Anti-War, My Foot
The phony peaceniks who protested in Washington.
Saturday's demonstration in Washington, in favor of immediate withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq, was the product of an opportunistic alliance between two other very disparate "coalitions." Here is how the New York Times (after a front-page and an inside headline, one of them reading "Speaking Up Against War" and one of them reading "Antiwar Rallies Staged in Washington and Other Cities") described the two constituenciess of the event:
The protests were largely sponsored by two groups, the Answer Coalition, which embodies a wide range of progressive political objectives, and United for Peace and Justice, which has a more narrow, antiwar focus.
The name of the reporter on this story was Michael Janofsky. I suppose that it is possible that he has never before come across "International ANSWER," the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a "wide range of progressive political objectives" indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper—to mention only two radical left journalists—who have exposed "International ANSWER" as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism.
The group self-lovingly calling itself "United for Peace and Justice" is by no means "narrow" in its "antiwar focus" but rather represents a very extended alliance between the Old and the New Left, some of it honorable and some of it redolent of the World Youth Congresses that used to bring credulous priests and fellow-traveling hacks together to discuss "peace" in East Berlin or Bucharest. Just to give you an example, from one who knows the sectarian makeup of the Left very well, I can tell you that the Worker's World Party—Ramsey Clark's core outfit—is the product of a split within the Trotskyist movement. These were the ones who felt that the Trotskyist majority, in 1956, was wrong to denounce the Russian invasion of Hungary. The WWP is the direct, lineal product of that depraved rump. If the "United for Peace and Justice" lot want to sink their differences with such riffraff and mount a joint demonstration, then they invite some principled political criticism on their own account. And those who just tag along … well, they just tag along.
To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh. And this in a week when Afghans went back to the polls, and when Iraqis were preparing to do so, under a hail of fire from those who blow up mosques and U.N. buildings, behead aid workers and journalists, proclaim fatwahs against the wrong kind of Muslim, and utter hysterical diatribes against Jews and Hindus.
Some of the leading figures in this "movement," such as George Galloway and Michael Moore, are obnoxious enough to come right out and say that they support the Baathist-jihadist alliance. Others prefer to declare their sympathy in more surreptitious fashion. The easy way to tell what's going on is this: Just listen until they start to criticize such gangsters even a little, and then wait a few seconds before the speaker says that, bad as these people are, they were invented or created by the United States. That bad, huh? (You might think that such an accusation—these thugs were cloned by the American empire for God's sake—would lead to instant condemnation. But if you thought that, gentle reader, you would be wrong.)
The two preferred metaphors are, depending on the speaker, that the Bin-Ladenists are the fish that swim in the water of Muslim discontent or the mosquitoes that rise from the swamp of Muslim discontent. (Quite often, the same images are used in the same harangue.) The "fish in the water" is an old trope, borrowed from Mao's hoary theory of guerrilla warfare and possessing a certain appeal to comrades who used to pore over the Little Red Book. The mosquitoes are somehow new and hover above the water rather than slip through it. No matter. The toxic nature of the "water" or "swamp" is always the same: American support for Israel. Thus, the existence of the Taliban regime cannot be swamplike, presumably because mosquitoes are born and not made. The huge swamp that was Saddam's Iraq has only become a swamp since 2003. The organized murder of Muslims by Muslims in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan is only a logical reaction to the summit of globalizers at Davos. The stoning and veiling of women must be a reaction to Zionism. While the attack on the World Trade Center—well, who needs reminding that chickens, or is it mosquitoes, come home to roost?
There are only two serious attempts at swamp-draining currently under way. In Afghanistan and Iraq, agonizingly difficult efforts are in train to build roads, repair hospitals, hand out ballot papers, frame constitutions, encourage newspapers and satellite dishes, and generally evolve some healthy water in which civil-society fish may swim. But in each case, from within the swamp and across the borders, the most poisonous snakes and roaches are being recruited and paid to wreck the process and plunge people back into the ooze. How nice to have a "peace" movement that is either openly on the side of the vermin, or neutral as between them and the cleanup crew, and how delightful to have a press that refers to this partisanship, or this neutrality, as "progressive."
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.
Photograph of Sept. 24 anti-war protest by Mark Wilson/Getty Images.