As war keeps poisoning humanity, organising continues to be the antidote
Earlier this month, the US corporate media continued a 20-year repetition compulsion to evade the central role of the US in causing vast carnage and misery due to the so-called War on Terror. But millions of Americans fervently oppose the military-industrial complex and its extremely immoral nonstop warfare.
CodePink and Massachusetts Peace Action hosted a national webinar to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11—the day before the launch of the Cut the Pentagon campaign—and the resulting video includes more than 20 speakers who directly challenged the lethal orthodoxy of the warfare state. As part of the mix, here's the gist of what I had to say.
When we hear all the media coverage and retrospectives, we rarely hear—and certainly almost never in the mass media—that when people are killed, whether it's intentional or predictable, those are atrocities that are being financed by US taxpayers.
And so we hear about the evils of al-Qaeda and 9/11—and certainly those were evils—but we are not hearing about the predictable as well as the intentional deaths: the tens of thousands of civilians killed by US air strikes alone in the last two decades, and the injuries, and the terrorising of people with drones and other US weapons. We are hearing very little about that.
A part of the role of activists is to make those realities heard—make them heard loud and clear, as forcefully and as emphatically and as powerfully as possible. Activist roles can sometimes get blurred in terms of becoming conflated with the roles of some of the best members of Congress.
When progressive legislators push for peace and social justice, they deserve our praise and support. When they succumb to the foreign policy "Blob"—when they start to be more a representative of the establishment to the movements, rather than a representative of the movements to the establishment—we've got a problem.
It's vital for progressive activists to be clear about what our goals are, and to be willing to challenge even our friends in Capitol Hill.
I'll give you a very recent example. Two leaders of anti-war forces in the House of Representatives, a few weeks ago, circulated a "Dear Colleague" message encouraging the members of the House to sign a letter urging the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Adam Smith, to stand firm behind President Joe Biden's 1.6 percent increase in the Pentagon budget, over the budget that Trump had gotten the year before.
The point of the letter was this: Chairman Smith, we want you to defend the Biden budget's increase of 1.6 percent, against the budget that has just been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee with a 3.3 percent increase.
That kind of a letter moves the goalposts further and further to the liking of the military-industrial complex, to the liking of war profiteers, to the liking of the warfare state. And so, when people we admire and support—in this case Rep Mark Pocan and Rep Barbara Lee—circulate such a Dear Colleague letter, there's a tendency for organisations to say: "Yeah, we're going to get behind you; we will respond affirmatively to the call to urge our members to urge their representatives in Congress to sign this letter."
What that creates is a jump-off point that moves the frame of reference farther and farther into the militarism that we're trying to push back against. For that reason, my colleagues and I at RootsAction decided to decline an invitation to sign in.
I bring up that episode because it's indicative of the pathways and the crossroads that we face to create momentum for a stronger and more effective peace and social justice movement. And it's replicated in many respects.
When we're told that it's not practical on Capitol Hill to urge a cut-off of military funding and assistance to all countries that violate human rights—and when we're told that Israel is off the table—it's not our job to internalise those limits that have been internalised by almost everyone in Congress, except for the Squad and a precious few others. It's our job to speak not only truth to power, but also about power—and to be clear and candid, even when that means challenging some of our usual allies. And to organise.
At RootsAction, we've launched a site called Progressive Hub as an activism tool to combine the need-to-know with the imperative to act.
It's not easy, to put it mildly, to go against the powerful flood of megamedia, of big money in politics, of the ways that issues are constantly framed by powerful elites. But in the long run, peace activism is essential to overcome militarism. And organising is what makes that possible.
Norman Solomon is national director of RootsAction.org and founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death."
Copyright: Inter Press Service