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

From: jeffrey blankfort (
Date: Mon Oct 21 2002 - 17:16:32 EDT

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    Todd Gitlin is apparently trying to reposition himself as a spokesperson for the "left" as he sees a growing anit-war movement emerge across the US. It should not be forgotten that Gitlin supported the attack on Afghanistan but was an active supporter of the Gulf War back in 1991 going so far as to call the pres so he could be filmed donating blood for "our boys" in Iraq. It is also not surprising that he finds a colleague in Marc Cooper, the Nation writer and KPFK programmer who went into the trenches to defend those in Washington who were trying to destroy the Pacifica Radio network who seems to believe that the only alternatives to the US-defined situation in Iraq are launching (rather escalating) a war or containment of Saddam by US troops in some other fashion.

    That being said, I share Gitlin's criticisms of the ANSWER coalition which is the latest outgrowth of the International Action Center which was/is a front for the Workers World Party/All People's Congress which competes with the successive US administrations in its admiration for dictators and dictatorships, being unwilling to acknowledge that being opposed by the US does not necessarily make someone a good guy and acting as if they believe that countries that called themselves socialist actually were controlled by or had concern for their workers. So they supported Romania's Ceucesku, even after the revelations about his excesses, they supported the crackdown of the students in Tienamen Square and they defended China's support of Pol Pot. Now, Ramsey Clark, who seems to have been caught up in the same mindset, denies that Saddam gassed the Kurds during the Iran-Iraq war While it is generally known that the US provided the chemical and biological weapons to Saddam and gave him the green light to attack Ira
    n, this doesn't seem to be part of IAC's arguments. Nor that US gave Iraq what he understandably saw as a green light to invade Kuwait. Gitlin, I notice, doesn't mention these facts either.

    We do need new leadership in the antiwar movement. Where the ANSWER folks and Gitlin will have no role to play..

    Jeff Blankfort

    Todd Gitlin wrote:

    > 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
    > unlikely.
    > 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
    > conceivable
    > 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
    > International
    > 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
    > anti-imperialists
    > 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
    > 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
    > Peace
    > 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
    > too
    > 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
    > Activist.
    > ------------------------------
    > End of sixties-l-digest V1 #880
    > *******************************

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