Response to “Spinning Illusions: The Anti-American Left and the Ukraine war” – a New McCarthyism

by Joe Lombardo and Sara Flounders, published on, August 25, 2023

Recently, articles have appeared on the front page of the New York Times that smear Code Pink, The People’s Forum and TriContinental for allegedly taking money from an alleged Chinese agent. After the Times article was published, Senator Marco Rubio issued a statement calling for an investigation of the people mentioned in the article. 

Another article using similar McCarthyite tactics, by Lawrence S. Wittner, appeared in CounterPunch, Foreign Policy in Focus and The Daily Kos. Each is considered  a “progressive” publication. This attack uses the 1950s language of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Wittner’s attack is titled: “Spinning Illusions: The Anti-American Left and the Ukraine War” and targets  the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), International Action Center (IAC), Code Pink and The Peace in Ukraine Coalition. Wittner calls UNAC and IAC “campists” and “anti-American.”

Lawrence S. Wittner’s article, “Spinning illusions: The anti-American left and the Ukraine war” is a throwback to McCarthyism, replacing analysis with name-calling. It attacks the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), naming Sara Flounders, an organizer of UNAC and the International Action Center. Also attacked are Ukraine Solidarity Network and Code Pink, accusing all of us of being “campists.” This is an old term, a slur, against those who dare to take sides in the international class struggle.

The article’s title accuses those named as being “The Anti-American Left.”  Sounds like Wittner is resurrecting HUAC — the House Un-American Activities Committee that destroyed people’s lives in the 1950s and early 1960s simply for what they thought and said.

Other evidence that the U.S. government is headed toward McCarthyism is the indictments of leaders of the Black is Back Coalition for their opposition to NATO’s role in Ukraine — charging them with “distributing Russian propaganda.”

The New York Times, a media conglomerate that gives propaganda support to each U.S. war — remember Judith Miller’s hack job on Iraq building up to the 2003 invasion — published a front-page article insinuating that Code Pink, The People’s Forum and Tricontinental are agents of China. Why? Because these groups campaign to say: “No to a New Cold War.”

This article’s signers support this campaign 100%. Senator Marco Rubio has called for the Department of Justice to investigate these antiwar activists. Wittner’s article comes across as another desperate effort to silence opposition as the U.S. and NATO march closer to war with Russia and China.

Wittner wrote,

“Sara Flounders, a leader of the International Action Center and the United National Antiwar Coalition, two of the largest campist organizations in the United States, lovingly depicted a recent BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] summit as devoted to ‘building an open world economy that …  promotes cooperation.’

“She [Flounders] contrasted this with a summit of the Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the United States) — ‘the countries responsible for the looting and colonization of Asia, Africa, and the Americas. They owe reparations for the genocide of Indigenous peoples, the enslavement of African people, and the devastating world wars of the 20th century.’

“Naturally, ‘this summit of the most powerful and wealthiest imperialist powers was focused on how to intensify sanctions on Russia and how to continue the war in Ukraine.’ Behind them stood NATO, ‘the U.S.-commanded military alliance that serves as a global enforcer of U.S. corporate power.’”

Flounders stands behind what she wrote. Completely.

Wittner uses polls, Congressional votes and U.N. votes — all promoted by U.S. power — to claim support for the current U.S./NATO war in Ukraine. Similar “evidence” was utilized to justify U.S. wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Libya. Support evaporated as the wars dragged on. Already a CNN poll (Aug. 4) confirms the majority of the U.S. population is opposed to additional funding to Ukraine. But Biden is demanding another $24 billion for the Kiev government.

Wittner writes that we “focused criticism on the U.S. government, NATO and Ukraine.” Yes! We in UNAC do focus our work on stopping U.S. wars. For example, we explain that NATO is a U.S.-commanded, U.S.-equipped military alliance. NATO trainers, advisers and equipment have been deployed in Ukraine since a U.S.-supported coup in Kiev in 2014 overthrew the elected Ukrainian government.

Through NATO, Washington built up the small Ukrainian military to be bigger than nearly any of the NATO member countries. It is Washington that pushed NATO expansion to the borders of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. For what purpose? According to numerous official U.S. statements and articles, it was to destroy Russia. But if we say this, we are falsely accused of being controlled by Russia or China.

What we are. What we need. 

UNAC is an antiwar coalition based in the U.S., and asserts it is the U.S. that has been responsible for most of the military aggressions since WWII. This is still the only country to use nuclear weapons and still threatens to use them.

Millions of lives were lost in past U.S. wars. Trillions of dollars, with bipartisan support, go directly to U.S. military contractors — a steady stream of guaranteed profits. When those who want social services observe that the United States is the only industrialized country without free medical care and free university education, and with crumbling infrastructure and millions of people who are unhoused and desperate, they should consider this waste of wealth. Shouldn’t we address these burning issues?

The world needs an antiwar movement willing to consistently speak out and mobilize opposition among poor and working people when it is most difficult and unpopular to resist the endless U.S. wars. In the U.S., we need to oppose the devastating impact of 800 U.S. military bases around the world and a military budget 40% of the world’s total. We need to address the illegal and inhumane U.S. sanctions on 40 countries, comprising a third of the world population.

But most important is that we need an antiwar movement that always links these endless U.S. wars to the war here at home. The racist repression, the world’s largest prison population and three police killings every day, and widening attacks on migrants, LGBTQ2S+ people and others are the outgrowth of U.S. wars.

We are determined to continue to oppose U.S. wars and demand that the hundreds of billions of dollars of the military budget that benefits corporate power in the U.S. be spent on people’s needs.

We are actively building, with many others, for nationally coordinated days of opposition to the U.S./NATO war in Ukraine from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7 in more than 100 U.S. cities.

Contact for information on past and upcoming antiwar actions.

Joe Lombardo is Coordinator of United National Antiwar Coalition, also with Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace; and Sara Flounders, on the Administrative Committee of UNAC, Co-director of International Action Center and Workers World newspaper contributing editor.


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  1. While this form of criticism, unfortunately published in CounterPunch, is too reminiscent of past pro-US jingoism, it is a mistake to describe UNAC as an antiwar movement since rather than organizing to stop this ongoing insane tragedy, it has sided with the Russians from day one, ignoring the fact, that despite the clear Washington-backed provocations beginning with the 2014 Maidan coup, Russia was neither attacked nor threatened with attack and was the first to raise the issue of the possible use of nuclear weapons in the conflict, putting the two countries capable of destroying all life on the planet on the path to do so.

    To present Russia as anything but a one party dictatorship that crushes and jails dissenters and that Putin has not only been embraced by every dictator and authoritarian leader on the planet, including those who are US allies, while embracing each and every one in turn, is inexcusable and intellectually dishonest. Of the latter, none have been closer to him than Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu who Putin not only hosted on multiple state visits to Moscow, his image, like that of Trump, was used by Netanyahu in his campaigns to continue as Israel’s prime minister. The billboards in Israel, not reported in the Zionist controlled US media, carried a photograph of Putin reaching out a friendly hand to Netanyahu, which goes a long way in explaining why Israel has not joined the US-NATO coalition against the Russians nor observed the US drawn up sanctions.

    1. Yes, it is unfortunate that many supposed left websites and blogs publish this kind of red-baiting. But, it is a sign of the times. In fact your accusation that we are “defending Russia” as if supporting diplomacy were a crime, are engaging in something not much different than the red baiting.

      It is a time where our own government attacks those who criticize it’s policies and turns a deaf ear to the concerns of our own citizens. UNAC supports a just peace. We criticize our own government first, because, in title anyway, it is our government and our responsibility. Our government had numerous opportunities to use diplomacy to end this war before it began and throughout the war. However, it chose to enable the tensions in Ukraine to engage Russia in a proxy war, rather than to work with Russia and Ukraine to avoid a war. They have openly said as much.

      Indeed, anyone who supports a policy of “weapons for Ukraine” and blaming Russia over diplomatic engagement is less a peace activist than those of us who want to see a world where countries like our own use their power to engage with others in diplomacy rather than arrogantly fueling senseless war making. Blind loyalty is not peace building.

      War is not Diplomacy. Sanctions are not Diplomacy. Criticizing one’s peers is not Diplomacy. Talking to ones peers in an arrogant tone that lets them know your interests are important and theirs are not is not Diplomacy. It is Hubris! And the world, at least for now, is paying for it.

      And U.S. citizens (I’ll talk about ‘Americans’ another day) are paying for it. Daniel Ortega calls us “North Americans” so I will use his term. Yes, I’m quoting that terrible “dictator” who brought education, medical care and dignity to the peasant majority in his country; Who governs by virtue of popular support rather than economic favors.

      Anyway, this is not about dictators. The U.S. supports as many dictators as Russia does. Look at Sisi in Egypt. And how about that monster, Paul Kagame, dictator in Rawanda and mass murderer throughout central Africa. I could go on, and you know it. And this isn’t about Israel either. The U.S. stands 100% behind the vicious Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people and has unflaggingly supported their agenda since 1948 AFTER they murdered a large number of British and other European diplomats in the King David hotel. Like Russia, we have lots of our citizens in Israel, though they may not have as many Israelis running things in Russia as in the United States. I don’t know.

      And, closer to home, we North Americans are paying for this war. Literally, we are paying with hundreds of billions of our tax dollars which are desperately needed at home, even if only to buy food and medical care. Here at home, despite Biden’s much touted “Build Back Better” plan, infrastructure is degraded beyond belief (Have you been to NYC lately? ); schools are failing, students are the only people whose loans are not under any circumstance subject to relief – not even in bankruptcy. Medical services are being depersonalized, and more and more being provided like sandwiches in a machine in the subway. People are routinely killed by the police whose job description is now “keep control” rather than “keep the peace”. Cities are flooded with homeless people. Railroad employees are supposed to accept that they have no right to sick leave and no right to strike…. no rights at all. Social Security is under threat and social services are increasingly inadequate.

      So, yes, we are ready to criticize our own leadership because it is ours; because it is using our resources to create a never ending bloodbath in Ukraine, prolonging a war on somebody else’s border that reasonably should be none of our business. And denying basic security and resources to our own population. And that is not Russia’s fault. It is our own leadership making these decisions. And so, we are most definitely peace activists in the truest sense of the word.

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