by John V. Walsh, February 23, 2011
A year ago this week on Feb. 20, about 40 antiwar activists, writers, and organizers, gathered in a basement conference room in Washington, D.C., to launch an antiwar organization spanning the political spectrum. As a first step we agreed to publish a book of essays by meeting participants and others, now out with the title ComeHomeAmerica.US. The organization has also launched a Web site.
That meeting was remarkably friendly, given that the editors of The Nation and The American Conservative were contained within the same four walls. The keynote was given by Ralph Nader, at the insistence of the Right.
About 65 percent of Americans oppose the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. And yet this majority is unable to prevail. One reason is that those who oppose war do not work together. In fact, we often are at one another’s throats even when we are in agreement. Some of that is principled difference – all to the good. But some is simply based on stereotypes of “the other,” a recipe for failure.
As Eugene McCarthy often said, the war in Vietnam ground on because antiwar Democrats put party above principle. And today we see many who passionately opposed the war under Bush have vanished into the woodwork with the rise of Obama. Certainly there is no call to “Impeach Obama” although he is carrying out the same policies as Bush. The same happened on the other side under Bush, albeit to a lesser degree if we are to be honest. Those who would put partisan interests above a principled antiwar stance will not find a Right/Left alliance very congenial. But such Democrats and Republicans, whether unthinking loyalists or crass careerists, hold the antiwar movement back. Their absence is to be welcomed. It is another powerful feature of a movement like Come Home America.
As the two War Parties are fond of proclaiming, politics should stop at the water’s edge. We should take up the same cry; our differences over domestic policy should stop at the water’s edge, and there we should unite to oppose empire and war.
What do the Right and Left bring to the antiwar movement? At this time, the Left brings greater numbers because the Cold War has led the Right away from its traditional “isolationist,” i.e., anti-interventionist, stance, to which it is only beginning to return. But the Right brings something equally powerful to the antiwar movement, and that is its vocabulary. The paleocons and libertarians put their opposition to war in words that are widely understood and accepted in conventional mainstream discourse. When the paleos declare America should be first, that cry resonates far and wide to a populace facing economic hardships. And when libertarians declare that government is a threat to liberty, with military being a large part of the government, that is something Americans have been taught to understand and respect since their grade-school years. The antiwar movement benefits enormously from this conventional and traditional American vocabulary. It is not readily assailed.
America’s wars are a scourge unto millions of humans. From a moral point of view, we in the metropolis of empire have a duty to stop the bloodshed and suffering perpetrated by our elite. In this quest, dare any of us turn away allies? Can we be so sure of our own views that we will consort only with the like-minded even at the price of other humans? How can we square that with our deepest instincts to preserve life? Those who would refuse such alliances must look deep into themselves to discover what justifies that.
The Come Home America movement has begun. Later this year a national conference will be called that will hopefully attract hundreds of participants. Meanwhile the book and the Web site beckon to all who are interested.