Ashley Smith’s article “Which Way Forward for the Antiwar Movement?” (July–August 2008) is an excellent analysis of the reasons the movement is in its current anemic state and the strategy for rebuilding it from the bottom up. We think the section on demands, however, needs to be updated in light of recent developments. Smith lists four primary demands: troops out of Iraq, no war on Iran, no to racism against Arabs and Muslims, and money for social spending instead of war. We assume these are the non-negotiable ones because he uses the word “Finally” when ending the list. In the subsequent paragraph, Smith states that the Left must argue for including opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan and for education and speakers about Palestine but we should be prepared to lose the argument.
We completely agree that we must continue to argue for the inclusion of these demands, but we think that opposition to the occupation of Afghanistan is a necessary core demand for the movement at this time. As Smith argues earlier in his article, we must have demands that prepare the movement to confront U.S. war plans. Barack Obama, in his July 15 foreign policy speech, made the hard case for the War on Terror—he wants to shift combat troops from Iraq (the “distraction”) to Afghanistan (the “central front”). Casualties for Western occupation troops in Afghanistan have exceeded those in Iraq in both May and June. While this may have more to do with tactical decisions by the Iraqi resistance, the increased media and official attention on Afghanistan signals an important dynamic. The debacle in Iraq has caused the American people to be skeptical of the American ruling class’s intentions in unleashing the U.S. military around the world. For example, a July 13 poll by ABC News and the Washington Post found that 45 percent of Americans think the war on Afghanistan was not worth it. If, however, Obama can salvage the War on Terror by making the positive case for military intervention in Afghanistan, he may also be able to re-establish the ability of the U.S. ruling class to sell its wars.
Given that many liberals and leftists who oppose the war on Iraq support the war on Afghanistan in some way, this presents a real political challenge. They concede that the war on Iraq was a war of choice for controlling the Middle East, but they believe the United States has a legitimate right to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. They fail to see that just as WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) were the excuse for invading Iraq, 9/11, the Taliban, women’s rights, and even al-Qaeda were the excuses for invading Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan and Iraq are a part of the same imperial project of securing the U.S. ruling class’s position as global top dog.
In the current political climate, we believe a movement to get the troops out of Iraq will stumble, stagger, and stagnate if it is supportive of or unclear about the occupation of Afghanistan. We want to get the troops out of Iraq, but we do not want to send them to Afghanistan!
Sid Patel and Roger Dyer