|Dear Jerry “ClapSo”,
I am writing you as one of the endorsers for the upcoming March on the Pentagon that will take place on Saturday March 21. Buses and car caravans are coming from all over the country.
This is indeed a critical moment for the large-scale anti-war movement. All of us who are mobilizing for the March on the Pentagon and who have endorsed this action are making a significant political decision. The question before the progressive movement is paramount: stay in the streets and build a progressive movement from below or move instead in a different direction. This demonstration against imperial war and occupation is different from all previous anti-war demonstrations that were organized in response to the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the full scale assault on Iraq that began on March 19, 2003.
Each of the prior mass actions opposing war and occupation took place while Bush was in office. Bush, the despised war criminal, became synonymous with Empire and with the imperial invasion and bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan, the endless assault against the people of Palestine, and other brazen aggressions — all carried out under the banner slogan of the “War on Terror.”
And when Bush was air-lifted out of Washington DC on a Presidential helicopter on January 20, 2009, the two million people assembled along the Inaugural Parade Route and the National Mall let out an amazing, emotion-drenched expression of celebration. They cheered and screamed, clapped, grabbed and hugged their partners and children. It felt like the awakening from a terrible nightmare. Bush was gone at last!
Moments before Bush’s helicopter headed for the horizon, Barack Obama took the oath of office and the celebration continued. Since racism has been such a dominant feature of this society for over four centuries — the election of the first African-American president was a historical moment that was steeped in symbolism and meaning for millions of people.
Without discounting the jubilation over Bush’s departure, however, we in the anti-war and social justice movement are acting to build mass action on the 6th anniversary of the Iraq invasion because the nightmare of war and occupation has not ended for the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Palestine. Nor has it ended for the people of the United States who are forced to spend $1 trillion this year, and every year, on war expenditures while millions of families are losing their homes and jobs.
150,000 US troops and another 200,000 private contractors (mercenaries) still occupy Iraq. Robert Gates, Bush’s Secretary of Defense who was retained by the incoming Obama Administration as Pentagon chief, has promised that the US troop levels in Afghanistan will double in the coming year. Both he and Vice-President Joseph Biden are also promising an increase in casualties in the coming year. For the Palestinian people the nightmare of US -funded occupation has created thousands of fresh graves killed by US-supplied F-16 Fighter jets, Hellfire Missiles and attack helicopters.
We, all of us who are endorsers of the March 21 mass action, have rejected the argument made by some in the peace movement that we shouldn’t be in the streets right now because we have to give the new Administration a chance “to do the right thing.” Frankly, that is an infuriating argument. Are the military contractors like Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and Halliburton quietly waiting for the President to do the “right thing” from their point of view? Are the biggest banks and Oil giants like Exxon-Mobil waiting, with arms folded to see how policy is shaped in the new Administration? Are the architects of an expanding war in Afghanistan “waiting” to see the outcome of the debate? Are the advocates of Israeli aggression “keeping quiet” so that they don’t step on the toes of the new White House/State Department team? Far from waiting to see the outcome, the forces of militarism and corporate exploitation are working at full throttle to shape the direction of the country in the coming years.
The progressive movement must step up the pressure, not step back. It must also recognize that while Bush became synonymous with militarism and war, these are dominant institutions in our society and not simply the reflection of policies associated with this or that elected official. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have embraced and promoted these same institutions.
Barack Obama and the other candidates for the Democratic nomination were asked five days before the South Carolina Primary if they thought they would have received the endorsement of Dr. Martin Luther King, if he were alive today. Barack Obama, when he was running for office as a candidate promising change, responded to that question with the following comment:
”I don’t think Dr. King would endorse any of us. I think what he would call upon the American people to do is to hold us accountable…I believe change does not happen from the top down, it happens from the bottom up. Dr. King understood that. It was those women who were willing to walk instead of ride the bus. It was union workers who were willing to take on violence and intimidation to get the right to organize. It was women who decided “I’m as smart as my husband; I better get the right to vote.” Them arguing, mobilizing, agitating, and ultimately forcing elected officials to be accountable. I think that’s the key.”
Those words can be written off as appealing campaign rhetoric or they can be put into practice in the critical months ahead. For our part, we know that change comes from the pressure of the mobilized people. That’s where real power comes from and that is the only antidote to the entrenched power of the Military-Industrial Complex, which connects the banks, corporations, and the Pentagon war machine. Dr. King didn’t stay out of the streets because a Democrat was in the White House. Nor was the 1964 Civil Rights Act or the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed into law because of the beneficence of politicians. As then-candidate Obama correctly pointed out at the South Carolina debate, it was the “arguing, mobilizing and agitating” that became the “key” to change.
The March 21 March on the Pentagon is significant because it signals a determination by the progressive movement to stay in the streets, to expand the reach of the movement to draw in ever wider sectors of society and to make the compelling argument about the inter-connectedness of world politics and U.S. foreign policy with the badly needed struggle for economic and social justice at a moment of growing unemployment, foreclosures and evictions, and deepening poverty.
This movement can and must grow. The decision by you and nearly 1,300 others to endorse the upcoming March on the Pentagon was so important because it tells everyone “keep your marching shoes on.” It says to the people of the world that the “we the people” of the United States can be partners in the struggle against an Empire that speaks in our name but not with our consent.
You have taken an important step with your endorsement.
I am also appealing to you and to all endorsers to take a very practical second step that can make a very significant contribution for the upcoming national demonstration.
We are encouraging all endorsers to make a vitally needed financial donation to help cover the huge expenses associated with a National March on the Pentagon. Volunteers are working hard passing out leaflets, putting up posters, doing phone banking and getting people to buy their bus tickets.
But we also urgently need to raise tens of thousands of dollars right away to help cover the expenses.
We are suggesting that each endorser contribute at least $100 to help make the demonstration the success it needs to be. We have created a special easy to use click through for March 21 Endorsers to make a tax-deductible donation. Click this link to donate.
It is the leadership, sacrifice and commitment made by you and the other endorsers that will make the difference in helping the peace and social justice movement move forward, expand and grow in this next critical chapter in U.S. politics. Again, take a moment and make your donation now by clicking here.
National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition