The evolution of anti-war



Tom Nardi

We sat on the grass, near Third and Constitution, waiting for our group to coalesce following a day of marching. Our feet tired, our voices hoarse and our pulses returning to a normal pace, we longed for the comfort of simply sitting down in a bus and returning to Villanova, our civic duty done for now.

“So you guys think the Jews caused 9/11?” the passing man said to us.

Last Saturday, Villanovans for Peace sent 20-some people – students, professors, significant others and parents – to A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition’s march and rally against the war in Iraq in Washington D.C. While planned initially by A.N.S.W.E.R. – which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – the rally was largely symbolic of the anti-war movement as a whole to date: loosely affiliated and ideologically disparate.

Though the march in D.C. was labeled as a march to end the war, there was hardly an ideological consistency on the part of the marchers.

While the left routinely decries the right for harboring fringe groups like Christian fundamentalists, we harbor our own eccentrics that we like to ignore: people who believe 9/11 was a government conspiracy, that Israel has no right to exist, that the communist revolution should come to America, that Hillary Clinton is a Nazi, that invading Afghanistan was wrong and that Ron Paul should be president.

Indeed it was an aversion to this loose coalition that prompted the passerby to think that the Villanovans for Peace blamed Jewish people for 9/11.

It has long been seen as a detriment to the anti-war movement that it was comprised of so many fringe groups. But the words of Michael McPhearson of Veterans for Peace summarize the new birth of the anti-war effort: “There will always be different organizations, and that’s OK … We do not always have to work together, but we must never work against each other.”

Most anti-war people don’t believe 9/11 was an inside job. Most realize that communism hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been implemented and that communist regimes are responsible for some of the worst atrocities of the modern age.

Most realize that Che Guevara is dead and that he was and remains a glorified terrorist appropriated by pop culture to sell T-shirts. And most realize that libertarianism is a crock and that Ron Paul has no business being in elective politics.

But all anti-war activists on Saturday acknowledged one unfailing truth: the war in Iraq was undertaken on false premises, begun with no foresight toward winning the peace, has been grossly mismanaged and must end.

With all of our differences, we acknowledge that one truth, and it is what unites the movement. It ensures that the movement stays a union of disparate factions in pursuit of the same goal.

It ensures that when Cindy Sheehan chants “Cindy for Peace,” she is acting not as a leader greater than the movement but as an actor in support of it.

In the words of Liam Madeen, president of the Boston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, “We can either hope that a leader comes and rescues us, or we can become leaders and rescue ourselves.”

We are led not by any demagogues, subjugating us for their own political ends. Anti-war is a bona fide social movement, with clearly stated goals shared by all supporters, that moves under its own power, feeding and sustaining itself.

It has turned the corner, refraining from adopting tangential goals and motives that dilute its strength.

None need espouse the ideals of the fringe groups to be firmly in the anti-war movement. Anti-war does not mean peacenik or hippie, though certainly the movement has those elements in support.

One does not need to support Sheehan, that woman brought low by the realization that no one was “retiring” from the movement with her in May. One only need oppose this war and oppose it now.

Opposition to this war is not a token of social “activism,” marked by a smug sense of self, an idea that you are expressing civic duty while sitting conveniently at home.

It is not, as some publications of this campus have suggested, an idealistic devotion to an aggrandized social clique – of which the adherents doubtlessly know little and believe less.

Indeed it is a commitment to something greater, to an idea that America must be changed by withdraw from Iraq in some way and as quickly as possible. And it is a movement of which I am proud to call myself a part.


Tom Nardi is a senior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].