Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MoveOn Resumes Antiwar Stance

MoveOn Resumes Antiwar Stance


By Tom Hayden


The - June 22, 2009 resumed its historical antiwar stance this

week, symbolically breaking with the Obama

administration for the first time.


After being criticized for abandoning the antiwar

stance that won it millions of activist supporters, the

organization sent targeted mailings supporting the

demand for an Obama administration exit strategy report

contained in HR 2404, by Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.


The measure, which requires the Pentagon to outline an

exit strategy from Afghanistan by December 31, had only

eighty-four co-sponsors last week, and was blocked by

the House Democratic leadership from consideration as

part of the supplemental military appropriation of $100

million. Currently it is pending in the House, still

opposed by the Obama administration.


The bill represents an uncertain trumpet for Democrats

who were willing to impose exit deadlines from Iraq on

the outgoing Bush administration. Both President Obama

and Defense Secretary Robert Gates have spoken in favor

of an Afghanistan exit strategy in the past, which

means their opposition to the McGovern legislation

reflects a deep-running struggle between the executive

and legislative branches over war-making powers. The

White House was extremely active in lobbying Democrats

to vote for the war supplemental without conditions.

Only thirty-two Democrats were willing to stand up

against the administration.


The refusal of MoveOn to engage in the supplemental

fight, or oppose the escalation in Afghanistan, meant a

reduction of grassroots antiwar pressure on wavering

Congressional members. Until last week, Congressional

antiwar leaders were questioning where MoveOn, with its

5 million members, stood on the vote.


Despite its modest nature, MoveOn's entry into the

debate could be an important factor in legitimizing

antiwar criticism of the Obama policies among

Democrats. Antiwar sentiment at the grassroots is

smothered by the unwillingness of several organizations

to openly oppose the war escalation, despite their

roots in the antiwar movement against Iraq.


The silent organizations thus far include Democracy for

America and its founder, Howard Dean, Ben Cohen's True

Majority, and the Obama campaign's offshoot, Organizing

for America. The Feminist Majority even supported the

$80 billion war supplemental with an amendment

supporting women's programs in Afghanistan. The

Feminist Majority argued against another antiwar

organization, Win Without War, taking an oppositional

stand on the supplemental. National Peace Action, while

opposing the supplemental, also supported the Feminist

Majority's amendment to the supplemental, which failed

anyway in the end.


[Senator Tom Hayden, the Nation Institute's Carey

McWilliams Fellow, has played an active role in

American politics and history for over three decades,

beginning with the student, civil rights and antiwar

movements of the 1960s.


Hayden was elected to the California State Legislature

in 1982, where he served for ten years in the Assembly

before being elected to the State Senate in 1992, where

he served eight years.


Hayden is the author of eleven books, including his

autobiography, Reunion; a book on the spirituality and

the environment, Lost Gospel of the Earth; a collection

of essays on the aftermath of the Irish potato famine,

Irish Hunger (Roberts Rhinehart) and a book on his

Irish background, Irish on the Inside: In Search of the

Soul of Irish America (Verso); Radical Nomad, a

biography of C. Wright Mills (Paradigm Publishers);

and, most recently, Ending the War in Iraq (2007). A

collection of his work, Writings for a Democratic

Society: The Tom Hayden Reader was published this year.].




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