This past weekend, the second anniversary of the British and American invasion and occupation of Iraq, anti-war protests around the world went well. There was lots of participation and much discussion about the war but not in the corporate media which is hardly surprising (this lack of coverage being another instance of an unbroken line of remarkable misreporting or non-coverage of anti-war activities—coverage typically overstates violence or the there is no coverage at all). I am glad to see the marches and gatherings go on because they were sorely needed (there is widespread agreement that the anti-war movement had died or needed some kind of restart). But I’m not so sure that all the questions which needed to be asked were asked, and I would hate to see the same short-sighted disingenuous introspection that recently plagued the Democrats (after which Donna Brazile, Democratic Party organizer, declared in a forum broadcast by C-SPAN, that “the time for introspection is over”) will plague the anti-war movement as well. The anti-war movement should not be yet another front for the Democratic Party.
But if all the questions aren’t asked, education suffers. When debate is stifled, education suffers. One of the main functions of the anti-war movement ought to be to teach others how to value dissent and value working to dissolve the structural reinforcements which corporations in power over citizens (which inherently requires critiquing one’s own society).
Along that line, I think one question that needs to be asked is what the anti-war movement learned from backing a pro-war candidate for US president. Follow-up questions include: What was gained and what was lost? What were the expectations if Kerry had taken the presidency? Were they realistic? How did Kerry come to be the anti-war movement’s choice? Is it reasonable to prejudice the debate over the US presidency by framing one candidate as “viable” (thus inferring, if not outright stating, that his opponents are not viable)? Does this actually work to get you the kind of vibrant social debate you want?
I return to these questions often and with interest because Americans don’t participate in political matters except for presidential elections. During a presidential election, Americans are most likely to find ordinary people engaging in political discussion. Other times, not so much. This is sad and, to some degree, self-imposed because the midterm elections and local elections are quite important, yet we see little participation at the ballot box (far less than half of registered voters in the US vote in mid-term elections).
Then there’s the anti-war movement’s debate regarding when to bring soldiers home, despite the latest Harris poll indicating 59% of the US who want to bring the US soldiers home immediately. Why has the anti-war movement shifted away from their previous message (which was basically, “support the troops—bring them home now”)?
A friend of mine (who will soon get a blog) dismisses the interest as though there are other more compelling questions to ask instead, but I think he will be shown wrong when we return to these issues again in about a year and a half.
This is the time when it is most comfortable for those who did not get what they wanted from the 2004 US presidential election to recognize a flawed strategy for what it is. Relish this time, it will go away soon.