Saturday’s antiwar rally in Washington, DC provided an intimate look at the worldview of the political Left, which was entirely silent vis a vis the fact that this demonstration, where a host of luminaries from the Democratic Party and Hollywood alike were among the featured guest speakers, was sponsored by United For Peace and Justice (UFPJ). That organization’s benevolent-sounding name belies the fact that it is headed by Leslie Cagan, an original founder of the Committees of Correspondence (a remnant organization created by the American Communist Party) and a strong supporter of Fidel Castro since the 1960s. Proudly aligning her politics with those of Communist Cuba, Cagan condemns what she calls America’s “daily assaults and attacks on poor and working people, on women, people of color, lesbians/gays and other sexual minorities, the disabled and so many others.” This view of America is entirely consistent with the beliefs of every speaker who took a turn at the microphone Saturday. And certainly they are entitled to hold those views. But it was disingenuous of Cagan and her group not to lay their cards cleanly on the table and, in the interest of full disclosure, inform the 30,000 people in attendance that UFPJ’s agenda is in fact steered by a committed Marxist-Leninist. That would have helped listeners to place in proper context the things they were about to hear.
The first speaker to take the microphone was Rabbi Michael Lerner, the 1960s Berkeley radical and founder of Tikkun magazine, whose philosophy is an admixture of Old Testament teachings and Marxism. Lerner has charged that “[t]he Jewish community is racist, internally corrupt, and an apologist for the worst aspects of American capitalism and imperialism.” This anti-capitalism theme was central to Lerner’s remarks on Saturday when he implied that America’s alleged greed and exploitation was responsible for the fact that of the world’s six billion people, “2 billion of them are living on less than two dollars a day, and 1.3 billion of them are living on less than one dollar a day.” “Can you see the picture,” he asked, “that you’re on the same planet with these people, and that there are some people [American leaders] who are fighting to keep it that way, who benefit from it?”
Following Lerner to the podium was Khalidah Shabra, who expressed her hope that the world might soon rid itself of American “imperialism,” to which she attributed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The organization with which Shabra is affiliated, the Muslim American Society, has been described by Islam scholar Stephen Schwartz as “a major component” of the “Wahhabi Lobby” that channels money from, and advances the policies of, Islamic fundamentalists in Saudi Arabia.
The next speaker was Rabbi Michael Seinberg, who, in a prayerful aside, asked the Deity to for help in combating the evils that America has unleashed upon the world at large: “You … are a God who shatters idols. And you call on us to overturn idolatry. You call us to overturn the idolatry of militarism. You call us to overturn the idolatry of the market and profiteering. You call us to overturn the idolatry of nationalism and empire. You call us to overturn the idolatry of empire and economic exploitation.”
Kevin Martin, Executive Director of Peace Action, then took his turn with the microphone: “My 9-year-old son came home from school this week and he said, ‘Dad, if Bush attacks Iran won’t that start World War III? … Clearly my 9-year-old son understands more about the consequences of our policies than anybody in the Bush administration.” Pointing toward the buildings in the distance behind him, Martin shouted: “You’re facing the Justice Department, the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon. They are united. They are united for war and greed and injustice and death and destruction!” Incidentally, it bears mentioning that Martin’s organization, Peace Action, responded to the terrorist attacks in September 2001 by opining that “the perpetrators of the crimes should be brought to justice through the international legal system,” and that similar calamities could only be prevented from recurring if America would finally do something to legitimately earn the respect of other nations – such as “building democracy, respect for human rights, and economic and social development in impoverished areas of the world.”
After Martin’s impassioned address, members of the “Raging Grannies,” a collective of elderly women festooned in eccentric outfits and hats, treated the audience to a song depicting President Bush as a vengeful simpleton whose recent decision to deploy additional troops to Iraq (referenced in their ditty as a “surge”) understands nothing about what is needed in Iraq. Among the lyrics were the following:
“Here’s the way that George explains our mission in Iraq,
They tried to kill my daddy so I had to hit them back.
There’s something about Sunnis and Shias and some Kurds
It’s much too complicated, but I’ve got an urge to surge …
It’s just much more of the same manure,
He’s got an urge to surge …
And anyone who questions him, he just flips them the bird,
’Cause he is the Decider and he’s got an urge to surge.
It should be noted that the Raging Grannies are by no means what they portray themselves to be – a friendly, casual assemblage of “average,” apolitical, nonpartisan senior citizens whose dissent is motivated by their love of country rather than by any hidden agendas. In truth, they are a splinter group of the pro-Castro organization Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which was founded in 1915 by the socialist reformer Jane Addams; which in 1929 praised Joseph Stalin’s Russian government for having “continuously declared a position in favor of complete disarmament and … opposition to war”; and which has condemned every American military action in living memory, but offered no criticism of the Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Afghanistan. In December 2006 the Raging Grannies appeared at a Riverside Church rally in New York City to stand in solidarity with the disbarred criminal-defense attorney Lynne Stewart, who was awaiting sentencing on her conviction for the material support of Islamic terrorism.
Once the Raging Grannies had left the stage, Bishop Walter Sullivan of Pax Christi took the podium and called the Iraq War “unlawful an immoral,” explaining that “violence only begets violence, and war is not the solution to human problems.” It bears mentioning that in 2002 Pax Christi sent a delegation to Iraq to protest the coming war and, in effect, defend the legitimacy of the Saddam Hussein regime. And in 2004, local chapters of Pax Christi were signatories to a letter exhorting members of the U.S. Senate to oppose Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorism security fence in the West Bank, depicting such a barrier as an illegal “apartheid wall” that violated the civil and human rights of Palestinians.
Next to speak was Moriah Arnold, a twelve-year-old schoolgirl from Harvard, Massachusetts, who said: “We got into this war because our leader said Iraq was dangerous and told us Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We were told the terrorists we’re fighting because of 9/11 were in Iraq. Now we know that none of that was true, and that our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth.” She made no reference, of course, to the mountains of evidence that Iraq was indeed pursuing the development of WMD and did indeed have ties to al Qaeda officials and other terror groups such as Hamas. Nor did she make reference to the testimony of former Iraqi General Georges Sada, who wrote a book (Saddam’s Secrets) affirming that the late dictator did in fact possess stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that were relocated to Syria by truck and plane in late 2002. But hey, she’s only twelve, and why let inconvenient facts cast a shadow over a sweet little girl’s moment in the sun?
“We also entered this war with an attitude that we were better than everyone else,” added the sweet little girl. “We demanded that we were right and almost everyone else was wrong. We went to Iraq to force our beliefs about our form of government and our own ways on their people. There’s no excuse for thinking that we are better than anyone else.” She did not explain what any of this meant. “Do you know that war causes death, orphans, and broken families?” she continued. “But peace leads to justice and human rights. War creates fear and hate. Peace nurtures love and kindness. War breeds lies … Peace tells the truth. ... Peace liberates our hearts and minds.” So ended the pious platitudes of Miss Arnold.
Next, Democratic congressman Dennis Kucinich took to the stage and demanded that America end “this attempt to grab oil,” and strive to “reunite[e] with the world community.” “The whole world,” he continued, “is waiting for an America to unite with it in the cause of peace, in the cause of justice, in the cause of a new world …” Presumably Kucinich is privy to some inside information about the benevolent intentions of the governments of Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela, which have openly and brazenly called for the annihilation of the United States. But in Mr. Kucinich’s calculus, “The world is waiting for a new America. Americans are waiting for a country that not only says no to war, but takes the resources we’re spending on war to create health care for all, jobs for all, education for all, retirement security for all. We want a new America.” Kucinich, who is a member of the socialist Progressive Caucus, is to be commended, if for nothing else, for being honest about his fervent wish to transform the United States into a socialist nation – all in the name of “peace and justice,” of course.
Following Kucinich to the podium was Umuna Ghismay of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund, which blames the Bush administration for most of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Her organization’s objective, Ghismay said, was “to ensure that the people most affected – poor black communities who were disenfranchised long before the storms hit, have a voice in reconstruction, and that those responsible are held accountable for the destruction of homes, communities, and lives.” The subtext was clear: the United States is a nation infested with corrosive deposits of racism embedded in the deep and hidden recesses of its social structure, and the flood waters of Katrina merely brought them to public awareness.
Playwright Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues, stepped to the microphone and shouted: “For the last ten years I have been worried about vaginas. Today I am worried about surges. In these devastating seven years, as this [Bush] regime pursues its so-called agenda of security, it has made this world insanely insecure. Some of their logic: Bomb Iraq to get rid of theoretical terrorists and manufacture thousands of terrorists in the process. Secure democracy by using techniques of torture and undermine democracy everywhere. Promise to liberate women … through occupation and invasion, [and] in the process reverse their constitutional rights, introduce sharia law, rob them of protection, raise the level of violence that happen[s] toward them. In securing people, make them really, really afraid. Create all kinds of terrorism alerts that shut the population up. In securing people, take away their rights. Make them numb through addictive entertainment.” She did not indicate whether her own theatrical production fit into that category.
Another featured speaker was Noura Erakat of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a pro-Hezbollah organization that opposes Israel’s construction of a security fence; supports all divestment efforts intended to impose financial hardship on Israel; and has endorsed the “Declaration Regarding Caterpillar Violations of Human Rights,” a document that impugns the U.S.-based Caterpillar Corporation for selling its machinery to the Israeli army, which in turn uses that equipment to demolish Palestinian terrorists’ bases of operation. “We are here today to say that nearly four years of the American occupation of Iraq is enough,” Erakat told the crowd Saturday, “and that nearly forty years of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is clearly more than enough.” “Both occupations are wrong,” she said. “Both occupations are U.S.-funded. … Palestinians and Iraqis … deserve to rule themselves.”
The President of the National Organization for Women, Kim Gandy, accused males in the U.S. military of committing “rapes and assaults of female soldiers and female Iraqis, with few consequences.” A moment later, in an oblique call for socialized medicine, Gandy expressed compassion for these same alleged abusers, who she said “are being sent home, physically and psychologically damaged, to a drastically inadequate health care system.”
Pro-Castro congresswoman Maxine Waters of the socialist Progressive Caucus began her address by making certain that everyone in attendance knew exactly who she was: “My name is Maxine Waters and I’m not afraid of George W. Bush! My name is Maxine Waters and I’m not intimidated by Dick Cheney! My name is Maxine Waters and I helped to get rid of [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld! My name is Maxine Waters and Condi Rice is nothing but another neocon and she doesn’t represent me!” “George W. Bush led us into this immoral war,” Waters continued. “He tricked the American people and he told us there were weapons of mass destruction. … He’s not the Decider. He is the Liar.”
Rocky Anderson, mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, accused the Bush administration of subjecting Americans to “kidnapping, disappearance and imprisonment … without any semblance of due process”; of justifying “the torture of human beings”; of having “sold” the Iraq War “to the American people and to the world at large on the basis of blatant lies.” “No more wars to provide a fix to oil-addicted American consumers,” he demanded. “No more manipulation of national intelligence for political purposes.”
Raed Jarrar, the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange, introduced himself as “a half-Sunni, half-Shiite Iraqi delivering a united message from Iraqi Sunnis and Shias” – though he did not reveal how he had persuaded those two demographics, which are currently busy slaughtering one another in Iraq, to “unite” long enough to pass along their shared plan for peace. What was that plan? Simply this: “We want our country back! … Iraq Sunnis and Shias don’t need someone to come from overseas to protect them from each other. We lived together for the last thousands of years [sic], and we know how to rule our country by ourselves!” There was no trace of irony in Jarrar’s voice when he spoke these words about a nation that had been ruled for decades by a murderous dictator who was deposed not by Sunnis or Shias, but by Americans. Moreover, he was apparently unaware that Islam has not existed for “thousands of years,” but only since the seventh century.
David Cline, President of Veterans for Peace (VFP), took the microphone next to lead the demonstrators in this cadence: “Hey hey, Uncle Sam, We remember Vietnam. Congress must defund the war, and bring our troops back to our shores.” It is notable that VFP first gained wide publicity in 1986 when its members staged a 30-day vigil calling for an end to President Reagan’s opposition to the Castro-supported, Soviet-supported, Marxist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua.
Bob Watada, the father of an officer who refused deployment to Iraq, placed his views about the Iraq War in the context of these sentiments about America’s earliest settlers and founders: “You and I will not let this country slide back to our barbarian ancestors, the barbarians that lived to plunder, torture, rape and murder innocent people for their bounty.” He then called on the U.S. to end its quest for “blood oil,” and “to bring an end to the training of our children to massacre the villages of Iraq for Halliburton’s oil.”
Jonathon Hutto, co-founder of Appeal for Redress, denounced the Iraq conflict as “an imperialist war; a war for profit, not for people; a war for death, not for people; a war against the working class, not for justice.” Calling for a revolutionary transformation of American society, Hutto said: “We gotta keep the mass movement going, no matter who’s in office, a Democrat or a Republican. We gotta keep the mass movement going against the system. It’s a systematic war.”
Until Jesse Jackson stepped to the podium after Hutto had finished speaking, Saturday’s rally had been entirely consistent with all previous anti-war protests in one very important regard: There had not been a single positive word or phrase uttered about the United States. Not one. Then Jackson led off his remarks by saying, “America is a fundamentally good and great nation as it evolves toward fulfilling its promise.” This was a stunning departure from the speeches that had preceded his. But the new tone lasted only for that instant, for in his very next breath Jackson lamented that the “war in Iraq is causing a war on the poor at home,” sacrificing funds “needed for the working poor, the aged and the young.” “Who will endure the wounds of America’s transgressions?” he asked, chastising President Bush for having “ignored [Hurricane] Katrina,” which he called “a metaphor for abandoned neglected urban and rural America.” “We need a war on poverty, not a war on religion,” he said, implying that America had launched an immoral religious crusade against a benevolent Muslim world. Jackson then suggested that taxpayer money should be used not to fund military pursuits, but rather: “We need more Pell grants, more housing, more alcohol and drug rehab, more bridges.” And finally, expressing his hope that an evil American nation would seek divine pardon for its grievous transgressions against other nations, he quoted a biblical passage that reads as follows: “If my people who are called by my name will … seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then God will forgive our sins and heal our land.”
Next to speak was Medea Benjamin, the pro-Castro founder of Global Exchange, an organization that endorsed a February 2002 document, composed by C. Clark Kissinger's Revolutionary Communist Party, condemning the use of military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. Ms. Benjamin asked Saturday’s demonstrators rhetorically: “Do we want health care or warfare? Do we want child care or warfare? Do we want books or bombs? Do we want to live in peace with the Iraqi people? How about with the people of Iran?” She did not indicate whether she thought Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who has pledged to rid the earth of America and Israel alike, shared her benign sentiments.
Among the other speakers – whose comments included demands for the impeachment of President Bush, denunciations of greed-driven crusades for oil and empire, and calls for the wholesale restructuring of American society – were actors Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Susan Sarandon; Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, an organization that views America as a country infested with sexism and racism; Susan Shaer, Executive Director of Women's Action for New Directions, which collaborated with Ramsey Clark’s Marxist-Leninist organization International ANSWER in organizing a string of massive peace rallies in late 2003; Brenda Hervet of Military Families Speak Out, which has received funding from the Open Society Institute of George Soros; Carlos Arredondo of Gold Star Families for Peace, the group founded by the pro-Hugo Chavez antiwar activist and America-hater Cindy Sheehan; Fred Mason of AFL-CIO, who brought the demonstrators “greetings … on behalf of [union] President John Sweeney,” a member of Democratic Socialists of America who believes that capitalism should be eliminated; Congressman John Conyers of the socialist Progressive Caucus, who told the attendees that President Bush “can’t fire you; he can’t fire us; but we can fire him” for leading America into “this illegal, this immoral war in Iraq”; and
Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, also of the Progressive Caucus, who said: “We are not going to stop until we end George Bush’s immoral Iraq War. … We all know it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about doing the right thing.”
But clearly the sentimental favorite of those in attendance Saturday was Jane Fonda, who was greeted with rousing applause as she stepped to the microphone and thanked the crowd for having shown “the courage to stand up against this mean-spirited, vengeful administration.” She then reported that this was the first time she had spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years – because, she explained, “I’ve been afraid that because of the lies that have been, and continue to be, spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new antiwar movement. But silence is no longer an option.” Her cryptic reference to “lies” was not followed by any elaboration about what those untruths may have been. So perhaps at this point, a bit of truth is in order lest anyone attempt to misrepresent Fonda’s history:
In the late Sixties and early Seventies, many American leftists openly supported a Communist takeover in Southeast Asia. Fonda and her then-husband Tom Hayden were among the most vocal mouthpieces of that position. On November 21, 1970, Fonda told a large University of Michigan audience, “If you understood what Communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that we would some day become Communist.” At Duke University, she added, “I, a socialist, think that we should strive toward a socialist society, all the way to communism.” The dual villains of the Southeast Asian conflicts were, in her view, “U.S. imperialism” and “a white man’s racist aggression.”
Here’s another dose of truth about Ms. Fonda: In July-August 1972, by which time more than 50,000 Americans had been killed in the war, she made her infamous trip to North Vietnam. While there, she posed for pictures on an anti-aircraft gun that had been used to shoot down American planes, and she volunteered to do a radio broadcast from Hanoi. She made approximately eight radio addresses, during which she told American pilots in the area, “Use of these bombs or condoning the use of these bombs makes one a war criminal … Examine the reasons given to justify the murder you are being paid to commit … I don’t know what your officers tell you ... but [your] weapons are illegal and that’s not just rhetoric ... The men who are ordering you to use these weapons are war criminals according to international law, and in the past, in Germany and Japan, men who committed these kinds of crimes were tried and executed.” On other occasions, she quoted Ho Chi Minh, referred to President Richard Nixon as a “new-type Hitler,” and advised South Vietnamese soldiers to desert: “You are being used as cannon fodder for U.S. imperialism.” These radio addresses were broadcast repeatedly by the Communists for their propaganda value.
Fonda also visited American prisoners of war in North Vietnam, and reported (falsely) that they were not being tortured. When she returned to the U.S., she told American college students, “I bring greetings from our Vietnamese brothers and sisters,” and she lamented the war damage that she had seen in North Vietnam -- inflicted, she said, by U.S. forces. She also sported a necklace given to her by the North Vietnamese Communists, made from the melted parts of a U.S. aircraft they had shot down.
When stories about the torture of POWs later surfaced, Fonda called them lies. When the POWs began coming home in 1973, Fonda derided them as “liars, hypocrites, and pawns,” dismissing any charge that they had been brutalized: “Tortured men do not march smartly off planes, salute the flag, and kiss their wives. They are liars. I also want to say that these men are not heroes.”
Fonda’s husband Tom Hayden in the early 1970s organized an “Indo-China Peace Campaign” (IPC) to lobby Congress to cut off American aid to the regimes in Cambodia and South Vietnam. The IPC worked tirelessly to help the North Vietnamese Communists and the Khmer Rouge emerge victorious. Hayden and Fonda took a camera crew to Hanoi and to the “liberated” regions of South Vietnam to make a propaganda film called Introduction to the Enemy, whose purpose was to persuade viewers that the Communists were going to create an ideal new society based on justice and equality when the Americans left. Fonda eventually got her wish when the new Democrat-led Congress cut off aid to Cambodia and South Vietnam, leaving both governments helpless in the face of a Communist onslaught that resulted in the systematic butchering of at least 2.5 million Indochinese peasants – a number exceeding all the combat-related deaths that had occurred during all the preceding years of active warfare.
But today the imperious Jane Fonda feels no obligation to acknowledge her own grievous misjudgments, which had profound consequences in terms of their psychological impact on American prisoners of war who were being tortured in Vietnam, and in terms of convincing American civilians back home that their own nation, rather than the Communist aggressor, was to blame for the strife in Southeast Asia. Expressing sorrow that our political leaders “did not learn the lessons from the Vietnam War,” Fonda last Saturday accused the U.S. of now displaying “hubris and arrogance in dealing with a people and culture far older than we are, and that we understand so little; carelessness and thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we’ve destroyed.” She did not say a word about Muqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi army, or the warring Sunnis and Shias who responded to America’s overthrow of Saddam Hussein not by embracing their first opportunity for freedom in living memory, but rather with an endless stream of roadside bombings, sniper attacks, police-station bombings, kidnappings, beheadings, and mutilations. In the eyes of Jane Fonda and the Left, however, the fault is entirely America’s, always. And that is just about the most accurate working definition of the modern Left.
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