by Gilles d'Aymery
(Swans - June 4, 2007) Lately, we have been hearing lots of whines and howls from the Lib-Labs in the Pwogosphere regarding the $100 billion funding-the-troops supplemental bill that the Democrats sent to the president -- who signed it into law -- with a $20 billion pork-barrel payoff which purpose was to buy the votes of a few Democrats who were reluctant to approve the original bill that included benchmarks and timetables. (The benchmarks and timetables were scratched from the final bill, but the pork stayed!) The pwogs, like Norman Solomon, Atrios, the folks at MoveOn.org, the Daily Kos, et al. (and they are aplenty!) have been seething in discontent. They've felt betrayed by the Democratic leadership. They've accused them of "caving in" to the war party. The left-center-right Libertarians (depending on the winds of the day) that inhabit Counterpunch and their more consistent right-wing alter ego at Antiwar.com, were dismayed too. With a mix of usual muckraking sarcasm (Counterpunch) and gloomy end-of-the-Republic tirades (Antiwar), they all vilified the Democrats for their spineless surrender to the White House and the so-called War Party.
They all believe, repeat, believe, that the "antiwar movement" (placed between quotes, for it hardly exists) had been instrumental in the Democrats winning the sweepstakes in the November 2006 mid-term elections (even though the Senate majority still hangs on the recovery of a disabled senator). They believe that not only they, but the majority of the American people, voted against the war and brought that new slim majority to power to end the war and bring the troops home. Belief, a commonly held thought process that can be rationalized but which defies reason, is not the preserve of the faith-based community in the U.S. It's a countrywide pursuit.
The electorate (half of the potential voters who have not yet given up on the broken system of governance), however, voted -- pick and choose -- against the war, the sexual and corruption scandals beleaguering the Republican Party, the incompetence of the administration, economic concerns (think particularly of gas prices), and sheer tiredness of business as usual -- call it a mild malaise that Pepto-Bismol cannot cure -- and asked for change -- meaning, "please, let's go back to where we were, once upon a time...where change meant same old same old." When fatigue sets in one falls asleep hoping that as the sunrise signals the dawn of a new day, it will all have been a bad dream -- that the nightmarish conditions that brought repeated disillusionment over time, hence the fatigue, had never taken place -- and one was happily back to the times that preceded the objects of scorn. One thing they did not vote for, with the exception of a tiny minority, was de-funding the war effort.
Cindy Sheehan is one of those admirable souls who believed that were the Democrats back in power they would act upon the demands of the antiwar and peace activists who had tirelessly worked on their behalf, all the while demonizing the Bush administration. One should feel sorry for Mrs. Sheehan who, beginning in July 2004, gave so much to the cause of stopping madness -- her time, her energy, her savings, even her mental and physical health, all for a just and moral cause: ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home. There is no other individual that has done so much to raise these issues to the fore. She's owed tons of gratitude and respect. Yet, she became, like the vast majority of the antiwar movement, an instrument of the Democratic Party. While these people may sincerely believe they can affect the politics of the Democratic Party they are either naïve or ignorant of that party's history. Have the Democrats ever found a war they did not like or cheer for? Has there been one time ever when the antiwar movement managed to stop an American war?
Antiwar and peace activists have long been co-opted by the Democrats through myriad non-profit organizations and celebrity dissenters (Bill Moyers, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders, Phil Donahue, Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, Helen Thomas, Dennis Kucinich, Martin Sheen, etc.) whose only purpose is to confine activists within the boundaries of political acceptability, to funnel the flow of resistance and dissent toward the Democrats.
In due respect to Mrs. Sheehan, she seems to have sensed the bogus but well-oiled strategy in the summer of 2006. Earlier this year, in the wake of the last antiwar demonstration in Washington D.C., she certainly must have noticed that one of the celebrity dissenters with whom she shared the stage, Jane Fonda, flew to Los Angeles to help organize a fund-raising party for no one else but Hillary Rodham Clinton. Nevertheless, she played the Democratic card, supposedly again believing like so many tender souls that the party could be reformed from the inside. She started to confront the Democrats more directly by the spring of 2007 and the reaction was not long in coming. After having been vilified by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News clowns -- insults she took in stride -- she began feeling the arrows of her own allies; and allies they were of her own choosing.
She had joined the board of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), a board filled with the who's who of the antiwar movement -- e.g., Medea Benjamin (CodePink), Jeff Cohen (co-founder of FAIR), John Conyers (D-MI), Jodie Evans (CodePink), Tom Hayden, Thom Hartmann (Air America), Barbara Lee (D-CA), David Swanson (more on him below), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Diane Watson (D-CA), Lyle Wing (Rainbow PUSH Coalition), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), etc. She was lauded by all these organizations (CodePink, MoveOn.org, Daily Kos, UFPJ, and the like) till she set in motion her second thoughts. That's when they dropped her cold (cf. Medea Benjamin). She had served them well -- keep in mind that the first ad that launched her meteorite rise to antiwar stardom was paid for by MoveOn.org, a Clintonian-DLC outfit par excellence -- but had overstayed her welcome and was subsequently being ditched through thousands of little cuts.
David Swanson deserves a special mention in the annals of antiwar triangulation in favor of the Democrats. Here's a man who drinks at all the troughs of the Democratic spigots, all the while advancing his career. The ubiquitous Swanson is a director of democrats.com (the "Aggressive Democrats!" no less) and of impeachPAC.org ("Electing a Congress to impeach Bush and Cheney"); he created MeetWithCindy.org and is on the board of PDA; he co-founded afterdowningstreet.org (another pro-impeachment site); he was the press secretary for the 2004 Kucinich presidential campaign (recall that Kucinich delivered all his delegates, with one exception, to the Kerry-Edwards ticket); he worked for the International Labor Communications Association (an AFL-CIO outfit that is a clear Democratic storefront). His entire professional journey is that of a Democratic Party backbencher. As a smooth and smart operator, he even contributes regularly to Counterpunch, delivering scathing criticisms against a party he fully supports and assisting in neutralizing (if not wholly neutering) the antiwar movement. If that were not enough, David Swanson also advocates strong challenges from Green candidates, thus demonstrating that the Demgreen foxes remain entrenched in the Green chicken house. Interestingly, however, only Cindy Sheehan has been accused of being a "whore" by that crowd. Remarkable achievement...
These Democratic operatives work mostly in tandem within myriad organizations. Medea Benjamin moves effortlessly from CodePink to Global Exchange, United for Peace and Justice, PDA, and other groups. Tim Carpenter, the national director of PDA, is a co-founder of afterdowningstreet.org. He also delivered a speech at the 1992 Democratic National Convention and was on the staff of Bill Clinton's 1996 presidential campaign, which might suggest that progressive politics lay in the eyes of the beholder.
One could jump to the conclusion -- and quite a few do -- that these professional anti-warriors who make a career out of their credentials are surreptitiously devoted to controlling dissent and dividing dissidents; that they are supported and financed by the powers that be in order to do their betting. It may be partly true. Indeed, these people make a living out of donations from foundations that are deeply aligned with the status quo. They also struggle for a share of the financial bonanza that these foundations grant to keep dissent within the family. It's also true that competition for those funds -- and a decent living -- is a sine qua non proposition if one wants to remain in this line of business. It's finally also factual that egos are in play within that crowd (is there any activity in American life where egos are not at play somewhat, somehow?). Yet, how would one accuse Rep. Barbara Lee or Lynn Woolsey, for example, of being traitors to the cause that Cindy Sheehan has espoused so wholeheartedly in the past three years? They have walked deep into the trenches of the peace and justice movement, long before Casey Sheehan died in Iraq and his mother got involved with much anger and idealism into that struggle.
To think of Barbara Lee as a turncoat or a double agent would be an insult to reality and a slander against this most respected US Representative. To attack Bill Moyers or the other celebrity dissenters misses the point: These people do believe in the Democratic Party. That's all they know and they have no reason to think otherwise. Is there a viable independent movement, away from the duopoly -- in America? No, there is none. So, they keep functioning within the realm of possibilities, even though they have been proven incorrect time and again in regard to their influence on the leadership of their party, which like their Republican counterparts directly profits from war (e.g., Sen. Dianne Feinstein). But, and it is a big BUT, they are correct in regard to the absence of any alternatives. The House Out of Iraq Caucus, with its 73 members, serves as a façade of sanity within a delusory body politic that remains in total denial. Sadly, this miserable war will linger on for the foreseeable future and end like the Vietnam War did, when the US military breaks down and the financial costs become unbearable, thus forcing the elites to abandon their latest imperial adventure.
Cindy Sheehan, a political neophyte originally, a grieving mother who became the face of hope for millions of people opposed to that folly, admits that she is disillusioned. As well she should be, for she has learned much in the past three years, like many of us, about the politics of the antiwar movement and its entanglement with the neoliberal establishment, leading her to finally leave that faith-based community, secular or otherwise, and rejoin the reality-based mindset. She wants to take a breather and come back into the arena. She will advocate humanitarian work (whatever that means) and will look forward to a third party -- or a second party if one considers that the Democratic and Republican parties are the two branches of corporatism. She's right. To do so, she will have to estrange herself from the people and organizations named above and find new friends and allies among all the little people that struggle with great obstinacy for a saner and reasoned world -- these wonderful little people who do the real walking and talking.
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