[An earlier version of this essay was presented at Historical Materialism Toronto, May 2012.]
The end of the US military occupation of Iraq on December 31, 2011, although by no means an end to US imperial intervention in the country, augurs a radically new context for the political development of Iraq. This essay will argue that it also shows the need for a fundamental critique of strategies in the US antiwar movement, as the real process by which the occupation ended falsified the conceptions of both the liberal and left wings of the movement.
The liberals’ expectation that some combination of executive and legislative action by the Democratic Party would end or at least ameliorate the war was false; it will be shown, in fact, that the Democrats’ commitment to antiwar policies collapsed as soon as they gained control of Congress and the White House. However, the left wing’s contention that the occupation would be expelled by the triple action of a US civilian movement, US military movement, and Iraqi national resistance was also incorrect.
It will be seen that both wings of the movement derived their strategies from distinct readings of the same historical phenomenon: the movement against the US war on Vietnam. The conclusion suggests that opponents of imperialism in the US need to take a wider view of the nation’s political history, looking particularly to its legacy of explicitly anti-imperialist movements in order to discover new models of activism relevant to the current conjuncture.