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The Iraq War and MoveOn

By Norman Solomon

The day after Wednesday night's nationwide vigils, the big headline at the top of the home page said: "Support Cindy Sheehan." But MoveOn does not support Cindy Sheehan's call for swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Many groups were important to the success of the Aug. 17 vigils, but the online powerhouse MoveOn was the largest and most prominent. After a long stretch of virtual absence from Iraq war issues, the organization deserves credit for getting re-involved in recent months. But the disconnects between MoveOn and much of the grassroots antiwar movement are disturbing.

Part of the problem is MoveOn's routine fuzziness about the war -- and the way that the group is inclined to water down the messages of antiwar activism, much of which is not connected to the organization.

Consider how the MoveOn website summarized the vigils: "Last night, tens of thousands of supporters gathered at 1,625 vigils to acknowledge the sacrifices made by Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey and the more than 1,800 brave American men and women who have given their lives in Iraq -- and their moms and families." Such a gloss excludes a key reason why many people participated in the vigils: They wanted to express clear opposition to any further U.S. involvement in the war.

Despite its high-profile role in the vigils this week, MoveOn is still not giving a high priority to addressing the Iraq war in its ongoing work. When I went to the MoveOn website today and looked at its roster of "Current Campaigns," just a single item on the list was focused on Iraq -- and that one, from June, involved "demanding that Bush address the evidence in the 'Downing Street Memo.'"

The political action wing of MoveOn has committed itself to supporting congressional legislation, co-sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones and Neil Abercrombie, which would require the president to start withdrawing troops from Iraq ... by October 2006.

In contrast, MoveOn never supported Rep. Lynn Woolsey's resolution, introduced early this year, stating that "the president should develop and implement a plan to begin the immediate withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq." (Despite the lack of MoveOn's support, the measure received 128 votes in the House.) Nor has MoveOn gotten behind Rep. Barbara Lee's more recent bill to prevent the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

What if MoveOn were to directly ask its 3 million members (people who've signed up for its e-mailings) whether they favor the idea of waiting till autumn 2006 before the start of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq -- or whether, on the other hand, those members would prefer that withdrawal get underway before the end of this year? I believe that most MoveOn members would opt for the latter scenario. But MoveOn policy is set by a few individuals who have not been willing to put such options in front of members for a vote.

On Tuesday, the day before the vigils, Cindy Sheehan said in a conference call that the Jones-Abercrombie timeline is "not soon enough." She doesn't see any good reason to continue the U.S. military occupation; she's opposed to any delay in pulling out. And while it's all well and good for MoveOn to tell people to "Support Cindy Sheehan," the MoveOn leadership should publicly explain why the organization refuses to join her in supporting a swift withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.

During the next few weeks, MoveOn will have an opportunity to devote some of its appreciable resources to strengthening the antiwar movement. With an umbrella theme of "End the War on Iraq -- Bring the Troops Home Now," protests in Washington and elsewhere are on the calendar for Sept. 24-26. The national coalition United for Peace & Justice is playing a key role in creating momentum for those demonstrations, which will begin an autumn of historic antiwar activism. Hopefully, MoveOn will catch up with its grassroots base and get involved in a supportive way.


Norman Solomon is the author of the new book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death." For information, go to:

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The story of George Bush and Bill O'Reilly

I need you to take your family and jump off that cliff over there, go do it O.K. .

Why should I jump and kill my family George?

Did I say you could ask questions Bill, just jump it is for the good of the Country.

O.K. George I don't want you getting mad at me. AAAAAAAAAAAH!!! SPLAT!

Hey Karl, I am on vacation want to go for a bike ride.

Why did you make Bill jump George?

I had a bet for ten dollars with Chenney I could make him do it. Can't turn
down ten dollars

Hmmmm. No more U.S. involvement in the war? That seems to me like a very strange choice of phraseology. How, pray tell, does a country become "uninvolved" in a war that it started?

I've been a long time supporter of Move On's campaign and was a little discouraged to find some of the remarks towards them on this site. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely okay to criticize and to have differing opinions, but this movement towards peace and progressive politics must allow for minor differences. Those differences need to be addressed with respect for everyone involved. The goal in this issue is to reduce the number of future deaths as a result of this war. Sometimes that can mean just pulling all our troops out immediately, and sometimes it means a more orderly and systematic withdrawal. I'm not an expert on how this matter should be handled, but I believe that you when you move a powerful force from an area quickly, you leave a vacuum that causes and intense struggle to fill that vacuum. Thousands more Iraqi's will be injured and killed in their struggle to fill the void left Saddam and now our forces. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, the lies told and the greed involved, we can't just walk away from the mess it has created. We need open and intelligent conversation on how to solve the crisis that continues to occur all over Iraq. The military generals, not the civilian administration, should be key in providing the logistics for pulling our troops out with the minimum about of death on all sides.
I believe very strongly in what Cindy Sheehan is doing, which is asking the president to be honest with the American people about why he started this war in Iraq and killed over 1800 American soldiers. Once the American people are told the truth and come to grips with it, they will be very willing to get our troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. There should also be a full accounting of the money spent on this war, with the corporations who stole from the American tax payer and the Iraqi people, forced to pay reparations and help rebuild the country using Iraqi labor. Furthermore, if George Bush and his administration are found to have violated international law, they should be held on war crimes and tried by a world court.
I believe that we all have the same goals in mind and when those details that separate us need to be worked out, we can do so in a calm and respectful manner. For right now, we need to focus on the job at hand, which is to get Bush to admit his mistakes and get Congress to take actions to correct those mistakes.

Bryant Lister

I have my doubts about any person or group who actions are basically wimpy, non-actions. I myself prefer take action that is to the point. We had a vigil here in Boulder and the suggested placards from Mov-On (posted on some link from their website) were absolutely pathetic. Dogs for Cindy....I mean who gives a hoot if your dog supports Cindy. What kind of message is that? The others were okay, like Mothers for Peace, etc except that they were wimpy, not to the point and the kind that can easily be ignored. Me, I had bright fluorescent pink tagboard with alot to say....such as
GW...Do you think you are untouchable?
Do you think you are unstoppable?
What you are is unbelievable.
Do you think you can stop the forces of Nature?
Do you think you can go against universal truths?
You can try but you won't succeed.
You will pay for your greed.
And more....
These are the types of placards we need to see at rallys....
and our vigil was pretty pathetic also...I didn't help organize it and I know it's easy to criticize...but dang. Doesn't anybody know how to make a statement? We had zero media coverage, the speaker addressing the group had no mike, no bullhorn...everyone stood silently, no one sang anything no one said anything. Passersby had no clue what we were doing except for me, refusing to stay on the sidelines....but out in the walk way with my placards....causing a bit of conversation and question asking. So, if this was done through the auspices of Mov-On....I say.....who needs friends when we've got you?

Alessandra, where have you been for the last five years?? Five years ago there were no outlets such as or Air America. We are at the birth of a new movement. Obviously organizations such as NEED people like you to help get the message out there. It sounds like you are a natural leader, so lead! By the way, it was a silent vigil.

Meeche You are right....but as for it being a silent vigil, I appreciate that, but people did speak, but I had no idea as I could not hear them and at other vigils people sang and had media coverage. You ask where am I? I am here Huckleberry, but I am not in the involved in the planning. I have gone to some meetings, but I get too frustrated and I am afraid I am not politic enough, diplomatic enough to be able to light a fire under these folks. They seem to prefer their understated ways that are so easily ignored to actually making a statement that can be heard, that will draw people in. I will have to think about all of this. I appreciate your feedback.

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