In the wake of Barack Obama’s election, national antiwar groups are applauding victory–at once praising him and criticizing him for his policy on Iraq and Afghanistan.
“An Obama victory is a victory for the peace movement. It sends a message to the political establishment that being against war is the winning position. War is SO Over. American voters have recognized the costs-lives lost, international cooperation thwarted, and tax dollars squandered-and chosen the candidate who promised to end the Iraq war and to use diplomacy first.”
However, the statement then describes a list of policy priorities–none of which Obama supports–that they would like to see the administration follow:
“We want an end to the occupation of Iraq and reparations for its people. We don’t want the troops from Iraq shipped straight to another losing war in Afghanistan. We want a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan. We want a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Iran. We want the restoration of our civil liberties and the protection of our environment. We want money to bail out homeowners who are in foreclosure because of predatory lenders. We want a NEW New Deal for America: jobs, housing, universal health care, education, roads, public transportation….We want a government that puts the needs of people ahead of the profits of banks and corporations.”
Code Pink then suggests that to get these things they will need to continue their “feisty, vibrant and sometimes LOUD agitation,” but they offer no ideas for how to do this.
Such a euphoric tone was echoed by prominent liberal Michael Moore, who trumpeted Obama’s election as an antiwar president. Moore wrote:
“Never before in our history has an avowed anti-war candidate been elected president during a time of war. I hope President-elect Obama remembers that as he considers expanding the war in Afghanistan. The faith we now have will be lost if he forgets the main issue on which he beat his fellow Dems in the primaries and then a great war hero in the general election: The people of America are tired of war. Sick and tired. And their voice was loud and clear yesterday.”
Moore mostly sidesteps a discussion of Obama’s policies and suggests only “hope”–rather than an organized campaign–as a way of getting Obama to reconsider his commitment to escalating the war in Afghanistan.
United for Peace and Justice, the largest of the national antiwar groups, was more reserved in its assessment of Obama’s victory. The group praised Obama’s election as “the greatest repudiation of the Bush administration’s policies we have seen in these long years of struggle,” while recognizing the historic nature of Obama’s election as the first African-American president. The group argues that it must continue to raise its “message of peace and justice” and that it must keep organizing even with Obama’s victory.
Military Families Speak Out issued the most aggressive statement, arguing that an immediate end to the Iraq War must be Obama’s first priority:
“After five years of working to end the occupation of Iraq and bring their loved ones home, members of Military Families Speak Out are expressing hope that with the election of Barack Obama an end may finally be in sight to a war that has claimed the lives of 4,190 U.S. troops and over a million Iraqis.
At the same time, they are appealing to President-Elect Obama to commit to making the immediate and complete return of all U.S. troops from Iraq his first order of business. Obama has said that he plans to withdraw combat troops from Iraq over a sixteen month period, which would continue the U.S. military occupation of Iraq past 2009, and leave tens of thousands of U.S. troops tasked with security, counter-terrorism, and training missions in Iraq indefinitely.”
At this point, it is unclear how the antiwar movement will respond to the election of Obama. During the campaign, there was relatively little pressure applied to Obama and he largely received a free pass for his lackluster stance on the Iraq War. With so much of the movement failing to scrutinize–and in some cases working to elect Obama–it seems unlikely that there will be a sufficient infrastructure to pressure Obama.