Antiwar Groups Protest Defense Industry Profiteering in Ukraine

The war of aggression that Russia has perpetrated in Ukraine has rightly generated widespread condemnation, both among Russia’s Western critics and the world at large. On the war’s obvious heinousness, almost all of the U.S. political spectrum is in agreement. However, opinions on the appropriate Western response to this war come from vastly different sources.

The dominant left positionThe majority of Americans are resolutely against war. U.S. activists from all walks have been making ambitious organizing efforts to push the conflict towards diplomacy. The high death toll and the resulting chaos, it is no surprise that there has been a lot of organizing efforts. millions of refugees the war has produced — to say nothing of the threat of conventional or nuclear escalation — the matter is an urgent one.

There has been much internal debate between left-leaning factions during the process of organizing opposition. There are more contentious issues, such as the question of arming Ukrainians and the relative moral weighting between nonviolence and defense, and the extent of responsibility that NATO should be credited for its role in decades-long ratcheting tensions.

Organizers from left-liberals and communists, regardless of their views on the situation, are calling for all means of protest, media initiatives or global rallies. demonstrations at the thresholdsThe military-industrial complex. It is difficult to mount an effective confrontation against the U.S. empire, defense industry, and influence a far-flung war. Yet despite the historic scale of the challenge, coalitions of antiwar activists are striving to realize their vision of the end of imperial aggression — perpetrated by Russia and the U.S. alike.

Militarism is a default

Most antiwar organizers agree that diplomacy should prevail in the resolution of the Russia-Ukraine war. The vast majority are vehemently opposed to any form of active U.S. military intervention — a prudent stance for those who wish to avoid a hot war with a nuclear power. The U.S. political elite, which took advantage of the opportunity and vilified Russia, seems eager to court a clash between these two rapidly declining superpowers, is not surprising. Right-wing war fervor has simmered below the surface; Republican jingoists and a numberFoolhardy op-eds in major media) espoused everythingFrom a no-fly zone, to refusing to exclude the deployment of U.S. troops on the ground

These lawmakers’ martial fantasies are more than a little cavalier about the potential for Great Power conflict. They favor a two-pronged approach that is less reckless than some centrists. the imposition of devastating punitive sanctions on Russia and the delivery of vast amounts of weaponry to Ukrainian forces — stopping short of outright U.S. military intervention.

Democrats have leapt to snipe at the rightDemonstrating who can demandThe larger weaponry supply, however, is leveraging the conflictFor all mannerfor political purposes. It has been a field day to fawning. ham-fisted propagandistsLike a noted stenographer Bret Stephens. (“The U.S. stands up to bullies!”) Both parties are unequivocalIn their shared supportFor an overflowing bountyWar materiel and other assistance. As of writing, the White House has requested a staggering $33 billionUkraine This number continues to rise.

These policies are largely supported by the U.S. public. a majorityApproving or wishing increase weaponry shipments. (Further: a remarkable 35 percent favor direct military action — “even if it risks nuclear conflict with Russia,” speaking poorly of their aptitude in risk assessment.) NATO has held outThere are no calls to impose an air-sea ban; the military alliance recognizes the wisdom of avoiding a shooting war between Russian forces and the military alliance. The shooting will instead be done by Ukrainian hands with plentiful Western arms — very much to the benefitThe U.S. defense sector. It is no accident that there is a desire to fortify Ukraine in the government and media. The state is not only eager to see Russia beaten and chastened but also conflict and arms deals are profitable.

Perhaps it is understandable that there is a desire to support the Ukrainian resistance. (Though its ranks of far right nationalistsIt might give you pause. Some supporters claim that arming Ukraine would allow for a decisive Russian defeat and withdrawal. This could theoretically reduce the conflict. “But if it doesn’t,” writes Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept, “and the flow of weapons delays a negotiated settlement between Russia, Ukraine, and NATO, then it is hard to see the massive scope of the weapons transfers as a clear positive.” Further Russian retaliation and the deployment of Western weaponry in a protracted insurgency could result in a great deal of harm and sharpen the already-pronounced refugee crisis.

Antiwar activists perceive the inundation of Ukraine with armaments as yet another round of war profiteering — one that risks precluding diplomatic solutions. Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine petitions the worldTo arm Ukraine and to intervene militarily, antiwar organizations, however, have spoken out in strident oppositionThe staggering influx Western arms has also contributed to the Cold-War style bellicosityThe U.S. has taken up power again with gusto.

Antiwar Coalitions in Action

In the meantime, large-scale real-world protests against the war have erupted on numerous fronts — both within Russia and Ukraine and across the globe. They are not the only ones mobilizing their institutional resources to oppose the war, as they include pacifist, progressive and anti-imperialist U.S. groups. Given the unlikelihood of influencing the actions of the Russian government, they’ve targeted the realm in which they are mostly likely to have an impact — namely, U.S. policy. The U.S. response to the war could be crucial in determining the outcome because of its deep involvement in it.

Despite the fact that the U.S. antiwar movement is not a terrorist organization has never reattainedMany groups with antiwar missions are still active today, despite the magnitude of Vietnam’s Vietnam-era glory. Many date to the resistance against the U.S.’s imperial expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s — for example, CODEPINKIn 2002, the large progressive feminist antiwar group ”, was founded. The group has been one of the more visible in mounting a response to the Ukraine issue, voicing dissent with the provision of weapons and directing public attention to the geopolitical context of NATO’s aggressive posture in the preceding years.

Truthout reached CODEPINK cofounder and activist Medea Benjamin, a Green Party member and former California Senate candidate, to learn more about the group’s agitational efforts and how antiwar elements in the U.S. might conceivably affect policy. Benjamin believes that education and information are the first steps to counteracting. a media apparatus that insistently seeks to justify opening the floodgates of advanced weaponry — sometimes very directly.

“[The idea that weapons and sanctions are necessary]People in the White House, and most members of Congress are pushing this agenda. It’s certainly being pushed by the corporate media,” Benjamin said. (Take The New York Times, for instance, which conceded sanctions may be “harsh,” but deemed they were ultimately “appropriate.” We are left to wonder why the Times didn’t insist the U.S. be so “harshly” sanctioned in the wake of the invasion of Iraq.)

Benjamin underscored the structural incentives: “The weapons companies [are]Concerned about the easing of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq [The state] sees this as an opportunity to really debilitate Russia.… The ability to bleed the Russian economy and to curtail its reach also means that the U.S. is strengthening its position globally.”

CODEPINK and its allies have been energized by the war and have engaged in a frenzy of activity. CODEPINK had in fact already ralliedA number of times in protest of rising tensions, before the crisis’s late-February outbreak. The Russian troops invaded Ukraine immediately after which the group was joined by U.K.-based groups such as the Stop the War Coalition, the No to NATO Network the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, held an emergency online panel and rally, bringing together figures like Jeremy Corbyn and historian and writer Vijay Prashad to denounce the war (Corbyn called it “abominable, appalling and unnecessary”), and to call for peace.

CODEPINK’s series of webinars drew thousands — including, as Benjamin described, “representatives from members of parliaments from many governments, including the British, Irish, German, French and Spanish, [and] well-known academics and activists.” In April, Benjamin also hostedAnother “Stop the War in Ukraine”Online rally featuring Noam Chmsky, another appearance by Vijay Prashad and Yanis Varoufakis, a leftist politician from Greece New Left ReviewTariq Ali (editor) and other notable voices.

These online events occurred in tandem with real-world rallies — “days of action,” which, Benjamin said, brought together “about 125 different groups around the world.” CODEPINK has long worked beside organizations like the ANSWER Coalition(another large antiwar group from the United States that has hosted). online conversations). The coalition, which includes the Black Alliance for Peace and Peace Action, was created together. a rally in Washington, D.C.’s Lafayette SquareTensions rose. More CODEPINK protests occurred across the country various U.S. localesFlyers were put up at locations where volunteers have demonstrated. gathered signatures on petitions.

As Benjamin framed it, the core message in conducting this public outreach amounted to posing the questions, “Do you want the war in Ukraine to end? Do you want the Ukrainian people to be saved? Well, then let’s call for a ceasefire and for serious negotiations.” She feels that this approach is a convincing one: “Once we have a chance to talk to people about it, we do get them to our side.”

Benjamin and CODEPINK intend to maintain their current activity levels. The group will join in June. the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington, D.C. — an effort spearheaded by the Poor People’s Campaign to speak out against militarism and the bloated defense budget, among other systemic issues. Benjamin also spoke out about future plans to send activists protesting the NATO strategic summit in Madrid. along with an international antiwar coalitionThese are large. Their hope is to apply pressure at a critical time: “With the upcoming election in November, I think that we can be part of talking about why this is happening, not allowing Biden to get away with blaming everything on Russia, but instead putting the blame on militarism and the inability to really seriously push for a negotiated solution,” Benjamin told Truthout.

Resolute Nonviolence

Joining CODEPINK in Madrid NATO summit and elsewhere is possible World Beyond War(WBW), an American-based pacifist organisation that has international chapters, also in Ukraine. David Swanson is WBW’s executive director. Talk with Truthout, he described the group’s assiduous organizing efforts. Like CODEPINK, WBW’s current strategy is to inform the public, presenting pacifist arguments for abolishing war, nuclear weaponry and arms dealing. WBW’s outputIt has been a source of many articles, books, interviews, and op-eds. videos,Podcasts and other media. In addition, said Swanson, “We’ve done tons of webinars, online and offline educational events. We have lots of speakers, we go and talk to classrooms, go and talk to peace groups that organize events and do tons of the same online.”

WBW has directed numerous real-world actions in order to augment the media push. “The past week, we’ve been doing protests all over the world,” said Swanson. WBW will participate in protests across the globe in the immediate future. a global day of action, planned for May 7.“We’ve done these days before, usually in coalition with other groups, sometimes globally, sometimes nationally, trying to do days of events where we have at least small and sometimes large demonstrations or rallies or protests everywhere.”

WBW engages in other more pointed confrontations. WBW advisory board member in one instance disrupted an event in Canadaconfronting the deputy prime minster with an antiwar, antiNATO diatribe. Another arm of WBW’s strategy, ongoing for years, is to protest at the physical offices of weapons manufacturers — major beneficiaries of wars that are incentivized to ensure they remain as drawn-out and destructive as possible. WBW will be protesting at the Northrop Grumman’s annual meeting of defense and aviation corporation Northrop Grumman. Members aim to draw attention to the key role that the corporation and other arms manufacturers like Lockheed Martin play in “the war on Ukraine from which [they are] proudly profiting,” Swanson said. “There are Congress members proudly profiting from stock ownership in Lockheed Martin.”

Swanson sees the attention that the war on Ukraine has received as an opportunity to buttress opposition to militarism in general — and to flag certain contradictory narratives from U.S. empire and its mouthpieces. “After decades of demanding that war victims be treated with some sympathy and respect,” he said, “to have that finally happen in one place is an opportunity to say ‘Yes! You are right! What about all the other war victims?’ To have the U.S. government want war treated as a crime and prosecuted in a court — wonderful! Now how about all the other wars?”

That sort of hypocrisy around foreign policy is one of the state’s (and dominant media’s) most reliable features. Again, the tragedy of Ukraine has been especially amplified because it serves a convenient ideological function in contesting Russia’s geopolitical position. (And, as many have pointed, or blurted, out: Sympathy towards this conflict has also had particular purchase because Ukraine is considered a “civilized” European country with a large white population. A number of(Media figures have shared their views on this front.

Key to WBW’s ideology is an unswerving commitment to pacifism. As Swanson described it, “We are opposed to all war, all militarism, all war thinking, all support for military funding, always, without exception.… We think that’s actually the moral thing to do.” Nonviolence, for WBW, is non-negotiable — as evidenced by a recent article of his, which criticized the Poor People’s Campaign for an email that seemed to condone arming Ukraine. As Swanson continued: “To drag this on, to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian as we have their backs with the money rolling in — I don’t think this is a moral position. This is what we struggle to get across: that the United States and Ukraine should both be trying to end this war. It’s almost considered treasonous. The ‘proper’ position is to want to continue the war to weaken Russia.”

People can still stop the war

There are many organizers are just as aghastSwanson pointed out the grotesqueries of the war and its ideological utility to other powerful warmongering groups. Despite its distance from the conflict and a lack of leverage over Russia’s actions, the U.S. antiwar movement does, conceivably, have the potential to impact its own government. A U.S. pivot towards pursuing a diplomatic solution might help to avoid a long and painful war of attrition. Yet if present conditions continue to accelerate — continued Russian aggression (as well as their significant battlefield setbacks) as the West increasingly arms Ukraine — the war may develop into the latter.

There are challenging moral questions to be weighed by the war’s opponents: questions of pacifism and self-defense, of how best to show solidarity with a beleaguered Ukraine, of how a war of aggression might be mitigated without worsening violence. It is necessary to triangulate between the deceitful propaganda of two powerful nations in order to understand the conflict. It would be easy for antiwar activists, faced with long odds and feelings of impotence and apathy in a conflict that can seem almost impossible to understand, to give up. The U.S. government and military, while powerful and profitable, are not invulnerable. Mass protests and dissent have influenced the course of American history. Despite their differences, antiwar activists are buoyed collectively by a belief in what history has shown: that organized people can be successful. can still stop wars.