The following chapter is excerpted from Anthony Arnove's new book Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal (The New Press), which features a foreword and afterword by Howard Zinn. To read more about the book and the End the War Tour, visit http://www.endthewartour.org.
On the day that the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq reached two thousand, President Bush boasted to an audience at Bolling Air Force Base, "We will never back down, never give in, and never accept anything less than complete victory."
John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon made similar claims about the U.S. war against Vietnam. In the end, the U.S. ruling class discovered that its boasts about assured victory against "Communist insurgency" in Vietnam were empty.
The United States and its allies will be forced from Iraq in defeat or will at some point find a way, through overwhelming brutality, to impose the appearance of a "victory," perhaps under a new president who can remove the stain of illegitimacy that has marked the Bush administration's management of the war.
The real question, then, is: how many more will have to senselessly die before the conclusion of this bloody occupation?
"The Bush administration has said it cannot begin to withdraw a large number of troops until Iraqi security forces can operate independently in much of the country," the New York Times reports, noting that "some military experts say two years is not even enough" to draw down the more than one hundred and seventy thousand U.S. and allied troops there. Indeed, writes Eric Schmitt, "the military is coming to the realization that the war in Iraq could follow the path of other modern insurgencies and last a decade or so."
On September 29, 2005, General John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that only one battalion of Iraqi soldiers was capable of carrying out effective operations independent of U.S. control, down from three battalions earlier in 2005. Battalions in the Iraqi army have between three hundred and one thousand troops. So the most generous interpretation is that, despite all the hype about the "great progress being made on the ground" in Iraq, no more than one thousand Iraqi soldiers are fully trained.
"I think we are actually happy with the pace of the training," Stephen J. Hadley, Bush's national security advisor, told the New York Times, keeping to the administration's script. But as the Times acknowledged, even "other [Bush] administration officials have noted that the White House's claims a year ago of the number of troops and police who had been trained had proved to be overstated."
Of course, such calculations are self-serving in one respect. The insurgency created by the occupation is being used to explain why the United States must continue the occupation, and assessments of Iraqi capabilities reflect the racist, colonial assumptions about the inability of Iraqis to manage their own affairs that are widespread in the military establishment. At the same time, the difficulty of training Iraqi soldiers is indicative of the profound problems facing the United States as it seeks to organize a security force that the local population regards as collaborationist.
Given the widespread opposition to the occupation, the high risks for Iraqis who collaborate with U.S. and other foreign troops, and the evidence of infiltration of the Iraqi police by Iraqis who also want to see U.S. troops leave, the U.S. strategy of Iraqization is likely, as with Vietnamization before it, to fail. The failures of Iraqization, however, will only provide a rationale for continued occupation unless the antiwar movement can compel the United States to withdraw.
An October 2005 study by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies suggested that the United States "will retain a sizeable force in Iraq even after President George W. Bush has left office," much as the war in Vietnam was passed from administration to administration. The next "administration will have forces in Iraq and a fairly large number for some years to come," Patrick Cronin, the director of the institute, told the Financial Times.
From the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, the United States has been making plans to establish long-term military bases there. While Donald Rumsfeld has argued, "We have no intention at the present time of putting permanent bases in Iraq," top Bush officials told the New York Times just after the invasion that they were "planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region."
American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. . . .
"There will be some kind of a long-term defense relationship with a new Iraq, similar to Afghanistan," said one senior administration official. "The scope of that has yet to be defined-whether it will be full-up operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access."
While Washington's public statements shifted as it became apparent how Iraqis felt about such permanent basing plans, all indications are that the U.S. government is still working toward a long-term military presence in Iraq and agreements that will grant access to Iraqi airspace and territory.
As the Los Angeles Times reports,
John E. Pike, a defense analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, points to another indication. Although the United States is systematically training Iraqis to fight the insurgents, he notes, the Pentagon has not taken key steps-like making plans for acquiring tanks or aircraft-to build an Iraqi military capable of defending the country against its neighbors.
To Pike that means that although the United States might reduce its troop level in Iraq, the fledgling nation, like Germany or South Korea, will require the sustained presence of a large American contingent, perhaps fifty thousand soldiers. "We are building the base structure to facilitate exactly [that]," he says.
Whatever Iraqi politicians say publicly, Pike believes, in private many will prefer such a long-term U.S. presence, which might also provide insurance against a potential military coup.
Much as Britain threatened Iraq in the first half of the twentieth century with the economic and political consequences of independence without its protection, the United States today is sending a clear message to Iraqi elites that they will need the support of the United States to survive. The Christian Science Monitor reports that "U.S. officials expect a new government-which is likely to be under fire from Day One-will not demand a fast pullout. 'I think the new government is going to look at all the problems, look into the abyss, and this is not going to be a problem,' says a senior U.S. diplomat."
Iraq's importance as a strategic base for the projection of U.S. power in the Middle East is a serious concern for Washington. While the U.S. military maintains a security arrangement with Saudi Arabia that allows it access to Saudi territory and has kept some troops in the country for a "longstanding training program," it recently closed its military bases there in recognition of the widespread opposition they were causing, an unwelcome precedent.
By invading Iraq, the Bush administration hoped to make Iraq a model "pro-Western" U.S. client regime, with bases that could be used to intimidate and "contain" neighboring states, especially Syria and Iran. To be driven from Iraq would not just mean a retreat but a serious reversal of U.S. plans in the region.
To force such a retreat, the antiwar movement in the United States and internationally will have to escalate its opposition significantly. In building such a movement, it will help to learn some of the lessons from the last major defeat of the United States in an imperial adventure, the war in Vietnam. The U.S. war on Vietnam ended because of a combination of five factors:
(i) The mass resistance of the Vietnamese people to U.S. intervention.
(ii) The resistance of U.S. soldiers and veterans, who sparked a rebellion against the war, provoking one military analyst to write, "The morale, discipline and battle-worthiness of the U.S. armed forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States."
(iii) Domestic opposition on a scale that forced elites in the United States to recognize that they had lost the war at home, as well as in Vietnam.
(iv) International protest and opposition that isolated the United States politically and raised the costs of the war even further.
(v) The growing economic consequences of the war, which led to inflation and deficits that undermined the position of the U.S. economy.
Today, each of these factors is again in play, though none in its own right is sufficient and together they have not yet reached a critical mass strong enough to compel Washington to abandon the occupation.
The Iraqi resistance today is far more widespread than anyone in the U.S. military ever anticipated. U.S. planners thought that they were embarking on a quick, easy war. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, retired brigadier general Janis Karpinski described the feeling right after the toppling of the Iraqi government. U.S. troops "all believed that they were going to come home after victory was declared" by President Bush on May 1, 2003.
They allowed me to deploy to Iraq to join my units, to take command of the units, although I was told that the majority of the units, the soldiers, would be coming back home because the mission was complete.
When I arrived in Kuwait, I was told that the units were going to be staying for an additional two months, because we were assigned a new mission for prison restoration and training, assisting the prison's experts up at Ambassador Bremer's headquarters in Baghdad with training Iraqi guards to conduct prison and detention operations. . . . Very quickly the two-month extension became a four-month extension, and then it became three hundred and sixty-five days, boots on the ground, for all of the units that were deployed.
So, soldiers were sent to war with the full expectations that they would be home in six months or less, as they were repeatedly told at the mobilization stations in the United States, and once they were there, they couldn't get out.
When General Eric K. Shinseki, then army chief of staff, testified in a Senate hearing before the war that "something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers . . . would be required" for the occupation of Iraq, he was publicly contradicted by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz (who, following in the footsteps of Robert McNamara, soon abandoned his adventure in Iraq to become the president of the World Bank) called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark," adding that the costs of occupation would also be low, since Iraqi oil revenue would pay for the occupation and "even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction."
"The emergence of the Iraqi insurgency stunned senior American commanders, who had planned for a short, sharp war against a uniformed army, with a bout of peacekeeping afterward," Dexter Filkins wrote in the New York Times Magazine.
In response, American officers ordered their soldiers to bring Iraq back under control. They urged their men to go after the enemy, and they authorized a range of aggressive tactics. On a visit from his headquarters in Tikrit, Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the commander of the Fourth Infantry Division, ordered . . . officers simply to "increase lethality."
Such tactics have only fueled opposition to the occupation.
Indeed, the pace of attacks on U.S. and allied troops has accelerated as the occupation has continued. "U.S. officials repeatedly have claimed progress during thirty-one months of war in Iraq, but the death toll of American troops has continued to rise inexorably, eroding support for the war and for the president who is so closely associated with it," the Los Angeles Times reported after the death of the two thousandth U.S. soldier in Iraq.
The death rate for American troops accelerated about eighteen months ago, around the war's first anniversary. The steadiness of the death rate since then, despite proclaimed political milestones and several strategies that U.S. military officials have employed to combat the insurgency, is among the most striking findings of a Los Angeles Times analysis of the fatalities.
The analysis compared the first one thousand deaths-from the beginning of the war in March 2003 through early September of last year-with the fatalities since. It showed a sharp increase in the number of deaths attributed to roadside bombs, which have overtaken rockets, mortars and gunfire as the greatest threat to U.S. troops and were responsible for more than half of the combat deaths in the past year.
It also documented the growing toll that the war has taken on National Guard and reserve units. Their soldiers now account for nearly one-third of the deaths, up from one-fifth.
Those engaged in armed attacks on occupation forces are able to count on support from a significant section of the Iraqi population, much as in Vietnam. A secret poll conducted in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense that was leaked to the Telegraph newspaper in London found that between 45 and 65 percent of Iraqis support armed attacks on British and U.S. occupation forces. "The line between civilians and insurgents is blurry," notes New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise. "When the streets empty out, the Americans know an attack is imminent. 'The population clearly gets the word-there's a network out there,' [Lt.] Colonel [Roger B.] Turner said at the Third Battalion's camp, in an old palace on the Euphrates."
In addition to resistance from the Iraqi population, the U.S. government has also been forced to confront disaffection, as well as outright opposition, from the soldiers sent to fight the war, from military families, and from Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. In 2005, the U.S. fell short of its military recruiting goals by a margin not seen since 1979. "Today's conditions represent the most challenging conditions we have seen in recruiting in my thirty-three years in uniform," Major General Michael Rochelle, head of recruitment for the U.S. Army, said in 2005. In particular, the army has seen a sharp drop-off in enlistment of African-American soldiers. In 2005, according to the New York Times,
about 14 percent of new Army recruits were black, down from nearly 23 percent in 2001. Army officials say improved job opportunities in other fields is one reason. But a study commissioned by the Army last year also concluded that more young blacks were rejecting military service because they opposed the war, or feared dying in it.
"More African-Americans identify having to fight for a cause they don't support as a barrier to military service," the study concluded.
In schools and colleges across the United States, students and faculty in organizations such as the Campus Antiwar Network have confronted military recruiters, in some cases driving them off campus. A Seattle parent-teacher-student association passed a resolution barring military recruiters from a local high school. "We want to show the military that they are not welcome by the P.T.S.A. in this building," explained Amy Hagopian, cochair of the organization at Seattle's Garfield High School. "We hope other P.T.S.A.'s will follow." Parents and students have also campaigned against a provision in the USA PATRIOT Act that forces public schools to hand over student contact information to military recruiters unless parents specifically remove their child's name.
It is vital that we build a strong counter-recruitment movement to expose the lies used by the military to send working-class and poor children to war. We must also lend our full support to the soldiers and reservists who are refusing to fight in Iraq.
In October 2003, Staff Sergeant Camilo MejÃa, a member of the Florida National Guard, became the first soldier from the Iraq invasion to refuse to return to his post after a leave. "I cannot find a single good reason for having been there and having shot people and having been shot at," MejÃa said. "People didn't want us there anymore, and we didn't want to be there." MejÃa served nine months in detention. Today, he is one of many veterans and soldiers speaking out against the war. Others are Navy Petty Officer Third Class Pablo Paredes, who also refused to redeploy to Iraq and was sentenced to three months of hard labor and demoted, and Sergeant Kevin Benderman, who was sentenced to fifteen months of detention for his conscientious objection to the war.
Daryl Anderson, a soldier from Lawton, Kentucky, decided to cross into Canada and to seek protection, knowing well he might never be able to return to the United States, rather than go back to Iraq. "If I went back to Baghdad I would have been asked again to kill people, civilians, and I just couldn't do that anymore," he explained. "We're fighting people that we're supposed to help, but in fact they hate you and every time you walk down the street they shoot at you because you occupy their country. You're asked to get in their houses, in their businesses, block the roads, but you're an occupying power, you're messing up their daily life. You're not a liberator. You raid their houses and kill their family."
"As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, counselors, anti-war activists and others who work with military families report a surge in calls from soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines seeking help to withdraw from the service," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported early in 2005. "A growing number of soldiers and Marines in the all-volunteer force are seeking to be declared conscientious objectors," while between five and six thousand soldiers are "absent without leave."
In Iraq, soldiers in the field have also refused orders from superiors. Twenty-three members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company, based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, were punished for refusing an October 2004 order to drive a fuel convoy from Tallil Air Base, in southern Iraq, to Taji, northwest of Baghdad. "The soldiers complained that their vehicles had not been properly outfitted, their fuel was contaminated, and they were not being escorted by armed vehicles." They called the order a "suicide mission."
During the Vietnam War, the U.S. government learned how quickly the discipline of an army fighting an unjust war can break down. Today, soldiers in the field can see the contradictions between the claims of their officers and especially the politicians who sent them to war and the reality of the conflict on the ground. They now know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and posed no imminent threat. And as the Iraqi resistance to occupation grows, more soldiers have come to see that they are fighting not to liberate Iraqis but to "pacify" them. To end this war, more will need to follow their conscience, like MejÃa and the other soldiers who have refused to die-or kill-for a lie.
On the international front, the Bush administration has grown ever more isolated. The list of countries that were once part of the so-called coalition of the willing has declined steadily as domestic opposition has pressured governments to withdraw troops. Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Moldova, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, and Tonga have all withdrawn their forces from Iraq. In March 2004, the socialist candidate JosÃ© Luis RodrÃguez Zapatero defeated Spain's incumbent prime minister, JosÃ© MarÃa Aznar, who had close ties to President Bush. Zapatero immediately withdrew Spain's forces from Iraq and announced that the Spanish government would never again send troops to war "behind the backs of its citizens."
"Anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history," notes the Pew Global Attitudes Project. The term anti-Americanism is misleading, however. Beyond the fact that the Americas should not be equated, as they so often are, with the United States, opinion polls demonstrate consistently that people do not reject U.S. culture or hate the people of the country. Rather, they oppose U.S. government policies, particularly support for Israel, and its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The level of international opposition to the war has led some business leaders and elites to begin to talk openly about the harm the occupation of Iraq is causing, citing rapidly growing deficits, inflation risks, and the declining image of U.S.-based corporations and products abroad. Prominent hawks, such as William Odom, a director of the National Security Agency during the Reagan administration, have also started to speak out against the war. According to Odom, "Staying . . . damages our credibility more than leaving" Iraq. Several former officials of the current administration have also spoken out about the rush to war in Iraq and the emptiness of the president's rhetoric about progress in the occupation.
But even more significantly, popular opposition to the war is growing. Opinion polls show that a majority of the population now opposes the decision to attack Iraq. A majority also wants troops brought home, either immediately or in the near future, with negative opinions of Bush, the Republicans in Congress, and the war continuing to grow. Asked in a September 2005 poll if they consider themselves members of the antiwar movement, 23 percent of respondents answered yes, a figure that translates into roughly fifty million people above the age of sixteen, based on the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures.
More than one hundred thousand people marched in Washington, D.C., on September 24, 2005, in the largest demonstrations since the invasion of Iraq. Participants drew connections between the war and the government's criminally negligent response to Hurricane Katrina, noting that three thousand Louisiana and three thousand eight hundred Mississippi National Guard troops, as well as equipment that could have been used for relief efforts, were in Iraq when the storm hit. Protesters carried placards reading "Make Levees, Not War." Many came to the march after being encouraged to speak up by Cindy Sheehan's courageous stand against the war outside President Bush's vacation home in Crawford, Texas, the month before.
But none of the existing currents of opposition is strong enough yet to end the war. Each will have to build independently, while also forging critical alliances. Along the way, the U.S. left in particular needs far greater clarity about the reasons for the war, the political context of the war, and an effective strategy for ending it.
The U.S. left made a terrible and costly mistake in supporting the presidential campaign of John Kerry, giving up its independence and political principles to support a prowar candidate. Kerry called for sending more troops to Iraq, insisting that "it would be unthinkable now for us to retreat in disarray and leave behind a society deep in strife and dominated by radicals." Kerry also asserted that he would still have voted to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq even if he knew Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, a position that he only clearly retracted after losing the election and when popular sentiment had turned strongly against the war.
But rather than learn from the experience, many in the antiwar movement have continued to hold illusions about the Democrats, hoping they will somehow become the standard-bearer for the anti-occupation message. While some Democrats, for opportunistic reasons, will certainly come to see that they can gain votes by challenging Bush, they will do so not to lead the antiwar movement but to put themselves at the front of it and direct it back into electoral channels. The Democrats, who not only voted for the war but have repeatedly voted to fund it, have tactical, not principled, differences from the Republicans, believing that, in the words of the Washington Post, "success in Iraq at this point is too important for the country."
In fact, rather than arguing for troops to come home, a number of leading Democrats, such as senators Joseph Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, are seeking to outflank Bush from the right by calling for more troops in Iraq. "We need more troops in Iraq now," Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, told the Hartford Courant editorial board. Many liberals campaigned heavily for Clinton's run for Senate in New York. But, as the New York Times observes, "In recent speeches and interviews, as well as in votes in the Senate, she has emerged as a staunch ally of the armed services and a strong proponent of a forceful American military presence abroad. On Iraq, for example, she has stood by her vote authorizing the president to wage war and has argued for a greater troop presence there."
When Representative John P. Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, broke ranks to call for pulling troops out of Iraq, the reaction of his party was telling. Leading party members immediately distanced themselves from Murtha's position. "Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha," not the party, Representative Rahm Emanuel stated. When asked to explain the Democrats' position on the war, he said, "At the right time, we will have a position."
Journalist Jeremy Scahill is absolutely right when he argues that "the Democrats are not an opposition party, nor are they an antiwar party-never were. At best, they are a loyal opposition."
None of the horrors playing out in Iraq today would be possible without the Democratic Party. And no matter how hard some party leaders try to deny it, this is their war too and will remain so until every troop is withdrawn. There is no question that the Bush administration is one of the most corrupt, violent and brutal in the history of this country but that doesn't erase the serious responsibility the Democrats bear for the bloodletting in Iraq. As disingenuous as the administration's claims that Iraq had WMDs is the flimsy claim by Democratic lawmakers that they were somehow duped into voting for the war. The fact is that Iraq posed no threat to the United States in 2003 any more than it did in 1998 when President Clinton bombed Baghdad. John Kerry and his colleagues knew that. The Democrats didn't need false intelligence to push them into overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. It was their policy; a policy made the law of the land not under George W. Bush, but under
President Bill Clinton when he signed the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, formally initiating the process of regime change in Iraq.
In reality, the war in Iraq and the broader "war on terror" are based on a bipartisan consensus. The Democrats and Republicans agree on the fundamental right of the United States to intervene in other countries, to topple regimes it dislikes, and to be a global hegemonic power. The Democrats will use force "without asking anyone's permission" boasts Democratic leader Joseph R. Biden Jr., of Delaware, in the party's typical "me too" fashion.
Some liberals have staked their opposition to the war in Iraq on the idea that Iraq is a "distraction." The problem with this line of argument is that it accepts that Bush is now waging an otherwise legitimate war. Bush's agenda has absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism or reducing its likelihood, however. The Bush administration is pushing a series of foreign policy objectives that it had before September 11. These are not defensive but offensive goals, seeking to expand U.S. economic and military power abroad. The "war on terror" rubric is a way of selling decades of war through racism and the demonization of Arabs and of Islam, much as anticommunism was used as an ideological rationale for U.S. aims in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Any movement to end the war in Iraq will need to mount a direct challenge to both major parties and the whole ideological framework used to sell the war. The antiwar movement needs to assert its independence from the Democrats and challenge the broad consensus that underlies the war on terror, especially U.S. exceptionalism, Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and liberal imperialism.
In addition, we need more politics in the antiwar movement, not less. The common idea that people in "the heartland" or "Middle America" or in military families need to be protected from politics is elitist and misguided. It is not just radicals or progressives who understand that there are connections between the U.S. occupation of Iraq and longstanding U.S. support for Israel and for numerous Arab regimes that repress their populations but preserve "stability" in the region. Soldiers and military families themselves are raising questions about oil, imperialism, racism, and the real reasons behind the war. Indeed, soldiers have also expressed empathy for the Iraqis who are resisting them. "If someone invaded Texas, we'd do the same thing," observed Lt. Col. Kim Keslung.
The stronger the consciously anti-imperialist current in the antiwar movement, the stronger the movement to end the war will be, and the greater chance we will have to bring about the fundamental change needed to stop future wars.
The great satirist and novelist Mark Twain summed up the politics of anti-imperialism very effectively at the time of his opposition to the U.S. occupation of the Philippines: "I am opposed to having the eagle putting its talons on any other land." We need to revive and popularize this sentiment, and at the same time we need to address the economic roots of war in a system with completely irrational priorities, a system that sends people to die and kill to control a declining oil supply rather than develop a humane and environmentally sustainable system of production and transportation; that leaves people vulnerable to environmental disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and then abandons them to die, while spending hundreds of billions of dollars to occupy Iraq and to redraw the map of the Middle East; and that is forcing Iraq, one of the world's most oil-rich countries, to import oil from its neighbors, at the cost of some two hundred million dollars a month.
We need to highlight the class aspects of this war. Who is fighting, who is dying, who is sending the soldiers to fight? Why are there billions of dollars available for this war, yet schools are crumbling and forty-five million people in the United States do not have any health insurance, while tens of millions more have inadequate or only partial coverage?
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have "obscured the fact that many people in this country are still in need," observes historian Howard Zinn. "We need to dig under the rubble of war and point out that the Bush administration is using the war as a cover for worsening the income gap in this country, while paying no attention to the problems of most of the American people, while enriching corporations. I think concentrating on the class issue, concentrating on the benefits being given to corporations, is critical."
But Zinn raises an even more urgent point: "The left is in a position of continually opposing war after war after war, without getting at the root of the problem-which is the economic system under which we live, which needs war and makes war inevitable."
The United States is spending one billion dollars a week in its occupation of Iraq, excluding the cost of "reconstruction" (the government's and the media's euphemism for massive federal subsidies to corporations close to the Bush administration). "If the Department of Defense were a business, they'd be out of business," commented David Walker, the Government Accountability Office comptroller general. "They have absolutely atrocious financial management. . . . I can't understand how we're spending $1 billion a week." This is in addition to the tens of billions of dollars already allocated for the invasion of Iraq, the tens of billions the United States pays to maintain its massive military arsenal in the Middle East and Asia, and the tens of billions the government spends to support "allies" such as Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates.
While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have now cost more than three hundred billion dollars and the Pentagon's annual budget is more than four hundred billion dollars, budgets for early childhood education programs, health care, day care, libraries, and basic social services are being slashed drastically around the country. City after city and state after state are reporting fiscal crises.
The corporate looting of Iraq is simply an extension of the looting at home, which has seen more and more wealth going from workers to the very rich. This economic war on poor and working people is also going hand in hand with a major attack on civil liberties, particularly those of immigrants and Muslims, who face greater risk of false arrest, harassment, deportation, and detention. The antiwar movement needs not only to defend these communities but to build a membership-and a public leadership-that is representative and inclusive of them.
We need to involve larger numbers of people facing budget cuts, attacks on their jobs and unions, and violations of their civil liberties, as well as more and more family and friends of those in the military, to demand all foreign troops in Iraq be brought home now.
A number of unions, many working with the organization U.S. Labor Against the War, have passed resolutions that can be used as models for raising the issue of the war and occupation in our workplaces. Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago provides a constructive example of how we can link the war at home and the war abroad:
Whereas, we value the lives of our sons and daughters, of our brothers and sisters more than Bush's control of Middle East oil profits;
Whereas, we have no quarrel with the ordinary working-class men, women, and children of Iraq who will suffer the most in any war;
Whereas, the billions of dollars being spent to stage and execute this invasion means billions taken away from our schools, hospitals, housing, and social security;
Whereas, Bush's drive for war serves as a cover and a distraction for the sinking economy, corporate corruption, lay-offs, Taft-Hartley (used against the locked out ILWU [International Longshore Workers' Union] longshoremen);
Whereas, Teamsters Local 705 is known far and wide as fighters for justice;
Be It Resolved that Teamsters Local 705 stands firmly against Bush's drive for war;
Further Resolved that the Teamsters Local 705 Executive Board publicize this statement; and seek out other unions, labor and community activists interested in promoting anti-war activity in the labor movement and community.
Indeed, views of the war in Iraq, like that in Vietnam, are correlated strongly to race and class. The less money you earn, the more likely you are to oppose the war. Seventy-nine percent of African-Americans think the war in Iraq was a mistake. Approval of President Bush among African-Americans is 2 percent.
Millions of people sympathize with the aims of the antiwar movement but have not yet been mobilized for actions. We need to involve these wider audiences in our movement and to connect local actions with coordinated national actions that can help people to overcome the pervasive sense of isolation and atomization that so many feel.
To make our demonstrations effective, we will have to, as the civil rights activist John Lewis once urged, no longer "confine our marching to Washington." National demonstrations are vital, but cannot substitute for local actions that target symbols and institutions of the war. We should also no longer confine our civil disobedience to the day after major mobilizations, when most protesters have gone home. This strategy only confirms the idea of the antiwar movement as being an enlightened minority, set apart from the mass of people who must be a part of ending the war.
As with the movement to end the war on Vietnam, we will have to fight on many fronts: supporting counter-recruitment, confronting government and military officials about the human costs of this war and the lies they use to justify it, exposing war profiteers, encouraging and protecting soldiers who speak out and who resist their orders or service, working with veterans groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and military families' groups like Gold Star Families for Peace, and all along arguing patiently yet urgently with everyone around us that we need to end the occupation now.