Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just who were those peaceniks in Washington?

In a recent post, I commented briefly on the political passion of the demonstrators in Washington over the weekend. Whatever the number, it was an impressive show.

But let's look behind the scenes for a moment. The demonstration was organized by two groups, International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice. Just what are these two groups? Who leads them and what do they really stand for? For that, let's turn to Christopher Hitchens, a commentator whose enthusiastic pro-war militancy leaves me uncomfortable but whose credentials as a (former) left-winger (in the real, European sense of that term) are undeniable. Here's what he had to say at Slate yesterday:

"International ANSWER" [is] the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a "wide range of progressive political objectives" indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper—to mention only two radical left journalists—who have exposed "International ANSWER" as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism.

The group self-lovingly calling itself "United for Peace and Justice" is by no means "narrow" in its "antiwar focus" but rather represents a very extended alliance between the Old and the New Left, some of it honorable and some of it redolent of the World Youth Congresses that used to bring credulous priests and fellow-traveling hacks together to discuss "peace" in East Berlin or Bucharest. Just to give you an example, from one who knows the sectarian makeup of the Left very well, I can tell you that the Worker's World Party—Ramsey Clark's core outfit—is the product of a split within the Trotskyist movement. These were the ones who felt that the Trotskyist majority, in 1956, was wrong to denounce the Russian invasion of Hungary. The WWP is the direct, lineal product of that depraved rump. If the "United for Peace and Justice" lot want to sink their differences with such riffraff and mount a joint demonstration, then they invite some principled political criticism on their own account. And those who just tag along … well, they just tag along.

To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh. And this in a week when Afghans went back to the polls, and when Iraqis were preparing to do so, under a hail of fire from those who blow up mosques and U.N. buildings, behead aid workers and journalists, proclaim fatwahs against the wrong kind of Muslim, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus.

And there's your demonstration.

Look, I'm not saying that everyone who attended the demonstration is some sort of jihadist sympathizer or somehow equates being against the Iraq War with support for some of the most loathsome regimes on the planet. But it's truly shameful that what was a vocal (and perhaps justifiable) protest against a war that was more or less botched from the get-go was in fact organized by such loathsome groups.

Unfortunately, a movement tends to be defined by its extemes. The anti-war movement would do well to detach itself from the pro-war extremes that organized Saturday's event. Otherwise, it'll all remain quite blurry.

The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. Especially when your "friend" is pro-war in the worst way.

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  • I agree with you. It's interesting about Hitchens, a former leftist who has been branded a traitor by his former colleagues.

    It's always been true that much of the antiwar movement has been less about the Iraq War and more about each group proving its bona fides in the realm of radical politics. Now these groups seem to be trying to coopt Cindy Sheehan.

    But I think it's irrelevant anyway and always has been. The idea that protests somehow have an effect on policy is, I think, a myth. Viet Nam wasn't ended by the left wing anti-war movement; it was ended by the body bag counts appearing nightly on the Evening News.

    IMO, there is no such thing as a grass roots antiwar movement. While there are obviously a lot of people against the war, the organized movement is largely, but not totally, an organized movement by professional activists. And what do the numbers mean anyway? If you work hard enough and target the right groups,you could get 100,000 people to show up to protest almost anything.

    But I do agree that the media should be identifying the groups organizing these rallies. I also think that the media should identify the ideological affiliations of people that they cite in news articles, liberal or conservative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:09 PM  

  • But to follow up on my previous comment, I think it's a bit disingenous for Hitchens not to acknowledge that there is legitimate anti-war sentiment out there. Regardless of the pedigree of the particular protests, there is obviously much distress in the country about the war. Hitchens mentioned the Communist front New World Congress, which was known in the fifties for its "Ban the Bomb" protests. It's true that the movement itself was probably fraudulent, but that doesn't mean that the sentiment against nuclear weapons wasn't real. Hitchens seems to want to use the odiousness of the groups (and they are odious--by the way, what happened to turn Ramsey Clark into a raving lunatic in his old age?) to deny the real latency of antiwar sentiment because of his pro-war position, but I don't think that will fly.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:18 PM  

  • What ridiculous statements about the protesters!

    Only someone who is part of this corrupt "Republican" regime of corporate and criminal government could come up with such a ludicrous characterization of the protesters.

    The protesters are a HUGE motley group of people from all walks of life, with no other political axe to grind except to get this lying, thieving, heartless group of fascist neo-cons out of our government and force them to stop terrorizing our country and the world and to make them stop stealing the taxpayer money of good hard-working Americans, only to line their pockets and feed their insatiable greed for more and more money for themselves and for their filthy-rich CEO's and obscenely-rich oil companies and crony-corporations.

    The reason you know the criminal behavior has happened is that Republicans run like they're chased by the plague whenever ANYONE wants an independent and open investigation.
    And they threaten and bribe everyone in sight to get their way.

    Take for example the 2004 Election which they stole. The Republican Secretaries of State stood in the way of honest, open, and public recounts. And that just proves that they stole the election.

    Same way with the FEMA investigation.

    So go tell your stupid fairy tales to your dishonest set of corporate media because the people are not buying your filthy lies any more.

    You filthy pigs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 PM  

  • Anonymous,

    My, my, don't like a little truth, do you? Have to resort to calling people names if they don't agree with you,huh? Why am I not surprised that a leftist doesn't have the balls to use his or her name and can't do anything but call people fascists and filthy pigs? And substitute vitriol for debate? What a surprise that leftists can't even abide disagreement.

    Oh, and by the way, Michael didn't characterize the protesters this way, it was Christopher Hitchens, who is well known as a tool of the Republican establishment.

    Come back when you grow up, you little asshole.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:24 AM  

  • Thanks, Marc.

    Look, Anonymous, I'm not sure where the hell you're coming from, but why don't you read through my stuff and take a deep breath before you come out here and attack me (and one of my readers)?

    I'm hardly a member of this "corrupt" Republican regime. In fact, I write for a couple of centrist blogs and am often accused of being too far to the left -- and then when I write something at Daily Kos or TPM Cafe I'm often accused of being too far to the right.

    Regardless, I realize that the anti-war movement is a "motley group of people". What I, via Hitchens, am referring to in this post are the two organizations behind the demonstration in Washington. Would you care to respond? Do you even have a response? Name-calling doesn't count.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 11:49 AM  

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