The people of our country and the world are facing difficult days. Many fear they will be victims of terrorist attack, including bioterrorism. Some fear loss of a loved one in military action in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Millions are jobless or fear it.
The Bush administration policy responding to terrorism with military force threatens tit-for-tat escalation of violence that could go as far as nuclear annihilation.
Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’ has additional aims and effects:
Intimidation and imperialist hegemony over oil and other resources in Muslim countries, and over the whole globe.
Behind a smokescreen of ‘national emergency’ to enact the Bush ultra-right agenda of serious limitation of democratic rights; ‘economic recovery measures’ of expanded war production and tax and spending giveaways to the TNCs and wealthy.
Harassment and attacks on Arabs, Muslims immigrants, and darker peoples generally, mistakenly so identified; stimulation of racial profiling and attacks on affirmative action.
Undermining prescription benefits, patient bill of rights, education funding, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and environmental protections.
The fightback has begun but it has a long way to go to become a movement of the millions capable, together with international pressure, to block and reverse the present policy. Bush and the ultraright have been working hard to keep the lid on through intimidation and isolation of the opposition, branding it ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘impractical.’
Unfortunately, some among the peace activists resist (1) expressing sympathy for the bereaved; (2) making clear their opposition to all terrorism; (3) supporting apprehension and trial of the perpetrators before a democratic tribunal; (4) supporting steps that are strictly constitutional to protect from terrorist acts (5) presenting alternatives for reducing terrorism, such as an immediate just peace in the Palestine-Israel conflict, an end to sanctions against Iraq that punish the people, a big U.N. Fund for Development and to reduce poverty and disease in the region.
Such failures play into the hands of the ultraright who seek to isolate the opposition and keep it relatively small.
Much more has to be done to win the legitimacy of, and to conduct, a national discussion of the Bush war policy.
For this, such forms as teach-ins and town hall meetings in the cities, towns and neighborhoods; and ads and letters-to-the-editor signed by leading personalities from labor, the African-American, Mexican-American and other nationally oppressed communities, from religious and academic and civic organization groups, and mixtures of these published in city and neighborhood papers expressing opposition or simply posing questions. ‘Will the bombing and killing of innocent civilians reduce terrorism or only create sympathy and more suicide volunteers for right wing fundamentalist terrorist groups?’
While the actions of the peace groups are positive, they tend to be predominantly among whites and middle strata. Their efforts to overcome this weakness need to be supplemented by special forms and approaches that make it easier for labor and the racially and nationally oppressed communities to express themselves.
Likely the main avenue of their opposition will start from such issues as the need for a real anti-recession program, the need for anti-hate crime and anti-racial profiling legislation and then linking this to what is patriotic and what is not, and to the need for non-military peaceful alternatives to deal with terrorism. War profiteering and denouncing strikes as unpatriotic, as in Minnesota, is itself unpatriotic.
Now polls indicate majority support for the Bush policy but there is much evidence this support is not firm and that developments are making it easier every day to expose the bankruptcy of the present policies.
Increasing U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is achieving nothing and may never, in terms of ending terrorism, while slaughtering an already beleaguered people. Incompetence in domestic efforts against anthrax, stemming from various self-serving ultra right interests, becomes more evident daily.
While the peace forces have a right to be upset with the Congressional Democrats, we can not afford to give up pressuring, persuading and helping those who want to find ways to express their opposition.
As the opposition to the Bush war policy becomes a movement of the millions, it will have to find expression in Congressional action, primarily of Democrats, to halt and change the present policy. There is every reason to believe that with broad, creative and sustained effort this can be achieved.
Danny Rubin held leading posts in the Communist Party from 1960-1992. He recently rejoined the CPUSA.