President Barack Obama's Dec. 1 speech at West Point and his Dec. 10 speech in Oslo have roused a dormant antiwar movement.  --  On Saturday, Dec. 12, Kevin Gosztola reported for Op-Ed News on plans for an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square, near the White House in Washington, D.C., where Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Mike Gravel, Kathy Kelly, Chris Hedges, David Swanson, Gael Murphy, Debra Sweet, and others were scheduled to speak.[1]  --  Gosztola's article was scarcely upbeat, but a Los Angeles Times piece was even more dour, with Kate Linthicum quoting civil rights movement activist James Lawson saying that "The so-called antiwar movement has been a colossal failure.  The whole thing has failed.  We have not prevented the United States from becoming the most militarized society in the world.  We have not stopped our tax dollars from going toward military and war."[2]  --  A Voice of America piece reported on the D.C. rally.[3] ...



By Kevin Gosztola

Op Ed News
December 12, 2009

Americans may think that after Obama's speech at West Point Academy to call for 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and after Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, which laid out clear guidelines for waging a just war and how those guidelines will be followed during the oncoming surge in Afghanistan, there is no reason for Americans to voice their disapproval of the war.

However, a coalition of antiwar organizers, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of conscience disagree and are not willing to accept Obama's efforts to deflect criticism and tamp down outrage toward the Afghanistan War.  Hundreds if not thousands of people will be in Lafayette Square nearby the White House in Washington, D.C. [on Dec. 12] at 11:00 am ET.

Rally organizers have put together a roster of speakers that include consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, former Sen. Mike Gravel, Kathy Kelly, Chris Hedges, David Swanson, Gael Murphy, Debra Sweet, and others opposed to current U.S. war policies in the Middle East.

The rally will directly call for vigorous opposition to the military escalation in Afghanistan and a rejection of defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have been hampering the anti-war movement in America.

Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer of the rally believes it is the peace community's responsibility to focus on peace and justice for the world's people and for our people.  And the reason she and others are taking action is because the peace movement must be the consciences for our leaders, especially when they choose expansion of war rather than a phased withdrawal of war.

Speakers will directly challenge Obama's bizarre justifications for continuing the war in Afghanistan, especially the idea that expanding a war is the best way to prepare for a withdrawal.

For example, Ralph Nader recently wrote in his In the Public Interest column, "To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base."

There is no real way to gauge right now how disenchanted liberals and progressives might become with Obama but if he stays the course, this surge could create a trap for Democrats in this country.

Cynthia McKinney says in Congress Republicans may be willing to support Obama and vote for his war legislation now but come 2012 they will put up their own candidate.  She suspects that voters will remember Obama's actions on U.S. wars and Obama could be in trouble.

Elaine Brower, who is with Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) and who will be speaking at the rally, thinks many didn't expect Obama to do this because his rhetoric suggested he would act differently when elected president.

Brower suggests people of this country look past his rhetoric and see the politician.  She says:  "Obama is trying to sell the American people a war that isn't really a war because we aren't really fighting anybody; we are really just waging a massive occupation that is resulting an enormous loss of human lives."

Those participating in the rally see this as a way of reigniting the fire within a movement that unfortunately chose to temper their opposition during Obama's presidential campaign and now his first year in office.

For those wondering why they should be participating in any actions that allow people to show they oppose the Afghanistan War, Matthis Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who will be speaking at the rally, thinks the Nobel Peace prize speech Obama gave should give people reason to oppose this war.

Chiroux hopes all would resist this war because Americans did not elect Obama to wage war but to wage peace instead.

Kathy Kelly, a peace advocate who has visited and witnessed firsthand the impact of conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Sarajevo is convinced that if the U.S. public can recognize the folly of the war in Iraq, followed by the folly of the war in Afghanistan, and then recognize the folly of maintaining 700-900 bases around the world then we will be able to stop these wars.

She hopes people that are retired and still have a lot of energy will use their twilight years to ensure that there will be an inhabitable world for those grandchildren.  And she hopes parents who love their children will begin to recognize the choices ahead, engage in the community, change their lifestyle, and let the elected leaders know Americans won't accommodate their ruthless warmongering behavior anymore.

Chris Hedges, columnist and author whose most recent book is Empire of Illusion, will also be a speaker at the rally and suggests that "A lot of this is about doing something rather than doing nothing and attempting to influence events because it's clear the Democratic Party has betrayed us."

Hedges understands no antiwar organizer or leader can promise it will work but if we do nothing, we're guaranteeing that the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will go on for years.

"It's all we have left," says Hedges.  "Unless people get out in the street and actively build grassroots opposition against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there's going to be never-ending war."


By Kate Linthicum

Los Angeles Times

December 12, 2009,0,5678687.story

The antiwar movement isn't what it was in 2003.

Then, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across America to protest the lead-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Today in Washington -- in what's billed as the largest peace protest since President Obama announced that he would send more soldiers to Afghanistan -- organizers are planning for a crowd of 1,500.

"People are burned out," explained the rally's organizer, Laurie Dobson.  As she and other antiwar activists struggle to remake their movement, they also acknowledge there are obstacles.

"We're fighting a harder fight right now," said Dobson, who said antiwar efforts had been upstaged by the battle for healthcare reform and had been hampered by the bad economy.  She and others also acknowledge a certain awkwardness:  Activists now find themselves up against the same politician many of them helped elect.

"The peace movement has a new adversary in front of them," said Tom Hayden, a former California state senator who was a leading critic of the Vietnam War.  "He's intelligent, speaks the language of the peace movement and is trying to reach out to the center-left of the country with his message.  It's much more formidable to argue with Barack Obama than it was with Bush or Cheney."

Hayden said many of the activists who once used antiwar protest to convey their contempt of President George W. Bush have been reluctant to criticize Obama, who, while he was a candidate, made much of his opposition to the war in Iraq.

While he was campaigning, Obama pledged to end the war in Iraq within 16 months of entering office.  His current timeline calls for most soldiers to be out of Iraq by the end of August, but he has said he will keep up to 50,000 troops there through 2011 to train Iraqi military and protect "our ongoing civilian and military efforts" -- a plan that displeased antiwar activists.

Neither were they happy when Obama announced this month that he would send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.  Obama's Afghanistan plans didn't come as a surprise -- during the campaign he spoke of sending additional brigades there -- but they were a disappointment, said activist and Iraq war veteran Mike Prysner.

"There was this honeymoon period where people believed we were going to get some change," said Prysner, who works for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, or ANSWER, a coalition of antiwar groups.

Prysner, whose group helped organize a Los Angeles protest last week against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, predicted that the antiwar movement would strengthen once people start realizing that "Obama represents the same interests that the Bush administration represents."

He expects protests to be increasingly aimed at Obama -- and to shift focus from Iraq to Afghanistan.

More than 5,000 U.S. military and Department of Defense-employed civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For activists, it may be harder to drum up opposition to the war in Afghanistan because it served as a base for Al Qaeda, which launched the Sept. 11 attacks.

The fact that some Americans may find the war in Afghanistan "morally ambiguous" has hurt antiwar efforts, said Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University professor who studies social movements.

During the Vietnam War, Gitlin said, many people on the left "felt very clear emotionally that the war was wrong and unjustified."  Without that conviction, he said, "you won't throw yourself into the antiwar movement."

Julie Schneyer, an activist in New York City, said peace protesters have always struggled to make wars abroad seem relevant to people at home.

Schneyer said antiwar activists should shift efforts away from marches and use new tactics to draw connections between America's defense spending and the financial crisis.  "We need to ask people:  'What are we giving up, and what are we getting, and are those things equal?' " she said.

Others say activists need to rethink their mission.

"The so-called antiwar movement has been a colossal failure," said the Rev. James Lawson, a longtime peace activist who played a key role in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.  "The whole thing has failed.  We have not prevented the United States from becoming the most militarized society in the world.  We have not stopped our tax dollars from going toward military and war."

Dobson, the organizer of today's rally, said future antiwar efforts would be fueled by criticism of Obama.  "People have struggled and fought, and they need new blood and new passion and a new vision," she said.  "But the president who campaigned for change is instead continuing war."

The theme of the rally, she said, is "No You Can't."

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Voice of America News
December 12, 2009

Hundreds of protesters have gathered near the White House to try and start a new anti-war movement.   Saturday's demonstration closely follows President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, in which he said war is sometimes needed to establish lasting peace.  Demonstrators in Washington opposed this view, as well as the president's request for 30,000 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

"Make it personal, make it personal, because killing is personal.  It's immoral.  It's personal," chanted protesters.

Former Democratic Alaska Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Gravel led protesters in anti-war chants, while calling for a mass movement to help end U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The gathering, full of peace signs, anti-war posters, and one mock Guantanamo detainee, began under sunny,but cold skies with music from the hip-hop band Head-Roc.

The headline speaker at the event was current U.S. Democratic Representative from Ohio Dennis Kucinich.

"We must rally, protest, march to exercise our civic capacity to bring about real change.  Congress must take responsibility. I  will soon introduce two bills invoking the War Powers Act, which will force votes on withdrawal from Afghanistan.  The decision to go to war is not the president's alone to make" stated Kucinich.

But Kucinich acknowledged Congress has other plans in mind.  He went on to say, "This coming week, Congress will fold unemployment compensation into a bill which will provide $130 billion dollars to keep the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq going.  The message is clear:  'We have money for war, but not for jobs; money for war, but not for peace.'"

Many at the rally said they had voted for President Obama in the 2008 election, including Bill Steyert who took a morning train from New York City.

Steyert said, "I would go after al-Qaida if and where we know they are and get them.  But having thousands of troops shooting up villages, breaking in doors, looking for needles in haystacks, many times, it's ridiculous.  And I am just furious because I am a Vietnam veteran and I saw the terrible waste of lives there.  You can go to the (Vietnam Veterans War Memorial) Wall here in D.C. and see what that got us, and for what:  an independent, communist Vietnam who now we trade with."

One unemployed woman, Wendy Fournier, said the protest was just a start.

"I think that there is such a thing as critical mass, the more protests, the more people out, the more people have to be aware of what is going on, the more people are conscious, that right there throws weight in our favor.  Consciousness is the beginning of the whole thing," she stated.

Speaker after speaker called for a safe return of all troops, the end of drone strikes and torture and secret detentions, while police looked on and singers like Jordan Page provided musical interludes.