Anti-war left has trouble convincing Obama followers to protest Libya involvement

Life ain’t easy for an anti-war liberal.

President Barack Obama launched air attacks against Libya eight years to the day George Bush sent bombs over Baghdad. Back in 2003, the lefty site MoveOn.org “flexed [its muscle with] ‘virtual marches,’ in which tens of thousands of protesters jammed Senate and White House phones, fax machines and e-mail boxes with antiwar messages.” Originally founded to encourage the public to “move on” from Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades, MoveOn.org repositioned itself as a heavyweight in the early 2000s anti-war movement.

This time around? A little less than a week after the attack, MoveOn.org has articles bashing “Out-of-Control Republicans in Wisconsin,” but hardly a mention of the bombing in Libya. Well, there is a post noting that John McCain called Muammar Gaddafi an “interesting man” on Twitter two years ago. So much for moving on.

After Obama addresses the nation tonight about the government’s recent intervention in Libya, perhaps the left can coalesce around a message. It’s hard enough when the administration won’t call the action a “war,” but anti-war groups with a traditionally liberal bent are having a tough time rallying those who so adamantly opposed Republican President Bush’s war.

“I don’t expect much, to be honest with you,” Eric Garris, founder and managing editor of AntiWar.com, told The Daily Caller. AntiWar.com was established during Bill Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia. The group’s an old hand at nonpartisan anti-war objections. Garris predicted only “small demonstrations” against the recent Libyan conflict and said it would only be included as an “add-on” to demonstrations against the anniversary of Bush’s war.

The past week seems to have borne out that prediction. With rallies already scheduled, the anti-war group Code Pink included the Libya intervention as part of its protest message. Although it was originally an “add on,” Code Pink’s co-founder, Medea Benjamin, said the group tried to make Libya the focus. The turnout, however, wasn’t great.

“We got maybe 2,000 people out at the most,” Benjamin told TheDC. “We used be be able to mobilize tens of thousands of people. And it’s just … we don’t have the same numbers anymore.”

During the Bush years, Benjamin said it was fairly easy to find people willing to mobilize against war. With powerful Democratic party-backed groups like MoveOn.org, it seemed much of the public had bleeding-heart syndrome. That’s no longer the case, now that one of their own is in the office.

“It was certainly easier to mobilize under Republican presidents,” said Benjamin. “A lot of the organizations that are bigger than ours are affiliated with the Democratic party and they are reluctant to criticize the president.”

Susan Sloan, national staff coordinator for the anti-war group ANSWER, pointed out that her group has been holding protests all across the country since last Wednesday. Sloan was reluctant to comment specifically on the lukewarm response from the mainstream left — traditionally anti-war — after the Libya attacks.

“I think there may be a section of the movement that’s very tied to the Democratic party who will have that perspective,” said Sloan. “But from the point of view of ANSWER, the groups that have really been in the streets, we’ve been building a movement that’s been independent from the Democratic party.”

Asked about the general size of the protest in front of the White House this past weekend, Sloan said she wasn’t sure of exact numbers.

“We didn’t put out a count because it was very hard to calculate because we were there for about three hours,” she told TheDC. “And so many people came in and out of the demonstration that we really didn’t really have a good count.”

As for the protests ANSWER organized in other cities across the country, “there were a number of weather issues, almost every city had terrible weather, actually,” said Sloan.

“I heard it was a bit of a circus — with folks there also re: Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, etc.,” Code Pink’s Benjamin told TheDC when asked about the weekend protests in Washington, D.C.

Lawmakers’ responses haven’t been much better — on either sides of the aisle —  as they try and figure out how to dance around partisan rhetoric when commenting on the current attack. Like ANSWER and Code Pink, however, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, is one of the few whose message hasn’t changed.

Last week, the Ohio representative called Obama’s action in Libya an “impeachable offense” after he failed to seek congressional approval, and Kucinich is already looking for ways to cut funding for the war. Speaking with TheDC, Kucinich said the 2003 antiwar response  was “extraordinary” and that “there were millions of people gathering in protest.”

Like Sloan, Kucinich was reluctant to criticize those anti-war protesters during Bush’s years who have become all but ghosts this time around.

“I don’t know. I have tried to be supportive of this president, but this violation of the Constitution is so clear that if his friends can’t tell him, who will?” Kucinich told TheDC. “I don’t want to criticize anyone else for not moving forward. I make it a point that when I see something, I don’t look to the left or the right, but to move as quickly as I can to move forward and to protect the Constitution and to stand for peace. That’s what I’m doing. That’s what I always do.”

At least it’s clear that Kucinich — like Code Pink and ANSWER — haven’t moved on.

Chris Moody contributed to this report. Email Jeff Winkler and follow him on Twitter

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  • oceana

    Obama’s “New World Order” is more like, “Obama’s New World DISorder” !

    He is a disaster & has been since day one.
    He waffles, waits, runs for cover and then, sticks his head out, like some heroic groundhog.
    Remember, he waited over 60 days before he even admitted, he had not talked to the BP CEO,
    while the Gulf was drowning in oil…….then he claimed he was “gonna’ kick some ass”!

    Don’t bother him with such trivia matters, that get in the way of his Robin Hood agenda
    and his perpetual campaign.
    Instead of dealing with problems, he ignores & wishes them away…..petulant & endangering.

    Whether an oil spill, military action or choosing a church-
    he is incapable & impotent…no way, a LEADER.

    And what’s with the raising of both hands, all during this speech-
    very reminiscent of his preacher, Jeremiah Wright & despised dictators ?

    For someone who cares so much about humanitarian needs,
    this useless, community organizer has served up enough trash
    to suffocate the hard-working, American people
    and everything good about our country.
    He is a complete failure.

  • kingfish


    Dr. Sabrosky, former Marine Corp & worked at Army War College

  • ITYS

    Just shows you protesting wars is only for Republicans. No one needs to be surprised that the Left is WITHOUT principles even when related to WAR!!! What a bunch of duplicitous hypocrites!!!!

  • BluePhantom2

    I guess dropping bombs on people is all relative if your of the progressive mind set (Whatever teh h@ll that is?).

  • sunnyr

    Poor Comrade Obozo has been in bed with the wrong people. Now they are turning against him and revealing some of his secrets. Malik Shabazz and Louis Farakhann are doing some trash talk aimed at Obozo’s head. No wonder this pathetic “leader” stays on the golf course or out of town.

  • erick1740

    No war for oil!!! That is what you liberal loons screamed when eeevil Bush ran the white house. Now we have little incompetent boy and not a peep. Libs suck!

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  • teapartypatriot


    “France wants Libya strikes run by new ‘committee’ ”
    “France takes lead on ousting Qaddafi, U.S. wavers on ultimate goal”
    “Europe, not US, pushed for military force in Libya”
    “U.S. in compliance with U.N. resolution, will cede lead soon”

    Follow the CRUDE:

    France gets MORE THAN 10% of its oil from Libya.
    Germany gets an even higher percentage from Libya.
    Many of the oil facilities are owned by Italian firms (Libya was a colony of Italy).
    The US gets a negligibly small amount from Libya, but just needs to payback europe for supporting US interests in Iraq oil — THAT’S WHY THE US MISSION IS LIMITED.

    And the UK wants to kill gadhafi to make sure he never tells the full story of their BP-Libya oil deal for the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

    It’s ALWAYS about the oil.


    NO OIL – NOBODY CARES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!