A very inspiring night tonight at the DNC protests, RR.
Iraq Veterans Against the War led thousands of people from the Denver Coliseum (where Rage Against the Machine performed) to the convention. I overheard someone say between 7,000-7,500 people and sure, I’ll go with that. I don’t want to sweat the exact number, the point is also that we felt strong, spirits were high and the chants were right on. There was even a contingent of immigrants in the march!
Along the route the vets made occasional stops to share some of their war stories through a megaphone. To think that someone would train and command our youth to carry out the atrocities they described defies all reason and logic. One of the most horrific stories came from a vet who was ordered to include children in his list of targets to shoot for. Another vet almost broke down describing how no amount of therapy could ever take away the guilt of what he did in Iraq.
IVAW marched with a letter for Senator Barack Obama. Three demands on that letter:
1. Immediate withdrawal from Iraq
2. Health benefits for Iraq vets
3. Reparations for the Iraqi people
I dunno about you RR but I think the demands are totally reasonable. Like, totally reasonable. And there’s only three of them!
The last update I heard was that someone from the Obama campaign offered to listen to the demands from the Iraq war veterans.
“Someone” from the Obama camp offered to “listen” to the demands.
Frankly I’m surprised there’s not more enthusiasm from the Obama camp about meeting with the vets. After all, Obama is our supposed anti-war candidate, public sentiment has been against the war for as long as I can remember, Obama toured Iraq and met with troops on active duty and for fuck’s sake: they’re the vets! Nothing could be politically safer than meeting with vets!
Why is there no red carpet for these guys?
Obama voted for $300 billion in war allocations, doesn’t he want to see the product of his investment? Doesn’t he want to feel reassured that those $300 billion didn’t go to waste and that US troops are indeed being ordered to gun down Iraqi children? Obama also wants to send more troops to Afghanistan, this is the perfect opportunity to both articulate the wisdom behind his plan and check on troop morale.
There was some confusion on the direction of the march, RR. Somehow we ended up at a barricaded dead end located behind (and to the side of) the Pepsi Center. Not knowing exactly what to do, we stayed in that area for a while, just standing, sitting, photographing, filming, singing, talking and chanting. I heard the media speaking in several languages and they interviewed, photographed and filmed the IVAW.
After a while a march organizer announced that the cops were going to give three warnings. If we weren’t gone by the third: tear gas.
Now…that’s a bit of an escalation. Regardless, I think the IVAW made a good move by getting us out of that barricaded dead end and onto Speer Blvd where those who didn’t want to get arrested could turn right and those who were willing to risk arrest could turn to the left towards the entrance of the Pepsi Center.
I turned left along with several thousand other IVAW supporters and allies. This was worth risking arrest, rubber bullets and tear gas.
The pictures speak for themselves, RR. There were cops EVERYWHERE. We had cops surrounding us and standing in the center of the protest area.
They were on scissor lifts, on bikes, on horses, in SUVs, in riot gear with rubble bullet rifles in hand.
Despite the looming police state, morale was highest I’ve seen in the protester front. There were just too many of us and the cause was stubbornly just.
I would agree with what “Almata” says. The lack of protest on the part of the mainstream liberal-left antiwar outfits during the convention (or at any other time, for that matter) is indicative of what they plan to do, or not do, if Obama gets in. In other words, if you think that these guys were bad when Clinton was president, you ain’t seen nothing yet. All their talk about “holding the candidates’ feet to the fire” is just that, talk, since they’re not planning to start any fires in the first place. Besides who are capitalist politicians like Obama going to listen to; the millionaires that fund them or the millions that vote for them. To ask such a question is to answer it, only the reformists still don’t get, and, probably never will.
The ruling class consensus appears to be to downsize the discredited Iraq war (while keeping enough non-combat troops there to make sure that the oil remains under US control) in order to beef up the “good” one in Afganistan and Obama is the obvious candidate for the job. He also fits their bill insofar as enforcing 70s-style austerity attacks at home is concerned. Like New York’s first Black mayor, David Dinkins, said when it came to massive cutbacks and layoffs in the early 90s, “they’ll take it from me.” Only he didn’t call it “change you can believe in.”
Of course, the big difference between now and when the previous Democratic “outsider” Bill Clinton came in after 8 years of Republican rule are the ongoing wars alongside of the economic woes. The “peace is patriotic” mainstream liberal-left has never placed the Afghanistan war on the same plane as the Iraq war and with a Democrat dropping the bombs in the name of “human rights” they are even more unlikely to do so. What we have to work towards is building an antiwar movement like the movement that came out of the Battle of Seattle; something that is not under the thumb of the pro-Democratic party movement bureaucrats and coalition kingpins and not stuck on single issues, isolated and apart from each other. The strong point of the “global justice” movement was that it targeted the capitalist system as a whole even if it had no idea what was needed to replace it or how to replace it. The war and the recession are laying the basis for that kind of movement. The reformists, of course, are the roadblock that have to be removed if that kind of movement is going to get under way. We need to start assembling the forces that can help remove them.
I’d be interested to know if IVAW has a position on Afghanistan, if it has been discussed, etc. For a lot of, mostly understandable, reasons the focus has been Iraq. I wouldn’t rule out flare-ups there in the future so it may be again, but, especially since Obama has stated his intention to sharply escalate the war there, the left certainly needs to organize around that occupation as centrally as Iraq starting now if not yesterday.
The role of the US in the twin conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan may well determine the first Obama administration. And hasn’t Biden always wanted a war of his own? If the anti-war movement can’t call for the “US out of Afghanistan” then it’s not really an anti-war movement.
To be fair most of the far left has raised the Out of Afghanistan slogan as far as I’ve seen at the big national demos (if not in their local coalitions). Perhaps not as often, as centrally or as prominently as they should have. The point is to make sure that it now receives the centrality it deserves. It may very well be dressed in “humanitarian” garb (though for a number of reasons I think this may be harder to do in this war). I’m sure that we’ll hear a lot more about things like the barbarian Talib’s treatment of women under Obama.
He will certainly put a “humanitarian” spin on whatever imperial adventure(s) he and Joe embark on. I don’t think the left is, by and large and with exceptions, prepared to counter those arguments. The major players aren’t. For far too long the left has tried to use the language of a lawyer rather than the class war when it comes to this stuff. I saw a video of Norman Finkelstein (whom I respect) speak in the Netherlands pleading for just such an approach to the reproach of some young Marxists.
I agree that most of big players on the left faired the Yugoslav wars pretty miserably. Some even crossed what I consider lines (your own bourgeoisie is always the main enemy, there is no “good” or “better” imperialism,, etc). I think it’s also true that only Marxists got it right and saw through the “humanitarian” nonsense of that war (for new, very telling rehash of NATO argument see Russia in today’s Georgia). Not a lot of them, but no one else but them on the left (Harold Pinter and a few others aside) organized in the NATO capitals against the war.
I would like to think that the left has recovered some, politically anyway, from the dog days of the 1990’s. Though it probably hasn’t. Certainly the last 10 years have belied the premise on which those heady gilded-years were built; an all-powerful capitalism and a benign imperialism.
You’re not kidding. I just listened to his acceptance speech. And far too many people approved of going into Afghanistan in the first place.
Not to be a sectarian nit-picker, but anti-war groups better start raising “US out of Afghanistan” alongside of Iraq as the Cleveland Conference did in June. If Obama gets in, this “good” war will become the centerpiece of imperialism with a human face the same way Yugoslavia was for Clinton. And outside of Workers World, nobody on the left mobilized against that one, since it was the Democrats’ war.
The Iraqi war veterans should put forward reparations demands. Whether or not they like it, they were the front line of the war. Without them, the war could not have taken place. I say this as someone whose family has been in and is in the military. My grandfather fought in World War I, my uncle fought in World War II, my dad fought in Korea, both of my aunts were in the service though they did not go overseas, and my brother was in the beginning of this current war, being on the aircraft carrier that carried Bush’s Mission Accomplished banner. So I don’t come at this from a naive standpoint. The soldiers are the prodigal sons and daughters, who after the fact see what they have done. And yes we accept them to us and make sure they are cared for and make sure that their demands for themselves and for the Iraqis are met. Yes we do. But in the midst of this, we have to remember that if the soldiers refuse to go, then the war does not happen. (Unless of course we hire more Blackwater mercenaries who in turn recruit mercenaries from other countries for pennies a day). But what I want at some level is for us to say that yes, we understand what the military does, how they brainwash you, how they suck you in and them make you afraid to leave (my brother is an enlistee… he is coming up on his 20th anniversary), the groupthink, being the patriot, all of that. Yes it is all there. But at some point… if someone asks me to go and kill someone else, I am going to find out WHY first. I know why people are in the military. Lost of people from my town, and may family were in the military for all of those reasons. But at some point soldiers have got to say that they won’t do the work. And crimes committed in war are crimes. Not everyone is a hero, I know that. Who knows what I would do in any circumstance. But at some level, soldiers must ask themselves what call they are responding to and why. I feel like that gets lost in all of this sometimes.
Sounds like a powerful event. This spring’s Winter Soldier was. The mainstream media was entirely silent on this that I saw. Not surprising, of course. I watched most of the convention for the first time last night. The egos in the Pepsi Center were so huge one would think the air would be sucked from the place, suffocating the rest. I don’t need reminding as to why I hate the Democratic Party so it wasn’t even useful. I just yelled at the TV.
Apparently the Obama/Biden ticket is going to confront Russia on Georgia, “finish the war in Afghanistan”, rebuild the military, keep troops in Iraq to “fight Al Qaeda, protect our forces(?) and train the Iraqis” and tend to the “growing threat of extremism in Latin America”. Ahh, the “anti-war ticket”.
It would seem that busting the heads of uniformed Iraq War veterans is a much less media savvy thing to do than pummel anarchists. It makes for bad press. Though it seems the cops certainly wanted all to know that they were ready and willing if given the order.
Very glad to see IVAW put forward the reparations demand. Thanks, Ric