On Saturday, I went to a one day conference of a group called Educators to the Stop the Warthat brought together teachers and students from New York area high schools, colleges, and elementary schools. It was one of the more positive events that I've gone to recently, with 750+ people who stayed for a day's worth of workshops; I hope that it will motivate and coordinate greater anti-war activity in high schools and colleges.
The conference was unusually good both because there were people there with new information and insights and because the overwhelming focus of the conference was to put information into practical action.
Rahul Mahajan, author of Full Spectrum Dominanceand keeper of the blog Empire Notes, was particularly impressive during the morning plenary. His speech differed substantially from the usual type of analysis. In it, he chided the American anti-war movement for its failure to recognize the successful elements of the recent elections in Iraq, which were, he said, the result of activism in Iraq, not the occupation. Because so many criticized the elections as a total sham, Mahajan said that the anti-war movement left the public with the confused impression that we didn't support democracy in Iraq. In order to be on the "right side of history," he said that we should be informed of and ready to speak about the democratic movements in Iraq, most of which oppose the occupation.
Also excellent were two speakers from Iraq Veterans Against The War. One of them appeared in the morning plenary, and emphasized the importance of educators with his comment, "If Vietnam had been more than a footnote in my highschool textbooks, I never would have joined the military." Although IVAW only has 150 members, it will grow as more vets can finally get back from Iraq.
The small workshops were also better than usual. I went to one on the role of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the anti-war movement, during which there was a great deal of audience participation, as well as clear disagreement among the panelists themselves. One of the panelists, Phyllis Bennis, began her remarks by challenging the organizers to work better to have a more representative panel next time, as there were four Jews and only one Palestinian on the panel. She also made the argument that Israel is "no longer the third rail" in progressive politics, but some of the comments from the audience made me question her confidence on that score.
The other workshop that I attended was run by Military Families Speak out,who were very concrete in their efforts to make links between military families, veterans and our schools. They were also very informative. I learned at this workshop, for example, that the army is now calling up amputees to return to Iraq. Here is an ABC news story about the first one to go. I think that this particular workshop, which was held twice during the day, was highly influential, and based on what I saw and heard, I'd say that the most direct result of the conference will be a renewed focus on military recruiters in the highschools and jr. colleges. Generally, I also imagine that many of us will become more focused in our efforts to bring specific information about the war into the classroom.
I don't see any scandal-mongering headlines in the Post today, which is at least one good sign.