Left and right unite?: First the left has to shape up
One of the major disappointments of anti-war activism in the U.S. throughout the past has been its inability to create a broad and united front.
Ideologically speaking, both the left and the right have anti-war viewpoints. The left is opposed to war because of pacifism, because it more often than not kills the poor and working class they supposedly represent while benefiting the rich, because war is often fought for the imperial ambitions of the ruling class. The right opposes war because it leads to the expansion of the central state, causes upheaval in society, increases taxes and inflation and also because it is fought for the imperial ambitions of the ruling class.
So why can’t these equally different, but also similar strands of thought meet at least part way to form a coalition that could help end the war in Iraq (As the Antiwar.com slogan “Left and Right Unite!’ says to do)? Bring the anti-war left’s organizational skills and media savvy along the with the anti-war right’s intellectual heft and closeness to the broad middle class into a powerful coalition that could break apart the War Pigs that lie (literally) in their pen?
Two words: Ward Churchill
Actually not so much Churchill himself, but what he represents as a current of thought in the anti-war left: it’s anti-Americanism. If you really do believe fully (or even in the dark recesses of your mind) that those inside the World Trade Center had their fiery deaths coming to them and deserved to be entombed inside the wreckage of the collapsed twin towers, there really is no point in having such a coalition. No fool in his right mind would associate himself with it.
Six years ago during the Kosovo War, there was an attempt on the part of some on the anti-war right to reach out to their leftists counterparts, even to the point of attending their demonstrations against the war. Never again! They vow. Besides the sheer boredom of such events, to have to put up with hours worth of anti-U.S. screeches and praise for dictators like Kim Jung Il or Slobodan Milosevic as one found at International A.N.S.W.E.R demonstrations, is no foundation to build any kind of movement unless one wishes to either commit political suicide or just look plain silly. The decent, patriotic leftists are simply too few, too limited in their resources and not influential enough to garner any attention.
The gap that exists between anti-war left and right comes over the left’s view of the U.S. itself and its institutions. The right understands that all are not perfect by a long shot, but they are all we’ve got for better or worse. As Dr. Thomas Fleming said in his column in the January edition of Chronicles “Only an evil person would wish to lead an army to devastate his native land.”And yet there are those on the left who would wish to do so. This wasn’t always the case. Even the Communists of the 1930s and 40s, even though they worshipped at the altar of a foreign power like the Soviet Union (as many neoconservatives do today with Israel) didn’t “hate” the U.S. Yet ever since the Vietnam War, such hate was implanted with the rise of the New Left. The more they became isolated, even within their own ideological sphere, the more their hate has grown and grown until it has made them poisonous to be around, like Medusa’s blood. Even the mild-radical left, like the Greens for example, has been poisoned by this atmosphere given that groups like International A.N.S.W.E.R tend to make the most noise.
Take the left’s view of the military for example. Right now the only thing going on in terms of anti-war activism of any substance are protesters and student groups trying to kick military recruiters off high school and college campuses. Just like a moth attracted to a light, the left just cannot help themselves with hostility to all things military. Apparently not having a draft (at least for now) is no longer good enough. Now the all-volunteer force is under assault simply because they are looking for volunteers. Such groups want to make it impossible for a public institution like the military to try and recruit persons on public grounds, meaning that Halliburton, or Bechtel Corp., or any of the number of private security companies that have men-under-arms in Iraq, will have more rights and easier access to look for prospects on a college campus than the nation’s own military will. One hears a lot of nonsense about “economic draft,” and recruiters suckering in young kinds into the ranks as if they were used car salesmen selling off a lemon from their lot to a gullible fool. The fact that joining the military is still a choice and that there are those who do choose to stand on the street corner rather go into uniform (which a lot of persons are doing right now given that the Army, National Guard and Marines are missing their recruiting quotas), they will not admit. The fact that there are those young men and women who see the military as not only just a ticket to higher education, but also to see the world and test themselves in extreme situations to prove something to themselves, they do not comprehend (they don’t all join the Peace Corps). The fact that many join the military as part of family traditions or just simple love country rather than a recruiting bonus, they cannot understand. Are those opposed to allowing recruiters into schools saying that they won’t be satisfied until they prevent people from joining until nobody is in the military and the country is defenseless? Who do they think is going to do this job that has to be done?
The left’s tunnel vision towards military blinds themselves to those who would be their real allies in the anti-war struggle. There are many officers and men, retired and on active duty (privately of course) who oppose the war in Iraq. From Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to one of the U.S.’ most decorated soldiers, Col. David Hackworth, there are many who have not signed on to the neoconservative agenda of empire, nation building and world revolution. Sure there those soldiers and officers who like war and want to fight (especially those of Scotch-Irish blood). But there are those military figures throughout U.S. history from former Marine Commandant Smedly Butler (“War is a racket.”) to Gen. Douglas Macarthur (“Anyone who wishes to commit U.S. forces to a land war in Asia should have his head examined.) to Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, who have always been opposed to military force unless absolutely necessary (Colin Powell once too.) And there are those like decorated combat veteran Sgt. Kevin Benderman who have seen combat up close and have decided that, like the old spiritual said, “I ain’t going to study war no more” and take conscientious objector status and willingly go to jail. And yet such figures are ignored by the left in favor of deserters and malcontents who somehow seemed to think the military was just a Boy Scout troop on steroids, went only for the college money or didn’t think they would have to go to war or kill anyone, as if the Army just handed out those rifles and made you do hours of target practice on the range just so you could become a better deer hunter.
One cannot build alliances with such people who would willingly tear down things ordinary U.S. citizens believe in. Living in the small town, rural farmland area of Wisconsin that I do, I know such people very well. They love their country and support the troops like any other patriotic person would because that’s what they believe in. But they do not believe in the neoconservative ideals of global revolution for democracy or that the U.S. should be the world’s policeman. It’s these people who need to be convinced (if they are not already) that the war in Iraq and its occupation is wrong, a waste of our resources, a diversion away from the mission to capture Osama bin Laden. It won’t take much to do so. But one cannot convince them if the rhetoric is about how evil their country is and how the military should be gutted and how the flag should be burned. It will be tuned out immediately. A broad antiwar coalition can be formed if the left can learn to love again, anything, about the country they live in whether they like it or not. There must be something.
“Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”