Xposted at PDA Blog
I first heard of the IRAQ MORATORIUM at the 20 year anniversary of Nuremberg Actions. September 1, 1987 was the day a US navy munitions train ran over Brian Willson when he and Nuremberg Actions were protesting US actions in Central America. The commemoration lasted a couple of hours at the Concord Naval Weapons Station “tracks.” Then we gathered in a Berkeley backyard for a great barbeque, many reminiscences, and lots of laughter.
With so many old time activists in attendance, it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to strategizing about what could be done to get us out of our current situation–the madness, the craziness, the intransigence of war on Iraq and threats against Iran. Some of the folks present were already involved with the Iraq Moratorium, and the conversation really settled on that. Dan Ellsberg was one of the main participants. Despite his busy schedule, Dan stayed all day, from 10 AM to 8:30 PM. He seemed so eager to find a way, a new possibility. He related the story of the Vietnam Moratorium in the late 60s.
In October 1969 Nixon was so discouraged, angry and disheartened with the course of the war in South East Asia, he decided to threaten bombing North Vietnam with Nuclear Weapons. Whether this threat was real or a bluff is still up for debate; it was most probably both. According to Ellsberg, Nixon made it clear to North Vietnam and the world, both through direct statements and through the Russian Ambassador, that “…the train had left the station and was heading down the tracks…,” a phrase meant to convey the irreversibility of his plans.
However, at the very same time, yet separately from Nixon’s plans, the peace movement came up with the “Vietnam Moratorium.” A movement where people pledged to be in non compliance with the system 1 day a month, to walk out from school, from work, from business as usual in the name of peace and in protest of the war. According to Dan Ellsberg, when Nixon saw 2 million people engage in this action, and state their intention to do the same the following month, he really felt he could not risk this large display of non cooperation with the system. Ellsberg indicated that it was the Vietnam Moratorium which deterred Nixon from going forward with his plans to “nuke” North Vietnam.
There are many reasons the Iraq Moratorium movement can be so potent:
1) The actions are incredibly simple, ranging from wearing a black arm band to
not shopping (especially for gas) to standing in a vigil to civil
2) The actions are spread out across the nation and therefore close to our homes.
3) The main thing is to sign the pledge to do something to make a statement for
peace on the 3rd Friday of every month. By signing the pledge, the numbers are
4) These gentle steps can lead to the most potent action of all, a General Strike.
Please read a short essay on this:
Garret Keizer, “Specific Suggestion: General Strike,” HARPERS
MAGAZINE, October 2007, “Notebook”
5) The Iraq Moratorium is designed to find the 65% to 75% who oppose the war
but who don’t know how to speak out. This is a way to find them and to give
them a means to speak out and be counted. The Iraq Moratorium is an umbrella,
not a group. All groups can fit under the umbrella.
6) The Iraq Moratorium breaks the competitive tendency amongst different groups.
It isn’t one group against another. It isn’t come to “our” demo instead of
“that” demo. The Iraq Moratorium is an umbrella, not a group. All groups
can fit in under the umbrella.
For this to happen, imo, all the activist groups must come together and YELL about the Iraq Moratorium. All the Peace and Justice groups need to spread the word of the Iraq Moratorium far and wide. Sign the Pledge! Do something the 3rd Friday of every month! And the essence of what you do is non-cooperation, a refusal to cooperate, with the system, with the status quo.
The fine video documentary, “A Force More Powerful,” tells the stories of 6 successful nonviolent resistance actions from Gandhi to Apartheid South Africa, to the Civil Rights movement and more. The refusal to cooperate, the refusal to go along is the key. But it takes massive numbers to be this powerful against the recalcitrant sturm and dreng of the repressive immobilists.
And the question is: How do we get these massive numbers? We need to take the simple message “wear a black arm band” to every nook and cranny of mainstream America. And for those who are strong of heart already, and are able to take the day off from work, then do it, General Strike!
When I have contemplated the sagging turn out numbers at our recent demonstrations, it would be easy to despair. After all, the ‘big’ National rally of October 27th, which had been planned for almost a year, saw only between 80 and 150 thousand people turn out.
The population of the US is 300 million. The percentage of 80 or 150 thousand to 300 million is…
…5/100 of 1%!…
NO, no, no, boys and girls. This won’t do. Rather than become discouraged, I’m going to keep YELLING LOUDER to get people to stand up, speak up in some form or other, and TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK.
I agree with Dan Ellsberg, that the Iraq Moratorium presents perhaps the best opportunity for doing that.
This is a plea to the Peace & Justice community to YELL with me.
STAND UP AND YELL WITH ME…IRAQ MORATORIUM…GENERAL STRIKE!