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Where is the Peace Movement?

Marge Van Cleef has been actively protesting wars and weapons of war since 1979. She was one of the organizers of the “Stop Trident Campaign” in Connecticut, where all of the 18 Trident nuclear submarines were built by General Dynamics/Electric Boat Div. She is an educator, formerly teaching at several community colleges. Marge is a member of the Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition and Women’s Int’l. League for Peace & Freedom. She organized the Drone Death Walk in Philadelphia which has continued monthly for five years.

She is being interviewed by Elizabeth Fattah from the Green Politics Collective.

Question: The peace movement has been subdued during the Obama administration. Is it because a Democrat is in the White House?

MVC - I think it is not only a Democrat but a first time for an African American President. While he symbolically may stand for change in policy, he has been the victim of rampant racism in the Congress. Just speculation on my part, but is there a chance that liberals feel like they must support him in his struggle with the Congress? But above all, he has been a major disappointment to liberals and some Black people. He was put in office with money from the corporations, and he is beholden to them. They will always support war and capitalist expansion. He has served them well.

So, the Left and many African Americans are reluctant to criticize an African American President. Is that one of the reasons that the peace movement has been not been more vocal?

MVC -The Left has been pretty critical of Obama, even if not published widely. African Americans continue to support him, understandably, for there is not a strong left movement within the Black community. The Panthers are gone! And by the way, Amy Goodman had a great interview with Kathleen Cleaver last week.

Why not more resistance from the "peace movement?"

MVC -I think it's about more than the presidency. I think there's real discouragement and fatigue and maybe even fear of the repression that could get worse. Obama has not even made a strong statement about the police killings. No doubt he fears the police. Then there are radicals and liberals, and right now liberals seem to be "leading" whatever protest is going on. People who are still wide awake know that a Democrat in the White House is no guarantee for change of military and expansionist policies.

Even the Liberal press has been quiet about the Obama administration's aggressive drone policy. Why do you think that is the case.

MVC - I'm not sure the press thinks it's a good enough story. They too are controlled by the war mongering of the corporations and thus the corporate press. The Koch brothers contribute to even the "liberal" press. Drones are becoming acceptable and we have not begun to see the outcomes here in the U.S. as more ordinary civilians own private drones. If the popular press really covered civilian deaths, tragedies in the Middle East and Africa, with the use of drones, which they have done to some extent, people would know more than they do. But if drone aggression "saves American lives" it will be o.k. People are grateful for drones. And the press follows popular opinion in my view.

As a peace activist and someone who has led demonstrations in Philadelphia against drones, what do you think an activist can do to change the present situation?

MVC - I wish I knew. We seem to be changing very little but we can do our best to "educate" people on the street and wherever we happen to be. My small drone button gets comments frequently. Otherwise, unless we really disrupt in some way — government buildings, meetings of Congress — we are barely noticed and always accommodated.

Last week Code Pink disrupted a Senate Committee that had Kissinger as a participant. They received a lot of press because John McCain made disparaging remarks about them. Otherwise, there would have been little publicity except on programs like Democracy Now. Since Code Pink has disrupted Congressional committees so often, I wonder about their effectiveness. What do you think?

MVC - At least there is a group trying to disrupt the proceedings. Perhaps what we need is more disruption, and not just in Washington DC. I think that we both agree that there is the connection between the militarization of police along with the brutality, as shown in Ferguson, New York City and other municipalities and the indiscriminate killing of Africans, Middle Easterners, and basically any group that the US government labels terrorist.

What is the Green Party able to do to make change? Is election of candidates ever going to work, i.e. 3rd Party candidates? What does the future look like? Will we connect the environmental crisis with the war making, militarism and consumerism? I can only raise the questions. No answers. But radical analysis is necessary and we must find new means of reaching more of the population in the U.S.