Why the Anti-War Movement in America Betrays Itself

By Peter Baofu, Ph.D.

When Barack Obama made the decision in early December of 2009 to have a “surge” of U.S. military troops for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, there was no major outrage or condemnation in the U.S. mainstream mass media (and for that matter, in Western mainstream mass media). And this silent complicity is true, not just for the U.S. mainstream mass media but also for the anti-war movement in America.

This silent support of the escalation of the U.S. killing (of countless innocent civilians by the often reckless U.S. military strikes) in Afghanistan (besides devastating the poor country) is all the more shocking, precisely because this decision for a “surge” by Obama is the “second” surge decided by him in less than a year (since he came to power in late January of 2009). Many people do not know that Obama already escalated the war in Afghanistan shortly after he became the president of the U.S. by ordering the “first” surge several months ago. This latest decision made in early December is the “second” surge in less than a year.

In other words, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be tripled (or increased by 3 times) since Obama became the U.S. president, and the number will increase to about 100,000 (when this second surge is completed), very much what the U.S. generals have been asking for. By contrast, George W. Bush, his predecessor, now looks like a “dove” when compared with Obama, since Bush (when he was the U.S. president) ordered only a third of the level of troops which Obama now wants.

Yet, the U.S. mainstream mass media have been “spinning” its coverage to make Obama look like a peace-loving president who has been deliberating very slowly and ambivalently, without telling the American people the death of countless innocent civilians (by the often reckless U.S. military strikes) in Afghanistan (besides devastating the poor country). In addition, don’t be surprised, however, if there will be a “third” surge (or a “fourth,” etc.) in the coming months and years ahead, as the war further escalates.

The question here is, Why does the anti-war movement in America betray itself in its silent complicity with the Obama administration for its escalation of the U.S. military killing and destruction abroad by refusing to speak out against it and organizing anti-war protests as they did during the Bush administration?

There can be many reasons of course, but let me provide four major reasons for the self-betrayal of the anti-war movement in America hereafter, for illustration.

The first reason for the self-betrayal is that almost all of the anti-war protesters in America had voted for Obama, not McCain, in the 2008 presidential election. Many of these pro-Obama anti-war protesters enthusiastically welcomed him to power, hoping of course that Obama would deliver what they thought was his sympathy to their anti-war sentiments in concrete peaceful foreign policy.

But Obama turns out to be different from what they naively hoped for. Should these anti-war protesters in America later decide to organize anti-war protests against Obama on his “surges” (not just “surge”) for the war in Afghanistan, this would constitute an open confession of their “blunder” in voting for Obama in the first place. No one wants to be known as a “stupid loser” who voted the wrong guy into office. There is therefore a psychological dissonance in the mindset of many anti-war protesters in America in these days, in that they are painfully torn between their initial euphoria and their current frustration with Obama.

This psychological dissonance has allowed many of these anti-war protesters to be silent supporters of Obama in his wars abroad.

The second reason for the self-betrayal is that Obama has the historical good fortune to be the successor to George W. Bush, who “was ranked in a survey of U.S. presidential historians, conducted by the cable channel C-SPAN on February 15, 2009, as the 7th worst president in U.S. history” -- as this is something that I already pointed out in my earlier article titled “The Silent Violence Behind ‘Smart Power’ in U.S. Foreign Policy” (August 17, 2009). This means that, even if Obama were to fail in many of his undertakings, he could still compare favorably with his predecessor, George W. Bush, the so-called “7th worst president in U.S. history.”

This historical good fortune has allowed many of these anti-war protesters to be silent supporters of Obama in his wars abroad.

The third reason for the self-betrayal is that there is a persistent but hidden (often publicly unspoken) “colonial” (and “racist”) mindset among many in the U.S. (and for that matter, in the Western world), in that they indulge themselves in believing that they have the right to invade other countries (especially those weak ones in the non-West), to bomb them, to kill any opponents, to destroy the local infrastructures, to overthrow the local governments, to create new puppet regimes (which they then call “democracies”), to control (and exploit) the local resources, and to make life miserable to all those natives (or simply eliminate them) who dare to stand up against the interests of the West -- of course, always in the name of “human rights,” “democracy,” “freedom,” “liberation,” “thewar on terror,” “self-defense,” and the like.

In the present context, the decision by Obama for a “second” surge of the U.S. military abroad in less than a year of his presidency means the further escalation of the massive U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, with untold countless innocent civilians killed by the often reckless U.S. military strikes abroad, on top of the destruction of their properties and the environment, and the subsequent inability of the country to have any chance of sustainable socio-economic development for decades to come.

Yet, neither the U.S. mainstream mass media nor much of the populace in the U.S. really care about the countless innocent lives (of these poor folks) killed by the often reckless U.S. military strikes, and the inhumane devastation of other countries -- in the name of chasing after the “terrorists” or any other comparable slogans.

By contrast, whenever one single American (or one single Western European) is killed abroad by those in the non-West, the chance is that there will be instant international outrage or condemnation both in Western mass media and governments, to be followed by concrete political, economic, military, or other actions to go after the “bad” guys. But when so many non-Western poor folks are killed by Western powers, their villages are bombed or destroyed, the infrastructures in their countries are devastated by ruthless hi-tech bombings, and the inability of these folks to live a normal life because of these constant dirty wars by Western powers against them, the U.S. (and Western) mass media continue to “spin” and ignore their sufferings.

This persistent unspoken (hidden) “racist” and “colonial” mentality in the Western world, with the U.S. as the main player here, to disregard the lives of those in the non-West as not worth much of anything allows the American killing and destruction to continue. The discourse on “human rights” in the West has been misused to “distract” attention to this constant massive violation of human rights by the West against the non-West on a recurrent basis since the modern colonial era.

This hidden (often publicly unspoken) colonial (and racist) mindset has allowed many of these anti-war protesters to be silent supporters of Obama in his wars abroad.

And finally, the fourth reason for the self-betrayal is that there is this excuse, in that Afghanistan is not like Iraq, because al Queda attacked the U.S. in 2001, so the U.S. military violence there is self-defensive and is therefore justified. This excuse, however, does not stand up to closer scrutiny, on two counts.

The first count against this excuse is that one confuses the Taliban in Afghanistan with al Queda (as a cross-national network). The Taliban in Afghanistan did not attack the U.S., but al Queda did. Surely, the Taliban have no sympathy towards the U.S. either, but if one were to start attacking anyone who is related to anyone else in any way in the name of self-defense, it would easily escalate into a war of all against all, because al Queda is a cross-national network.

In other words, if someone attacks you, you should, according to this fanatic logic, go after his mother and father too, because his parents raised and fed him during all these years of his growing up, didn’t they? Well, why do you just stop there? You should go after his aunts, his uncles, his siblings, his girlfriends, his buddies, etc. -- according to this fanatic logic. It is no wonder that Obama, like Bush, is escalating the wars abroad into the related territories of Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and so on.

And the second count against this excuse is that al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. in 2001, because, as bin Laden well explained in his open letter to the American people shortly after, the attack was a retaliation against the suffering and exploitation made possible by the U.S. (and the West) towards the Arab world in all these decades. One does not need bin Laden to tell us this; anyone who understands the history of the Middle East in the modern era will quickly realize the origins of Arab anger and resentment towards Western imperialism in that region for so long. The works by Edward Said at Columbia University and Noam Chomsky at MIT, for instance, have explained this Western imperialist legacy in a much more sophisticated way than bin Laden did. After all, bin Laden is not a scholarly writer by vocation.

In any event, it is often said that any action has a reaction. So, when a major Western power bombs another country, overthrows the local government, kills many of the natives, destroys the local infrastructure, harms the local environment, creates a puppet regime (and then calls it a “democracy”), controls (and exploit) the local resources, and makes life miserable to the rest of those natives (or eliminate them) who resist the invader, there will be consequences in the long run. The poor folks, weak as they are, will fight back when they have a chance, even if they could not kick the invader out. But many of those in major Western powers often do not accept this sober reality of long-run retaliatory consequences from the other side.

This fanatic logic has allowed many of these anti-war protesters to be silent supporters of Obama in his wars abroad.

Surely, these four reasons for the self-betrayal of the anti-war movement in America under the Obama administration are by no means exhaustive but solely illustrative. Yet, these four illustrative reasons do explain in a major way the silent complicity of many anti-war protesters to support the American killing and destruction in Afghanistan under the Obama administration.

It is a mistake to assume that the anti-war protesters are against wars. They are against those wars which they do not like -- but can be important supporters of other wars which they do like.

In the current context, it is the survivors and related members of the victims of the dirty war in Afghanistan (silently supported by many of these anti-war protesters) who are the most reliable anti-war protesters both against the anti-war movement in America (for its silent support of the continued U.S. killing and destruction there) and also against the war-making establishment in America.

Thus is the self-betrayal of the anti-war movement in America -- in the context of the escalation of the war in Afghanistan under the Obama administration. So, the American military machine continues its killing and destruction there, now under the leadership of Obama, just as it did the same under the leadership of Bush, albeit on a much smaller scale (3 times less).

About the Author: Dr. Peter Baofu is the author of 30 books in numerous different fields, in which he proposed 40 new theories in different disciplines for a unified theory of everything. His latest books on world affairs include “The Future of Post-Human War and Peace” (2010, forthcoming), “The Future of Post-Human Law” (2010, forthcoming), “Beyond the World of Titans, and the Remaking of World Order” (2007), “The Rise of Authoritarian Liberal Democracy” (2007), the 2 volumes of “Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy” (2005), “Beyond Capitalism to Post-Capitalism” (2004), “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” (2002), and the 2 volumes of “The Future of Human Civilization” (2000).

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov