Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Peace Industrial Complex (PIC) and the Failure of Movements by Cindy Sheehan

The Peace Industrial Complex and the failure of the Movement

By Cindy Sheehan

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Dwight David Eisenhower, Farewell Address to the Nation, 1961

Military Industrial Complex: an informal alliance of the military and related government departments with defense industries that is held to influence government policy.

Camp Casey II, August 2005

As I write this, it is eight years since I marched up Prairie Chapel Road in Crawford, TX on August 6th to demand a meeting with then (p)resident, George W. Bush. I, a Gold Star Mom, who was, and is still profoundly against war, had heard Bush say that the US troops who died in Iraq, gave their lives for a “noble cause.” Not one of the corporate media present at such an absurd pronouncement asked George, “What is that noble cause,” so I resolved to go to Crawford to ask the War Criminal myself.

Eight years later and with tons of blood passing under the bridge of Imperial doom, I am still asking that question. However, I know now as I probably did back then in 2005, that there is no “noble cause” for Empire expansion and the millions of people and trillions of dollars that are sacrificed on the altar of the Military Industrial Complex. The question that I and others repeatedly ask since then is, “why can’t our movements for peace and justice be effective?”

I think one of the reasons that our people and principle driven movements are ultimately destined to fizzle or fail, is that any movement that is perceived as powerful by the establishment, is immediately channeled into the black hole of US partisan politics. I have written extensively about that, but this political derailment could not be accomplished on the left without the help of the Peace Industrial Complex.

The Peace Industrial Complex (PIC) resembles its counterpart of the Military (MIC) sort by its very alliance with the Democratic wing of the War Party and must bear a great responsibility for the continuing war tactics of the Empire. Language is important, and just because the Democratic wing of the War Party calls its Imperial transgressions, “humanitarian interventions” does not make it right, or the lives lost any less tragically unnecessary and sad.

Why do I tie in the idea of the PIC with my experience at Camp Casey? On one of the last days of the nearly month long peace encampment on Prairie Chapel Road, I was overwhelmed that Reverend Al Sharpton and Martin Sheen both came out, we had a wedding, and I was involved in a photo shoot for Oprah’s magazine. The wonderful activist Eve Ensler had pitched a story to the magazine and was told that she could do it as long as there was no, “Bush bashing.” This is still the problem, when one tells the her truth about the pain of burying her oldest child for absolutely no reason, except the he was killed in another war for profit based on lies, or actually gives facts, that person is perceived as “bashing.” Once the Empire shifted to being “led” by a Democrat, who was also a person of color, my heart truth and facts began to be characterized as “bitterness” by some of the very same people who joined me in “bashing” Bush at Camp Casey.

Oops, I got off the subject. Anyway, on that final Sunday of our first campout in Crawford, I was told by one of the leading members of the PIC, that I was the most “powerful woman on the planet.” Then, I was whisked away on a two-year adventure around the world and throughout the US where I believed I was bringing peace, but looking back, what I was really doing was being used by the PIC to deliver the House of Representatives back to the Democrats. After that was accomplished, and a few of us were still trying to hold the Democrats accountable to end the wars (by ending war funding and investigating the Bush regime), we were kicked to the curb like old garbage and the PIC found the language of the right useful in demonizing me and my cause.

In 2008, for example, for the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I was even told by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) that there would be no mass demo in DC because it would “embarrass” the complicit Democrats and told by another organization that we had helped so much Iraq Veterans Against the War, that I was banned from attending its Winter Soldier event in DC in March of that year. Why? Because not all of the vets who would be testifying were “antiwar” and wouldn’t want to be seen associating with me. I was hurt, but not defeated, and vowed to always be in the principled struggle for peace, and not on the side where war is only wrong if a Republican regime is waging it.

I look back after nine years of very hard struggle and when I remember the power and serendipity of Camp Casey in 2005 I see that we have very little to show for it in regards to policy, or peace.  I recall how naïve I was when I said, “the wars will end and Bush will be impeached.” Heck, at the time, I even belonged to a “peace” organization that forbade us members from saying that Afghanistan was wrong because most Americans supported it because we were “attacked on 9/11.” We won’t end wars or hold USAian War Criminals accountable when we even have to overcome the obstacle of people we think are our comrades who block any kind of relevant action or analysis of Empire.

Another example, by October of 2005, the US was going to surpass the horrid milestone of 2000 troops lost in Iraq. Of course, the US troops killed in the “good war” in Afghanistan didn’t count, and the innocent people our troops killed never counted, either. So, an organization that I thought was in favor of peace, but now I know it only wants peace when a Republican is in the Oval Office,, called for “candlelight vigils” to commemorate that sad number. I was in DC at the time, and I called for civil disobedience in front of the White House. denounced that action and moved their candlelight vigil so as not to be near to the lawlessness of our action. raised a lot of money and increased its membership dramatically when I was camped in Crawford and my break with began while I was still camped there.

One hot Crawford day, two operatives requested a meeting with me at Camp Casey, so we went to my trailer and they informed me that I should back a bill in Congress co-sponsored by two Democrats and two Republicans that was for a slow, phased withdrawal based on “progress reports” and conditions on the ground. One thing the affiliated organizations at Camp Casey did agree on was demanding “troops out, now,” and I told that I could not endorse their “troops out, eventually” bill. That’s when withdrew its support and the “help” of the Fenton P.R. agency, who were only there to try to point our protest only in the direction of the “Rs,” anyway. 

Subsequently, when the Ds took over control of the House of Reps in 2007, the question of war funding came up and polled its members with two questions, and the only alternative was to support the Democrats in continuing the supplemental war funding because knew that PelosiCo would never stop the funding, so the energy of is to give Democrats cover for any crimes they want to commit.’s very livelihood (profit) derives from covering the crimes of the Democrats and diverting our attention away from those crimes and in blaming only one small part of the problem. 

During Camp Casey, I had received some support from director/actor/movie producer, Rob Reiner, and his wife, Michelle. After Camp Casey closed up shop for the summer, I was invited to their home in L.A. to meet them and chat. In lockstep with, Rob informed me that I should stop saying "troops home, now" because all of our troops couldn't get "home now" and I sounded "loony" saying that. I was stunned because I can't believe that people would think that the US Commander in Chief was some kind of djinn who could fold his arms and blink his eyes and get all the troops home in a matter of seconds. I presumed, and still do, that it takes planning and logistics and I reminded Rob that during the insanity of Vietnam, an Admiral was asked how the US could remove troops from Vietnam and he said, "by boat and plane, the same way they got there." 

I believe that we always advocate for the greatest good and the highest victory, because the incrementalism of the PIC guarantees failure and more heartbreak,  torture, and death. I was booted to the curb by the Reiners when I refused to support warmonger, Hillary Clinton because they told me she was our "only hope." However, the Reiners did not mean she was our only hope to end Empire, but for the Democrats to regain the "prize" of the Blight House. Even that sell-out didn't work out too well for them, did it?

Where would the MIC be without its wars and, similarly, where would the PIC be under the same circumstance?

I work my ass off to make my activism obsolete. I am not interested in perpetuating wars or political loyalty to make a buck, or gain influence with the very criminals that I loathe and protest. Organizations in the PIC seem to have unlimited resources to hire staff and open offices, where organizations like mine try to do the best we can with the limited resources and volunteers that we do have.

I was very new to activism in 2005 and now I know that there are establishment and revolutionary versions of every movement and that's why movements, by and large, fail. For example, the Environmental Industrial Complex fails when it says, "Democrats, we want you to do X, but if you don't, we'll still vote for you." How about focusing on principles and successful and honest ways to get there? The slimy Democrats deserve your support as much as do the equally slimy Republicans.

Peace and accountability will not happen unless we guard against the “unwarranted influence” of the Peace Industrial Complex.


  1. Cindy is the only true voice for ending the culture of violence. I can't get Veterans for Peace to renounce the military. I can't get the NAACP to endorse Occupy. Until Unions and Churches and all progressive groups unify, we are dust.

  2. You omitted what I saw as a key event. When Obama became president and continued, and extended, Bush's wars in the Middle East and on civil liberties, you opened a Camp Casey at Obama's summer home on Martha's Vineyard. It was a great idea and I came to join.
    But the PIC was nowhere to be seen. In fact Medea Benjamin did not support it although the local Code Pink on Cape Cod did come and expressed disappointment at the national. UJP,the local Boston affiliate of UFPJ and Boston Peace Action, now an open appendage of the Dem Party were nowhere to be seen even though its most prominent leader has a summer place an hour away be Ferry in Woods Hole!!
    I was not surprised at the way they treated you - it is an old story, but I was nauseated by their behavior.
    But I believe there is another reason that we have not made more inroads. That is the insistence that we link peace to a left wing agenda of justice (which by the way I very much favor). But we have a very strong anti-Empire movement among the libertarians and "paleo" conservatives. We should make common cause with them - even as we disagree with them on other issues. If Mao could make common cause with the fascist Kuomintang in an effort to defeat the Japanese, cannot the Left make common cause with the libertarians? (The latter also oppose "crony capitalism," the type we have here right now emanating from Wall St. and DC.) And do we not owe this kind of united front to the impoverished peoples of the world struggling to escape their poverty and ignorance, a struggle blocked by the US Empire. Or can we be "pure" while they die?

    1. Do I detect a disagreement between friends? Allow me to introduce myself. I'm the author of one of those long replies below. Now you may know who's side I think I'm on.

      I have brand new evidence in support of our position. It arrives in the form of an email with this link:

      Please notice the large, prominently-placed symbol in the background. Is this not genuine?

    2. I agree with Cindy about the inherent weakness of putting partisan party loyalty first, above one's issues, in this case opposition to war. Loyalty is what herd animals do, however, and the MIC powers know that. They know that by dividing (people into their two party loyalties), they conquer. The "divide and conquer" M.O. works abroad and it also works domestically. So elections are nothing but a ping pong game with the citizenry being the ball.

      One thought is to observe how the most, unbelievably successful lobbying group--or a kind of "movement"--operates. This group doesn't have large numbers although it does have and use big money. AIPAC and its related groups absolutely controls Congress and most other elected politicians and besides its big money, the other aspect of its success is it devotes its power equally between BOTH political parties. Of course I'm against AIPAC and all of the wars that AIPAC pushes but I do think there's a lesson that can be learned from observing how it operates within and upon BOTH PARTIES equally or, as Cindy would probably say, upon both faces of the war party. In fact it's one of the only "movements" which does so as most other lobbying groups favor one party or the other.

  3. Thank YOU for such clarity, I have been following you on FB and have become friends when I became aware of your running for the office of Governor. I had suspected you were who you are, but I thought, there could be another person with the same name, but NO! Not anyone else has the same character. If I can be of assistance to you, by any means contact me through FB if you wish, I am Julio Cesar Toruño Rivas

  4. OK -- Let's focus on principles -- how about some specifics on what successful and honest ways you suggest for us to act on.

  5. What if Jane Fonda was innocent until proven guilty? What if she was "used" by the MIC to get Intel,(ONI), (unknowingly?),and then be the "scapegoat" of hate and anger, which trickled madly against McGovern in 1972. (Her visit Aug 1972- Nixon wins Nov---bombing reinstated Dec. 1972?)What if the media echo chamber effects around her visit had way more to do with Nixon's re-election than Watergate burglars?? Then history repeats itself in 2012... Four more years of War; forty years later.(I wonder who signed off on her exit visa that August of 1972?) and provided all the propaganda pictures, and misinformation??? Nixon's super PAC; the MIC... Just musing but thought you'd enjoy the food for thought... A Homeless Vietnam Combat Veteran who's had a lot of time to think and realized the hate was directed at the wrong person...(aka---The Amish "X" Marine Kamikazi; a divine wind of peace with honor, now that I've thought it through...)

  6. O.K. -- We WILL be on guard against the PIC.

    Now, how about some specific suggestions for actions that are principled and honest and potentially successful in the ongoing struggle toward peace and justice.

    1. Thank for reading the blog, and if you are a regular reader and follow my actions, you know that I propose and do things all the time. We need thousands or millions, not dozens. Unfortunately, the Democrats have demobilized or demonized all such efforts. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share.

  7. Well written article. I wish i could say what i read surprised me, unfortunately it does not.
    Polarization continues to divide we who should unite.
    Until we start voting and acting from our deepest values and stop being usurped by the fear tactics which are as old as aristocracy we will continue to be fodder. People will continue to die for greed of resources and power.
    We all know that which we need to know, we now need only act upon that.
    I salute you Cindy for your courage, your perseverance and mourn your loss of your son.
    Peace and Love

  8. I think the only way to stop the endless war and have a government that works for the people is to be sure those in power are afraid of angering the people. Of course I get that from an old quote, Fredrick Douglas maybe. It's a tall order to be sure. Even if there were a revolution we would need to be sure the new government feared the people more than the other way around and I'm not talking about voting. I'm glad to see you called out UFPJ, Moveon and the Reiners and I think it might be useful to creatively make a list. It seems David Rovics may have touched on the subject in song.

  9. In 2016 The People's Republic of China will have the world's largest economy and the next thirty years will see their economy dwarf ours. At some point, we will either elect politicians who recognize that we are no longer capable of dominating the world militarily or we will implode with the effort to maintain a status we can no longer sustain.

    One way or the other, by choice of collapse, the Empire will end. Until then, our duty is to try to wake the sleeping giant of the American populace, who, by their indifference are our biggest obstacle to the world we deserve.

  10. The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise for perpetual war matched by the reality of booming inequality, met by the potential of mass, integrated, class conscious direct action. Key personnel appear to be students, active and inactive vets, and immigrants. But let us be clear, the unions are not unions, but the empire's organizations, the Peace Groups are not peace groups but, frequently, the police, and in other cases, those who deny, for opportunistic reasons, the easily seen realities of class and imperialist war. The empire has lots of bribes. Everywhere, children of the poor kill children of the poor on behalf of the rich in their homelands. The poisoned past of Stalinism and the failures of Western capitalism lead many to return to barbarism--religious/nationalist movements, but the react, in the main, to US barbarism---after all, it was Catholic fanatics who organized and funded Islamic fanatics to kill people who they all thought were communists, but weren't. The project is to connect reason to power, never forgetting the necessity of revolution in every sphere of life.

  11. Thank you for your service, Cindy, and your plain speaking, which is the greatest service of all.

  12. Re: "Unfortunately, the Democrats have demobilized or demonized all such efforts. If you have any ideas, please feel free to share."

    My suggestions (and reasoning) for fellow USAians interested in stopping the war machine are as follows:

    (0) Rethink 9/11, the evidence might surprise you. See "". For example, did you know a third tower fell on 9/11? Building 7, not hit by a plane, collapsed in free-fall 7 hours after the Twin Towers.

    (1) The USA government promotes a virulent form of capitalism which is for the benefit of the 1% through graduated processes of globalization and/or militarization. It desires a unipolar world (worldwide empire) in order to maximize income for the 1% while minimizing dissent on an international scale. "Traditional" societies and "nationalistic" governments naturally resist these processes. In response, "we" have instigated several wars upon them lately. Begin to stop these wars by understanding why they are being fought.

    (2) If our current multipolar world ever becomes unipolar-for-empire, then the international check on empire's behavior will be lost. Russia alone constrains the empire militarily; yet, Russia is relatively weak. The Empire is encircling, testing and bribing Russia for this reason. Domestic opposition, within the USA, is necessary to encourage this Russian constraint. Therefore, we should oppose anti-Russian propaganda whenever and wherever it occurs by acknowledging Russia's principled stands on (a) speaking-truth-to-power (free speech), (b) trading wherever she pleases while claiming that sanctions are an act of war (freedom of association), (c) not interfering in the internal affairs of other nations (Treaty of Westphalia, 1648, [30-Years War]) (freedom of religion) (the right to privacy), (d) championing a multipolar world (diversity), (e) claiming war not a legal instrument of policy (nonaggression), and (f) protecting whistleblowers (rule of law).

    (3) Save your money. Boycott "our" multinational corporations. Be vocal about it to USAians around you. Cite offshoring, corporate welfare, campaign finance, environmental degradation, cost-of-doing-business fines, unions grievances, lousy products. Become at ease with their bankruptcy as a by-product of a peaceful world which is not dominated by capitalism-for-the-1% and technological gadgetry.

    (4) Criticize the mainstream media as a mouthpiece for government propaganda. I particularly detest NPR's use of emotional music after news pieces because it constitutes a subliminal bias. Be caustic and dismissive when the opportunity arises with others present.

    (5) Similarly with the two political parties. For more ammunition in this "war of ideas", read what happened to Ron Paul at the Republican National Convention. Study Ron Paul. He is an incorruptible advocate of nothing more or less than peace (A desirable peace must include a healthy dose of liberty. What's your recipe?).

    (6) Support genuine peace candidates like Sheehan and Paul. Read Cindy's upcoming book about it. Pray for the articulate political campaign for peace that does not require money... similar to the Occupy movement.

    (7) Read Morris Berman for a detached, philosophical take which is helpful if not necessary for one's understanding of current events.

    (1/0) Join over two thousand architects and engineers who call for an independent investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center Building 7 on September 11, 2001. Such an investigation would reveal the official link between 9/11 and terrorism as bullshit, thereby eliminating our government's justification for war.

  13. The French philosopher, Michel Foucault, also wondered why movements he was involved in during the 1960's also failed to make any changes of enduring significance, and so he dedicated pretty much his entire academic career to examining this. He developed a complex method referred to as an archaeology of knowledge, and this can become somewhat inaccessible to the layperson, but I would still highly recommend reading his book titled, "Discipline and Punish: The Birth of The Prison." It covers our cultural history of regimentation and examines the way in which everything becomes a particulate matter of refinement, right down to the drilling of precise movements with rifles to prepare for war and the collection of data to the extent that we are all recorded upon a grid that in a very powerful way keeps us in an open prison.

    Foucault starts our journey with Bentham's "panopticon," which was a prison made of an outer, drum-like wall drawn around a single guard tower. A single guard in the tower could view every cell on the inner wall, but with the windows in the tower made one way, it was possible to inculcate the belief that the prisoners were being watched without even placing a continuous guard inside the tower, theoretically. Since then, this entire idea of data collection and the pervasiveness of cameras has become known as "the panoptic sort," which you are, no doubt, already familiar with due to the rise of the surveillance state.

    It makes for a terrific read, not because of its project, but because he goes to great depths to detail the history of our containment and restrictions in order to show that we can never really step outside of the box we are in to examine it, always being affected by it. So, in that respect, he also trounces this idea of being clinically objective by stepping outside of a subject and seeing it "freely." It can feel dour reading this book, but it's also like reading the history of war: yes, it's bloody, and yes, one must conclude that we humans can be the worst of predators, but we also learn why that is and what to watch for. This is why I recommend the book, as a mental exercise that familiarizes one with the absolute extent of the problem so that we are no longer asking "can we get to the point of total peace?" But, instead, we find ourselves recognizing that speaking openly is an ACT OF PEACE, and that the idea we will ever be in one place, or another, isn't the issue. The issue isn't whether a movement succeeds. Every movement ends. The issue is how many people it affected, that it is, at all, and that it can be continued in opposition on a continual scale once it recognizes that it shouldn't be measuring itself in relation to its opponent.

    This culture we live in is restrictive and oppressive by its history of evolution, and while we may never shake free of it, that doesn't mean it's not right to rattle the cage. Foucault examines that cage so we can make the most of rattling it and begin looking for successes in different terms than this idea that we've broken free from our cultural reality.

    I think you're doing really great and very important work, Cindy, and I'm very glad to see you following your own moral compass, because I think you've judged these power systems correctly and kept your own council rightly!

  14. I know you will probably hate to hear this, but long ago, at the height of your popularity, Rush Limbaugh said that the left was using you and that they would jettison you as soon as they got what they wanted from you. I believe he even expressed sympathy over what they were doing to you.


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