While not agreeing with the content of the left criticism of Obama’s speech and policy, it certainly lets him know that he has a long way to go! Having said that, here are some thoughts on the way forward for those attempting to end the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, etc.
- Locate yourself on a map of closely-fought electoral districts and states for 2012. The PJRC can help you with this, as can many other organizations. Targeted work can do some good.
- Assess and strengthen your organizational capacity. What is the size of your hard core? Can it be doubled? Are you creating coalitions with others like labor, veterans, women, environmentalists, Democratic clubs, etc? Are you building an email list of voters, especially in swing districts?
- If you have not done so, pull up the voting records of your Congressional representatives on the Lee, McGovern, and Kucinich bills. Find out if your senators joined in the recent letter to Obama. Again, the PJRC is here to help, as are others.
- Make the alternative and mainstream media aware of your presence and intentions. Ask the mainstream why they have never advocated withdrawal, or why they usually are more conservative than the president, and submit letters to the editor.
Now you are ready to go to work.
- Maintain the pressure for a more rapid withdrawal and diplomatic surge towards political settlement. Do not suggest that 33,000 is enough to satisfy you, but take a degree of credit for pushing the president to de-escalate.
- Be seen with signs wherever you can.
- Tell your Democratic Party officials that you are definitely a peace voter and will hold your final decision until you see how many troops Obmama pulls in 2012.
- Work to become peace delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions, and begin working with Barbara Lee and Jim McGovern’s offices now on how to influence the platform hearing process. Get on it, things move fast.
- Consider joining the demonstrations at the NATO and G8 summits in Chicago next May 15-22. That’s less than a year away. Obama is hosting the world’s leaders on Afghanistan and the global economy.
- September through November the national elections will be in full throttle. Organize, strategize and plan to make every peace and justice vote count. You know the election will be close. While I would never vote for a Republican presidential candidate, I suggest everyone encourage the new Republicans advocating the end of the wars (the difference is that they want to cut social security, education, environmental initiative, and civil rights gains while also paring back spending on Afghanistan).
- Watch out for speed bumps. As Obama withdraws troops, it is possible that the Taliban will gain ground, leading the critics to blame him for “losing” the war and slowing the withdrawal momentum. This is not like Iraq. There has to be a power-sharing formula, maybe even a de facto partition for an interim period. Many will be unhappy. But dealing with the Taliban, and Pashtun nationalism, is a reality that must be faced. The peace movement should promote workshops and teach-ins on the complicated necessity of ending the war.
- Do not forget about Pakistan, Yemen, and the Long War. As Afghanistan winds down, Pakistan will heat up as the next hot, secretive, and drone-driven theater of war. The priority should be for the U.S. to make an arrangement conceding a role to the Taliban and Pakistan in the Afghan peace process, as part of a regional settlement. We need to think about a peace process driven by civic society, and not leave diplomacy to the diplomats.
- Link yourself to movements for social change here at home. Follow up on the Conference of Mayor’s recent initiative. Print these words on every message you send: "America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.” Send out the data on costs of war from the National Priorities Project, and the videos from Brave New Foundations “Rethink Afghanistan” series. Hold house meetings and town meetings to go over the numbers and see the films
- Invite me, if you will! The coming year represents the 50th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement calling for a participatory democracy driven by social movements. Conferences already are planned at NYU, the University of Wisconsin, and UC Santa Barbara.
Only through participatory democracy will these wars be forced to an end.