Friday, April 21, 2006

Focus, please

Scott Ritter on the peace movement, from the San Diego Citybeat. Good advice for Democrats in general, who could use a bit of focus:
You’ve offered the anti-war movement a bitter pill to swallow. You’ve said the peaceniks are a poorly organized conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism. Can you elaborate?

First of all, what is the peace movement? There is no national peace movement. There’s a conglomeration of organizations, all of which are ego-driven. If you take a look at Peace Action, they have a national Peace Action and they have state Peace Actions around the country. They don’t work well with each other; they don’t get along with each other. They feud. They don’t have a centralized plan.

You have Cindy Sheehan running around, a symbol of the peace movement. A symbol of what? Who is she? Who nominated her to be the spokesperson? She did one brave thing. I’m all for what Cindy Sheehan did last August. But people say, “She sacrificed so much.” She didn’t sacrifice anything. Her son sacrificed his life. In order for Cindy Sheehan to have sacrificed anything, she would have to have given up her son to the military. The last time I checked, he was an adult. He signed a contract. He went into the military. He went off to war, and he died. And, yes, it’s a tragedy that he died, and it’s a bigger tragedy that he died in a war that I believe is an illegal war of aggression. There should not have been a war to begin with. But Cindy Sheehan didn’t sacrifice a damn thing; her son did. He made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country. That’s a tragedy that he died.

But this is the problem with the anti-war movement—they lionize people for artificial reasons. They give them artificial standing. There’s no depth to it. There’s no direction. Where does the peace movement want to go? Cindy Sheehan, in her own response to my [recent] article [criticizing the anti-war movement], spoke of defending a woman’s reproductive rights. You know what, Cindy? Go do that. But don’t call yourself the peace movement when you do that. Because when you do that, all you do is basically take the energy that’s necessary to have a genuine peace movement, to have a true impact, and you allow that to basically just be spread and wasted. It’s wasted energy. There is no peace movement. There is no peace movement. It’s a bunch of people who claim they’re part of a peace movement, but there is no peace movement.

What should the movement look like? What should it be doing?

I don’t know. I am not volunteering myself to be the visionary of the peace movement. All I’m saying is that having attended these meetings and reflecting on what I’ve seen, the peace movement’s getting its butt kicked. Who knows what it should look like. The peace movement needs to decide what it wants to look like. But, you know, they need to come together. There needs to a meeting of the minds, a unified vision statement: What do we agree on? What is our focus of effort? And then once you get this mission statement, let’s put a little bit of fire into this. Who’s going to be the person that makes sure everyone’s staying on mission? Let’s call that person the “incident commander,” whatever you want to call them. Let’s break it down. Who’s going to do the planning? That’s our “operations officer.” Let’s insert some structure.

But as soon as you mention “structure” to the peace movement, they get all nervous. They think it’s abut imposing military standards on them—an absurdity. The incident-command system that I referred to is something used by the firefighters in the United States. The big wildfires down in San Diego—ask your firefighter buddies down there what they did when they brought in national assets, state assets, local assets to fight the big fire. It’s called the incident-command system. It’s not a military system; it’s a control mechanism. The Red Cross uses it. A lot of civilian groups use it. It’s used to organize parades. It’s used to organize events. It’s about organizing, and making sure you don’t waste resources. That’s what the peace movement needs: organization and to stop wasting resources.

I’m a football fan. At the end of the day, I judge a coach and a team by the score that exists on the scoreboard when the end of the fourth quarter comes. And right now, it’s the pro-war movement 60, the anti-war movement nothing. Someone can’t tell me, “No, no, we’re doing OK.” No, you’re not. You’re getting beat, and you need to recognize you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out why you’re getting beat, and you need to figure out what you need to do to get yourself back on track. And the key thing here is: Bring a sense of focus and organization, which is lacking.

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