McKinney anti-war tour mobilizes movement in 20+ cities
Published Aug 19, 2011 7:22 AM
Sara Flounders, co-director of the International Action Center,
discusses a series of meetings where former U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney has
spoken against the U.S./NATO war on Libya. The meetings follow McKinney’s
visit to the North African country. As of Aug. 13 the tour had grown to 19 U.S.
cities and Vancouver, B.C., in Canada. Following are excerpts from an interview
with Flounders by Workers World Managing Editor John Catalinotto.
The tour, now about half over, has continued to grow in both number of cities
and importance. It has already illustrated some important lessons and
experiences in how to mobilize against U.S. wars of aggression while overcoming
extremely unfavorable conditions.
These conditions include the level of demonization in the corporate media of
the government of Moammar Gadhafi, the apparent diplomatic isolation of Libya
and even the time of year, when the universities are not in session and even
many movement groups and activists are on a vacation schedule.
Outside of the continued slanders directed at Gadhafi, there is little media
coverage of the war and of how the bombing is killing Libyan civilians, when
the war’s official justification was that the intervention was supposed
to protect civilians. What hypocrisy.
There has been an almost total silence in the media as the relentless attack
continues. It’s gone far beyond a so-called “no-fly zone” to
bombing urban centers, killing civilians and destroying the infrastructure. No
other country in history except the U.S. has had the capacity to wreak such
havoc, using cruise missiles, bunker busters, drones, depleted uranium and
dense inert metal explosive bombs, anti-personnel razor shredding bomblets and
The corporate media can demonize the leader of a country targeted by the
Pentagon to the point that the consequences of using the most deadly weapons
against a totally defenseless population are hidden and dismissed.
On top of this, the working class here in the U.S. is absorbed with the
overwhelming problems of the capitalist system in crisis. They don’t know
what this means for their future. They are filled with apprehension, along with
disappointment that the hopes raised by the Barack Obama administration were
Almost no one is supporting the war. And they are angry that the government is
spending money on the war and not on social services. But without lots of news
on it, for many people this is not the first thing on their mind.
McKinney confronted the war makers
Despite these difficulties, the movement here has to challenge such a criminal
imperialist act of brigandage and piracy. Otherwise, it pulls the whole
progressive movement backwards. If it is going to fight on immediate,
bread-and-butter issues such as the economy, the movement also has to show that
it’s willing to stand up against heavy-handed propaganda from the
government and the corporate media. This is a measure of its independence from
those who rule U.S. society.
Cynthia McKinney put herself at risk by going to Libya. She gave the movement
an opportunity to focus on this issue.
And groups in each city took up the challenge. In each city the most resolute
anti-war groups, including the International Action Center, often joined with
or supported Pan-African organizations that reached out to all sorts of local
committees. In the end, meetings of 250 to 500 people have heard McKinney and
others condemn the attack.
In every city, those initiating this community “teach-in” reached
out consciously and discussed the issues with a wider circle of the Black
movement — especially the Pan-African movement, those who have long
focused on Africa.
The most important role for anti-imperialist forces to play is first to provide
clarity among their own ranks and then to reach out and win over others who
might have at first been confused about Libya. The movement here is incredibly
diverse. Each of the meetings here was quite different from the others. But
they all reflected the movement in the cities where they took place.
In Atlanta, there was an outpouring of Black forces. In Minneapolis, it was the
people facing grand jury investigations and the Women Against Military Madness.
In Albany, N.Y., the United National Antiwar Coalition; in Los Angeles, a
section of the mostly immigrant workers’ movement from south of the
border; in Boston, the school bus drivers and the Haitian community played a
At Riverside Church in New York, the Rev. Robert B. Coleman of the Riverside
Church Prison Ministries welcomed the broad spectrum of organizations present.
At three of the meetings, a Libyan studying in the U.S. told of how the war
harmed his family. The meeting in Vancouver strengthened the anti-imperialist
forces in Western Canada. Nearly all the meetings linked the endless funds
earmarked for war to the disaster that poor and working people are facing.
The mass reaction to McKinney at the meetings has been strongest and most
favorable when she focuses on Libya, tells the story and combats the
demonization and war propaganda. To combat this propaganda — which always
seeps down, even into the progressive and anti-war movement — we have to
rally forces and explain the consequences of the war.
In many of the cities where McKinney spoke, there was extensive local media
coverage; the only national coverage, however, was from the right-wing
O’Reilly Factor, which blasted McKinney for making the trip and speaking
out. That’s what the tour had to answer.
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