On Sunday, October 3, 2010, the day after the One Nation Working Together rally, several dozen organizations sent participants to a by-invitation-only meeting in Washington, DC, called by a nine-person planning committee that included representatives of Peace Action and U.S. Labor Against the War.
Called "New Priorities for a New Economy: Bringing the Economy into Line with Our Values," it sought to discuss how to achieve "a coordinated effort to cut military spending and redirect resources to fund local jobs and services." Its main aim was to lobby Congress about budget priorities. There was also talk among some participants of "reshifting the peace movement" [sic], exactly from where and to what being left mostly vague.
It was disturbing that Judith LeBlanc, a Peace Action representative, borrowed a phrase from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, claiming that "we're building on" the idea (supposedly based on an informal survey of some Oct. 2 marchers): "'You broke it. You fix it.' People worry about what's going to happen to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq" [i.e., when U.S. occupation forces leave].
This notion amounted to a suggestion of a new political foundation upon which to frame a new political house for the U.S. peace movement. Objectively, it would have the U.S. peace movement assume responsibility — not for bringing wholly illegitimate occupations to an immediate end — but for managing their "final" stages in the interest of U.S. imperialism and alleged "Western liberal" values.
Implicit in this suggested "new" peace movement is the rejection of the idea that the U.S.'s victims in Afghanistan and Iraq have the absolute right to self-determination in whatever form they choose to exercise it — notwithstanding the fact that political-religious expressions of the national sovereignties they are likely to regain will fail to conform to "Western liberal" values.
A paternalistic concern for "what's going to happen to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq" without the U.S. occupying their countries shows how far imperialist assumptions have infected sections of the US peace movement.
On the contrary, a peace movement worthy of the name ought to demand the immediate and unconditional end to the U.S. occupations and wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.
Immediate and unconditional because the discourse of timetables and preconditions for withdrawal works to divert the peace movement into helping imperialism solve its own problems.
Occupation forces in their entirety must exit this U.S. war: Not just U.S. combat troops but all U.S. and non-U.S. armed forces (including so-called "peacekeeping troops"), plus all the mercenaries and other "contractors," from both the U.S. and every other country.
Objections by politically sophisticated people on "humanitarian" grounds to the demand for an immediate and unconditional withdrawal in fact serve as objective support for imperialism: They provide peace-movement cover to an Administration and Congressional leadership that continue U.S. imperialism's war against the Afghan and Iraqi peoples.
It has not escaped notice that such a "reshifting" away from opposition to US imperialist aggressions would be acceptable to much of the present US Administration, whereas a struggle against its two major aggressions would incur its wrath.
I represented the U.S. Peace Council at this meeting. The U.S. Peace Council is a multi-racial, pro-working class, anti-imperialist organization committed to peace and justice, international solidarity with the peoples of the world against colonialism and imperialism, and universal disarmament. The U.S. Peace Council is affiliated with the World Peace Council, the world's largest peace organization.
A number of other participants and I disagreed with Peace Action and other representatives who shared or conciliated that organization's tacit support for the wars. We argued instead for the imperative need to struggle against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the meeting I also distributed the following written statement (slightly revised for clarity), which I drafted, and which I signed along with Carl Gentile, with whom I work in the Baltimore-Washington Area Peace Council. Part of it is below.
We must foreground the demand for an immediate unconditional end to the U.S. occupation wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. The trillions of dollars devoted to war industry profits feed more than 1,000 extraterritorial U.S. military bases around the world as well as U.S. and U.S.-backed occupation and wars against Palestine, Colombia, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, and Yemen, threats to Iran and Democratic Korea, and the deployment of Special Operations forces in a total of about 75 countries.
These wars remain a central political fact of our time. The movement to reduce military spending and redirect resources to fund jobs and meet human needs will get nowhere without a clear and unambiguous, energetic, frontal condemnation of the U.S. occupation wars.
In sum, to redirect resources to fund jobs and meet human needs will require struggle against the occupation wars and military bases, and against the thoroughgoing enmity to the socialist countries and oppressed peoples they embody—all of which will necessitate our political confrontation with the war industry and its lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for politicians.