by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Anti-war activists are loathe to speak Obama’s name, even as they condemn the endless warfare that he advocates."
Six years ago, on March 20, 2003, the United States began its invasion and occupation of Iraq. Since that date more than one million Iraqis have died, four million are refugees, and 4,200 American soldiers have lost their lives. America committed a terrible crime against the Iraqi people and against all of humanity, a crime that continues until the present day.
The occupation is ongoing, despite the election and inauguration of a new president. President Barack Obama always made it clear that he would never end the war, instead choosing to draw down the number of troops and always reserving the right to leave a “residual force.”
In spite of his clear declaration of continuing war and occupation, Obama was able to claim the mantle of an anti-war candidate. The anti-war movement was already demoralized by Democratic Party betrayal, and repeated corporate media lies about the true nature of America’s military aggression. The Obama fundraising and marketing juggernaut, in conjunction with hatred of the Bush regime, allowed the damning with faint praise adulation and the making of a phony hero for peace.
This delusion has made an already failing progressive movement nearly useless. So much so that anti-war activists are loathe to speak Obama’s name, even as they condemn the endless warfare that he advocates. The recent March on the Pentagon, sponsored by the Answer Coalition, is a case in point. Speaker after speaker condemned the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by referring to “the government” or “the United States” without saying the name of the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The march displayed both good news and bad. It is good that appeals to shun Answer by capitulationist factions were ignored. It is always good when citizens openly oppose their government’s aggression. Yet there was an insufficient willingness to name the current war criminal in chief, Barack Obama, as the promoter of state sponsored terrorism.
At the March on the Pentagon, t-shirts and placards urged the impeachment and/or arrest of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The new president, who makes no secret of his intention to continue the previous administration’s war of terror, escaped serious scrutiny and the condemnation he deserves. What should have been pointed attacks on Obama policy were instead mealy mouthed apologies. Instead of being educated about the rights and obligations of a conscious citizenry, the crowd was told to encourage Obama, to help him make the right decisions. Former attorney Lynne Stewart was a rare exception, excoriating Obama by name for continuing warfare and for withdrawing from the upcoming United Nations conference on racism and dismissing any discussion of reparations for slavery.
Some activists hope against all logic and the lessons of history that Obama will behave in a way that politicians never do. They expect him to defy the dictates of the true rulers who put him and all other politicians in power. They conveniently forget that power concedes nothing without a demand. They forget that meaningful change has come about only when an active and engaged movement makes demands on people who never want to serious consider changing the agendas set by their benefactors.
While not altogether successful, this first mass action of the Obama administration may be an important beginning for peace activists. The numbers of truly conscious people willing to take on Obama may be small now, but continued confrontation will soon be seen as a possibility and then as necessity, not as a departure from misguided notions of political etiquette.
This administration must be taken to task over numerous issues. Obama has already said that he will consider taxing health benefits and make unspecified changes to the entitlement system, our only safety net. Americans should take to the streets because of the prison industrial complex, they should take to the streets to demand single payer health care and they should take to the streets about a military budget that is larger than that of every other nation on earth combined. If they did, they would save themselves as individuals and save their nation too.
The stakes are that high. Being patient, giving the brother a chance, or being seen as racist are poor excuses for silence. Timidity will mean the death of what little good is left in this country.