masses lead, the “leaders” will follow.

Troops Home Now!

Currently, we are organizing in the context of a sea of activity that has developed across the country. In this context, the key tactic necessary for maintaining and expanding the advancing mass movement is developing unity among ALL forces that will support regular mass actions in the streets around the demand for immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces. We should promote the tactic of a united front that presupposes unity in action and political independence for all who participate. Troops Home Now! Mercenaries Out! Not One More Dollar for the War! This approach is most applicable in our situation today given the diverse political character and class composition of the forces in motion. This tactic in today’s context is central to developing a mass action strategy. Around this tactic a mass movement is being built. Regular, twice yearly, massive actions in the streets inspire confidence and provide a vehicle for opponents of the war to take action. Mass action provides a clear focus for all who seek to end the war, further isolating the war makers in Washington. Joint action on this basis should be inclusive and can provide the basis for working unity among all political currents, including supporters of the parties of imperialism such as the Democrats. Those who participate are exposed to the wide array of views presented on a wide array of issues important to our ability to advance forward and defend our rights and overall interests.

To those who claim that the demand for immediate withdrawal of all the troops is too limited, not anti-imperialist, or not focused on the oppressed or broader class interests, we should clearly state that this demand is objectively anti-imperialist; an end to the occupation of Iraq, with no US bases functioning as a staging area for US operations in the region, will register an important defeat for the war machine in Washington and strengthen the confidence of all social justice movements of working people and the oppressed, in this country and throughout the world. A defeat for the war machine in Iraq would mean increased political space for all who are struggling against repressive regimes that rely on U.S. support. A defeat for the war machine would mean increased legitimacy, political space, and possibilities for oppressed social layers to organize and advance demands that defend their interests. The poverty draft will no longer be taking victims in Iraq. An end to the U.S. occupation would mean that workers who are fed up with employer attacks in the name of the “war on terror” will have more possibilities to organize and fight back. The patriotic chauvinism that divides working people here will be dealt a body blow. An end to the U.S. occupation will infuse movements for global justice, and the rights of working people, with confidence, energy and initiative.

Dynamics of Movement Building

Among the factors driving the broad antiwar sentiment that is influencing the war machine in Washington, four stand out as important for us in developing a broad social movement: 1) Folks have come to understand that they have been lied to; 2) The war is perceived as going badly; 3) An antiwar movement has been organizing in cities and towns from coast to coast; 4) We are living in a period of economic decline, attacks on our living conditions, and social oppression for many millions of workers and youth. Our campaign has been addressing these factors and making a difference. In this context, when people step out and get involved in the antiwar movement, they can rapidly encounter ideas that challenge the system and its prerogatives. They become aware of activities that defend the rights of working people and all layers of the oppressed. This fact of human history is unassailable. As we advance forward and more folks get involved, participants are challenged with ideas describing the nature of the beast with which we are dealing as well as its global reach. We are challenged to think socially, act politically, and investigate further the meaning behind the social ills that in many ways have devastated our society and the world. Convincing participants in a mass movement of the oppressive nature of the system and the importance of solidarity among workers and all oppressed social layers is a political task, not an administrative one. No one can be forced to develop a broader social outlook. They must be convinced to do so. We should encourage participants to look beyond the issues of the current conflict, and look to a future where human needs are put before profits. A future not driven by profits, neither ruled by militarism, xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression, nor marked by unending cycles of economic depression and wars born from greed. Folks will develop this orientation at their own pace. We cannot demand that this be a basis for joint action. Many youth and workers who are opponents of the war at this point are supporters of the Democratic Party. Even some supporters of the Republicans, who supported the war at first, are coming to see that the war is based on lies and are starting to look across the political divide to check out the antiwar movement and get the answers to their questions that cannot be provided by either political party.

Many have voiced anger at the antiwar movement because they don’t like hearing the debates and infighting, especially newer people. Why all the bickering? Why can’t all the groups just unite?

However, unity has been achieved periodically. On October 25, 2003 in Washington, DC all major forces in the antiwar movement united around the demands: "End the Occupation of Iraq!" and "Bring the Troops Home Now!" Around 30,000 participated. Look at September 24th 2005. We all marched together in DC, over 250,000 people to bring the troops home now. We should all be proud. There was broad unity for the mass march and rally here in Boston on October 29th, 2005 with over 2,000 people, mostly youth. Many of us marched together on December 1st for Rosa Parks Human Rights Day. We marched together in Roxbury, marking the third year of the occupation, and again massively in the hundreds of thousands on April 29th, 2006 in New York.

The debates have been lively. We should recognize that the political diversity of the movement allows us to think critically, correct errors, and advance forward. We need to see the antiwar movement as a melting pot of different political currents and perspectives. We all have much to learn and debates are essential for a healthy movement.

Taking it to the Streets

Despite widespread opposition to the war in Iraq, the number of demonstrators and activist organizers is proportionally small. Antiwar sentiment exists along a spectrum. Overwhelmingly people of all political stripes see the war in Iraq going badly. Polls have demonstrated that tens of millions favor immediate withdrawal. We have work to do. Taking to the streets in periodic mass actions is not the only time to be visible. As part of a mass action strategy, we must engage the layer of people who are not yet opponents of the war, one by one, and patiently explain the reasons for the war, and why the troops must be withdrawn immediately. The antiwar movement must strive to educate the public that ending the war will not be accomplished through the ballot box, as the Democrats have clearly demonstrated following their 2006 Congressional victory. Instead we must explain that the most important social advances have been achieved by mass social movements. In the face of the corporate world’s huge lobbying and PR expenditures, control of mainstream media and political dominance, we can and have placed our stamp on history when we unite, take to the streets on a massive scale, and organize independently. We must emphasize that every person who opposes the war in Iraq has the capacity to make a difference, bring fresh ideas to the antiwar movement, and can organize friends, neighbors, and co-workers into action. To be successful, these lessons must be taught over and over by the antiwar movement. The classroom for these lessons must be the streets, public meeting rooms, union halls, public schools, colleges and universities, and our students are ordinary working class people. A sustained educational outreach campaign, conducted by the antiwar movement at all levels, focusing on regular street level outreach in working class communities will greatly facilitate our growth, and extend the reach and power of the antiwar movement.

Current Limitations

What exists today is an array of different political currents staking out political territory and at times cutting across our unity. Fronts for the Democratic Party are a key part of this mix. An electoralist strategy combined with small group civil disobedience has at times demobilized the antiwar movement. History demands that we unite in action with ALL who oppose the war and support immediate withdrawal. This can expand our unity, help us develop more effective working relationships, and greatly extend the reach and power of our growing antiwar movement. We need a movement building perspective, a perspective for the movement as a whole based on a movement building organizational policy: Non-exclusion, democratic decision-making, and unconditional support for the self-determination of nations oppressed and exploited by imperialism. Developing a strategy of mass action and an orientation of political independence that reaches out to working people, youth, and oppressed social layers is an approach that can lead to victory. At this point, many organizers and activists are adopting elements of a movement building perspective and a mass action strategy. However, we have a long way to go toward generalizing this outlook. Our job is to turn millions more against the occupation and the war machine in general and demand that OUR needs be funded, not war and occupation. Our job is to develop a layer of active organizers around a mass action strategy and a movement building organizational policy that can move us forward. Our job is to get folks in motion, involved and active. Our job is to increase the political price both parties pay for continuing the occupation. This requires broad outreach and developing working relationships with a wide array of politically diverse organizations that can be won over to the demand of immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces. Successful outreach to unionists can qualitatively advance the power and organizational infrastructure of the rising social movement. Together we can build a social movement that can stop this war and in the process massively shift the political agenda of working people in this country to further international solidarity, fight against oppression, and fulfill human needs.

Global US War Machine

As we provide an explanation of the reasons for the war, we begin to place into question the entire worldwide U.S. imperial apparatus that is responsible for the oppression and super-exploitation of billions of people, as well as the policies on which that oppression is based. Various campaigns have been organized to confront the global war machine. However, more can be done by the antiwar movement to dismantle the war machine that serves the needs of a global empire. The possibility has opened for organizing a campaign that addresses this issue in a concrete way, starting from the conscious agreement of the thousands already involved in the antiwar movement and moving outward. It seems possible in today’s context to organize a campaign calling for an end to U.S. military aid and arms exports to client regimes, and a full dismantling of US bases in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and in other parts of the world. These bases, along with military aid and arms sales, cost billions of dollars yearly and serve as an oppressive boot on the neck of the working billions worldwide. It is the military might of this global war machine that ultimately provides the basis for propping up dictatorships, fixing elections, murdering unionists, and organizing mercenary armies that serve as the enforcers of slave wages and national oppression. This military aid, arms shipments, and these military bases do nothing to defend us, and the demand for their elimination can serve as a point of departure when we campaign to cut the war budget and redirect resources for vital human needs. The costs are quantifiable and can form the basis of broad unity. It is difficult for the war makers, especially in today’s context, to publicly justify the military aid, arms sales, and the existence of these bases, and the debate surrounding this issue would provide a basis for explaining the oppressive and predatory character of US foreign policy. It invites discussion around the US overthrow of the democratically elected government in Haiti and the failed coup in Venezuela. It provides a basis for discussing US involvement in the dirty war against unionists in Colombia, where U.S. troops are stationed, the genocide that was inflicted upon the people of Central America in the 1980s, and the brutal repression inflicted against unionists in Asia, as well as U.S. support for Israel, Egypt, etc.

Target the War Makers

In the context of the existing sea of activity and the deepening polarization, campaigns targeting the war makers have generated a lot of success. Public appearances of notorious figures in both parties who support the occupation have been targeted with successful mobilizations to denounce these criminals. Mobilizing to denounce George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, John Abizaid, John Negroponte, Henry Kissinger, Steve Lynch, Andrew Card, and many others, when they make their public appearances, has helped to politicize people and politically educate many about where the centers of power are, as well as who the killers are. The opportunity has now opened up to target the Democrats who control both houses of Congress, and denounce those who support the occupation as “policy makers” who are part and parcel of the killing machine. A widespread, intensive, and fairly successful campaign has developed against military recruitment in the high schools and campuses, explaining and convincing youth that joining the military is a bad choice for themselves as well as for the world. A variety of successful campaigns targeting the war makers have been organized and many new possibilities exist. Encouraging and participating in these campaigns will help the movement to develop focus and initiative.

Defending Our Political Space and Human Rights

With the revelations about the domestic spying operation that continues we are reminded of the enormous importance of defending our political space as we organize the fight against the war. Defending our democratic and human rights is essential for our advancement as a movement. We must take a clear stand against all forms of spying and all attempts by the government and police to close down our ability to discuss, decide, and act on our convictions. Without this political space, we cannot achieve our goal of mobilizing massively and ending the war and occupation. The campaign against the US organized torture chambers and “extraordinary renditions” has gained a wider hearing and needs to be supported and expanded. The U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is an abomination and an imposition against the will of the overwhelming majority of Cubans and must be shut down and evacuated NOW.

How Many More?

According to Donald Rumsfeld the war and U.S. occupation could continue for many years to come. The “South Korean” comparison has been presented as the model for Iraq. How much longer will the destruction of Iraq rage on in our name? How many more Iraqis will die in a war of conquest and domination? How many more soldiers will die in a war based on lies? How many more billions of our tax dollars will be looted from vital social needs such as jobs, education, and healthcare or libraries, fire houses, childcare, eldercare, or social security? How many more before we say No! The time to act is now. An end to the war and occupation will infuse movements for global justice and the rights of working people with confidence, energy and initiative. A better world is possible!

Signers:
John Harris - stwc
Chris Manshrezk - stwc
Nick Gianonne - stwc
Charlie Welch - stwc
Dennis Prater - stwc
Karen Slater - stwc
David Keil - stwc
Angela T. Pineros - stwc
Christian Fernandez - stwc
Evan Sarmiento - stwc
Zoe Vanderschmidt - stwc
Bryan Koulouris - stwc
Matt Andrews - stwc
Kevin Heaton - stwc
Mike Pozzi - stwc