2010/07/31

Proposed piece: "Where's the peace movement?"

Backstory: Couple of years ago, an executive from the Inky advised us to write articles for the paper. I composed one and sent it in, but it was rejected and they never even told me why, so I stopped. A few days ago, a right-winger in the online comments section of the paper stated that we weren't out in the streets protesting because Obama was a Democrat. When I said that wasn't true, he asked me "Where's the peace movement? I haven't seen a protest since Obama became president." I wrote out an answer, but the Inky didn't see fit to post it, so the following is my answer.

What's the peace movement doing these days? Are they quiet because the peace movement was always just a way to attack a Republican President and now that the President is a Democrat, they're demobilized?

Actually, there was a march back in October 2009 in Philadelphia and another one in Washington DC in March 2010. The NorthWest Greens of Germantown continue to do a weekly vigil at the Borders Bookstore there and the First United Methodist Church of Germantown and other peaceniks do a monthly vigil a few blocks North of City Hall. But yeah, okay, there aren't that major street actions these days. Why would that be?

Well, the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq proceeds on the schedule agreed upon by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and former US President George W. Bush. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is expected to end by August 2010, the troop level is scheduled to be 50,000 by September 1st and US forces are expected to withdraw completely by the end of 2011. There's really nothing for the peace movement to complain about here as the withdrawal schedule is a matter of an international treaty between two sovereign nations and neither nation appears to have any desire to renegotiate anything about it.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan appeared to also be on schedule until late July 2010 when Vice-President Joe Biden suggested that in July 2011, the scheduled date for the beginning of the withdrawal of US forces from there could see as few as “a couple of thousand” US troops depart. Richard Holbrooke, Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, testified as to the benchmarks that the US will be utilizing to track the progress towards a full US withdrawal and those benchmarks appear to be awfully vague and frankly, just plain unmeasurable. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also recently suggested that US troops will be departing as late as the end of 2014.

So, until just a few weeks ago, there may have been suspicions, but there was no real proof that the Obama Administration was planning to overstay its welcome in Afghanistan. Anti-war groups in Philadelphia had already agreed to hold actions in early October 2010 and they're sure to call attention to the administration's plans for remaining in Afghanistan.

But no, I think we can safely say that the relative quiet of the peace movement for the past two years has nothing to do with the president being a Democrat and everything to do with conditions on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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