As thousands of Americans take to the streets this week, they will face a rising right-wing offensive to discredit and derail the antiwar movement. The cry of “troops home now” will echo in 11 cities as an intense year-long battle begins to sharpen. Not since 2002 will the antiwar movement and dovish Democrats face as virulent and lavishly funded a backlash as this one.
Consider the gathering storm:
- A powerful and persistent faction of hawks, centered in Vice President Cheney’s office, is pushing for a military strike against Iran in the coming year.
- The orchestrated campaign for continuing the “surge” in Iraq, led by Gen. Petraeus, succeeded in restoring the nerve of the Republican Party and defeating the Democratic strategy of seeking Republican defections.
- The well-coordinated attacks on MoveOn.org were designed to destroy the group’s proven ability to raise millions of dollars for antiwar messages and, in general, Democratic candidates. Seventy-five senators, including the likes of Barbara Boxer, rushed to denounce MoveOn, thus helping the effort to de-legitimize the organization.
- Ari Fleischer, the former Bush spokesman who warned Americans to “watch what you say,” now heads an organization that spent $15 million to promote the war as patriotic.
- Pro-Israel and Christian Right groups are attempting to raise $200 million for a campaign calling for war with Iran.
- Rudy Giuliani, currently the Republican front-runner, has selected neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz as his national security adviser.
- David Horowitz is spending millions of dollars to demonize pro-peace professors and organize on campuses against what the neocons call “Islamofascism.”
The neocons and hawks of all stripes are fighting back. They already have succeeded in gaining political traction for the escalation in Baghdad, counter-punching the Democratic critics into a corner, planting major stories of “success” in the media, and gaining top positions in Giuliani’s presidential campaign. Their campaign for war in Iran (Podhoretz says he “prays” for it everyday, an apparent message to the Christian Right) is on track.
Their top priority is to isolate the antiwar movement and its Democratic allies as “too extreme.” In 2002, when most of the American people were frozen by the 9/11 experience, it was a matter of trying to prevent the development of antiwar sentiment. In 2007, however, the neocons face a more daunting challenge: how to undermine the American majority favoring rapid withdrawal from Iraq?
As Podhoretz, Horowitz, and writers like Dinesh D’Souza constantly emphasize, the real war is at home, with the leftists and liberals who they believe to be the modern equivalents of “fellow travelers” during the Cold War era.
Their major target is MoveOn, with its vast resources and credibility. But ever in search of potential demons, they lately have been smearing and attacking Code Pink. The Canadian neocon ally Premier Stephen Harper ordered Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright stopped at the border last week.
The tactical purpose is clear, to make certain antiwar groups radioactive, or too hot to handle, thus damaging their efforts to push the mainstream along, forcing them from offense to defense. If they succeed in their plans for Iran, they believe Republican presidential chances may be enhanced in 2008.
All this suggests that antiwar activists face the challenge of being equally strategic. Impressive turnouts will be needed Oct. 27. Coalition-building will be a priority (already, many busloads of black congregations will be joining the Chicago event, Katrina victims will be turning out by the thousands in New Orleans, and protesters in Tennessee will be converging on the nation’s major depleted uranium facility welcomed by the mayor). Unsettled, however, are to key questions needing broad consensus among the diverse multitudes of marchers:
- What is the most effective public message for the antiwar movement in the run-up to the bombing of Iran, and what should the movement be doing in the hours, days, and weeks after such an attack?
- What is the most effective approach to the 2008 election if the choice is between a Republican extremist and a moderate Democratic hawk?
The marchers on Oct. 27, in twos and threes and larger workshops, will be considering the future of a movement at a crossroads.