Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anti-War Movement Responds to Cindy Sheehan's Letters


Cindy Sheehan made public two letters this weekend. The first letter announced her resignation from the Democratic Party over the agreement by the Democratically-controlled Congress to unconditionally fund the criminal and colonial war in Iraq that killed her son Casey and hundreds of thousands of others, mostly Iraqis.

In the second letter, coming a day after the first, Sheehan announced that she would no longer be active in the peace movement. The reason for her first letter is self-evident. Why did she feel compelled to write the second one?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Sheehan has been the target of endless threats and attacks by pro-war groups, right-wing talk radio, and the corporate media. But they haven’t been the only attackers. As Sheehan has stepped up her criticism of the Congressional Democrats' complicity in the war, she has come under attack, some as venomous and personal as any right-wing Republican attack, by some who insist that the antiwar movement must be limited to protesting against Bush and the Republicans. Some of the same forces, who are closely tied to the Democrats, were happy to use Sheehan as long as she limited her criticism to Bush, but then viciously turned on her after she announced her resignation from the Democratic Party over the war.

Cindy Sheehan has come to the conclusion that she has been pushed out of the antiwar movement and it’s not hard to understand why she feels this way. She feels pushed out by the betrayal of the Democrats on the war funding. She feels pushed out by the isolation and hostility not only from the “right,” but also from many in the orbit of the Democratic Party that Sheehan had once considered allies. She feels pushed out be the failure of the various coalitions in the antiwar movement to put aside egos and narrow agendas in the interest of forging an independent and militant mass movement powerful enough to shut the war down.

Some good can come from this, if the antiwar movement takes this as a turning point. Many of us made a struggle to demand that Congress cut off all war funding and end the war a priority this spring. Some of us did this, not based on any expectation that Congress would actually end Bush’s war, but to clearly expose the Democratic Party and to demonstrate that they are as much of a pro-war party as the Republicans. If the antiwar movement can absorb this reality, as painful as it is, than it will be all the much harder for the movement to be pulled off the streets and made an appendage of the Democratic Party.

The movement owes a debt to Cindy Sheehan for striking a blow against those who plan to mislead the antiwar movement and tie it to the pro-war Democratic Party.

The rank and file of the antiwar movement stands in solidarity with Cindy Sheehan, not with those who are beholden to the Democratic Party. It takes courage for a mother, catapulted into the world spotlight after camping out in Crawford Texas two summers ago to protest the death of her son in Iraq, to stand up to and openly break with powerful politicians who would be all too willing to provide her a platform with all the perks if she simply toed the line.

It is our hope that after Cindy Sheehan had taken the time to re-unite with her family, and do whatever she feels necessary to repair the toll that all of this has taken on her family and herself, that she will once again be a leading voice against war, against empire, and for justice at home and abroad.

The Troops Out Now Coalition

Dear Abayomi ,

It was with great surprise that we read Cindy Sheehan's message:
This was about her decision to pull back from her activism in the antiwar movement. Surprise, because we know how deep her commitment is to this struggle, and because we know how much of herself she has poured into this work.

At the same time, we were not surprised that she needed a break. Cindy, like many of us, has been working to end the war in Iraq for many years. But like very few, she put most of the rest of her life on hold as she tirelessly traveled the country, spoke to groups large and small, marched and rallied and lobbied and participated in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience, did media interviews and so much more every single day. And we cannot forget for one moment that all of this was done not only as someone opposed to an unjust and immoral war but also as a grieving mother, a parent whose son was senselessly killed in a war that never should have happened, a war that has taken so many Iraqi and U.S. lives. Her clarity and her energy helped to inspire others to activism, people who also lost loved ones in Iraq and much wider circles of people as well.

We are saddened by Cindy's decision, even though we respect it and know she is doing what is right for her and her family.

But what is most sad is how long this deadly, costly, outrageous war has gone on. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead and their nation is in ruins. More than 3,400 U.S. servicepeople are dead, and tens of thousands will live with debilitating wounds for the rest of their lives. Our national treasury has been robbed of over $400,000,000,000 and now Congress has agreed to give Bush another $96 billion for this war and occupation. What we are most sad and angry about is how stubborn the so-called leadership in Washington is and how hard it is to end this war.

However, we are inspired when we think about Cindy's work and the journey she has been on. Her ability to turn personal grief into public action for the greater good should serve as a model for others. What Cindy did was a reminder that the actions we take as individuals do make a difference, and that the impact of those actions is amplified when we join with others. Cindy's individual contribution has been enormous, but she was part of a much larger movement. Without that movement, her presence in Crawford, TX, would not have resonated the way it did. Without that movement, her ongoing activism would not have had its power or ability to reach so many others. And that's a critically important lesson for us all: We each must find our voice and take the action that's most appropriate for us as individuals -- and inspire others to do so as well -- that is how we make the strongest contribution toward the growth of our movement.

Our movement also needs to take this moment to reflect on how we support one another. We have taken on an extremely difficult challenge: We seek to change the policies of the largest, most deadly military force in human history. We are confronting the economic, cultural and social power of the rulers of this nation, and we are demanding profound changes. Doing this work takes a toll on us, and yet we push forward. There are differences among us and there always will be. The goal shouldn' necessarily be to eradicate those differences but rather to find new, constructive ways to deal with them. We're going to need every ally and every tool in the toolbox -- and probably some others that haven't been dreamed up yet -- to end this war!

We thank Cindy for all that she has done, and wish her well in regaining her strength. And we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to the hard work ahead -- the work of building and strengthening our movement and the work of ending the war and bringing all the troops home!

We look forward to taking this mandate into our upcoming National Assembly in Chicago. Hundreds of delegates from UFPJ's member groups around the country will gather June 22-24 to discuss the next stage of our work. Keep an eye out for updates -- together we will end this war!

Yours, for peace and justice,
Leslie Cagan
UFPJ National Coordinator