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Give Us One Debate About War and Peace

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Fifty years ago today, millions of Americans joined epic anti-war protests in Washington, DC, and across the United States. Organized by young activists who had cut their teeth in the peace politics of the 1968 Democratic primary between candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy, the October 15, 1969, Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam took the movement back to the streets for mass demonstrations, as students activists joined newly formed “Veterans for Peace” chapters, civil rights activists, migrant farmworkers, CEOs, and socialists to declare that it was time to give peace a chance.

The Moratorium was everywhere, from the steps of the Douglas County Courthouse in Omaha, Nebraska, to Trinity Church at the head of Wall Street in New York City. In Washington, a quarter-million Americans joined in a candlelight march from the Lincoln Memorial to the White House. They were led by Coretta Scott King, who hailed the nonviolent protests as a continuation of late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, campaigning for an end to the war that had diverted so much energy and so many resources from the struggle for economic and social justice at home.

It is chance that the 50th anniversary of the Moratorium falls on the same day as the fourth round of Democratic presidential debates. Today’s Democratic Party leadership is neither so historically inclined nor so prescient to have timed a debate with an eye toward highlighting the contribution of peace movements and peace candidates. 

This Democratic Party is different from the one that rejected its anti-war contenders in 1968. But it’s still a party that struggles to define itself when it comes to questions of war and peace, interventions abroad, and bloated military budgets. That’s just one reason why it makes sense to demand what we will not get tonight: a debate focused exclusively on issues of war and peace, militarism and imperialism, instead of anecdotal discussions that touch on a past vote or the latest crisis created by President Trump, Democrats need to have a full and robust debate on these issues and issues like them.

I have argued before and will keep arguing that the Democrats should schedule an issue-focused debate on the climate crisis. It is absurd for the candidates to refer to climate change as the existential crisis of our time and, yet, hold debates in which the crisis is discussed for a few minutes on the way to another review of where the candidates stand on the issues they have already pontificated upon.

The climate debate deserves its own debate night because it’s about the future of our species. The war-and-peace debate deserves its own night for the same reason.

Anyone who doubts this should pause and consider the complex questions that have arisen since President Trump ordered US troops to leave northern Syria, giving Turkey the green light to attack the Kurds and create violent chaos that extends with each passing day. Should the US have had troops in Syria in the first place? Why were those troops dispatched to Syria without a formal congressional debate and declaration of war? And what responsibility does a president have—once troops have been sent into a conflict zone and alliances have been formed—to end the deployment thoughtfully and ethically?

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Thanks !

Thanks for sharing this, you are awesome !