MoveOn.org wants an 'outcry' for Iran, getting desperate w/o Iraq War to rally base?

Got an email from MoveOn.org last night asking me to, “as an individual,” show my support for the protesters in Iran. The email included a bunch of links: one to a sign I can print out to put in my window, another to a picture for a Facebook page, a third to sign a petition, etc.*

The email got me thinking: why’s MoveOn getting involved in Iranian politics? And what are we supposed to make of the fact that nearly every American–from the blowhard Republicans in Congress to the ever-caving President Obama and now to our most famous liberal netrooters–are so willing to take a stand in solidarity with the Iranian folks?

First, we can figure that it must be a really easy political position to take. (And it is: who isn’t on the side of the protesters getting stomped by thugs?) We know why the Republicans are mouthing off–to put pressure on Obama and make him look weak. We know why Obama decided to take a stand yesterday–because he didn’t want to look weak. (Succumbing to Republican pressure, which, of course, made him look weak.) So what of MoveOn?

Cynically, my first thought was that they must not be getting enough traction among their base about health care and energy reform, the subject of the previous twelve emails I received from them. As noted in an earlier post, they’ve dropped the Iraq War from their agenda, and they’ve remained silent on the war in Afghanistan. So they couldn’t resist the urge to seize–alas, opportunistically–on the cause of the week. (Supporting Iranian protesters is much sexier than strengthening the “clean energy jobs bill.”) Also a red flag: MoveOn waited until Obama took a stand before they decided to take a stand.

What I’d like to know from MoveOn is this: if you’re so willing to support Iranian democracy, well, what’s your position on democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq? Do you think what we’re doing in Afghanistan is democratic? How about in Baghdad? How about those air strikes in Pakistan? Where are the outcries for solidarity with innocent Afghans and Iraqis? (The people in two countries where we actually have quite a deal of influence over due to our military presence. Two countries, which, not coincidentally, border Iran to the west and east.) What’s the deal with cherry-picking Iran as the foreign affairs issue to weigh in on?

Excuse me for being a bit curmudgeonly. It just doesn’t sit well with me when our politico-media-blogo establishment complex all start to take strident positions on issues that a)they’re probably clueless about and b) are way too easy to take.  In that earlier post, I mentioned that MoveOn was so willing to forget the Iraq War because they had no skin in the game. (In 2006 and 2007 and 2008, they were demanding that we “Bring The Troops Home Now.” I didn’t realize by “now” they actually meant 2015 and by “home” they meant Kabul.) In the end, Iraq was just a political issue for them, one that was easily abandoned once Obama took charge. With Iran, they’re again taking a position about American foreign policy that doesn’t cost them a thing, and reaping the benefits of firing up their network of supporters. At the same time, they’re avoiding other pressing U.S. foreign policy issues where their political clout could actually have real impact.

*(Actually, MoveOn says in the email that it’s not MoveOn, per say, that wants you to support the protesters. They’re helping out another organization called Avaaz–“a global MoveOn-type organization”–to get 1 million signatures worldwide to deliver a message to “Iran’s regime.” MoveOn doesn’t want to give the impression that the American government is meddling.)

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About michaelhastings

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12 Responses to MoveOn.org wants an 'outcry' for Iran, getting desperate w/o Iraq War to rally base?

  1. Brian In NYC says:

    “Excuse me for being a bit curmudgeonly.”

    We’ve grown used to it especially where moveon.org is concerned. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with you finding fault with stands taken by moveon, I do feel questioning their motives is unfair. And yet again I find it odd that you keep expecting moveon to take a flat out anti-war position. This is not who they are. It seems to me your real problem with moveon is that they don’t agree with you.

  2. Michael Hastings says:

    No, my issue with MoveOn is that they raised tons of money off their anti-Iraq war stance, milked the issue for years, and then delivered zero results. They helped get Democrats elected, sure, but the Demos have then delivered zero results, as far as Iraq is concerned. Our alleged withdrawal from Iraq has as much (or more) to do with Iraqi pressure as American political pressure(which has vanished since Obama won, while the folks in Iraq still feel it’s a pressing issue.)

    I’ve been covering MoveOn since 2003(before the war, if memory serves), and in fact was one of the first mainstream journalists to write about their Bush-era rise when I was at Newsweek. (Originally, MoveOn started during the Clinton impeachment years–to ‘move on’ to more pressing topics.)I covered their ‘Bush in 30 Second’ contest, as well as the Bring Em Home concert of ’06. So now I’m writing about them all grown up, entrenched in the establishment, shilling for the powers-that-be.

    On a philosophical level–that’s bigger than MoveOn, and concerns how our media/political/blog class functions–I just wonder about all the political posturing that goes on when whatever issue becomes the Big Story of the Day. It rings phony to me.

    • Brian In NYC says:

      Then I’m a bit confused as to why you keep bringing up Afghanistan when criticizing moveon. And since the president is living up to his campaign promises of removing combats troops from Iraq I’m not sure what your beef is either in that regard.

      • Michael Hastings says:

        ‘Cause Afghanistan is where the troops are headed, and MoveOn did position itself(and sold itself) as the major anti-war voice on the left. And if they’re so interested in democracy in Iran, I’d like to know their position on democracy in Afghanistan/Iraq. Also, they’re outraged by Iranian protestors getting knocked around by Iranians, but not by American bombs dropped on Pakistani and Afghan civilians? Seems like a bit of moral inconsistency to me…

      • Brian In NYC says:

        “as the major anti-war voice on the left”

        You keep saying that Michael, and it’s just not true. moveon is not an anti war org. Being opposed to the war in Iraq does not equate to a broad anti war policy. Moveon has never taken a stand against the war Afghanistan. I’d be curious to read what you think we should be doing in Afghanistan?

      • Michael Hastings says:

        Brian, if you don’t want to take my word for it, take Tom Hayden’s, who calls MoveOn the main voice of “the peace movement.” MoveOn is supposed to be, in part, a reflection of their member’s views(who want them to keep talking about Iraq, for instance). They’re scared to tackle Afghanistan/Pakistan. Why don’t they poll their members, as they’ve done in the past, to see how they feel? Plus, the escalation in Af/Pak makes it a much different war than what we originally got involved with in our Post 9-11 response. Here’s Tom’s piece(and notice at the end where MoveOn describes itself as an important voice in the peace movement):

        http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/05/hayden-criticizes-moveon-being-silent-wars-moveon-responds

        As for Afghanistan, I think we should begin to lower our presence there, and step behind the scenes as much as possible. We shld focus our counter-terror efforts on law enforcement and intelligence gathering, not by continuing confused counterinsurgencies where most of the time we’re fighting dudes who have nothing to do with Al Qaeda.

  3. libtree09 says:

    Humm…a little angry…to paraphrase Clinton…every political organization wants a dog in fight…Moveon proved effective in the impeachment debacle and gave the conservatives a good thumping during Bush…but lets get real…when a cause becomes an organization then a business model…money is the fuel to keep it going…you know that…it shouldn’t be so upsetting or maybe more accurately disappointing. I agree they are flailing about now…being on the winning side takes some adjustment. I would hope they would take a nonpolitical viewpoint on the issues but that may be like asking a dog to quack.

  4. Brian In NYC says:

    I hadn’t realized Tom Hayden was the arbitrator of everything left. I’ve read Tom’s piece, you’ve posted it before to back you up on this. I just don’t happen to think yours and his take is accurate.

    And what about the Taliban in Afghanistan?

  5. Brian In NYC says:

    And I’d like you to find me one piece published by moveon where they clearly state they are the “peace party” or opposed to military action in Afghanistan.

    • Michael Hastings says:

      Here’s the quote from MoveOn: “We agree that it’s time to confront the organizing challenges of building an effective peace movement in the Obama era, and we expect MoveOn and MoveOn members to play an important role in this.”And they’re understating their role in the anti-war movement to try to suck the air out of Hayden’s argument. I’m sure a large segment of MoveOn members would be surprised to learn that they weren’t part of an anti-war organization.

      And, lastly, MoveOn’s statement to Hayden is pretty weak, too–they don’t even say what their position is on the escalation in Afghanistan!

      (We could go back and forth again, I’m sure, but this is my final salvo to try and convince you Brian. Appreciate the vigor of your arguments,as always (and forcing me to think more clearly about mine.)

      • Brian In NYC says:

        shakes hands and returns to our corners!

        🙂

      • jamesf says:

        I think you are slightly off with respect to MoveOn. They have been anti-IRAQ war but they have never been “the leader” of the anti-war movement. Big, big difference. That would be ANSWER and UPJ. The organization itself has not to my knowledge taken an official position on Afghanistan, though individual members may have. Tom Hayden is not a spox for MoveOn.

        I agree, however, that the organization has lost much of its edge now that the bushies are out of office. Part of that is because we apparently are seeing the waning days of the Iraq war and many of us who opposed the Iraq war are okay with the plan of withdrawal as it is going. No one — no sane person — ever advocated a precipitous, immediate withdrawal, despite the Republican talking points to that effect.

        I’m not sure what exactly you are expecting — huge demonstrations that we haven’t moved quickly enough out of Kabul? Ain’t gonna happen. As for Iran, I don’t get MoveOn emails any more but I doubt it would help the situation much for MoveOn to become involved. I think they are trying to give their members a venue for expression, which is fair enough. I’m not sure what issue you might have with that.

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