Rethinking Anti-War Strategy

By Jim Luken



Yesterday, I stood at our weekly anti-war demonstration at the Post Office in a small town in Northern Vermont. We have been demonstrating there against US war tactics since the days immediately following 9-11. Our numbers, of course have grown recently. And, in the weeks leading up to the invasion, we'd been joined by a few pro-war/pro-Bush/anti-abortion demonstrators. Now, with the advent of the fighting, their numbers have also been growing. On Friday, there were fifty of  "Us" versus of "Them." One awareness I have is that not one of us has friends or relatives serving in the military. But a number of the pro-troops/pro-war folks do have loved ones in the armed forces "over there." I am seeing more and more clearly that these demonstrators, in fact, are us. And we are a part of them.

Because I have been asked by our group to intercede with the pro-war people in the event of problems, I stood at the very end of our line, next to one of the pockets of counter-demonstrators. A woman with a fancy video camera interviewed a six year-old nearby. She asked the little boy about his brother. He told her how he missed his big brother. And how scared he was for the brother who was fighting in this war. She asked if he was proud of his brother. He said, Yes. She asked him if he loved America. He said, Yes. I couldn't help thinking of my own concern for a close friend of mine who is at this moment living near a water treatment facility in Baghdad, as a member of a Christian Peacemaking Team, a so-called human shield. My personal issues seemed to dove-tail with those that this little boy and his family are facing. I sense that all of us--on both sides--wish this war had never happened and would like to see it end immediately, before there is any more carnage.

In our demonstrations here in this remote community, there seems to be growing anger and resentment between the two opposing groups. I have heard reports of similar bitterness, taunts and arguments elsewhere in Vermont, and in other parts of the nation. In Cincinnati, my hometown, a truck driver whose son was serving in the Persian Gulf was arrested for steering his semi toward a group of protesters on a bridge. Things could get much worse as frustrations with the war in Iraq build.

One thing is clear to me: before the invasion, most pro-war people were highly suspect of the administration's motives in pushing us toward war, and of the specious rationalizations for an unprovoked assault. I am convinced that the polls were manipulated (as usual), and that a huge majority of Americans were against the way this shameful war was forced upon us. My point is that the two sides may be--essentially--much closer than they would appear to be. The problem is that the ground war has started now, and no matter how many millions take to the streets, this pointless war, created and waged by the Bush Administration, will go from bad to worse, and will proceed till we have destroyed Iraq in order to liberate it. An then, it's on to the next "liberation," or so we have been warned.

In talking with a good number of conservative locals, I find an amazing level of disgust with Bush for getting us into this increasingly messy war. This from traditional patriots, who normally support a conservative president's every word and deed. This in spite of the media inflation of Bush as a Churchillian leader. In light of these observations, I would propose an immediate and dramatic shift in the emphasis of our demonstrations and our other anti-war work. Why not focus the lion's share of our energies on getting rid of the administration that created this obscene quagmire. Instead of trying to "Stop the War," why not push for the more important long-term goal: Impeach the warlord? I am convinced that many from the other side could be coaxed to join in this effort. "Bring the Troops Home...and Impeach the ones who sent them there." The legislative impeachment thrust is slowly building. My feeling is we should take this message to the streets. Impeach! Remove! Dethrone! Prevent the next war against Iran or Syria. Send a message that we will no longer permit ourselves to be governed by robber barons and oligarchs.