Marc Cooper’s on the money about the hijacking of the antiwar movement by the “extremist loonies” of International ANSWER, a front for the Party for Socialism and Liberation (itself a schism of the Workers World Party). The impact of these “fundamentalist-Leninist grouplets” (Cooper’s term) is not negligible. They dominate the C-SPAN coverage (of the 9/24 D.C. march, for instance) with their venomous speeches, scaring off Democratic politicians whose presence could make a difference, and making it very easy for right-wingers to dismiss anyone who criticizes the war.

But the issue isn’t merely tactical, it’s moral. For ANSWER, “anti-imperialism” means aligning with anti-American dictators and jihadist thugs. Too few people who go on these ANSWER-organized marches are aware of the group’s horrendous politics. Philip Weiss’s piece in New York magazine, which purports to be an analysis of the new antiwar movement, doesn’t even mention ANSWER in passing. They were one of the two chairing organizations, for chrissakes.

On the other side are people like Carol Phillips, a war supporter and 9/24 counter-demonstrator who appeared on PBS’s Newshour with Jim Lehrer last night, debating Nancy Lessin, cofounder of Military Families Speak Out. Phillips spewed her own sort of venom:

…[Antiwar] people that say they speak for the military families or that they are veterans and stuff, shame on them for putting their fellow family members, their fellow service, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, whatever, in harm’s way by doing what they are doing — of all people, they should know better.

There it is — merely to question the conduct of the war is to actively “put the troops in harm’s way.” Nonsense. I don’t believe for a second that the majority who turned out to protest on 9/24 were motivated by hatred of U.S. troops or any wish to do them harm. That’s what Christopher Hitchens misses in pieces like this. He’s right about the role of ANSWER, wrong in his assumption that the groundswell against the war amounts to an endorsement of ANSWER’s politics.

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