Cliff May

A few short months ago, the anti-war left was feeling its oats. On campuses around the country, professors were receiving letters asking them to steer students to “a major new organizing initiative to end the War in Iraq – Iraq Summer.”

“Many of you will remember Mississippi Summer that helped pass the civil rights laws, and Viet Nam Summer that helped end the Viet Nam war,” the letter read. “Iraq Summer will be the 21st century edition of those historic projects.”

The letter explained that a coalition under the banner Americans Against Escalation in Iraq (AAEI), and in close association with MoveOn.org, was gearing up “to deploy 110 organizers to Districts (sic) of critical House and Senate Republicans who still support he President’s disastrous policy in Iraq. Their job will be to execute a national program to help fracture critical elements of the Republican base of support for the war by early fall. … AAEI plans to demand that by late August every one of these Republicans are (sic) forced to ‘Take a Stand’ – to break their ties with Bush’s war.”

In May, the Washington Post reported that as much as $12 million would be spent on a three-month campaign of demonstrations, mass phone-calling to congressional offices, television and radio ads, and other forms of political pressure, all guided by top pollsters and public relations firms. Thomas Matzzie, director of both AAEI and Washington director of MoveOn.org Political Action, told the Post: “Our job is to focus on Republicans. How can we juice up attacks on them?”

By late June, Iraq Summer was seen as a juggernaut. As one wire service reported: “Even senior Republicans have said they expect the president will have little choice but to make adjustments in the Iraq strategy” by September.

What went wrong for the anti-war left? How did they end up further from their goal then when they began? Why is Congress now less likely than it was before Iraq Summer began to cut off funding for the war or legislate timetables for withdrawal? Why are the polls showing fewer Americans convinced that defeat in Iraq is inevitable, and more saying that the new strategy being implemented by Gen. David Petreaus deserves support?

The primary reason is that Petraeus and his troops have made real gains on the ground in Iraq. Working hand-in-glove with Iraqis, they have smashed al-Qaeda’s Iraqi infrastructure and begun to confront the Iranian-backed death squads.


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.