U.S. Majority Demands Troops Out Now!

by Jeff Mackler / October 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper

The reality of the war in Iraq—with its slaughter of innocent people, its toll on American lives (nearly 2000 are dead and 18,000 wounded) and the countless hundreds of billion dollars wasted in pursuit of oil and profit—has broken through the combined efforts of the corporate media and the government to suppress the truth.

That the war was a lie from start to finish, that there never were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no links between the Saddam Hussein government and al-Qaeda, and no link to the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings are today undisputed facts.

Paul Craig Roberts, associate editor of The Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor to the ultra-right-wing National Review, and a former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, openly states what has now become common knowledge to hundreds of millions.

In an article entitled “America Has Fallen to a Jacobin Coup,” reprinted in antiwar.com, Roberts writes, “The most important casualties of Sept. 11 are respect for truth and American liberty. Propaganda has replaced deliberation based on objective assessment of fact. The resurrection of the Star Chamber has made moot the legal protections of liberty.”

Roberts continues: “The U.S. invasion of Iraq was based on the deliberate suppression of fact. The invasion was not the result of mistaken intelligence. It was based on deliberately concocted ‘intelligence’ designed to deceive the U.S. Congress, the American public, and the United Nations.”

Today, a Pew poll records the fact that 67 percent of Americans oppose the government’s bipartisan war policies and 56 percent support the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops. President Bush’s overall popularity has dipped to a low of 36 percent. Coupled with the massive exposure of the horrors of racist neglect and the “shoot to kill/zero tolerance”
mentality revealed during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, the “Big Lie” machine has been dealt some lethal blows. The hearts of the people of the “red” and “blue” states have gone out to the victims of the system’s brutality.

This is a sea change from just a few months ago, when President Bush was riding high in the national polls. Notions of the impenetrable backwardness of the populations of the “red states” and of the hopelessly reactionary ideologies of the “religious right” dominated the thinking of many who had hoped to offer some form of challenge to the prevailing political
moods.

America was portrayed as a land of manipulated idiots, ready and willing to believe anything and to subordinate their own best interests to join patriotic mania. The demoralization, fueled by the government’s deepening attacks on virtually every social gain of the past several decades, deeply affected the antiwar and other progressive social movements.

For well over a year the energy and attention of the antiwar movement, with barely an exception, were channeled into the electoral arena.

The “Anybody But Bush,” mantra was employed to herd the discontented masses into the sinkhole of the Democratic Party, the central capitalist institution designed to serve as the graveyard of progressive social struggles.

Today the tide of pessimism has given way once again to independent and massive mobilizations to fight for the common good. The truth of Abraham Lincoln’s concluding sentence to his famous aphorism has been borne out once again: “You can’t fool all of the
people all of the time.”

Sept. 24 saw a huge turnout

Opponents of the U.S. and British imperialist war against the people of Iraq mobilized worldwide on Sept. 24 with renewed energy and dedication. “End the War In Iraq! and Bring the Troops Home Now! were the featured and unifying demands of virtually every
demonstration.

In Washington, D.C., according to rally organizers, 300,000 mobilized. The massive outpouring, the largest since the war began, surrounded the White House and proceeded through the streets of the nation’s capital. CNN, which televised the rally live, estimated the
crowd at 600,000.

Some 500 labor activists organized by United States Labor Against the War assembled a pre-march contingent inside the national AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington. They were formally greeted by AFL-CIO Executive Council member Nancy Wohlforth, who aptly
described the meeting as “a historic moment.”

London organizers estimated that 100,000 mobilized there to demand the immediate withdrawal of British troops. Polls in Britain indicate that 86 percent support immediate withdrawal. Two thousand protested at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto, and several hundred
protested in both Vancouver and Ottawa.

The San Francisco component of the U.S. mobilizations drew some 35,000-40,000, as did the associated mobilization in Los Angeles. Two thousand participated in Seattle and hundreds in cities across the country. Three hundred hearty demonstrators rallied in
Duluth/Superior in a punishing downpour.

A roaring ovation greeted featured speaker Cindy Sheehan at the Washington, D.C., demonstration, which was jointly sponsored by the United for Peace and Justice and ANSWER coalitions. Just weeks before the march, both coalitions had backed off from their
original plans to organize two separate and competing demonstrations. The unity achieved was central to the size and scope of the Sept. 24 outpouring.

Sheehan’s August vigil at the Texas ranch of President Bush, demanding to speak with Bush about why her soldier son Casey lost his life for oil and power, sparked solidarity actions in 50 states that involved 100,000 people. To build support for the Sept. 24 actions, Sheehan toured the country to address, whistle-stop style, enthusiastic antiwar crowds, who enthusiastically welcomed her “Bring the Troops Home Now!” message.

Sheehan took great pleasure in her Sept. 24 address to respond to White House adviser Karl Rove, who had publicly attacked her while declaring that the antiwar movement was “non-existent.” Her speech began, “I wonder if the hundreds of thousands of people who showed up today to protest this war and George’s failed policies know that they don’t exist.”

She continued, “It is also so incredible to me that Karl thinks that he can wish us away by saying we aren’t real. Well, Karl and Co., we are real, we do exist, and we are not going away until this illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq is over and you are sent back to the depths of whatever slimy, dark, and loathsome place you came from.”

Katrina and the war

Antiwar organizers and activists went to great lengths to make the connection between the Iraq War and the government’s horrendous and racist default in regard to Hurricane Katrina.

The demand “Money for Human Needs, Not War” was given concrete content when it was revealed that Congress had transferred hundreds of millions of dollars away from repairing and improving Louisiana’s deteriorating and inadequate levee infrastructure, and put it into the war budget.

Even the ruling class’s newspaper of record, The New York Times editorialized in mid-September against the Bush administration’s obscene Katrina efforts on the grounds that the administration aimed to extend its $1.8 trillion tax cuts to the rich while raising the money to pay for Katrina expenditures by borrowing from Asia and Europe, thereby swelling the already
dangerous and unprecedented national debt.

Who will pay for Katrina? Certainly not the corporate elite, says the embarrassed Times. Capitalism’s default and its responsibility for the disaster, from the global warming that intensified the hurricane to the greed that led to the withdrawal of funds to reinforce and rebuild the levees, will be taken out of the hides of American working people.

Today, the once all-powerful industrial giants like General Motors Corporation, in the face of saturated world markets and competition from the major auto producers everywhere, have been reduced to near bankruptcy and often below-zero rates of profit.

The hundreds of billions allocated to the Katrina hurricane disaster, as with the billions for the war in Iraq, will be employed to boost the profit rates of otherwise failing enterprises or to bloat the revenues of the mega-corporations, like Halliburton, owned by the cronies of government officials. The massive turnout for Sept. 24 in the United States punctured the myth of a docile America easily manipulated by liars and demagogues. There is growing
recognition on the part of millions that the policies of war and racism promoted by both Democrats and Republicans are inherent in the capitalist profit system.

Hard lessons are being learned by working people and youth who experience in their every day lives that this system has no solution to their problems other than war, repression, massive cutbacks, and lies. The U.S. antiwar movement has taken a giant step forward. But is far from reaching its full potential to force an end to the current imperialist venture. In the months ahead the need to qualitatively broaden the struggle and discover democratic forms to include the full range of emerging activists and organizations will be central to the work of the most dedicated antiwar activists.

A massive democratic national conference to plan future antiwar actions, open to everyone, and aimed at the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and the reallocation of the trillions spent on war to fund human needs must be high on the movement’s agenda.