By Joshua Frank
You can sure tell it’s an election year. Despite the fact that over 2770 US soldiers and 600,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in Iraq, the mainstream antiwar movement, or what’s left of it, has failed to hold the two war parties accountable for the destruction and death they’ve initiated. And perhaps most disappointing of all, Cindy Sheehan, the brave soul who almost single handily resurrected the antiwar movement from the dark vestiges of the 2004 elections, has now surrendered to the politics of lesser-evilism.
Sheehan has not completely curbed her activism like so many other antiwar activists did two years ago during John Kerry’s bid for president, but she has outright refused to come out and fully embrace any candidates who are challenging the Democrats for their explicit support for Bush’s bloody war on Iraq. Aside from endorsing any alternative antiwar hopefuls, Sheehan has also failed to criticize the pro-war Democrats who are up for reelection.
Before the campaign season began to heat up Sheehan had lambasted Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein, among others, for their backward defense of the war effort. She even went as far as to describe Hillary’s position on Israel and Iraq as being equal to that of Rush Limbaugh. Yet, when it has mattered most, i.e. now, she has been virtually silent. But it may not be a mystery as to why.
Cindy Sheehan has joined forces with Medea Benjamin of CODE PINK as well as the Progressive Democrats of America, where Sheehan serves on the organization’s Board of Directors. Benjamin too is on the PDA’s Board and has aligned her antiwar activism with the group’s charge to reshape the Democratic Party from within.
Medea Benjamin is a truly baffling creature. After the fall of Sen. Kerry in ’04, for whom she had campaigned avidly, the former California Green Party candidate for US Senate told The Nation magazine, "For those of you willing to keep wading in the muddy waters of the Democratic Party, all power to you. I plan to work with the Greens to get more Green candidates elected to local office."
She certainly has not stood by that lackluster promise, as she now works for the Democrats. And I’m not sure how working to elect "progressive" Democrats to office, which Benjamin and Sheehan are now attempting to do with the PDA, will ever help build an alternative to the two pro-war parties. Nor am I convinced that electing Democrats to office will ever end the war in Iraq — as John Walsh recently explained in these pages, even if the Democrats pick up the necessary 15 seats to reclaim the House, their overall position on the war will not be changing, as no new Democratic House contenders actually oppose the war.
Perhaps Cindy Sheehan has fallen into the vicious trap of non-profit activism, where she cannot truly speak her mind without being fearful that her liberal supporters will pull their funding from the groups she aligns with. Or maybe Sheehan just doesn’t get it. Maybe she doesn’t understand that elections are a great place to go after the war enablers for all of their awful habits and evil deeds.
Cindy Sheehan isn’t accustomed to backing down from a fight, and we owe her tremendously for her efforts to rekindle the antiwar movement when she staked out Bush in Crawford. But her decision to not take on the Democrats with vigor this election deserves criticism. We need Sheehan supporting antiwar candidates, not rebuilding the Democratic Party.
As Sheehan told me a year ago, "I will not support a pro-war Democrat. I will support any anti-war candidate … [We] need to expose the failures of the Bush administration along with those of Congress and the media. [We] need to keep pushing for the full withdrawal of troops ‘now.’ That is paramount."
Come on back to us Cindy, come back.
-Joshua Frank edits the radical news blog www.BrickBurner.org and is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press (2005). Josh can be reached at BrickBurner@gmail.com.