“The most effective barrier to a White House decision to launch a war [against Iran] is the kind of organized popular opposition that frightened the political-military leadership enough in 1968 that they were reluctant to send more troops to Vietnam — fearing, we learned from the Pentagon Papers, that they might need them for civil-disorder control.” Noam Chomsky, from “What If Iran Had Invaded Mexico? Putting the Iran Crisis in Context.”, April 5, 2007.
For a couple of years, we’ve been wondering, will the Bush regime attack Iran? I’ve decided it’s the wrong question. They might be able to do it or they might not. Regardless, one thing is certain. They very seriously want to do it and the sooner the better. Evidence of their aggressive intentions is everywhere. For those of us who knew that they were lying to the public four years ago in order to win approval for war on Iraq, the current propaganda build up is a painful déjà vu. The principal reason we don’t see their evil plans more clearly is our own incredulity over the apparent illogic of such an attack. But their intentions are clear and so is their obliviousness to those who would oppose such a move and the likely consequences. Bush believes himself to be a man of vision who will ultimately be vindicated by history. He’s beyond public opinion or short term political concerns.
This past week, the warmongers suffered a setback. Looking for a new Gulf of Tonkin incident, they had British naval forces patrolling in waters whose boundaries are disputed by Iran and Iraq. It appeared that Iran had taken the bait when they arrested 15 British sailors. For almost 2 weeks, tensions rose. The oil futures market was seriously affected by the potential for conflict with Iran. Two US aircraft carrier battle groups conducted war games in the Persian Gulf adjacent to Iranian territorial waters. Then Iran brokered a deal in Iraq for the release an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped two months ago by uniformed Iraqi police, using his release as sufficient reward to cover letting the Brits go, thus defusing the crisis. Neocon hawks in the US squawked about Tony Blair’s soft handling of Iran, disappointed that the opportunity that might lead to violence had momentarily passed. They had offered any and all military support to Blair and he had told them to butt out, relying instead on diplomacy. British diplomacy actually failed, but thanks to the initiative of the Iranians to end the crisis and much to the consternation of the Bush regime, a peaceful resolution was achieved.
At virtually the moment of the resolution of this crisis, a third US aircraft carrier battle group left San Diego for the Persian Gulf. Regardless of when they actually find the pretext necessary, it is clear that the Bush regime is intent on starting a war with Iran. That fact alone should be sufficient to mobilize domestic opposition now, before we are forced to react without preparation to a massive bombing then already taking place. It is perfectly obvious that three US aircraft carrier led naval battle groups are soon going to be in the Persian Gulf to instigate a war with Iran, and that is only one element in the Bush regime’s push for war. Even now, we have perhaps only a very short period of time before the pretext for war is found and we are racing to catch up with events.
When we first heard about the invasion and bombing of Cambodia on the last day of April 1970, we immediately began organizing mass civil disobedience, student strikes and unsanctioned marches often leading to confrontations with police. We realized that Nixon had made a major escalation after years of lying about having a plan to end the war. And we realized that we must put all else aside and respond in the most militant fashion. In terms of historical significance, the bombing of Iran would dwarf the bombing of Cambodia, especially if it is done with nuclear weapons, and nothing should be considered as beyond the Bush regime’s potential for malevolence. In response to such an event, another march with angry speeches at the end would be conspicuously inadequate, if not supine.
MDS/SDS should seize this opportunity for leadership. MDS/SDS should publicly inform the Bush regime and their Democrat enablers that we will lead a nationwide campaign of mass civil disobedience if they attack Iran under any circumstances. This open threat could, and I believe would, accomplish several things by itself. One, the threat of mass civil disobedience would potentially become a restraining and limiting factor in their calculations for aggression. Second, MDS/SDS would be in the mainstream news along with the heretofore not discussed threat of civil unrest in the event of such an attack. MDS/SDS would, in this manner, fill a glaring leadership vacuum for that fast growing portion of the population who believe the Bush regime is violating international law by waging aggressive war. Consequently, the membership of MDS/SDS would grow exponentially, to the point perhaps of actually being able to carry out the threat of a mass civil disobedience campaign.
This threat should be made as openly and in as high a profile manner as we can achieve. For example, the collective Board of MDS plus the unified leadership of the NYC SDS chapters should make to call to all existing MDS and SDS chapters to endorse a “Pledge of Resistance.” When that reaches consensus, deliver it to the public via mainstream media, asking all like minded organizations to stand with us. Throw down the gauntlet. Be audacious.
The attendant organizing could look much like a petition drive. We would ask people to sign a “Pledge of Resistance” stating simply that they would protest an attack on Iran by some form of non-violent civil disobedience. A million such signatures might look imposing enough to occupy some of the regime’s attention.
It should be continuously emphasized that this protest will be scrupulously non-violent. This absolute commitment to non-violence will vastly enhance the attraction of the pledge. The state has a monopoly on violence. For us to cross the violence threshold is to give away our moral advantage.
In 1965, SDS organized the first national anti-Vietnam War march in Washington D.C. Before that, SDS had been a small organization based primarily on a few elite college campuses and with a wing that did community organizing in northern urban poor white communities. 25,000 demonstrators showed up, considerably exceeding the expectations of the organizers. As a direct result, SDS became the spear point of the campus antiwar movement and membership swelled into the tens of thousands. Grab the initiative to carry opposition to the coming war against Iran to a new level of militancy. MDS/SDS membership will explode. We might even make a difference – again.