The movement to end the Afghanistan War is gaining momentum, and on March 12, it will gain some more. In a little less than two weeks, supporters of Rethink Afghanistan (“Rethinkers”) will get together with their neighbors in hundreds of communities to talk about what can be done locally to stop the war. We’re going to swap stories, share a coffee or a beer, and make the personal connections with other Rethinkers in our neighborhood that will carry us through to our goal of bringing our troops home. Join us in your hometown for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup for people who want to end the Afghanistan War.
We’ve come a long way together already.
When Brave New Foundation first started the Rethink Afghanistan campaign to push back against the growing drumbeats for military escalation, we faced some strong headwinds. The election of a popular Democratic president who was pro-escalation co-opted and confused the coalitions that had pushed for the end of the Iraq War. We were warned that strong public statements in opposition to the Afghanistan Wars and the president’s repeated escalations of the conflict would cause us to lose funders and allies.
For a while, these critics were right. We did lose funders and allies. But in the process, the Rethink Afghanistan documentary and ongoing new media campaign staked out important intellectual and moral territory in opposition to the escalations. individual Rethinkers and our colleagues in the nonprofit world probably experienced the same isolation in their professional and personal lives. But together we’ve maintained our moral clarity, and now that clarity is paying off.
In the face of high-minded presidential rhetoric, charm offensives by generals and a think-tank community in D.C. that treats war like a game of Risk, we and our allies around the country have kept the real face of the war in front of the American people. We’ve documented the human cost, helping to break open cover-ups when coalition forces killed civilians. We’ve educated people about the war’s costs, which this year will blow past the $400 billion mark just in direct expenditures. And we’ve shown that despite the assurances from Washington officialdom, this war isn’t making us safer and it’s not worth the cost.
Over the past year, we’ve won the argument for public opinion, and now a solid majority of Americans oppose the war; solid majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents want Congress to act this year to speed up troop withdrawals. About a week ago, we finished running the first-ever anti-Afghanistan-War TV ad in Washington, D.C. This past weekend, the Democratic National Committee passed a resolution supporting a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops. The movement to end the war is gaining momentum. The funny thing is, people don’t seem to know it.
A while back, I wrote a piece on my blog titled, “In the Fight To End the Afghanistan War, It’s Later Than You Think.” I argued that the corporate media, outside observers and many activists have a poor understanding of the life-cycle of social movements, and that leads them to draw false, pessimistic conclusions about the strength of the anti-war movement at precisely the moment when the movement moves into one of its most powerful stages. This pessimism arises from the conflation of turnout at demonstrations and civil disobedience actions with the entire social movement to end the war, when widely accepted models of social movements, such as Bill Moyer’s, predict that those aspects of the movement are expected to fade on the road to success. The simple fact is that the anti-Afghanistan-War movement has never been stronger than it is today, and an end to the war is coming within reach.
Much of our inability to grasp how powerful we are as a movement is the insidious isolation brought on by activism in the age of the Internet. Even though we may know in our heads that we’re one of many, many tens of thousands actively engaged in the struggle to end the war, sitting alone in a room with a laptop while the news media blare endless loaded stories and spin from pro-war officials and intellectuals, it’s hard to feel the power we’ve built together. That’s why it’s critical we start getting offline together to see and hear one another in person and build the strong ties that only come from real-world interaction. These ties are the bonds that are going to give us the strength to get through the tough work that’s waiting for us as we bring this movement to end the war to it’s successful conclusion over the next several months.
We are entering a critical phase in the struggle. The president promised a start to troop withdrawals in July 2011, and that date is fast approaching. While the Pentagon and its political allies have worked mightily to redefine that promise into meaninglessness, his and his advisers words at the start of the escalation invite an effort to hold him accountable. As the DNC resolution and growing Republican restlessness on shows, the platitudes offered by the pro-war faction are wearing thin. With fighting season in Afghanistan upon us, the terrible human costs are about to again become horribly apparent. And, all of these factors will converge this summer…at the start of the campaign season for the 2012 elections.
This is our moment.
We’ve got a real opportunity to push our elected officials into a real start to a significant withdrawal of troops. There are dozens of people in your neighborhood who want to help you end the war. Don’t you think it’s time you got to know them?
On March 12, supporters of Rethink Afghanistan will get together in communities across the country for Rethink the Cost, a worldwide Meetup day. What happens at your local Meetup is up to you. Some groups plan to discuss what to do next locally to get their neighbors thinking about the cost of the war. Others may just share a coffee or a beer with like-minded people. The important thing is that we get offline and find the others in our hometown so we can build real relationships that will help us get to our goal.
We hope you’ll join us.