Blacks and the Anti-War Movement
Posted: Monday, December 23, 2002
Anti-War Hardcore v. Anti-War Lite
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by The Black Commentator
As Blacks take leadership roles in the growing anti-war movement, the more comfortable corners of the Left are busy generating schisms, for no reason other than to assure the War Party of their patriotism. Privileged people are like that. They insist on having their way and deciding who is and who is not good company, even when the stakes are life and death --possibly for the whole planet.
We could take the safe, diplomatic course and pronounce that the emergence of rival umbrellas among those who claim to lead the opposition to Bush's war agenda is actually a positive development, signaling maturity and the prospect of a healthy division of labor. But that's nonsense. The truth is, there is Anti-war Hardcore and Anti-War Lite. African Americans are involved in both camps.
We are glad that there is resistance of any serious variety, since it is clear to the clear-headed that George Bush and his pirates are preparing to jail the opposition, or worse, as soon as a domestic emergency can be justified as part of the War on Terror. When and if that time comes, safety will be found only in huge numbers. Hardcore and Lite alike, all on the same roundup list. What a country!
Having made the proper, nonsectarian noises, we will come clean to express the most extreme irritation at the nasty little people who, not content to simply do something useful by organizing as many folks as they can against Bush, feel it necessary to badmouth the organizers of October 26's demonstrations. At minimum, 100,000 and 50,000 people protested in Washington and San Francisco, respectively, against the wishes of the corporate media, which virtually boycotted the events. By proving that the opposition was capable of mounting an effective popular response to the Bush administration's war hysteria, the organizers may well have changed the course of history and saved countless lives.
At the center of the October mobilization and the follow-up demonstrations set for January 18 is A.N.S.W.E.R., Act Now to Stop War & End Racism. Had it not been for the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition's efforts, Bush and his media would have announced to the world that the American people were solidly behind his war plans. A.N.S.W.E.R. achieved what no one on the "comfortable" Left would or could: they made Bush think about the domestic consequences of his military actions, by mounting demonstrations before the onset of war on a scale that the Sixties movement did not equal until at least 30,000 Americans and several million Vietnamese were already dead.
A.N.S.W.E.R. brings the crowd
True to its acronym, A.N.S.W.E.R. has had some success in darkening their coalition. One thousand people turned out at Rev. Herbert Daughtry's Brooklyn church for a November 21 rally. Daughtry's partner in the National Action Network, Rev. Al Sharpton, spoke at the October demonstration in Washington, as did Rev. Jesse Jackson. The movement is still disproportionately white, drawn largely from already existing anti-corporate globalism groups, but A.N.S.W.E.R.'s tireless efforts have been anything but "narrow" or "sectarian." Heroic is a better word.
Now comes the nattering from places such as The Nation magazine --people like columnist David Corn who wouldn't lift a finger to stop the entire world from going up in smoke if it meant associating with the Workers World Party, the grouplet at the heart of A.N.S.W.E.R. For a tiny outfit, the WWP has accomplished a great deal, apparently having learned well the lesson that you can't mobilize hundreds of thousands of people simply by waving the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao's quotations. Corn and other sideliners complain that the WWP uses control of the microphones to make "outrageous" demands (like freedom for the man formerly known as H. Rap Brown).
Corn and his crowd are the "sectarian" brats. We at judge activists by their abilities to set people in motion. We are most concerned that a bunch of middle-aged white children are injecting their petty disputes, which originate in political turf too small for anybody else to care about, into a struggle to save what's left of American democracy --a commodity that is worth more to us because we have less of it. Human existence, itself, is in jeopardy. Yet the destructive little brats want to throw out the people who set the resistance in motion.
Blacks have enough sectarian problems of our own, which we somehow manage to keep in check, if barely. If the white Left finds that its ranks remain racially anemic, they will have only themselves to blame. African Americans will not be part of any tantrum-throwing spectacles among the privileged.
"Assurances of "patriotism"
There are real differences between what we will call Anti-War Hardcore and Anti-War Lite, although not necessarily irreconcilable ones. The upstart, Lite camp is gathered under the banner of the Win Without War coalition. The core of the coalition employed the slogan, "Keep America Safe: Win Without War." Essentially, these groups are concerned that everyone know how much they, like Bush, hate Saddam Hussein, but feel that war is not the best way to deal with him. Members include the National Council of Churches, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities, the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Move On, the National Organization for Women, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Rainbow Push Coalition, Sojourners, Women's Action for New Directions, Working Assets, the NAACP, and Artists Against War.
In order to disassociate themselves from A.N.S.W.E.R., the Win Without War umbrella feels it is necessary to declare, "We are patriotic Americans who share the belief that Saddam Hussein cannot be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction." The implication is that some people in the other camp are not sufficiently patriotic. "We support rigorous UN weapons inspections to assure Iraq's effective disarmament," said the Anti-War Lite statement. It continued, less defensively:
"We believe that a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests. Unprovoked war will increase human suffering, arouse animosity toward our country, increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, damage the economy and undermine our moral standing in the world. It will make us less, not more, secure."
If that will get them to the protests on time and in large numbers, fine. The problem is, Win Without War has not endorsed the January 18 A.N.S.W.E.R. demonstrations, although some affiliated groups and individuals will doubtless take part. Since most of the coalition didn't have anything to do with the October protests, their absence in January shouldn't be of much concern. If they would be satisfied with staging actions on their own schedules, such as the small, scattered demonstrations that took place on December 10, that too would be useful. But the brats and dilettantes in their ranks are certain to grab corporate media microphones to smear A.N.S.W.E.R., rather than tend to their own business.
believes that, in the end, it's going to require that serious Black activists smack the spoilers upside the head, so to speak, and teach them how to be adult. Bush is deadly serious. The resistance must be even more disciplined.
Peace, justice and good wages
Organized labor, at their best moments, understands the value of solidarity, and dare anyone to challenge their patriotism. The following resolution by the San Francisco Labor Council is definitely not Anti-War Lite:
Whereas, since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we have seen the beginning of a relentless new assault on labor --from the employers, and from the government acting on their behalf; and
Whereas, using the so-called "war on terrorism" and "national security" as a pretext, the Bush Administration has spearheaded a renewed assault on organized labor, starting with the use of Taft-Hartley (and threats to militarize the ports) against West Coast dockworkers...wholesale threats to the job security and union rights of 170,000 federal workers...the racist firings of experienced airport screeners...threats to curtail the right to strike and organize; and the impending contracting out of hundreds of thousands of federal jobs. On more than one occasion, government spokespersons have referred to union actions defending our jobs, working conditions and living standards as akin to terrorism, or as "aiding and abetting terrorists", or as a "threat to national security"; and
Whereas, Bush's war (on Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, the Philippines, where next?) has become the main engine for the repression of labor. "National security", in the hands of a thoroughly anti-labor Bush Administration, is being used as a bludgeon against labor, with the intent of rolling back all the gains workers have won since the 1930s, including collective bargaining itself, and including social programs championed by the labor movement like welfare, social security, unemployment insurance; and
Whereas, a strong fight-back requires that labor make it a priority to stake out a clear, forthright and fighting stance against Bush's war, and see the anti-war and anti-globalization movements as our strategic allies, needed if we are to defeat the assault on labor and move to the offensive. We got a glimpse of the potential power of this combination during the 1999 showdown in Seattle; and
Whereas, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied the coming together of the labor, anti-war and civil rights movements during the tremendous upsurge of the mass movement in the 1960s, and we need to revive this powerful combination of the people's forces to defeat Bush's war and the racism that underlies it and that it promotes; and
Whereas, our opposition to the Bush Administration's war on the Iraqi people, and to their attacks or threats against other smaller, sovereign countries around the globe, fits hand in glove with labor's fighting defense of the interests of the working people of all races and nationalities here at home; therefore be it
RESOLVED: That the San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, endorse the Martin Luther King weekend anti-war activities --the January 18, 2003 marches in San Francisco and Washington, DC in opposition to the war on Iraq, and the Grassroots Peace Congress being held in Washington, as well as the People's Anti-War Referendum ["VoteNoWar"] by which millions of Americans are casting their "votes" against this war; and be it further
RESOLVED: That this council work to ensure that organized labor and the national AFL-CIO take a clear and early stand against Bush's war.
The resolution was approved unanimously. These men and women have seen the enemy, and it is Bush. They don't waste time and resources in anguish over the presence of people carrying Little Red Books. And there is no more fitting activity during the week of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday than to march in the interest of peace.
Glover and Belafonte in Cuba
Among the Black signers of the Artists Against War petition are Diahann Carroll, Charles S. Dutton, Laurence Fishburne, Robert Guillaume, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Blair Underwood, Alfre Woodard, and Danny Glover. Glover joined Harry Belafonte, who is as hard core a veteran for peace as they come, for a press conference at Havana's Hotel Nacional, where they generally agreed on professional and political matters. It was Glover's fourth attendance at the Havana Film Festival; Belafonte has only "missed four out of 24 festivals."
Belafonte deplored the state of Hollywood cinema, saying he found the "highest movie-making standards at festivals in Havana, Cartagena [Spain] and Brazil, where cinema is an art showing more sensitivity than just aiming at the market." Glover repeated to the international press his stand against Bush's war plans: "My position on the war is very clear, above all for the impact that it will have on women and children in Iraq who are already suffering the consequences of sanctions."
Belafonte had a ready answer for those who question the propriety of criticizing the U.S. in a Cuban forum. "Many of my friends are journalists," said the singer-actor-activist, "and they tell me that there has never been as much censorship as now, and if they rebel then they will just lose their jobs."
Anti-War Lite Glover and Hard Core Harry were quite compatible. If only the white folks of the movement could just get along....
No cost, no excuse
Baltimore City Councilman Kwame Abayome got unanimous support for his anti-war resolution, part of a growing urban peace offensive. urges our influential readership to consider the language approved by Baltimore's local legislators:
FOR the purpose of reaffirming the articles of the United Nations Charter and the principles of international law on the peaceful resolution of disputes, opposing the United States' continued and threatened violation of the United Nations Charter and of international law by the unilateral, preemptive military action against the nation of Iraq, opposing the continued nonmilitary sanctions and proposed escalated military action, and urging the Bush Administration and our federal representatives to work with and through the United Nations to obtain compliance by Iraq with the United Nations Security Council resolutions concerning the development by Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and to support fully the return of international weapons inspectors to Iraq for that purpose and to actively support the United Nations' diplomatic efforts to support and encourage democracy and respect for human rights in Iraq and all nations.
The $200 billion cost of the war --for starters --will wreak immediate disaster in every city of the nation. The least that city councils can do is go on the record with their non-binding opinions.
In industrial and mostly Black and Hispanic Elizabeth, New Jersey, Councilwoman Pat Perkins Aguste convinced her colleagues to pass a "Culture of Peace" resolution that, she said, "we take to mean no aggressive war with Iraq."
"There is a role for us to play," said the Black lawmaker. "If we are asked to play a role we should step up."
The $2 trillion war
If the United States conquers Iraq and sticks around for ten years, the total cost to the economy could rise to $2 trillion dollars. That's one-fifth of the value of the nation's yearly goods and services, 40 times the annual value of all U.S. agricultural exports to the world, the whole federal budget for one year... it is unfathomable to all but the war profiteers who are even now dividing contracts.
As when confronted with an earlier, $200 billion estimated cost of several years' involvement in Iraq, the White House called the discussion "premature," since "we're hoping for a peaceful solution."
Occupation and peacekeeping could cost $500 billion, according to the report of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Most of the rest of the damage would result from economic recession, caused by disruption in oil markets.
In a best-case scenario, the benefits to the U.S. economy of Iraq's oil resources would amount to only about $40 billion.
The figures tell the tale. The pirates are in charge. Only they stand to profit.
The Anti-War Lite crowd doesn't understand who they're up against.
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