'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, April 17, 2006

UPDATE: United for Peace and Justice Awakes, MoveOn.org Creates Cover for Democrats 

On Thursday, I observed how United for Peace and Justice was sponsoring a major antiwar rally without mentioning Iran. On Friday, I received an e-mail message from UFPJ, as did many others. It explained UFPJ's position on the proposed war against Iran, as set forth on the UFPJ website:

United for Peace and Justice opposes any military action against Iran, as well as covert action and sanctions. We reject the doctrine of "preventive war." All diplomatic solutions must be pursued.
Send a clear message to the Bush Administration: Don't Attack Iran! As a first and immediate step, we urge you to add your signature and comments to AfterDowningStreet's petition to President Bush and Vice-President Cheney opposing an attack on Iran.

Many UFPJ member groups, including AfterDowningStreet, Gold Star Families for Peace, CodePINK: Women for Peace, Progressive Democrats of America, Democracy Rising, and others, are all promoting this petition. UFPJ encourages you to circulate this message and help expand the growing list of signers.

Efforts to resolve any dispute with Iran should include promoting negotiations –- including Israel –- on a Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone in the Middle East. We call for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. The United States should stop blocking negotiations on abolition and demonstrate leadership by taking steps to fulfill its own nuclear disarmament obligation. We call for the development and promotion of sustainable energy alternatives. We need to stop going to war for oil. And we need to address climate change. But nuclear power is not the answer: Every nuclear power plant is a potential bomb factory and a source of radioactive waste that will remain deadly forever.<>P>Additional Iran resources and action items will be available shortly on the UFPJ website. And, be sure to join us in New York on April 29 in the national March for Peace, Justice and Democracy.

And, UFPJ confronts some of the underlying assumptions that are used to justify a "preemptive attack":

An attack on Iran would be an act of aggression, barred by the UN Charter and prosecuted at Nuremberg. If executed, U.S. military action would apply the Bush doctrine of “preventive” war in an unprecedented way that would set the template for years or decades of regional and global violence, unrestrained by law. U.S. use of nuclear weapons against Iran would be an atrocious act violating the existing near taboo that has held since the U.S. devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That would in turn make it far more likely that the weapons will be used elsewhere as well -- including against cities in the U.S.

While Washington accuses Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear power program, in violation of its obligations as a non-nuclear nation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the U.S. is itself in blatant violation of its own NPT obligation to eliminate its vast and sophisticated nuclear arsenal. There is no evidence that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. The U.S., however, retains a nuclear arsenal of more than 10,000 weapons, some 2,000 on hair-trigger alert. With nearly 500 tactical nuclear weapons deployed in 6 NATO countries, the U.S. is the only country with nuclear weapons deployed on foreign soil. And the U.S. is modernizing its existing nuclear weapons and publicly making plans to develop and produce new ones.

Meanwhile, as Norman Solomon observes, MoveOn.org remains unwilling to oppose anything other than a nuclear attack. Here's the weak response that Solomon received when he inquired about it:

A response came on April 13 from Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn. Here is his three-paragraph reply in its entirety:

“As you know, our focus is on bringing people together around points of consensus. We build our advocacy agenda through dialogue with our members. Since we haven’t done any work around Iran thus far, we saw the prospect of a nuclear attack as a good way to begin that conversation -- something everyone can agree was nuts.

“As I mention in the [‘Don’t Nuke Iran’] email, a conventional attack poses many of the same risks as a nuclear one. But just as our Iraq campaign started with a position that attracted a broad membership -- ‘Ask Tough Questions,’ in August 2002 -- and then escalated, so we’re trying here to engage folks beyond the ‘peace’ community in a national discussion about the consequences of war.

“We wouldn’t have had the membership to be able to run ads calling for an Iraq exit today if we’d confined our Iraq campaign to the true believers from the very beginning.”

In other words, MoveOn.org had to wait until thousands more Iraqis were killed, thousands more detained and tortured, while corporados associated with the Bush Administration looted the country for billions before it could take a stand in support of ending the occupation, and should pursue a similarly ponderous discussion about Iran without urgency. But such an analysis naively takes a disingenous reply at face value. Solomon asserts, probably accurately, that the overwhelming majority of MoveOn.org members oppose military action against Iran.

So, what we really have here is the effort of the self-described MoveOn.org Political Action Team to stall, to avoid taking a principled stand, as a means of relieving pressure on congressional Democrats, until it can no longer be avoided, as they previously did to evade an open declaration against the occupation. It was a rather strange coincidence, they apparently came out against the occupation as congressional Democrats began to openly consider a phased withdrawal from Iraq. Indeed, I can't even confidently say when it happened, the announcement gently brushed the public consciousness, most assuredly lacking the Zen-like prospect of transformation associated with a butterfly moving its wings.

Yet again, instead of providing leadership, the "action team" is actually an impediment, a barrier that MoveOn.org members must overcome to have their true opinion expressed. There is an old saying, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce." In this instance, we can more accurately say, "History repeats itself, ever more ludicrously." People with even longer memories about the mendacity of MoveOn.org recall how it created a safe harbor for congressional Democrats before the Iraq war, by stating that the war was wrong, unless authorized by a UN resolution.

By doing so, MoveOn.org accomplished two critical objectives: (1) allowing congressional Democrats to support the war in the unlikely event that Bush obtained a UN resolution; and, more importantly, (2) allowing congressional Democrats to engage in the hypocritical display of supporting the occupation as a purportedly grim necessity while parading their pre-war credentials of opposition. As already noted, MoveOn.org members eventually rebelled against such transparently cynical politics, but it took a long time for them to overcome the political manipulation of the "action team", if they did so at all, given the yellow light of cautious approval from congressional Democrats for a change in policy.

Hence, with Iran, we hear the same nonsense, MoveOn.org needs to educate and consult. A national discusssion is needed. Nonsense, because MoveOn.org is clearly an organization run from the top down, purveying the illusion of mass participation. Liberals love to bash ANSWER as some kind of Maoist/Stalinist/Trotskyite vanguardist organization (an organization with which I have had no personal experience, being philosophically more of an anti-globalization, direct action type), but isn't it odd that they have no problem with MoveOn.org, an organization that actually operates consistent with such an approach? Meanwhile, let's hope that we don't live through the entirety of an incomprehensibly violent war in the Middle East, provoked by conventional airstrikes upon Iran, before MoveOn.org completes the charade of a "national discussion".

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