2009/03/31:Anti-war Madisonian directs j'accuse at MoveOn - John Stauber

John Nichols: Anti-war Madisonian directs j'accuse at MoveOn
The Capital Times
John Nichols  —  3/31/2009 5:34 am

President Obama went on CBS News' "Face the Nation" Sunday to make the  case for his great big war in Afghanistan.

The good news is that Obama says: "What I will not do is to simply assume that more troops always results in an improved situation."

The bad news is that Obama is dispatching more troops to a country that has never taken well to occupation.

So where is the MoveOn.org blast condemning the ramping up of an undeclared war and the president's refusal to rule out an even more dramatic expansion of that war to Pakistan? Where is the memo from the Center for American Progress outlining the case against giving the president "a blank check for endless war"?

Don't hold your breath, says John Stauber, executive director of the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy and the co-author of "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq" and "The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies and the Mess in Iraq," two of the most scathing books on the Bush-Cheney administration and its war in Iraq.

In a no-holds-barred critique of groups that earned their reputations as critics of the rush to invade and occupy Iraq, Stauber argues that the Obama administration has effectively co-opted some of the nation's most high-profile anti-war groups.

Here's what Stauber writes in a piece titled: "How Obama Took Over the Peace Movement," which appears on  the CMD website:

"John Podesta's liberal think tank the Center for American Progress strongly supports Barack Obama's escalation of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is best evidenced by Sustainable Security in Afghanistan, a CAP report by Lawrence J. Korb. Podesta served as the head of Obama's transition team, and CAP's support for Obama's wars is the latest step in a successful co-option of the U.S. peace movement by Obama's political aids and the Democratic Party.

"CAP and the five million member liberal lobby group MoveOn were behind Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), a coalition that spent tens of millions of dollars using Iraq as a political bludgeon against Republican politicians, while refusing to pressure the Democratic Congress to actually cut off funding for the war. AAEI was operated by two of Barack Obama's top political aids, Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes, and by Brad Woodhouse of Americans United for Change and USAction.

"Today Woodhouse is Obama's director of communications and research for the Democratic National Committee. He controls the massive e-mail list called 'Obama for America' composed of the many millions of people who gave money and love to the Democratic peace candidate and might be wondering what the heck he is up to in Afghanistan and Pakistan. MoveOn built its list by organizing vigils and ads for peace and by then supporting Obama for president; today it operates as a full-time cheerleader supporting Obama's policy agenda. Some of us saw this unfolding years ago. Others are probably shocked watching their peace candidate escalating a war and sounding so much like the previous administration in his rationale for doing so."


Stauber's piece has circulated widely in recent days, stirring the same sort of dialogue that his previous criticisms of MoveOn inspired (Democratic Spin Won't End the War in Iraq, Iraq: Why Won't MoveOn Move Forward?, 96% of MoveOn Members Did Not Show Support for the Pelosi Bill).

The truth is that important players in the anti-war movement are speaking out against Obama's Afghanistan buildup.

Peace Action
is petitioning Congress to oppose Obama's Afghanistan plan. Peace Action executive director Kevin Martin has compared the president's moves with those of John Kennedy in Vietnam:

"It's a shame President Obama believes he can pursue the same militaristic strategy as his predecessors and produce a different result. While President Obama has made some good statements on increasing diplomacy and economic aid to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the emphasis is clearly on military operations. John F. Kennedy was in a comparable situation when he was elected. He chose to escalate then as well, and the consequences of his decision left our country mired in an unwinnable war."

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, which maintains the largest peace lobby in Washington, says that "more troops won't bring more peace in Afghanistan. Instead, the U.S. should invest in long-term diplomacy and development assistance."

United for Peace and Justice, of which both Peace Action and FCNL are member groups, is organizing coordinated local actions on April 6-9 to pressure Congress to oppose the Afghanistan escalation.

But Stauber's broad point is an important one.

There is significant discomfort with the expansion of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and opposition has been expressed by political leaders abroad and at home (including Democrats and Republicans in Congress). This is a time when genuine anti-war groups could be expected to harness that discomfort and build a stronger movement to shift U.S. policy.

As such, it is a time of testing for organizations that came to prominence opposing not just George Bush and Dick Cheney but the wrongheaded war-making of the White House -- no matter which party happened to occupy the Oval Office. And that makes Stauber's j'accuse a particularly stinging one.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@madison.com