Anti-war groups like Code Pink and Peace Action aren’t swarming the Mall in Washington to protest Barack Obama’s planned intervention in Syria. Why not? Because the economy is in the pits and the movement is a “shadow of its former self,” according to Medea Benjamin, founder of Code Pink.
“Well, the most incredibly depressing thing was that most of the groups that existed before don’t exist anymore,” said Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink. “That’s the number one problem, is that the antiwar movement is a shadow of its former self under the Bush years.”
Benjamin pointed to groups like United for Peace and Justice, a Communist Party-connected group, as examples: “They’re down to a couple of volunteers,” she said.
Code Pink itself, despite being one of the most visible protest groups in the U.S. today, has felt the pinch.
“Even Code Pink, which had 300 local groups, just has a tiny portion still functioning,” Benjamin said. “So when something like this happens, we don’t have the infrastructure to rally people.”
Some activists argue that it’s mostly an issue of money and membership, and not an indication that the left supports Syria intervention.
“Among the long-standing peace and disarmament groups that we work with, everybody is angry and pissed about what seems to be an imminent attack,” said Kevin Martin, the executive director of Peace Action. “Public opinion is not supporting it either. But you’re not going to see hundreds of thousands of people in the street.”
“I don’t think me or Medea or anyone else should be defensive about that,” Martin said. “We don’t push a button and get hundreds of thousands of people in the streets.”
Martin blamed the anemic response among peace groups to Syria on the economy, noting that all nonprofits are struggling — not just protest groups.
Plus, Martin said, the energy on the left has been focused on drones and civil liberties, which “doesn’t rise to the level of an obviously unjust war where hundreds of thousands of people are being killed because of a belligerent president.”
Our pacifist friends have gotten lazy. Now that they have a liberal in the White House (who’s about to start his third war), they just can’t find the time to do the scut work necessary to drive thousands into the streets. Body counts are apparently more important to the “anti-war” crowd than the act of going to war itself, which is a curious position to hold for people who think of themselves as pacifists.
At least one anti-war activist is brave enough to call his fellows out:
Though Benjamin and Martin both say the fact that Obama is a Democrat is not to blame, other antiwar stalwarts suspect the energy fizzled out when a Republican antagonist was no longer in office.
“The Democrats are missing in action because of course the president is a Democrat,” said David Swanson, a longtime antiwar activist and author of War Is a Lie and When the World Outlawed War, who works with Roots Action, a progressive nonprofit. “That’s the biggest factor, I think. What’s tamping down the activism is partisanship.”
“This started in 2007 when it was time to focus on electing a Democratic president and the Democrats forgot about the wars,” Swanson said. “We’ve been struggling ever since to get back to where we were in 2006.”
Swanson also blamed the apathy on the left on a belief that intervening in Syria is a humanitarian mission, whereas with Iraq the sales pitch was defense-related.
“The war in Syria is incredibly unpopular according to the polls, but there are some who support it because they believe it’s philanthropy,” he said.
Heh. Yes, I suppose one could say that helping al-Qaeda is a worthy philanthropic venture. But more importantly, it points up the ridiculous posturing on the left when it comes to the U.S. taking any military action.