Political extremism is not the A.N.S.W.E.R.

Lately, I’ve found myself in political limbo as a left-center moderate clinging to a rope under the duress of a dangerous game of political tug-of-war. Furthermore, I can see the brutes standing in each of the loops on either end tugging harder and growing more virulent – foaming at the mouth.

That said, I am unabashedly partisan: I sigh and harrumph with the seemingly daily outrages purported by radical conservatives within the Republican Party. It is, however, what I have come to expect from them – call me desensitized. What makes me downright angry is the undercurrent of wrongheaded left-wing extremism contaminating my own party and ruining its candidates’ chances of holding elected office.

Nowhere was this more evident than during the Sept. 24 “anti-war” protests organized by the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. Why the quotes around “anti-war”? Because, after watching the protest itself on C-Span and combing through the organization’s Web site, I still can’t figure out exactly what war they’re rallying against. After all, we’re no longer fighting against the Iraqi army – we’re training them. Does this group, then, advocate ending our war on the insurgents? If so, then it’s actually advocating for war. An Iraqi Civil War, that is.

A.N.S.W.E.R. stands for “Act Now to Stop War and End Racism,” putting under a single umbrella two issues that seem mutually exclusive and ultimately unattainable.

Could you imagine an organization of medical doctors that called itself “Act Now to Cure Cancer and End Malpractice?” As nonsensical as the name of the organization is, its agenda becomes clear at first glance of its Web site: “End the colonial occupation of Iraq, to Palestine, to Haiti, to everywhere.”

I wonder how many of the 300,000 who marched last Saturday realized they were doing so in support of an organization slanted enough to describe the Israeli-Palestine crisis as a colonial occupation? Not many, I imagine.

I’m also inclined to distrust any organization that forms in the interest of “Stopping War” and “Ending Racism” only three days after the September 11 attacks, especially when it’s steering committee includes organizations like “Free Palestine – U.S.” and the “Party for Socialism and Liberation,” among others.

An immediate American pullout, for which the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition’s Web site clearly calls, would leave in control under-trained, unprepared Iraqi troops that are, by the description of the Iraqi prime minister, only ready to “take control of some cities” as of July 12, 2005. Our military presence, then, is the only adhesive holding these pluralistic, multi-ethnic people together, whose only commonalities are being boxed in by the lines drawn in the sand by British colonials and decades of oppression under Saddam Hussein.

It’s hard for Americans to empathize with the Iraqis on this last point, as the vast majority of us have a strong sense of nationalism despite our differences. I believe that people underestimate the strength of this type of bond.

Unfortunately, this sense of a shared national consciousness is far less predominant in Iraq, where ethnic or religious affiliation is paramount in terms of expressing one’s identity. In this context, it’s clear why the country’s three major ethnic groups have been unable to cultivate a consensus for a constitution.

An American pullout of a weak Iraq inevitably means more bloodshed, at a level to which the current insurgency cannot even compare. I also believe that the degree that we leave Iraq lacking will be the degree to which the country forges political ties with its theocratic neighbor, Iran.

Thus, I can’t help but feel that this particular anti-war protest has its roots in politics and not in peace. I want to make it clear that I don’t criticize anyone’s right to free speech, nor do I believe that most of the 300,000 who appeared at these rallies have evil in their hearts.

On the contrary, I believe these were, for the most part, innocent people who, like myself, are frustrated with the state of political affairs in this country and wanted to take part in a highly visible manifestation of their dissatisfaction.

What gets under my skin, however, is that this radical A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition baited protestors with an issue that they can identify and exploited the large turnout in an effort to legitimize its extremist political agenda.

So, as a partisan, yet moderate, democrat, I see the Republican Party turning into an unstoppable monster as the left-wing base of the party drifts further and further from the mainstream.

It’s time for moderates to end the tacit acceptance of these groups in the interest of big-tent politics, and begin forging an effective “take it or leave it” party platform and mainstream policy initiatives.

Describing the only functioning democracy in the Middle East as an “occupying colonial power” most certainly wouldn’t meet the guidelines. By staying silent and not offering alternatives, we allow any organization spouting anti-Bush rhetoric to push its radical politics upon our frustrated base and thus define our party by association.

Information from -usatoday.com, nybooks.com, internationalanswer.org/