Where Is The Anti-War Left?
Why have anti-war leftists become so silent since Barack Obama became president?
It's a legitimate question since Obama has continued several of Bush's war policies and, in the case of drones, has greatly expanded it. We cannot only be anti-war when a Republican is president and, in our history, the use of military power against democratic movements in other countries, including overthrowing democratically elected governments, has occurred during presidential administrations of both Democratic and Republican presidents.
The bottom line is the United States is the most militaristic western democracy, and the consequences for millions of people, including Americans, has been evastating. Yes, we hear almost daily about the loss of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, that number is small compared to the thousands and thousands of Iraqis, including women and children, who have died. In Afghanistan, the U.S. military apparently doesn't like wedding parties.
Opposing war and militarism means that voicing opposition to war or opposition to increased military spending isn't enough; it requires us to oppose every single aspect of militarism including ending military access to young people in high schools, prohibiting the U.S. military from using sporting events to promote the war/militarism agenda, and demanding accountability for the billions of dollars wasted by the military establishment.
Most importantly, whenever a president authorizes the use of troops or the invasion of a sovereign nation, we cannot be opposed to those actions at the beginning and, then, once war begins suddenly fall into the "Support The Troops" mentality that makes us accomplices to militarism and, in so many cases involving the U.S. military, war crimes.
From a very early age, I was taught war has never solved anything and wars most frequently contribute to new wars. There's a militaristic, simplistic piece of American propaganda, most frequently used by conservatives, related to how wars have supposedly ended slavery, communism, etc. However, like so many things one hears from conservatives, it's largely a lie. For example:
The Civil War didn't end slavery because, even with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, conservatives in the Southern states created, via Jim Crow laws passed after the early termination of Reconstruction, societal/economic slavery for African Americans that resulted in harassment, threats, terrorism against African Americans in the form of the KKK and lynching.
The Spanish American war was, perhaps, American imperialism at its worst; it resulted in the deaths of Filipinos by the thousands. One of the alleged American "heroes" of that war, Theodore Roosevelt, was in several ways a racist and used the "Imperial Cruise" to send a message to the Japanese, primarily that they were the "Aryans" of the Far East and that they had a right to expansion.
World War I led directly to World War II. Although the U.S. didn't enter the war until 1917, Americans seem to think the U.S. "won" that war all by itself. I suppose it's an indication of American ignorance. After the war, the reparations imposed against Germany created severe economic crises that resulted in the rise of fascism in Germany and, worse, created extremist nationalism. The end result was the slaughter of innocents in German concentration/death camps and World War II. While, today, virtually all emphasis on German concentration/death camps focuses on the death of Jews, millions more died in those camps and are largely ignored by history. The end of World War II was the commission of the ultimate war crime, namely the use of atomic weapons against innocent human beings. If one believes in God, one cannot in any way justify the use of such weapons and, in the end, those responsible for authorizing the bombings as well as those Americans who justified it including those who do so today, will have to attempt justifying those actions.
World War II led directly to the Cold War. Truman's authorization of the bombings had nothing to do with ending the war; the Japanese had already made peace overtures via the Russians. Truman used these awful weapons to send some crude, irrational, hateful message to the Russians and, in the process, sacrificed the lives of innocent Japanese. The Cold War, largely based on an irrational fear of communism, gave excuses to American leaders to practice the worst types of imperialism including, as I have mentioned numerous times, the overthrow of democratically elected government, oppression of leftist movements around the world and at home, spying on Americans, and numerous other atrocities all in the name of national security.
One important point to be made about the end of the Cold War is that contrary to the claims of American conservatives, Ronald Reagan didn't "win" the war against communism. It's one of those cherished, but false, propaganda elements of the Radical Right. Communism in the Soviet Union, the end of communist regimes in Europe and the bringing down of the Berlin Wall were all accomplishments of European liberals. By the time the Berlin War was demolished, Reagan was out of office and having, no doubt, memories of supporting terrorists in Central America who, at one point, murdered an American citizen.
The end of Cold War should have resulted in a reduction of the military budget and a peace dividend. However, American military leaders began searching for new "enemies." The national security state was expanded including illegal spying on American citizens and a greater worldwide expansion of the U.S. military. It's a never ending cycle of violence, wasted money and greater militarism in every corner of American life. The consequences are loss of individual freedom and a false belief, among millions of Americans, that we are required, in some form, to have pride in a military. In my opinion, one cannot support militarism and support freedom at the same time.
Wars, especially Americans wars, are fought for one reason, namely profits for American corporations. This view was best explained by Smedley Butler, a man every young American should learn about at an early age. His book, War is a Racket, is one of my favorite books. Butler's book is a condemnation of the profit motive behind warfare. In the 1930s, a socialist magazine, Common Sense, summarized Butler's views:
I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.
To end the war racket, Butler recommended three tactics (http://www.scuttlebuttsmallchow.com/racket4.html)
We must take the profit out of war.
We must permit the youth of the land who would bear arms to decide whether or not there should be war.
We must limit our military forces to home defense purposes.
My message to the "anti-war" Left is simple. Either you oppose war or you don't. Be consistent. If you marched/protested against Bush's war policies, why aren't you protesting against Obama who has, as I mentioned, continued many of Bush's war policies and, in the case of drones, greatly expanded military actions? I've protested against Obama's policies, where have you been? Reading Daily Kos or supporting Moveon.org isn't enough.
See Votes by State
News & Politics