AAEI - How Democrats Took Over and Betrayed the Peace Movement

Matt Taibbi analyzes how "Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends." He faults the MoveOn-led Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, "a political tool for the Democrats -- one operated from inside the Beltway and devoted primarily to targeting Republicans. ... At the forefront of the groups are Thomas Matzzie and Brad Woodhouse... [M]uch of the anti-war group's leadership hails from a consulting firm called Hildebrand Tewes -- whose partners Steve Hildebrand and Paul Tewes served as staffers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ... This is the kind of conflict of interest that would normally be an embarrassment in the activist community. ... The really tragic thing about the Democratic surrender on Iraq is that it's now all but guaranteed that the war will be off the table during the presidential campaign. Once again ... the Democrats have ... done nothing but vote for war and cough up every dime they've been asked to give, every step of the way." Besides MoveOn others in the AAEI coalition include Americans United for Change, Campaign for America's Future, Center for American Progress, SEIU, USAction, VoteVets.org, Win Without War and Working Assets. Both Hildebrand and Tewes are "senior strategists" for presidential candidate Barack Obama.


After I posted Taibbi's article I came across this commentary from peace activist David Swanson:


In "Chicken Doves" Matt Taibbi correctly denounces the phony, monied, Democratic-front antiwar movement without acknowledging the real one. United for Peace and Justice, and other organizations serious about peace, struggle against a corrupt Congress, a pseudo peace movement with lots more money than we have, and reporters like Taibbi who pretend that a major movement that is actually working for peace with projects like this one upcoming in March: http://resistinmarch.org does not exist.

Taibbi correctly condemns the Democrats' past year of not really trying to end the occupation of Iraq. But he fails to acknowledge that they still have almost another whole year left in which they could quite easily act if they wanted to. Millions of us will continue pushing them to cut off the funding, with no help from Taibbi and other journalists who buy into the pretense that it is already 2009.

Swanson's piece continues at: http://afterdowningstreet.org/node/30906

I didn't see the Rolling Stone article until it was highlighted here and didn't know about so thanks for that. In terms of David Swanson's comment, I can't go to Mr. Swanson's site anymore because of the non-stop, repeated and personal attacks on Hillary while he offers non-stop, repeated endorsements of Barack. There's not a bit of difference between them on the war and MT's Rolling Stone article gets to the problems with the peace movement today. I also find it interesting that Swanson's highlighting a struggling event by a group whose previous efforts struggled when the big event in March will be IVAW's Winter Soldiers Investigation which Mr. Swanson did not choose to highlight in his comments. That event is a public event, open to all and IVAW will be sharing testimony on the realities of Iraq.
http://ivaw.org/index.php is their link.
It's in DC and the dates are March 13th through 16th.

...is that no one knows about everything going on everywhere. I myself didn't know about either "the struggling event by a group whose previous efforts struggled" or "the big even in March" until I read about them here.

Perhaps this isn't how you meant it, but your choice of words suggests to me that you don't consider the "struggling event" worthy of attention -- sort of like Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel being thought of as not meriting inclusion in the televised debates because their candidacies were struggling. As I see it, the more attention any such event gets, the better for everyone.

If I have any problem with Matt Taibbi, it's that he tries too hard to channel Hunter Thompson.

i assume you mean www.afterdowningstreet.org

the personal attacks on hillary clinton will continue right up until the moment she reveals she's something other than a person

i don't endorse obama. this is going to be a little tricky to understand, but i'll try to explain. in the general election, you can vote for whoever you want to as far as i am concerned. i haven't made up my mind yet. but the republican primary is a done deal. there is no third party primary in most states. and i would much rather have the democratic nominee be obama (god awful as he is) than Hillary who's worse.

did you go to www.resistinmarch.org ? Did you read it? Did you notice Winter Soldier there as prominently as anything else? did you know that Ann Wright and I just raised $1200 for Winter Soldier? you are wrong, however, to say that the public is welcome at Winter Soldier. The peace movement has been asked to stay the hell away from DC for 4 days.

...Why do you use capitalization so haphazardly here when you're careful with it on afterdowningstreet.org? It makes you seem like half the knuckle-typing nuts out there on the Web.

Several things need to be said about this piece.

First, all the groups listed are hardly 'the peace movement' or even a sizable piece of it. Most consist of a staff you can count on fingers and toes, a budget and a Beltway office. The grassroots antiwar movement working neighborhoods, schools and workplaces most likely never heard of them, and haven't seen anyone claiming to represent them at local coalition meetings, where all the critical plans are made and decisions are taken.

One exception, to a degree, is AAEI, but even here, the piece gets it wrong. Thanks to Citizen Action, which does have local people on the ground all across the country, and some SEIU funding, they did some very good work assisting AAEI people in the neighborhoods birddogging GOP candidates defending the war, and working to defeat them. Both Citizen Action and the AAEI 'Iraq Summer' team helped build our Oct 27 mobilization in Chicago, too. So what if they only went after the GOP? It balances out with our far left that only goes after liberal Dems.

Second, talking about 'The Dems' as if they're a monolith on the war or a democratic centralist group run by a born-again Stalin or Kim IL Sung is silly and a variety of ultraleft spin all of its own. Everyone knows they're split six different ways, that most antiwar stuff gets blocked by Blue Dog Dems lining up with the GOP, and that they have a too-small-but-still-decent 'Out of Iraq' Caucus plugging away and being helpful, even if Pelosi and Reid don't approve.

Third, anyone who thinks we need to overthrow the Dems and replace them with a better party as a prerequisite to ending this war, I'd love to see you make the case, along with a plan to move forward on it. Meanwhile, I'd bet good money that a Democratic Congress and/or a Dem or GOP president will be in power when the order is given to bring all the troops home, even if they're not the engine driving such an event. Our problem is figuring out how to get from here to there, a process that will include taking down some Members of Congress, electing some new ones, and working with some there now, regardless of party, among many other things in the streets out in the hinterlands.

Harp away on everything that's wrong with every candidate, but in the upcoming months, if nothing else, just get busy expanding the electorate with new antiwar voters and get them to the polls. You don't have to endorse anyone; the new voters will figure it out by themselves.

Keep On Keepin' On

Carl Davidson

[Carl Davidson in a UFPJ steering committee member, and a founder of Peace and Justice Voters 2004 in Chicago. He now is based in Western PA]


You wrote: "First, all the groups listed are hardly 'the peace movement' or even a sizable piece of it. Most consist of a staff you can count on fingers and toes, a budget and a Beltway office. The grassroots antiwar movement working in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces most likely never heard of them, and haven't seen anyone claiming to represent them at local coalition meetings, where all the critical plans are made and decisions are taken. One exception, to a degree, is AAEI, but even here, the piece gets it wrong."

Actually, you get it wrong.

This article is all about AAEI, [[Americans Against Escalation in Iraq]], a coalition consisting of MoveOn and the other groups named that make it up, fund it, and hire the Democratic Party lobbyists and political organizers identified in the Rolling Stone article.

The point of the article is that AAEI is the vehicle by which well over ten million dollars has been spent in the past year on a failed effort that put almost zero pressure on the Democrats who control Congress, while concentrating on simply attacking Republicans. This was [[Tom Matzzie]]'s strategy and it failed, as Sheldon Rampton and I [https://www.prwatch.org/node/5865 predicted it would a year ago]. Rather than pressure Democrats who control Congress, it hung the war completely on Republicans, while allowing Democrats to continue to fund it but posture against it.

It's both interesting and disturbing to see a hard working peace activist like yourself fail to understand exactly who it is who make the funding, strategy and tactical decisions inside AAEI.

I suggest you re-read this information, take a more careful look at the claims and the facts and ask yourself: have the millions that AAEI has spent been to force politicians of both parties to stop the war in Iraq? Or have the millions been spent in a partisan fashion to lay the blame on the Republicans while failing to pressure Democrats, with a cynical eye toward simply managing the war and using it to defeat Republicans in 08 as in 06?

You seem to buy the idea that vanquishing the Republicans will bring about peace. What makes you think that a peace movement so weak it cannot or will not put pressure on the Democrats to stop the funding of war when they control Congress, will able to do much better after more Democrats are elected?

Finally, where is [[United for Peace and Justice]], your own nation-wide grassroots-based coalition, in all this? The millions of dollars in partisan Democratic funding that have poured into AAEI are not being made available to UFPJ, or the grassroots peace groups, obviously. As long as UFPJ and the grassroots peace groups who are members of it are willing to stand for the sort of betrayal described and decried in this Rolling Stone article, the peace movement will remain weak, fragmented, under funded and ignored by the mainstream media who see AAEI with its big budget, big names, and Democratic Party lobbyists as the 'real' peace movement.

The fact that most people who labor for peace in the trenches don't recognize the Democratic Party lobbyists and funders behind the failed AAEI strategy perpetuates the problem; those working for peace obviously need to take a more careful and critical look at the national peace movement and its funding, strategy and tactics.

[[John Stauber]]

First, read the headline, which starts the spin: Democrats (All of them? As a Party? Some of them?) take over peace movement (All of it? Just AAEI and a few friends?)

I'm sure you know the head and the lead are what gets the spin spinning.

As you note, I'm very much in the peace movement, part of a coalition of well over 1000 groups and local coalitions, and 'Democrats' haven't taken us over one bit.

We've had people who are registered Democrats, people who vote Democratic, even people elected to various posts as Democrats, working as members or close allies going back to 2002. We've also had Socialists, Greens and Communists, and anti-any-party anarchists. The antiwar wing among Democrats, from top to bottom, has been there as part of a working 'Out Now' coalition all along and hasn't 'taken over' anything. And if we are serious about ending this war, we need many more of them to get involved. We suffer more from the lack of them than their presence--and I'm a Green, not a Dem.

I have no idea what AAEI did with its millions around the country, nor do I think they took money that should have gone to us. We're very familar with MoveOn.org and its circle and, at best, at least up to now, see them as on the fringe of our efforts, and they rarely listen favorably much to us in any case. So they oppose the war in their way, and we'll do it in our way, and we'll work together were we can. With it's 'Out Now' line, UFPJ likely knows it's too big a stretch for some donors, at least for now, and the last thing we need is resentments building up over who gets what grant. Our program is clear enough, and we get what we get. We always need more, as does everyone else.

But I do know what AAEI did with some of its money in Chicago. It hired fulltime organizers to go after the GOP's Kirk in the 10th CD, and they did a good job of it. Now as a byproduct, Dan Seals, a very good antiwar Dem, won the primary and will hopefully take him down. This was money well spent, and it doesn't count other smaller amounts they put into two large mobilizations in the streets we were involved in.

Criticizing antiwar forces among the Democrats for only targeting Republicans? And you're shocked? It just shows we have an antiwar movement made up of both partisan and nonpartisan forces. Please, I'd rather them do that than attack us, or do nothing at all.

Again, what's your strategic point here? To stop having anything to do with Democrats? To make them the target of the main blow? To make them 'equal' targets with Bush-McCain? The commander-in-chief and the various cabinet posts are still held by the GOP last time I looked--hopefully, not for too much longer. Or is your point that it doesn't matter?

Keep On Keepin' On
Carl Davidson

Confession: I was an organizer for AAEI last summer.

Fact: when we got on the ground, the idea that AAEI was going to channel the peace movement for the sake of the Dem party was common. It was one of the first things we heard, and we never stopped hearing it.

The facts do not seem to bear that out, as various parties have already argued here. Many of us wished that the group had targeted at least one Dem, for the sake of balance. But the idea was to crack the base of Republican support for the war. And it may have worked. It did not prevent the actions of congress after Patreus's testimony. But there is an election coming. And Republican support for the war may prove to be sagging in the communities where we raised the visibility of the incumbents' antiwar votes. The yard signs are still in the yards!!