Anti-War groups fight over just how anti-war to be

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Update, 3:00 PM: The Dems, who were not consulted in the reporting of this post (to Bwog’s discredit) have some additions and clarifications after the jump.


The College Democrats, who collaborated with several anti-war groups (Students for Justice in the Middle East, the Working Families Party, Lucha, World Can’t Wait, and the ISO) on sending people down to DC last week, are done with all this left wing solidarity: Dems President Mike Nadler just sent an e-mail announcing that his group would pull out of the coalition’s next event, a walkout planned for February 15 (the anniversary of the massive walkouts in 2003). David Judd of the ISO had this to say:

“The Dems have decided to not participate as a club in the walkout and rally, though individual members will do so. they have left because of ideological differences which could not be reconciled despite much effort to do so. the remaining members of the coalition are disappointed with this decision and continue to hope that the Democrats will reconsider. the walkout and rally will continue, and the Columbia Coalition Against the War believes that it will be very successful. a broad spectrum of groups and individuals are still participating in planning, student strikes are moving forward on a national level with endorsements by Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky, the latter delivered at Columbia yesterday, and we are all very excited to take concrete action against the war on the 15th.”

Both sides are staying mum to avoid a public shit show, but one person less personally invested gave Bwog the backstory. In a nutshell, the groups parted ways over how to request that Columbia study divestment from certain defense contractors to protest the war. Representatives of the Coalition groups compromised on only three companies (Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin, which constitute $4.3 out of Columbia’s $836 million in public holdings) for the duration of the war, but the Dems said no. The Coalition reps declined to say definitively what they would recommend to their groups, which the Dems took as a sign of bad faith, finally pulling out of the deal altogether.

Is this how it’s like in the real world?

Full announcement from Dems Board after the jump.



“Over the past week, representatives from the Columbia University College Democrats have met with representatives from the ISO, Students for Justice in the Middle East, LUCHA, Working Families Party, and World Can’t Wait. We did so in a spirit of optimistic  cooperation, hopeful that we could build on the success of our joint trip to Washington D.C. for an anti-war rally. There was much positive discussion between the groups, but despite good faith efforts and compromise on the part of all groups involved, we were not able to reconcile our fundamental ideological differences. As such, we will not be participating in the student walkout and rally

planned for February 15th.

As Democrats, we call upon Congress to wield its legislative authority to bring this unjust war to a close.  We will continue to work to promote dialogue and empower students to advocate for real alternatives to the administration’s failed policy in Iraq.

If you have any questions or concerns, please come talk to me, or to other members of the Dems’ board, at our body meeting Wednesday night, and we will try our best to address them.


Mike Nadler

President, Columbia University College Democrats

Columbia College, Class of 2007”

And, from Dems Public Affairs Director Jacob Taber:

1) Divestment wasn’t the issue.  At several meetings last week it had been taken firmly off the table, and we were concerned that it (and other key sticking points) were continually being brought up for renewed discussion.  In addition, we didn’t walk because of divestment – we walked because the assembled members could not (or rather, would not) agree to to tell us where they stood on the issue; without openness there is no trust, and without trust there is certainly no coalition
2) The Coalition “compromise” wasn’t to limit it to specific groups – that was absolutely something never communicated to the Dems.  The compromise was to call for study rather than demand divestment, and to call for it only for the duration of the war.  The Democrats are anti-war, and not anti-military (we don’t want tanks in Iraq, but we do think that someone needs to make tanks because they do need to be used legitimately on occasion), and as such we are very wary about any calls for divestment from defense contractors. In addition, at least one corporation discussed is also involved in rebuilding the Gulf Coast, and we felt that pulling our investment from that company sent the wrong message.
3) We weren’t going to get involved in this blame game – as you’ll  note in the Spec story, I declined to comment on the reason for our breakup to keep things civil.  Obviously, though,  not all sides were into the whole civility thing, and given that we’re being attacked for our spinelessness for refusal to protest corporate interests, I’d like to get a few things straight: The Democrats, ultimately, have a philosophy that is entirely distinct from and opposed to that of most of the other groups, and that is why we walked.  We advocate change within the system, however imperfect it may be.  while we know it will be difficult to force Congress to act, we think it’s ridiculous that there are groups who feel it inappropriate to ask Congress to do anything, ‘because Congress is part of the problem’ — like it or not, they are the only ones (besides the President who isn’t going to do anything) with the power to end this thing, and a failure to recognize that point was a major source of frustration for the Dems.  While we tried to forge common ground, it’s incredibly difficult to work with a group that considers your group to be pro-war and a part of the problem, and is intent on spreading an Anti-Democratic message whenever possible, even to the point of obscuring the larger and clearly more important anti-war message.
4) We’re not “done with all this left-wing solidarity”.  The Democrats are committed absolutely to working with more policy-oriented members of the Campus Left (i.e. ACLU rather than LUCHA), in a coalition that better reflects our commitment to effecting meaningful change.


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  1. Hahahaha

    Just plain pathetic really.

    The spinelessness of the Dems has gotten to the point where even in college they can not afford themselves a little indiscretion of at least some mild posturing over some big behemoth corporation.

    A piece of advice to these pathetic Dems: You really do not need to be this spineless. You can afford to posture and speak out against the big corporations. Really. I know you guys want to become Congressmen one day and will need all the campaign contributions from these criminal corporations, and that you will shut up about them no matter what they do, but believe me, they will still give you these contributions regardless of whatever posturing you did on College Walk.

    In fact, if you take part in some token anti-war anti-big-military-firms brouhaha it will only make you so much more desireable for these very same military firms to throw campaign contributions at, trust me. You will have the nominal credibility of having falsely showed signs of a spine, and are therefore less prone to being identified as tools of these corporations. Which is what they are looking for, really.

    But I understand your position on the other hand, if you do fake having a spine, you may subconsciously like it and then fail to get rid of it. And who's gonna fill daddy's seat in Congress then?

    • you are  

      way too harsh.

      there is such thing as having a spine but simultaneously DISAGREEING. it's not an impossible thing, to disagree with the left. and it doesn't mean these people are all seeking higher office one day. i was not in these negotiations, and i'm guessing you weren't either. so where is it our place to presume motive?

      of course, the democrats in congress? yes, many are spineless. and in the same vein, many just don't believe in absolutes-- a dangerous way of thinking in my opinion anyway.

    • Anonymous  

      yeah, everyone knows- disagreeing with socialists = spinelessness. It is a well known fact of biology that in all "sub-socialist" embryos, the notochord fails to form due to the absence of Marxist sentiments in the mother's womb.

  2. Columbian  

    Dems = wayyyyy too careerist, no?

    I kind of blame the Dems for my lack of involvement in campus politics. I wanted to join their organization freshmen year, but I really just felt quite uninterested after attending their meeting.

  3. You know  

    this is why I quit the Dems. Solidarity means nothing when they're this spineless. This is so depressing.

  4. i concur

    the dems constantly take advantage of every opportunity they have to suck.

  5. David Judd  

    To be very clear I can't speak for the coalition. We chose an official media spokesperson who is Blair Mosner and not me, and I have no ability to speak on behalf of anybody else in saying what I did above.

  6. real world  

    quote: Is this how it's like in the real world?"

    yes. yes it is.

  7. well  

    I like the "drama" tag. lots of old entries that need it.

  8. Anonymous  

    on the other hand, why would it even make sense for Dems to support a coalition that is bent on being anti-military, anti-companies that are helping to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, anti-party establishment, and anti-Israel?

    Dems at Columbia are dedicated to the cause of the Democratic Party. I applaud them for sticking to their guns.

    • anti-what?  

      Any criticism of Israel or the Democratic Party as such was already off the table in the coalition, at Dem insistance. And the coalition was still open to compromise on divestment - as Bwog says the Dems walked out because coalition reps wouldn't agree right there and then. What the Dems apparently weren't happy with was a lack of total control over the process and politics... that was more important, apparently, than unifying to stop the Iraq War. Personally I think "spineless" is pretty mild in this context.

    • Agreed  

      It doesn't make sense. Most democrats want us out of Iraq - the question is when and how. They dont want US soldiers fighting and dieing for a lost cause.

      Most democrats dont, however, support neutering the military so that it can't fight any war. If you support divestment from military contractors, feel free to go to the coalition's strike. If you support any sensible foreign and defense policies, dont.

  9. of course

    when #1 wrote spineless, he meant not socialist...they do both start with 's'.

  10. yes

    It's pretty clear that only socialists want to do something to end the war.

  11. Columbian  

    Well, the Dems reaction in this event seems basically equivalent to the Dems as a national party throughout history: Release some statements about your *theoretical* positions but not do that much to actually advocate for such positions. (Example, would be more concerned with having a public record of having said they opposed the war than *actually* taking action to end the war. Saying that global warming is a problem and making a *nice* movie about it but not really doing much (policy-wise) to resolve the problem, and many more similar issues.) Although I am not a socialist, if they want to actually take action to address serious issues instead of being too passive when the situation is clearly not in the process of being resolved, then that is probably a good thing.

  12. hahah  

    "The CC Dems are ready to take a firm stance on Iraq." (subject from the email the Dems just sent out.) uhmmm, so convincing, right?

  13. Disagreement  

    isn't cowardice. Arguing that the Dems are spineless because they chose not to work on an event that they disagree with is idiotic.

    Its no different than the Chicano Caucus refusing to cosponsor the Minutemen speech last semester (and yes, the Republicans did in fact ask them to cosponsor) - why should they publicize and advocate a position that they don't actually advocate? Going along with the coalition for fear of a PR shitstorm when they disagree with the coalition would be 'spineless.' Voicing their dissent isn't.

    • So dramatic!  

      I really don't get why divestment is such a issue with the Dems, it a request that could actually help put pressure on stopping the war, you known instead of making yet another statement about wanting the war to stop, but really doing nothing to help stop it.
      And divestment won't neuter the military, come one that is redicculous. Columbia is not that rich. Divestment is a way of telling them that they do not agree with the millions the government spends on the war. Cause investers in these companies are basically making millions in it escalation.
      Anyway,.... sad they come to that decision, not surprised.
      For your information not Socialist.

  14. seems to me

    that bwog should do some better reporting before it publishes stories.

  15. hey bwog  

    Jacob's response, being both considerably longer than the original post and a response to the claims which Bwog has given front-page view, really deserves its own post.

  16. with  

    all the differences between the two accounts, maybe bwog shouldn't report things at 3:25 AM. Seems lack of sleep gets in the way of verifying important things...like facts.

  17. David Judd  

    Look, Bwog's original post had some inaccuracies (minor; the attempted compromise was as Jacob describes it, not as Bwog did), but I thought we wanted to avoid the blame game, so I didn't go into details. I don't see why some nasty comments from anonymous posters - which were to be expected - should change that for the Dems. But apparently it has. And Jacob's statement has some serious problems of its own.

    • Columbian  

      So my anonymous posting against the Dems inadvertently helped them, by inspiring them to make a "better" public statement?

      Columbia and the Dems so make me want to become a radical by their general failure to resolve anything.

      • Right on!

        Fuck the Columbia Democrats for not solving the War in Iraq. "Columbian" will be holding a press conference tomorrow on the Low steps at 9:00am to announce his/her plan to do so.

        • Columbian  

          Why is my conference at 9am? At 9am (with the exception of those who have class or work and would therefore not be available to attend my press conference) most people would be asleep.

          If I can have my event at 12:15 at the Sundial and Fox News will report on me, then maybe I will have a press conference. I want to be able to add "Fox News Panelist" to my resume.

    • Jacob

      I posted not in response to anonymous commenters, but rather in response to the anonymous source cited in the initial article (for which the Dems were not interviewed). Given the initially one-sided reporting, I felt it necessary to clarify the Dems' stance; Lydia was then kind enough to allow our response to be appended to the article.

      • Chris  

        why do you automatically think leaks come from outside the dems?

        weren't jacob taber and josh lipsky at the key players in leaking (and thus cancelling and censoring) rick santorum by leaking to the bwog?

  18. pragmatism  

    The Dems from the outset wanted to focus this protest on calling for an immediated conclusion of the war. That places their organization left of their party consensus. The only Senator advocating such a stance is Russ Feingold.

    The reason the coalition broke down was because the protest lacked focus. Divestment wasn't problematic for the Dems because of policy reasons as much as they felt it was a distraction from the message of the protest. The number one criteria for Dems' involvement was that the Columbia School administration would not be a target of the protest. The reintroduction of divestment as an issue served as an indication that the protest was headed in a direction with which the Dems were not comfortable.

    The Dems wanted this to be about the wimpish Congressional leadership that fails to weild its legislative power to end the war. They simply view politics in a more pragmatic way than the other groups involved in the coalition. That's not to say the other groups are bad or wrong. It just shows that a coalition with the Dems involved was always a longshot. It was a valiant effort on everyone's part. The Dems simply see a very different political reality from the other groups.

  19. dems =  


    commence diversity training now

  20. Columbian  

    Also, if the Dems do not agree with the rest of the Anti-War groups, they should offer alternative anti-war programming on Thursday, for themselves and for other students who may want to express opposition to the war but disagree with the current proposed methods. By offering alternative methods to demonstrate opposition to the War instead of simply focusing on the need to write up nice-sounding official statements, the Dems could contribute to the anti-war movement in a way that is more effective than simply publicizing counter-statements.

    (Note: I am not saying that the Dems have not undertaken significant projects to oppose the war, as they clearly have, but by simply releasing statements instead of using the opportunity to provide perhaps a simultaneous protest/demonstration/discussion/whatever else that coincides with their methods of war opposition, I feel that they are detracting from the anti-war movement.)

  21. Anonymous  

    I agree with Columbian and the Dems DO like sucking.
    They want change without action. Their goal fill the seat of his/her parent in congress.
    To be policy-driven is not an excuse to be sitting in your ass while our soldiers and Iraqis die.

    Action is the key to actully causing change. Gandhi didn't just talked or asked for change. Rosa Parks didn't ask for the front seat. Action happened before the 13th amendment was passed.
    It's disappointing to just say I'm against the war, but I won't go to an anti-war rally.

    "The Dems make me want to become a radical by their general failure to resolve anything."

  22. David Judd  

    Jacob - I don't see what was one-sided about the initial reporting, which had statements from both of us, plus a somewhat inaccurate anonymous source, which was inaccurate in a way which did not take a side. That you then chose to accuse us of a failure to be trustworthy - as well as, weirdly, of a refusal to have demands placed on Congress, a refusal which we certainly did not make - I do not see as justifiable. I don't want to say anything more about this because I think it's a distraction from the real issue, which is a war that's killed six hundred thousand people, except that even from your account it should be plain that in asking for a day to consult with our groups we did not give you sufficient reason to leave the coalition and weaken the unified antiwar message from Columbia.

  23. David Judd  

    To be clear I am not accusing you of operating in bad faith, and I respect your intentions. I do, however, believe that the Dems made a serious mistake. But it's water under the bridge... in a second I'll forward the coalition's new statement to Bwog.

  24. what a  

    cheap shot at LUCHA.

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