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Anti-War Conservatives Join Protests Against Trump’s Iran Confrontation

Now is the time for Republicans of conviction to stand together.

Anti-war protest in D.C. on Saturday Jan. 4. (Hunter DeRensis)

It speaks to the state of American politics when for three years the continued defense of Donald Trump’s record has been: “well, he hasn’t started any new wars.” Last week, however, that may have finally changed.

In the most flagrant tit-for-tat since the United States initiated its economic war against Iran in the spring of 2018, the Trump administration assassinated Major General Qasem Soleimani, who for more than 20 years has led the Iranian Quds Force. The strategic mind behind Iran’s operations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the rest of the Middle East, Soleimani’s death via drone strike outside of Baghdad’s airport is nothing short of a declaration of open warfare between American and Iranian-allied forces in Iraq. 

While the world waits for the Islamic Republic’s inevitable response, the reaction on the home front was organized in less than 36 hours. Saturday afternoon, almost 400 people gathered on the muddy grass outside the White House in Washington, D.C., joined in solidarity by simultaneous rallies in over 70 other U.S. cities. 

The D.C. attendees and their co-demonstrators were expectedly progressive, but the organizers made clear they were happy to work across political barriers for the cause of peace. 

“I think the more people who are prepared to stand up and say it [the assassination] is completely, not only inappropriate, not only illegal, not only unjust, but an act of war to do something like this, the better,” said Nicole Rousseau with the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, which has been planning anti-war protests in D.C. since 2002. 

Code Pink’s Leonardo Flores, when asked what politicians he believed were on the side of the peace movement, named Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Rand Paul. “I don’t think peace should be a left and right issue,” he said. “I think it’s an issue we can all rally around. It’s very clear too much of our money is going to foreign wars that don’t benefit the American people…and we could be using that money in many different ways, giving it back to the American people, whether it’s investing in social spending or giving direct tax cuts.”

This is the moment, as Donald Trump embraces the neoconservative dream of war with Iran, that the Republican base must stand on their hind legs, lock arms with their progressive allies, and say no

It’s happened before. In 2013, when the Obama administration was ready for regime change in Syria, Americans, both left and right, made clear they didn’t want to see their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters die so the American government could install the likes of Abu Mohammed al-Julani in Damascus. 

Of course, it was much easier for Republicans to stand up to a Democratic president going to war. “It’s been really unfortunate that so much of politics now is driven on a partisan basis,” opined Eric Garris, director and co-founder of Antiwar.com, in an interview with TAC. “Whether you’re for or against war and how strongly you might be against war is driven by partisan points of view.”

When Barack Obama was elected in 2008, the movement that saw millions march against George W. Bush’s war in Iraq disappeared overnight (excluding a handful of stalwart organizations like Code Pink). Non-interventionist Republicans can’t repeat that mistake. They have to show that if an American president wants to start an unconstitutional, immoral war, it’s the principle that matters, not the R or D next to their names.

Garris said the reason Antiwar.com was founded in 1995 was to bridge this partisan divide by putting people like Daniel Ellsberg and Pat Buchanan side by side for the same cause. “These coalitions are only effective if you try to bring in a broad coalition of people,” he said. “I want to see rallies of thousands of people in Omaha, Nebraska, and things like that, where they’re reaching out to middle America and to the people that are actually going to reach the unconverted.”

The right is in the best position it’s been in decades to accomplish this. “I don’t know if you saw Tucker Carlson Tonight, but it was quite amazing to watch that kind of antiwar sentiment on Fox News,” Garris said. “You would not have seen [that] in recent history. And certainly the emergence of The American Conservative magazine has been a really strong signal and leader in terms of bringing about the values of the Old Right like non-interventionism to a conservative audience.”

This also includes the core antiwar members of Congress, all of whom are Republican, and new conservative veterans groups like Bring Our Troops Home.

It’s the anti-war right, in the Republican tradition of La Follette, Taft, Paul, and Buchanan, that has the power to stop middle America from following Trump into a conflict with Iran. But it’s both sides, working together as Americans, that can finally end the endless wars.

Hunter DeRensis is a reporter with The National Interest and a regular contributor to The American Conservative. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis

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