How Many Small Donors Does it Take to End a War?

Marc Pilisuk

fallujah4With record amounts of campaign funds from small donations, Howard Dean has taken the Democrats off the list for contributions from lobbyists and PACs. He asks instead for continuing support from small donors. Republicans, also distancing themselves from lobbyists with shady pasts, have been reaching for more small contributions as well. Like the military contractors and other special interests, however, we want something in return for our contributions: for many of us this is an end to the war and occupation that the U.S. started in Iraq. But we are unlikely to get this unless we use our newly-found financial power and call upon our leaders to act.

According to Patrick Cockburn of The Independent, “A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November. The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilize Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.”

This covert deal follows efforts to force the privatization of Iraqi oil reserves so that their revenues will serve transnational corporations rather than the development of their badly damaged nation.

One thing the deal helps us understand is the current media and electoral switch in coverage of the Iraq war. The repeated line is that the “surge” is obviously working, since fewer are being killed now than at the height of the conflict. But this claim grossly overlooks many of the facts: the number of Iraqis in jail; the number who have fled; the universal hatred of the US for the crimes at Abu Ghraib and for the failure to prosecute Blackwater for killing civilians; the killings of police who collaborate with the US military by both Sunni and Shia activists; the number of US soldiers who are killed or who are returning with brain damage, PTSD or missing limbs; the fact that US military leaders who oppose continuing the war have been pushed out of the public view; the number of borrowed dollars spent since the surge; and the fact that the surge is being heralded by the same voices that promoted the false “weapons of mass destruction” excuse for the war against Iraq.

These people claim that all that was wrong was the strategy of not providing more troops sooner, and all that is needed is more time to build, buy and arm an ally (like Saudi Arabia or Egypt). The Republican and Democratic Party leadership will not mention the secret deal that Coburn exposes because many party leaders support it. Unless activists speak out, we are in for a tepid Kerry-Bush type campaign in which ending the Iraq occupation is barely an issue. The winner of the coming election will then be tied to a policy of continuing oil exploitation and the military force needed to sustain it. But the courting of small donors has increased our power to be heard. Let’s use it.

PsySR member Marc Pilisuk teaches at the Saybrook Graduate School and is Professor Emeritus of Community Psychology in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of California, Davis. Marc is the author (with Jennifer Achord Rountree) of Who Benefits from Global Violence and War: Uncovering a Destructive System (Greenwood/Praeger, 2008). He can be reached at


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