Scott Ritter confused on antiwar movement

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, says the antiwar movement is losing it because, golly, it’s been three years and the war is still raging, and besides, the US has a culture of war and that hasn’t changed yet.

Lately I have noticed a growing despondency among many of those who call themselves the anti-war movement.

Huh? Not in the antiwar movement that I’m in. The Vietnam War protests took many years to build. This movement has built much faster than that. My fellow antiwar activists are hardly ‘despondent.’

The anti-war movement lacks any notion of strategic thinking, operational planning, or sense of sound tactics. So much energy is wasted because of this failure to centrally plan and organize.

Ritter should read Networks and Netwars by the rightish Rand Corp. It discusses how hierarchical organizations like the US military have a difficult time dealing with, or even understanding, networked organizations. The antiwar Left is networked not hierarchical, something the book quite rightfully describes as having major organizational strengths, not weaknesses. Sounds like Ritter doesn’t understand this at all. Has he had actual contact with antiwar groups? I doubt it.

It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.

Again, the antiwar movement already knows this.

He says the movement needs to be totally focused on antiwar, and stop having speeches at rallies about other causes. Well, in networked organizations like the antiwar movement, you build a big antiwar demo by forming coalitions. Groups that help build the event get to speak.

More importantly, all the causes are linked. Ritter says the US has a culture of war. Precisely. But he leaves it at that, not examining the obvious conclusion, which is that the US culture of war is part of an imperialist system that thrives on, and indeed needs, war to survive.

That’s why there are speeches on multiple causes. Focusing just on antiwar would miss the point entirely on why the wars exist in the first place. It’s a predatory economic system that needs changing, that’s the root cause of the wars. Ritter says the US has a culture of war, but never examines why.


  1. Ritter is a good guy, and some of what he says is right on, for example, what he has to say about Murtha not really being against the war. But stuff like this is just nonsense:

    “I have yet to observe an anti-war demonstration that has a focus on anti-war. It often seemed that every left-wing cause took advantage of the event to promote its own particular agenda, so that “No War in Iraq” shared the stage with the environment, ecology, animal rights, pro-choice, and numerous other causes which not only diluted the anti-war message which was supposed to be sent, but also guaranteed that the demonstration itself would be seen as something hijacked by the left, inclusive of only progressive ideologues.”

    This is just bullshit. I’ve been to every antiwar march in memory, and I don’t even recall a single SIGN about animal rights or abortion or ecology or the environment, nevertheless any speakers from the stage on those subjects. Curiously, Ritter doesn’t mention PALESTINE, which IS an issue which “shares the stage,” because it is intimitely intertwined with Iraq. What we are seeing here is that, while Ritter is someone who has integrity, which forces him to tell the truth about this war and Bush’s lies etc., fundamentally he is a right-winger as he has always been, and basically hostile to progressive issues in general, which is why he scapegoats them like he does.

  2. For those who may not know, Ritter is a self-described conservative, former Marine and proud of it.

    I’ve heard him speak, and his view is the neocons et al are lawbreakers who ignore the Constitution and are a disgrace to the flag and, if military, to the uniform.

    He’s taken huge attacks for his views. But I have to wonder if he’s ever actually been to an antiwar demo or met with an antiwar coalition.

  3. It seems pretty clear from his first two paragraphs that he has been to demos and met with numerous antiwar groups. Ritter definitely spoke at the march in London in 2002 (London, 2002). And Googling easily finds dozens of events sponsored by anti-war groups where he has been the featured speaker. You don’t do that without meeting with a few antiwar coalitions along the way.

    And I remember the first huge march I went to: Washington in January 2003. We stood for over two hours in the snow on the mall, in 10-degree weather, while everybody and his/her brother/sister gave a speech. Several made rather incoherent inflammatory remarks that could and were used against us on TV. Pretty much everyone in the crowd was thrilled when the speeches were done and we could finally march and chant (and warm up). I remember trying to defend all the speeches to someone who was complaining about them, using your argument that it takes a coalition. Still, it was tedious, freezing, and, yes, diluting of the message, and most of us were glad when they finally stopped talking and we could start marching.

    And Ritter is absolutely right about the despondency. The March 18-20 demos were a pale shadow of the ones in 2003, even though we’ve got not only a proposed war to oppose, but a failed one as well, and even though W’s ratings are in the toilet. The thing is, we didn’t stop the war in Iraq, and we don’t look well-positioned to stop the war on Iran. Maybe your local organizers aren’t despondent. I’m not quite sure why. The marches don’t seem to be preventing or ending any wars. The movement may have grown faster than during Vietnam, but that was mostly in 2002-03. From what I can see, if anything it has decayed since then. (And “faster than Vietnam” is faint praise indeed–“Hey, we ended a war ten years after it started, after it killed 2 million people! We’re good!”)

    I have no idea if Ritter’s suggestions would work, but we need something more than we’ve got. No, I don’t have any ideas. I’m despondent.

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