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WHAT WE THINK
Antiwar movement takes off
Building the resistance

October 25, 2002 | Page 3

MORE THAN 100,000 people are expected at antiwar demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco on October 26. This will be the largest show of opposition yet to the Bush administration's drive to war against Iraq--but only the latest in a series of protests that have brought people into the streets in city after city.

Just the size of these demonstrations is an exciting development. It took years for the struggle against the U.S. war on Vietnam to reach the numbers that we have already seen protest--before a new war on Iraq has even begun.

Today, antiwar activists in cities and campuses across the country report packed-out meetings to discuss the issues of the war--and a growing determination to take action. Many people who felt isolated only weeks ago in the face of Washington's tide of pro-war propaganda--and the corporate media's censoring of opposing views--now know that they don't stand alone.

One of the most inspiring aspects of the burgeoning movement is its broadness. Recent meetings have brought together students from college campuses alongside Vietnam and Gulf War veterans and unionists.

Naturally, there are political questions that need to be discussed and debated. For example, some people new to the antiwar opposition will have supported the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan last year--as a "just response" to the September 11 attacks.

But anyone who did accept Washington's claim that the war was about bringing those responsible to justice has to doubt that now. The Bush White House has spelled out the truth--in no uncertain terms. Its National Security Strategy document sent to Congress last month--commonly known as the "Bush Doctrine"--makes it clear that the September 11 attacks have been used as the pretext for an unprecedented expansion of U.S. power around the globe.

The White House wants to show rivals and allies alike that the U.S. is the world's super-cop--with overwhelming military and economic power that will be used against anyone who steps out of line. The Bush Doctrine is nothing short of a plan to impose the unquestioned economic dominance of Corporate America and the military dominance of the Pentagon worldwide.

This drive to expand America's empire--which even right-wing commentators now refer to as "imperialism"--is what links the bombing of Afghanistan with the drive to invade Iraq. They are two phases of the same war.

Unfortunately, some well-known voices in the antiwar movement won't make the same connections that the Bush administration does. For example, in a commentary in USA Today last week, Global Exchange's director Medea Benjamin wrote: "We must also remember that our goal right now should be to break up the terrorist network that attacked us on September 11, not be the unilateral global vigilante."

Benjamin should know better than to encourage one form of U.S. military action while opposing another--as if U.S. imperialism could wage a "just war" in some cases, but not not in others. After all, Washington is perfectly capable of concocting "evidence" to tie the impending invasion of Iraq to the "terrorist network." That's why antiwar activists shouldn't fall into the trap of making a distinction between good and bad phases of the "war on terror."

Meanwhile, liberal publications such as the Nation and Salon have complained in recent articles that certain antiwar groups--and in particular, socialists active in the movement--are driving away potential opponents of the war. Salon even trotted out 1960s-radical-turned-movement-heckler Todd Gitlin, who declared that the October 26 demonstrations would be "a gigantic ruination of the movement"--mainly, it seems, because socialists from the International Action Center played a central role in calling it.

This is nothing more than red baiting, and it has no place in our movement. Socialists have always played a leading role in the struggle against war--and there's no reason why this should be any different today. And the complaints about driving people away from activity certainly seem odd given the movement's rapid growth in recent weeks.

We hope for a great success in Washington and San Francisco, but we have a long road ahead of us in building an effective challenge to the Bush war drive. We need to continue reaching out to those who have doubts about the war--answering their questions, showing them the alternative and turning them into activists.

What the Bush gang has in store for Iraq is unspeakable--and as we know from their own words, this won't be the end of the "war on terror." We have to come back from the October 26 protests and build the resistance--spreading the struggle against Bush's war into every campus, neighborhood and workplace.

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