We Are Against All US Wars, Congresswoman Lee is Not!

By Workers’ Voice
The Spring Action 2018 Coalition came together around a very clear platform of 8 demands, a strategy to win our demands through mass action of working people and oppressed communities (and not through lobbying), and a democratic method of organizing. We strongly believe in these three political pillars to build a new antiwar movement. In the course of our organizing important debates have emerged.
In the Bay Area coalition, last minute pressure to include a statement by Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee divided our coalition politically, and strained some working relations. Our group and many allies opposed Congresswoman Lee’s statement being read at the rally for 3 reasons: first because the vote happened without even having read her statement, and many of us know that Lee’s opposition against war is partial and that she does not fully support our platform in her actions. This was confirmed when we got a copy of her very generic statement. Secondly, Lee didn’t accept our request that she advertise our antiwar action, which could have helped build the mobilization and public support for our Spring Action 2018 Coalition by exposing her constituency to our cause.  Thirdly, our coalition did not have adequate time to democratically discuss its relation to elected democratic politicians in general and to specific ones- We are opposed to doing united front efforts with elected leaders and official sectors of the Democratic Party. Those pushing for the inclusion of Lee attempted several times to violate our democratically  agreed upon process. In the end, there was a last minute vote to include this speaker who is very controversial in the coalition. Given all of this, we must acknowledge that we lost the vote and we respect the decision for the good of the order.
We want to debate the content of Lee’s positions against war by clarify the true meaning and implications of the Spring Action 2018 Platform, and explain why her positions are  contradictory and damaging for the political credibility of our antiwar coalition..

The Spring Action 2018 Platform

The content of our platform is very important, it clearly calls for the “end to all US wars”, for bringing “all all U.S. troops home now”, for the “end of U.S. overt and covert wars, drone wars, sanctions/embargo wars, death squads and assassination wars”, as well as the closing of “all U.S. bases on foreign soil”, and the dismantling of “all nuclear weapons.” Our platform is clearly opposed to all US wars, regardless of their duration, casualties or “legality”. Our opposition to war in the coalition is a principled one, and not one based on an economic calculation. We fundamentally disagree with the United States government attacking other nations or interfering in their affairs.
One of the significant principles of this platform in relation to other antiwar actions is that it explicitly includes the demands to “end U.S. aid to apartheid Israel” and publicly supports the Palestinian struggle for self determination.
More importantly, our antiwar platform, beyond making very clear demands, provides a political rationale for these demands: the right of self determination for all the world’s regions and countries where the U.S. has a heavy military and political presence (Middle East, Africa, Asia & Latin America). We state very clearly that “the U.S. cannot be the cop of the world.” We believe that peace among nations can only be built on the political principle of respecting the right for self-determination.
We believe that no nation in the world, neither the U.S., nor any European nations can attribute to itself the role of being a moral arbiter or a military enforcer of justice. The very countries that control the Security Council of the UN, or are grouped in the NATO military coalition, are responsible for the vast majority of wars and violence in the world today. What they seek with their “human rights” and “democracy” rhetoric is to ensure the public’s consent in their political domination over other countries and the monopoly of war.

DEMANDS of the Spring Coalition Action – Bay Area

– End U.S. overt and covert wars, drone wars, sanction/embargo wars, and death squad assassination wars.
— Close all U.S. bases on foreign soil. Dismantle all nuclear weapons.
— Bring all U.S. troops home now. Self-determination not military intervention. U.S. hands off the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America. End U.S. aid to apartheid Israel. Self-determination for Palestine. The U.S. cannot be the cop of the world.
– $Trillions for human needs. For jobs and social services, quality debt-free education and single payer health care. No to anti-union legislation. For $15 and a Union Now.
– Defend the environment against life-threatening fossil fuel-induced global warming. For a rapid transition to a 100 percent clean, sustainable energy system and retraining and jobs at union wages for all displaced energy workers.
— No to white supremacy and racist policies and actions against Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and indigenous peoples. No to police brutality/murder. End racist mass incarceration. Black Lives Matter!
— No human being is illegal. No to deportations. Yes to DACA and TPS (Temporary Protected Status) and a just and early path to citizenship. No ban, no wall!
– No to sexism, sexual violence, and harassment and targeting of LGBTQI communities. Yes to equal work and pay. Support women’s reproductive rights.

We Are Opposed to ALL US Wars and Foreign Operations

For the reasons stated above, we were not surprised when we read Lee’s statement which in our opinion does not represent the demands of the coalition and the political principles of non-interference and self-determination we put forward. Her statement sounds like a re-election speech and makes no reference to the need to build an anti war movement through mass action.
We do not question the fact that Lee was the only member of the U.S Congress to vote against the AUMF (Authorization for the use of Military Force) in Iraq in 2002. Nor that she repeated her opposition to the Afghanistan war. Our problem is that Lee is not opposed to all U.S. wars, military intervention and expansion of military, she is just opposed to some wars, and has never voiced her opposition to the other dimensions of U.S. military presence all over the world.
In her statement, Lee talks about saying “no” to “the blank check for war”, meaning there could be a reasonable and acceptable funding for some wars, as long as the cost is finite. This is a soft support for war and US militarism, just not that war, done in such a poor and rushed way. The main problem of Iraq and Afghanistan wars for her is that they are “perpetual wars” with “no ends in sight”, and that Congress did not do its job “to debate the cost and consequence of war”. This reasoning does not present a principled opposition to war, but a political calculation of the costs and benefits of war. It does not combat the celebration of U.S. militarism both the Democratic and Republican party support, it implicitly reinforces it. In our opinion this is not consistent with our opposition to war in the platform, which is based on the right of self-determination of nations and the refusal that the U.S. “be the cop of the world”.
The statement has no mention of the threats of military aggression to North Korea and Syria. Nor does it include all the other 150 plus countries with up to 800 U.S. military bases,[1] as well as the U.S. funded foreign and domestic military forces , most notably Israel and Saudi Arabia abroad, and state police, ICE, and the national guard at home. Congresswoman Lee’s Twitter page came out against the recent bombing of Syria with the following statement: “By illegally bombing Syria, President Trump has once again denied the American people any oversight or accountability in this endless war.” In our coalition, we do not believe that the major problem with U.S. aggression to Syria is one of process or legality! Lee is implying that there would be a proper, clear and legal way to carry out the war and continued intervention in Syria and all the Middle East region. We reject that door she leaves open, and our coalition must be clear on this: there is no possible moral or political justification, and no good “process” by which the American people should support any U.S. aggression.
Finally, Lee’s statement only partially reinforces the first item of the platform and makes no mention of the other items directly or indirectly, and she neglects to mention the Spring Action event at all. It fails to mention the demand to end military aid to Israel, for example, and this is because Lee disagrees with this demand, and has a record of voting for the U.S. financing and support of the apartheid state of Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people. Granted, her record shows progressive action and rhetoric as compared to other members of Congress, she is perhaps the most fervently against war, but this doesn’t excuse her lack of vision and resolve to stand up for our demands and explicitly and fully endorse our event.

Why the Democratic Party Cannot Claim Anti-War Credentials

The Clinton and the Obama years only confirmed to the American people and the rest of the world that the Democratic Party is still a party of war. Clinton has enthusiastically and uncritically supported all of the recent U.S. wars and operations carried by the Bush administration. Obama, who won the elections in 2008 with the promise of ending the Afghanistan war and closing Guantanamo Bay,did not fulfill his promise. He partially retreated from Iraq, leaving occupation troops and military basis, he did not end the war in Afghanistan and he did not close the scandalous prison and torture center of Guantanamo Bay. But this is not  all.
Furthermore, the U.S. was directly involved in the 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted a progressive president, and in the murder of Berta Cáceres in 2016, the indigenous environmentalist and social justice activist who was leading the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.
In 2011, Clinton led the U.S. intervention into Libya under the open and illegitimate banner of ensuring a “regime change,” sent covert U.S. operatives and established a “no-fly-zone” (i.e., military control of Libyan airspace) with the excuse of “protecting civilians”. Starting in 2014, the U.S. began direct involvement in the Syrian uprising that had turned into a civil war between pro-Assad and anti-Assad forces. It has sent thousands of troops and opened military bases in the country.
For all these reasons we cannot allow the DP to claim any antiwar credentials. There is no room in the Democratic Party for a real, coherent and principled opposition to  war. Quite the opposite, the DP top leadership is political supporters of most  U.S. wars and foreign interventions.

The Antiwar Movement Needs to Be Open to All But Independent from the Parties of War and Corporations

Prior to the debate, the Spring Action coalition had not clearly discussed a position of independence from the DP. We think the time has come to take a clear stance of political independence. By independence we mean that our coalition should be open to and actively recruit any working class individuals and organizations that agree with our demands and strategy regardless of their political identifications (Liberals, Conservatives, Independents, Anarchists,  Socialists etc). We do not ask people to clear their political affiliations or to renounce  them, as long as they agree to support the platform and build the mass actions.
But our coalition cannot be used opportunistically as a campaign platform by “progressive” Democratic Party elected officials, or Libertarian Republican ones. Nor can it serve to provide unfounded credentials to politicians that want to claim their affiliation to our movement without doing a thing to build it and clearly fight for our demands. Our actions and rallies need to maintain an independence from the established  politicians of the two parties that have consistently supported U.S. wars at the expense of other people’s and the American people’s welfares.
We do not believe this is a sectarian position. We believe this is a coherent and strategic position that will allow us to build real and meaningful unity, defend (and not water down) our platform, and gain some political credibility among the oppressed communities in the United States and our political allies outside of the United States that are equally opposed to war. The last elections showed that the youth in this country and many working class sectors are breaking with what they perceive as the “political elite”, “establishment parties” of the “1%”. The role of our coalition is not to rebuild a base for these parties, but to propose a political alternative to win our demands through independent mass collective action.
[1] “https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-worldwide-network-of-us-military-bases/5564”
Drones, innocent civilians, suspension of habeas corpses, war in 7 countries)

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