By: Judith Le Blanc, National Field Organizer
President Obama was elected with broad support by those who opposed the war in Iraq. For many voters, his pledge to end the war was a key factor. Bob Woodward’s recent book, “Obama’s Wars,” documents the struggle within the administration over the direction of the Afghanistan war, and also details the president’s awareness of declining public support.
During the press conference on the release of the administration’s year-end review of the war, Secretary of State Clinton said the administration cannot govern based on opinion polls when a reporter reminded her of recent surveys showing declining support for the war.
No doubt polls are being monitored by the White House and the Obama campaign re-election team now being assembled. With the GOP controlling the House of Representatives, very little legislation is expected to pass (though Peace Action and others will use the legislative process to advance our views on ending the war). So political tactics are the order of the day.
The big question for the peace movement is the following: how to fl ex our political muscle on behalf of the over 60% of the public (and over 80% of Democrats) who no longer see the war as worth fighting? Peace Action is launching a unique petition campaign to mobilize the broad cross-section of self-identified Obama campaign supporters to press the administration to take action now, before the real electioneering begins. The petition campaign will be the linchpin of a political strategy to remind Candidate Obama that inaction on this issue would endanger the possibility for as big and excited a grassroots mobilization in 2012 as he enjoyed in 2008.
The administration understands a gap on the war is growing between it and the base it needs for re-election. U.S. Representative Barbara Lee told representatives of several peace organizations in a recent meeting that President Obama needs to be convinced to “shift his political calculus” and campaign in 2012 “on a platform of ending the war in Afghanistan.” Mobilizing and focusing the attention of grassroots activists who were at the center of the historic campaign and election of President Obama is the best tactic for the peace movement in “shifting his political calculus.”
Our petition campaign will call for the administration to begin to de-escalate the war, seek a path towards a negotiated settlement and begin to withdraw troops leaving no bases behind. We will utilize both online and paper petitions. The campaign will also have a vibrant and coordinated effort to initiate visibility activities at public appearances of President Obama and the administration. We will seek out leaders and members of the Democratic Party for their support, and utilize public events to collect signatures. Combining education with nonviolent direct action, vigils and demonstrations, our petition effort will be a Peace Action membership builder, and help expand our e-lists.
We expect other allied organizations to promote the petition as well, helping garner tens of thousands of signatures, and helping re-energize the peace and justice movement. Additionally, we will continue the push for more Congresspeople to join the Out of Afghanistan Caucus. We will support legislative initiatives such as the resolution Representative Lee will introduce on troop withdrawal, and continue to oppose war funding.
Our aim is to build momentum throughout 2011 with key dates for public events in July, the target date set for the beginning of troop withdrawal, and the October anniversary of the launch of the war. Our organizing aims to press the administration to begin the steps for peace now. As the political parties begin to gear up for the primary season at the end of the year, so will we. We will have amassed a sizable base of people who will be geared up to press Candidate Obama and all presidential and congressional candidates for a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving no bases, contractors or troops behind.