The Perils of United for Peace and Justice

Left Turn has an interesting article about today’s American anti-war movement and about United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) in particular.

It ends by noting that:

Going forward, the political terrain has become dangerous for the anti-war movement. The tide seems to be turning in favor of withdrawal. More and more politicians are calling for withdrawal. Even some congressional hawks, like John P. Murtha (D-Penn.) are calling for an immediate withdrawal of US troops. But it’s not because of sudden epiphany on the futility of war. Many Democrats and Republicans are calling for withdrawal because they want to save empire from the Bush administration’s follies.…

The great challenge for the anti-war movement is to avoid having a movement to end the Iraq War transformed into a movement to save Empire. For better and worse, this task is up to UFPJ because of its central role.…

An exclusive focus on the Iraq War means that the vast majority of protesters will probably pack up their bags and go home once an agreement for withdrawal — even a flawed one — is reached. This will leave the left powerless to confront the next war. However, by broadening the struggle while keeping a focus on the Iraq War, the anti-war movement can not only revitalize but also sustain the larger fight for peace and justice.

Chances are, when “withdrawal” happens, it will look something like this: The Dubya Squad will be pulled reluctantly toward withdrawing most American ground troops from Iraq sooner than it would like, it will then declare victory and trumpet this withdrawal as a “mission accomplished” moment. Meanwhile, in Iraq, what was being accomplished by American ground troops will instead be accomplished by U.S.-allied militia groups and by increasing use of U.S. air power (this ramping-up of aerial bombardment has already begun).

Not all the U.S. troops will be out of Iraq, but enough will be that the wind will be out of the sails of the “bring them home now” crowd. Most American soldiers will be out of harm’s way, at least until the next war, but Iraqis will likely be no more safe from the threats that face them today — particularly from the shock-and-awe of the U.S. military.

Keep that in mind next time you hear anti-war speakers begging the government to “bring our troops home now” — if that is the beginning and end of their demands, then when our troops in Iraq are replaced by “smart bombs” they may stop complaining.

The Ithica Times has a profile of the “St. Patrick’s Four” — Daniel Burns, Peter DeMott, Clare Grady and Teresa Grady — that covers some of their civil disobedience actions and also mentions their tax resistance:

Because such a large portion of federal income taxes go toward military spending, Burns lives below a taxable income, claiming himself a war-tax resister. Living in relative poverty seems strange for a man with a former Hollywood career, earning as much as six-figure annual salaries working (most often as a director’s assistant) on films such as Ghostbusters, JFK and Carlito’s Way.

“I’d rather be broke and live in Ithaca than live in Los Angeles or New York [City],” he said, noting that he returned to Ithaca in (he lived here previously), when he became an independent painter and dog-walker.

None of the Four make high enough incomes to pay federal income tax. Teresa claims avoiding income tax isn’t such a conscious act for her, but DeMott and Clare said they do it consciously, ensuring they never make a federally taxable amount. Teresa is a massage therapist who did four years of contractual work in Cornell’s Physical Education Department before this September. DeMott is a handyman, and Clare is the former kitchen coordinator of Loaves and Fishes shelter (she resigned when realizing her trial and its aftermath this fall would consume her time).

Although they are probably eligible for federal benefits, Clare, Teresa and DeMott refuse them. Burns and his wife do not seek federal benefits for themselves, but their two young children receive Medicaid benefits.

A particularly notable war-tax resistance movement involves telephone bills. An estimated 10,000 Americans currently refuse to pay 3 percent (a rough amount that goes toward military expenditures) of their phone bills. When asked about this protest, Clare noted that she had done it before, but not in some time. “Now I feel gratefully challenged to do that,” she laughed.