Joshua Lawrence Breslin comment:
Recently my old back in the 1960s days friend, Peter Paul Markin, himself a war veteran, were comparing notes about the virtual “under the radar” place that American imperial war policies (there is no other name for it with over 1000 bases in the world and over 700 billion plus dollars eaten up by the war budget each year) has taken in this year’s presidential campaign. And, additionally, the almost total lack of organized public outcry about those policies, most notably the lingering death sore of Afghanistan. The reason for our comparing notes on this subject was simple enough. Between us we have attended over the past several months in various capacities a whole series of parades, only one of which I will mention more on later, that was specifically a peace parade. We have come agree though that, without a doubt, there is a vast war-weariness that if not organized runs pretty deep amount the plebeian masses.
For those who do not know, Peter Paul, over the past several years since before the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 has attempted to move might and main along with his fellow Veterans For Peace (VFP)to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and lately to urge no war with Iran) to no avail. I, although not a veteran, have attempted in various journalistic endeavor to make those same basic points to no avail as well. Those “no avails” though have never stopped us from continuing to push the rock up the mountain when the cause is righteous. And the struggle against these particular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is righteous and has brought us closer together of late. That has not always been the case, as Peter Paul tends to take a harder anti-capitalist look at the wars and I more from an anti-imperialist perspective. We united on one idea earlier this year and that was the need to continue to get the anti-war message out to the general public.
That is where the parades notion came in. Where the parades notion kind of hit us in the face actually as a way to bring any kind of peace message to the folks whom we do not normally run into in our rarified big city radical circles. Of course the main target started out last year in 2011 with Peter Paul’s chapter of Veterans for Peace in Boston, the aptly names (“war is a racket”) Smedley Butler Brigade, attempts to march in the “official” South Boston Allied War Council’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. Without going to all the particulars of the denial (involving reams of material from a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision permitting such exclusions for “private “ parades) VFP was shut out of the official parade. Needless to say these resourceful vets just created their own peace parade to follow the official parade and to let those in South Boston know there was another voice to be heard from on the questions of war and peace.
That is where the recognition of war-weariness came in. Now for those not familiar with South Boston (“Southie”) this is, or was, according to Peter Paul, the last bastion of Irish-centered working class pro-war (or at least don’t question war policy) sentiment left in the world ( a little hyperbole from him, but I am used to it). This spring when we marched (yes, I marched with Peter Paul like in olden times) the response by those same plebeian masses was cordial to say the least. And that is how the Breslin-Markin antiwar “spring offensive” (with, ah, a little help from VFP and others) took off. A Dorchester Day Parade just south of Southie in the more ethnically diverse neighborhoods of Boston (although neighborhoods like Southie that product more than their fair share of troops) produced an even more cordial response. Ditto several Memorial Day services. More recently parades in affluence Rockport and working- class Portsmouth, New Hampshire on confirmed the cordiality, and the weariness. That last one, by the way, held in a town that depends (read: would not survive) without naval appropriations at the huge naval base there.
So the disconnect between governmental war policy and the genuine war-weariness of the masses is real enough. But real enough as well is any sense of being able to do anything about it is in the cards other than patiently waiting for due dates. And that is where my simple suggestion comes in. I, as well as other knowledgeable anti-warriors have recognized that we have not had any effect on Bush-Obama war doctrine in Iraq and precious little thus far in Afghanistan. There is one place, and one thing that we can do to turn that around right now. Call of President Obama to pardon Private Bradley Manning now being held in pre-trail detention in Fort Leavenworth Kansas pending charges that could amount to a life sentence for the young soldier. For the forgetful Private Manning allegedly passed sensitive information onto Wikileaks who then passed it on to a candid world. Thus Private Manning is the “poster person” for opposition to all that failed, all that was wrong, all that was atrocious, and all that was criminal in Bush-Obama war policy. So raise the cry with us-Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan! President Obama Pardon Private Manning!