Antiwarriors Are Citizens Without a Party

      Americans overwhelmingly oppose the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Even many veterans say the post-9/11 war on terror was a mistake.

Antiwar sentiment is the majority opinion when it comes to the prospect of future conflicts. Of the two countries the U.S. is currently most likely to attack militarily, nearly seven out of ten people are against invading Syria; even polls that ask leading questions (“do you favor a military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons?”) find public opinion running opposed to attacking Iran, by 52% to 41%.

Not only are most Americans against wars present and future, we want to slash defense spending in general.  According to a National Journal poll, 60% want to cut the Pentagon budget.  Thirty-five percent don’t.

Eleven years after America lost the Twin Towers and then its collective mind, something remarkable has happened. We’ve come to our senses.

We’re a nation of pacifists.

So how is a pacifist—in other words, an average American—supposed to vote this fall? Obviously not Republican: Romney says he’ll cut every department except Defense. He wants to spend more on weapons, is open to fighting against Afghanistan and Iraq indefinitely, and is so ignorant that he doesn’t know that the people of Afghanistan are called Afghans.

But with all the veteran and war messaging that went on at last week’s national convention, Democrats look like a mirror image of the GOP: jingoistic, militaristic, and gung-ho for war. Between pogo-dancing on Osama bin Laden’s corpse, the airing of a mawkish “Honoring the Sacred Trust with Our Veterans” video that spread the debunked right-wing myth that returning Vietnam vets got disrespected, the First Lady donning a Dubya-inspired “support our troops” T-shirt, and Democrats’ petty attack on Mitt Romney for omitting to name-check vets in his nomination acceptance address, it felt like the 2002-03 build-up to the invasion of Iraq—except, this time, the president speaks fluent English.

It’s official: the Dems are a war party.

Why the new bellicose tone? In part it’s an attempt to counter the old canard that Democrats are weak on defense, a charge that Republicans used to their electoral advantage throughout the Cold War. As the probably doped Lance Armstrong advised, turn your biggest weakness into your strongest strength. (The Machiavellian Karl Rove, who attacked John Kerry’s war record of all things, put it the other way around: turn their biggest strength into their biggest weakness.) It’s also a reflection of the triumph of Democratic Leadership Council-inspired conservatives, who have cowed, purged and marginalized liberals and pacifists from the party.

Militarism may be unpopular, but it still rules the ruling class. The military-industrial complex enjoys more direct political and economic influence among government officials than ever. The post-9/11 Cult of the Noble Soldier, coupled with the myth of a beleaguered U.S. defending the world from barbarians in an epic clash of civilizations, merely recasts old-fashioned fascist militarism—and it’s just as effective at confusing leftie opponents and putting them off-balance.

Truth be told, the Democrats’ new hawkish tone is catching up with their party’s hawkish history. Ronald Reagan gets credit for the defense build-up of the 1980s that supposedly bankrupted the Soviet Union, but it was Jimmy Carter who started it in 1978. No one remembers now, but “wimpy” Carter also gave us draft registration (in response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan). Mr. Habitat for Humanity sent arms to the Afghan mujahedeen (some of whom formed Al Qaeda) and provoked the Iran hostage crisis by admitting the recently deposed Shah to the U.S. Bill Clinton launched an optional war of choice against Serbia based on sketchy justifications, and waged an incessant aerial bombing campaign against Iraq that went on so long that the media got bored and stopped covering it, and U.S. pilots ran out of targets.

President Obama may not have been popular with the SEAL team he sent to assassinate bin Laden, but thousands of Pakistanis, Afghans, Yemenis and Somalis victimized by the reign of terror unleashed by his unprecedented, expanded program of drone plane bombings can attest to his credentials as a happy warrior. “Barack Obama,” Aaron David Miller, Middle East policy adviser to Republican and Democratic administrations, wrote recently, “has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

Democrats have always been pro-war. They’d might as well shout it from the rooftops.

Most Americans are against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the cult of militarism and the untouchable status of Pentagon spending on weapons. Yet there is no political home for people who oppose our current wars, or war in general.

Where is a pacifist to go?

(Ted Rall‘s new book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt.” His website is This column originally appeared at’s Lean Forward blog.)


8 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Pacifist America

  1. The retarded troll Whimsical said “Vote Obama …. blah,blah,blah …. vote Obama…. blah,blah,blah …. …. vote Obama…. blah,blah,blah ….”

    Ignore the retarded troll called Whimsical.

  2. “It’s official: the Dems are a war party.”

    News flash: They always were, and that’s well documented. Hell, it was Democrats that invaded Vietnam. McNamara was an evil war-mongering fuck. Where have you been? In what reality were Democrats ever anti-aggression? Talk about falling for the two-party mentality.

  3. @Ted

    You don’t GO anywhere. That just makes you aprt of the problem. You WORK. You don’t like the Democratic party? You WORK to change it. It may take until after you die to make those changes, but it’s the only way.


    I own you. So pathetically predictable. Thanks for the laugh.

  4. Ted, I think you are confusing “pacifist” and “peaceful.” A pacifist opposes any conflict for any reason even if they were attacked first. A pacifist would have opposed WW2 even though we were attacked by Japan and Germany declared war on us. A pacifist would be opposed to having a military at all. Pacifists are just as irrational as warmongers. It’s safe to say Americans are peaceful, they try to avoid conflict whenever possible.

  5. And let the Democrats celebrate the killing of Bin Laden. Like I said before, the only way Bin Laden could have lived is if he waved a white flag and surrendered. If anything, Bin Laden’s death juxtaposed with all the wars fought shows how pointless those wars were. The fact that the biggest bad guy was taken down by one Seal mission in Pakistan shows how wrong the other wars were. Criticize Obama for the other militarism, but let him have his “killed Osama” moments.

  6. Either conquer or don’t. The mistake the US has made since WW1 is defeating but not conquering. That is, we have attacked and defeated countries, but not appropriated their resources, nor annexed their territory. By doing so, we have expended the massive blood and treasure of empire, but have not reaped the natural and just reward. The last Empires who knew what o’clock it was were the Nazi’s and the Soviets. OK fine, maybe the Chinese are still holding true. For instance, why have we paid the Arabs one single cent for “their” oil. We should have taken it all by force long ago

  7. And in my perfect world, the proceeds of our empirial conquests would be paid out to each US citizen in a monthly check, making the Pentagon a profit center as opposed to the money sump it has become.

  8. “Criticize Obama for the other militarism, but let him have his ‘killed Osama’ moments.”

    He can have the moments if he wants, but it’s sort of like applauding yourself for reaching the top of Everest. Yes, it’s an accomplishment, but the real accomplishment is getting back to sea level. OBL’s death has not stopped the root cause of 9/11: world anger (specifically Muslim in this case) over U.S. foreign policy. This week’s events show that most clearly.

    As with Dubya, we again have a leader who pats himself on the back for accomplishments that don’t actually ACCOMPLISH anything. If killing OBL made the world safer, Christopher Stevens missed the memo.