On the Fourth Anniversary of the Iraq
Invasion Left and Right Agree: Get Out Now
by Jo Freeman
It is rare for the Stalinist Workers World Party to be on the same side
of an issue as the libertarian CATO Institute, or for the Revolutionary
Communist Party to share the perspective of a retired General, former
director of the National Security Agency, and senior scholar at the
Hudson Institute, but the debacle in Iraq has brought them all to the
Get out now.
In anticipation of the fourth anniversary of the March 20 invasion of Iraq,
each of these groups did what they do best — radical political groups
marched and conservative think tanks held policy panels — but with the
same end in mind.
CATO's "Case for Withdrawal"
On March 14, 2007 the CATO Institute brought three defense and
foreign policy experts together to give "The Case for Withdrawal
from Iraq." Although only Ted Galen Carpenter is affiliated with
CATO, all were right of center in their general political perspective.
Describing US Iraq policy as "fatally flawed," Carpenter said that "US
occupation ... has exacerbated our already worrisome problem with radical
Islamic terrorism." He concluded that it was time to "cut our losses" with
"an exit strategy that is measured in months, not years."
Retired Lt. General William Odom told the audience that the invasion of
Iraq was a "bad idea, badly executed." He repeated the assertion he wrote
in Current History over a year ago that the only beneficiaries were Iran and
al Qaeda. Thus, the"invasion of Iraq may well turn out to be the greatest
strategic disaster in US history. And the longer America stays, the worse
it will be." It's time to "cut and run," he said.
Currently a senior fellow at the center right Hudson Institute, Odom
directed the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. Before that he
was the Army's senior intelligence officer. He said his experiences in Viet
Nam in 1970-71 informed his analysis of Iraq.
Steven Simon, a senior fellow in Middle Eastern studies at the Council
on Foreign Relations, took the most conservative position — calling for
military disengagement in twelve to eighteen months. However, none
of the panelists believed that the US would withdraw while Bush was President.
CATO has consistently opposed the invasion of Iraq. In a December
13, 2001 column in the Chicago Sun Times CATO Chairman William
A. Niskanen, a former Reagan advisor, warned about the potential
negative consequences of an Iraq invasion. CATO's policy papers,
forums and releases have continued to point out this folly. Hudson
does not have a position on Iraq and its fellows don't all agree with
Odom. The Council on Foreign Relations is officially non-partisan.
Friction and Factions in the Anti-Iraq War Movement
On Saturday, March 17, roughly fifteen thousand people marched from the
Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon in windy, wintry weather to denounce the
invasion of Iraq. This particular march was organized by ANSWER, which
was formed on September 14, 2001 "to counter the Bush Administration's
endless war drive, its so called war on "terrorism". Behind ANSWER was
the International Action Center, which itself was created by the Workers
The latter broke away from the Socialist Workers Party in1959 after a
long-running disagreement over the meaning of the 1956 Soviet invasion
of Hungary. The SWP supported the popular revolt; the people that
organized the WWP supported the Soviet Union.
The WWP itself split in 2004. The West Coast groups became
the Party for Socialism and Liberation. PSL kept ANSWER.
The WWP kept the IAC. In order to have its own anti-Iraq war
group, the WWP founded the Troops Out Now Coalition (TONC).
Which brings us Saturday's march....
..... after a little more background
While it was small compared to other anti-Iraq war marches, the
Pentagon march was probably the biggest anti-Iraq war march
organized by ANSWER. While still with the WWP, ANSWER
organized the first of these marches but it was soon overshadowed
by United for Peace and Justice.
It was partially to pre-empt ANSWER that UfPJ was formed in New York
City on October 25, 2002, by 70 different organizations to co-ordinate
opposition to the invasion before it happened. While most of these groups
are left of center, they are not sectarian. The 1300 groups that currently
mobilize their members for UfPJ events are largely local groups
(e.g. DC Anti-War Network, Brooklyn Parents for Peace, campus and
religious groups), but only UfPJ has the resources to organize the big
national marches that bring buses to New York and Washington, DC.
Its largest march was the one to "Say NO to the Bush Agenda" right
before the Republican Convention which drew 400,000 people on
August 29, 2004.
ANSWER has chapters in many urban centers and on campuses so
it specialized in organizing multiple local marches on the same day,
especially around the invasion anniversary. It co-ordinates these with
anti-Iraq War groups in other countries. Not to be outdone, UfPJ also
issues calls for local marches on the invasion anniversary. These fine
distinctions in who organizes what are ones that the press seldom
captures. Even most local anti-war groups don't know or don't care,
and will support whatever action is going on. Both UfPJ and ANSWER
claim credit for whatever happens but don't work together.
UfPJ and ANSWER tried to work together. Once.
When both ANSWER and UfPJ got permits for mass marches near
the White House in DC for September 24, 2005, the numerous local
groups who didn't want to chose sides forced them into a shot-gun
marriage. The result was a very large multi-day event. However,
divorce quickly followed as each said "never again."
In the last year UfPJ has organized two very large marches — one
in New York City on April 29, 2006 and another in DC on January
27, 2007. For both of these marches it had significant participation
from some major labor unions, organized by US Labor Against the
War. By actively mobilizing their members and carrying union signs,
the unions vastly increased both the numbers and the respectability
of these marches. Unions don't mobilize their members for
Still stinging from Sept. 2005, ANSWER boycotted the April 29
march, but it did come to the January 27 one to advertise its march
on the Pentagon. It wanted to repeat the confrontation that took place
on October 21, 1967 when the anti-Viet Nam war movement held
a large march to "Levitate the Pentagon," tried to invade it, and
stayed the night facing off against several lines of troops.
ANSWER obtained a permit for 30,000 folks to congregate near
the Viet Nam memorial and walk across the bridge to a rally in
the north Pentagon parking lot as the "anchoring event" for protests
all over the country.
What Happened in Washington
Now that anti-war protest has become almost respectable, many
different groups wanted to do something for the fourth anniversary
in DC as well as at home.
Christian Peace Witness for Iraq distributed 3,200 tickets for an anti-war
service at the National Cathedral Friday night, with two smaller churches
hosting overflow crowds. Several hundred marched to the White House
in the cold and sleet, where 222 committed civil disobedience.
©2007 Jo Freeman for SeniorWomenWeb