Effective Organizing to Stop War: An Outlining Based upon Experience in Iowa

I. Questions:  Who is in charge of war?  

      A. Who authorizes it?  

      B. Who conducts it?

II. Answers.  

      A. Legally congress must declare war.  

            1. In Iowa our (federal) Senators and Representatives are the persons (the only ones) with this direct authority.  

      B. The President can legally conduct some military operations (ie. in emergencies).  

            1. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the military.  

            2. Under him the military conducts our wars.  

III. Peace strategies to STOP WAR:  

      A. .  Dramatize the issue to other citizens with signs.  Teach about the issue.  Seek media attention.  Send letters-to-the-editor for these same goals.

            1. Drawbacks:  

                  a. there may be no focus on holding accountable those Iowans who actually authorize war.  

                  b. Messages may trickle up to them slowly and weakly.  

                  c. It may require huge numbers to be effective.)

            2. Alternatives:  

                  a. Focus dramatization, education, media directly on those who are actually in charge of war.  Don’t burn out members on less effective approaches.

      B.  Confront Iowa Congressional representatives privately (ie. Grassley our Republican Senator is authorized to vote to declare war) privately, or President Bush: private letters, private phone calls, private or very small group visits, private emails.

            1, Drawbacks:  

                  a. They’re put in file drawers.  

                  b. Form letters touting Grassley are sent back later in massive propaganda campaign against our members.  Divide and conquer.  

                  c. No answers are usually given in person/phone.  

                  d. Even when they are given, isolated and sometimes poorly informed peace citizens face professionals trained with tough arguments, weakening our groups.

                  d. Peace advocates come to be de-powered and give up trying.

            2. AlternativesConfront those who have the power to decide for or against war publically, as a group, with a proven group strategy based on what has been successful elsewhere.

                  a. Example:  Issue organizing.

                        (1) The Western Organization of Resource councils won 7 of 10 (relatively conservative) western Senators to oppose GATT and WTO.  We didn’t even convince Harkin.

                        (2) ACORN, National People’s Action, Des Moines Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) (won million$), Iowa CCI farm project (won million$), and hundreds of other organizations won billions of dollars of investment in redlined poor neighborhoods, via national legislation, and in hundreds of individually negotiated lending agreements.

                        (3) Iowa CCI (Urban and Rural) soundly beat both Grassley and Leach (chair of House Banking Committee) when they tried to gut the Community Reinvestment Act during the early 1990s.

      C. Individual citizens Confront Grassley or his staff (Harkin, Leach, Nussle, etc.)  publically at the politicians own meetings.  

            1. Drawbacks:  

                  a. They control these meetings for their own purposes.  Often most of those attending Republican meetings are Republicans supporting Grassley.  

                        (1) Examples:

                                      (a) Rep. Nussle announced meeting publically 2 hours in advance. Most of the crowd consisted of invited Republicans from his mailing list.  They use this crowd support against critics.

                                      (b) They won’t invite problem citizens in their own party (says former Harkin staffer now working for a nonprofit).

                                      (c) At Harkin official Senate "Hearing" in Iowa (2 hours) 75% of the planned time were taken up by Harkin speeches and his personally selected panel (1 hour 30 minutes) before microphones were opened to public (25 people standing in line waiting).  Citizens were told they had 3 minutes to speak when they called Harkin’s office in advance, but only 1 minute at the door (for the few who asked) then after 1 1/2 hours Harkin calculated in his head and said, I guess we only have time for 1 minute each.

                                      (d) They typically take short questions and give long answers.

                                      (e) They may not actually give an answer to the question asked, even with follow up prompts to do so (Nussle, etc.)

                                      (f) They may refuse to answer more than 2 questions on the same topic (Nussle, who didn’t answer it either time).

                                      (g) They come in with an entourage, smiling and shaking hands (Harkin), or at the door (Nussle) and receive overwhelmingly positive responses from the many supporters present.  (The epitome of civility!)

                                      (h) Individuals trying to overcome these barriers on their own often become frustrated and angry and become easy targets for manipulative criticism.  They are blamed lack of civility against the warm and receptive legislator, and for opposing the fair processes, such as giving more people time to ask questions.

                  b Peace advocates come to be de-powered and give up trying.  Peace is weakened in front of the public and the media.

            2. Alternatives:  

                  a. Use a group strategy at these meetings, designed to counter this as a part of the strategy listed below as issue organizing


      D. Focus directly on the President.

            1. Drawbacks:  

                  a. He is generally not directly accessible in Iowa.

                  b. Everything in A., B., and C. applies even more to the President.  Opportunities are rare.  It takes much larger actions to have any significant impact.

            2. Alternatives:  

                  a. Support national initiatives along the lines of A., B., and C. above, 

                        (1). but take note of the “Drawbacks” listed above.

      E. Issue Organizing:  Use a proven group strategy focusing directly on those closest to you who have the actual authority to declare war, ie. Grassley.  

            1. Drawbacks:  

                  a. You may need to learn how to do this, & you may need help.

                  b. You may need to convince others to change an approach which they have long been using.

                        (1) They may not understand what you are doing and why.

                        (2) Others may be too busy to give this much attention on agendas.

                  c. Because strategies A., B., C., and D. are so widely used, it may be hard to find people who believe there is a strategy which will work.  They may have given up.

            2. Alternatives:  

                  a. Just organize it!  

                        (1) Meet one-on-one with a few key leaders.  

                        (2) Form a simple planning committee.  

                        (3) Plan and initiate the strategy based on simple how-too books containing examples of the necessary agendas, media releases, etc..  

                        (4) Teach your group/coalition how it works by showing them.

                        (5) Follow up by showing members how they’ve really been treated by bureaucratic processes and how this strategy will help them to overcome it.

                        (6) Enouurage those who seem to feel helpless and hopeless.

                        (7) Take one step, then the next, then the next until you win.

                  b. Example:

                        (1) Citizens and Organizations for Peace in the Cedar Rapids Area

                                      (a) The coaliton was organized quickly with very little work and without getting on major organizational agendas.

                                      (b) The coaliton quickly made a dramatic public confrontation against the #1 Iowan accountable for the war.

                                      (c) The coalition enabled the public to see bureaucratic responses in action.

                                      (d) The following comes from Roger Fisher and William Ury, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Givein In.”

                                        (i) Chapter 6  “What if they are more powerful?”  “Develop your BATNA–best alternative to a negotiated agreement.”  we know our BATNA, (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement,) and have demonstrated it.

                                        (ii) Chapter 7. “What if they won’t play?”  “Use negotiation jujitsu.”  (Listen to their position, reframe in terms of an attack on the joint problem which is the subject of the negotiations.)  How?  Many, many ways.

                                        (iii) Chapter 8. “What if they use dirty tricks?”  

                                          (1) These include:   

                                                (a) “Ambiguous authority”

                                                (b) “Refusal to negotiate”

                                                (c) “Hardhearted partner”

                                                (d) “A calculated delay”

                                          (2) Answer:  “Negotiate about the rules of the game.”  How?  Many, many ways.  What we’ve seen from Grassley appears consistent with some of the “dirty tricks”….   

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