[sixties-l] Who Will Lead? (fwd)

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Date: Mon Oct 21 2002 - 14:52:27 EDT

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    Date: Wed, 16 Oct 2002 01:39:11 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Who Will Lead?

    Who Will Lead?


    An antiwar movement is finally, thankfully stirring. But the ideology-bound
    leaders of that movement are steering it away from the millions of
    Americans whose concerns and ambivalence might fuel it.

    By Todd Gitlin
    October 14, 2002

    An antiwar movement is stirring, an overdue fact and a necessary one, as
    the Bush crowd
    lick their chops and the odds of war with Iraq rise by the minute, against
    reason, against allies,
    against American doubts.

    The odds of one or another catastrophe in the short, middle, or long run
    are terribly high, and the chances of a smooth, slick, low-cost, high-gain
    victory are terribly low. Surely, the moment cries out for a smart,
    extensive, inclusive popular movement against the gangbusters approach that
    the Bush administration favors. Surely, the sobriety and skepticism of the
    American people deserve organization and mobilization.
    Might this nascent antiwar movement be that redemptive moment, when the
    national conscience surges into the streets to take over where a supine
    Congress stands aside?
    Unhappily, no. This movement is far too weak and provincial to stop the
    coming war.
    What a smart movement could do is put out the markers, create the
    organizational networks, and establish the foundation on which a more
    substantial antiwar movement might later be built. Alas, that is also
    The leadership of the current antiwar movement is building a firebreak
    around itself, turning
    the movement toward the bitter-end orthodoxy of the Old Left and away from
    the millions of
    Americans whose honest concerns and ambivalence might fuel it. If antiwar
    sentiment turns
    out to have any impact on the course of events, it will probably be despite
    the organized
    protests, and not because of them.
    I spoke at an antiwar rally outside the UN on September 12, the same day
    that President
    Bush, inside, addressed the General Assembly. The turnout was ragged, 300
    or so. But the
    numbers weren't the most dismaying aspect of that gathering. The signs were.
    Most of the printed placards held by the protesters said 'NO SANCTIONS, NO
    BOMBING.' The international sanctions against Iraq have been a humanitarian
    disaster for
    the country's civilians. But doesn't Saddam Hussein bear some
    responsibility for that
    disaster? Must that not be noted? The bombing, US and UK attacks in the
    no-fly zones of
    northern and southern Iraq, are taking place under the auspices of a
    mission to protect Iraqi
    Kurds in the north and Iraqi Shiites in the south. Again, the Iraqi leader
    bears responsibility;
    Washington and London have made a credible case for the no-fly-zone sorties
    because and
    only because Saddam Hussein has trampled these long-suffering people in
    more ways than
    there is room to describe in this space.
    Those picket signs are emblematic of a refusal to face a grotesque world.
    They express a
    near-total unwillingness to rebuke Saddam Hussein, and a rejection of any
    rationale for using force. The left-wing sectarians who promote 'NO
    BOMBING' don't want the US, or anyone, to lift a finger on behalf of the
    Kurdsto whom
    you might think we have a special responsibility, since our government
    invited them to rise
    up in 1991.
    Now, those same cynics of the hard left have moved to the front of the
    current anti-war
    movement. The sponsors of what's being billed as a national anti-war
    demonstration in
    Washington on October 26, and their eminence grise, Ramsey Clark, express
    no displeasure
    with Saddam Hussein. Their world is two-toned and, as with the Old Left at
    its worst, it's
    always clear who's wearing the black hats. (Ramsey Clark belongs to the
    Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic, after all.)
    This will not play in Peoria. It does not deserve to play in Washington.
    Clark and others of his mindset are not only morally tainted, they're
    doomed. And the antiwar
    movement is doomed if they are allowed to lead it. Liberal-left
    antiwarriors need to be
    out-front patriots if they expect to draw the attention and the support of
    Americans at large.
    Many are the compelling arguments against Bush's preventive war. For one
    thing, it would
    boost the odds that Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction
    either in the
    Middle East or, if he can manage it, in the United States. That risk and
    others are not hard for
    Americans to grasp. But these arguments are not made by self-proclaimed
    who seem to have little to no interest in the security of Americans or the
    world. (If you think
    I exaggerate, take a look at the www.internationalanswer.org.)
    Marc Cooper, that rare journalist of the left who calls know-nothings by
    their proper name,
    put it bluntly and well in the Los Angeles Times on September 29 ("A Smart
    Movement Is MIA"), writing that "If the left is not for war against Hussein
    and is also
    opposed to economic sanctions, what is it for? If the left is for
    containment instead of
    invasion, then isn't it the U. S. armed forces that must do the containing?
    ... If, at the end of
    the day, Hussein does foil weapons inspections, what is to be done then?"
    To the unswerving Ramsey Clarks of the world, such questions are trivial or
    worse. So how
    did they end up at the front of the antiwar parade? In part, it's because
    they're always ready,
    and because they always have the same answer to every question: US Out of
    Everywhere. In
    part, it's because they're organized. They stay "on message"a horrible
    political phrase to
    describe the discipline of fanatics. In part it's because other antiwar
    groups, chiefly pacifists,
    are grateful simply to have company in resisting the stampede.
    Where is the party of sense? Now that the Democrats having caved inmost are
    calculating by halfwho will mobilize the millions of Americans who think
    the Bush
    doctrine is dangerous, but are sure to flee left-wing pieties? Will the
    silent majority of
    American antiwarriors stand up?
    Those who care about global peace and security, and reject preventive or
    preemptive war as
    the means to achieve it, should be organizing teach-insreal teach-ins. They
    should be
    holding debates, not rallies of the faithful, mouthing nonsensical slogans.
    Right now, the hard left is in charge by default, and the antiwar movement
    is lame on arrival as
    a result. If sensible antiwar forces make a valiant effort to speak outward
    to the American
    public, not upward to the gods of the hollow left, then and only then will
    we stand a chance
    of usefully weighing in against the rush to war.
    Todd Gitlin is a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia
    University. His
    most recent book is .Media Unlimited: How the Torrent of Images and Sounds
    Overwhelms Our Lives. Next spring, Basic Books will publish his Letters to
    a Young

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