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The Largest Outcry in History

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

We’re witnessing the largest outcry in history against an imminent war with the imminent aggressors– the US and UK–so frightened of the outcry that they have been trying to curb the demonstrations in New York and London.

The one in New York is scheduled for February 15, with the gathering point as of this writing at noon , 49th st and 1st Avenue. On Monday a federal court ruled in favor of the NYPD, denying next Saturday’s demonstrators the right to march past the United Nations. Desmond Tutu told the march’s organizers in United For Peace and Justice that the ban reminded him of the days of apartheid in South Africa. For updates, check the UFPJ website or listen to WBAI radio. The UFPJ website also has information about the various feeder marches that will meet earlier and proceed to the main march. At time of writing, the ban is being heard before the 2cnd Circuit Court of Appeals.

It will be a remarkable moment, a worldwide demonstration for peace, perhaps the largest worldwide protest in history or at least in modern times. One other major demonstration in this country is planned for San Francisco but the date is shifted to Sunday Feb 16.

There are demos round the world–more than 306 cities–on all continents! There’s even a demonstration scheduled in Antarctica, outside the McMurdo Station there. As to New York, the buzz is this is going to be a major amount of people. Nobody is giving out numbers except to say it will build on the success of the Jan 18 demonstration which the Washington Post called the largest anti-war demo since the Vietnam period. The London Daily Mirror several weeks ago forecast that there would be ten million turning out worldwide for all these protests

The Gothamites on the streets Saturday will include plenty that watched in horror as the World Trade Center fell. Survivors and survivors’ kin are playing a prominent role. The anti-war sentiment continues to build here even as the Big Apple is a prime target for further damage. Whatever the stresses and strains within the movement about ANSWER, United for Peace and Justice is organizing this one. Leslie Cagan and other long-time hands are involved. Several hundred volunteers made a huge literature outreach last weekend. There’s lots of labor involvement, youth, greens, war veterans.

After 9-11, there were pledges about ensuring better cooperation between federal authorities and the NYPD. That seems to be just what Bush and Bloomberg have had in mind. In the negotiations between the city and UFPJ, after an initial offer of a march permit (not for the route desired by UFPJ) the march offer was taken off the table altogether and now a federal judge has upheld that decision. The pressure on NYPD may not have been so subtle. The Bush/Ashcroft operation sent federal prosecutors to the court hearing and the feds filed an amicus brief.

Another unsettling aspect is how the city has been using pens–metal enclosures–to chop up demonstrations, even relatively small ones. This tactic has made it very difficult find friends, to feel that the assembled crowd has a collective presence. Rather, it often feels as though the police want to cage up people to demoralize and control. Here in the US, we are unlikely to wake up one morning to find a coup. Instead, we get the shredding of civil liberties in fits and starts, till one fine day we wake up to find it’s all gone.

?

Michael Lerner: Should He Speak?

CounterPunch’s inbox is suddenly clogged with e-traffic about Michael Lerner being banned from speaking at the San Francisco rally. We got one list of protesting signatories studded with notables and miscreants, like Eric Alterman who normally spends his time deriding the antiwar protests, just like Marc Cooper, who clearly sees a “Let Lerner Speak” campaign as a good way of smearing ANSWER and NION (Not in Our Name).

My initial reaction was to say to Jeffrey St Clair that any move to keep Lerner from pouring out his usual freshets of idiocy is sound by definition, but on mature consideration I counsel the organizers of the San Francisco rally to slot Lerner in at some point in the proceedings

I’m quite prepared to believe that Lerner, a relentless self-promoter, has managed to piss off everybody with egocentric posturing and unity-wrecking maneuvers, and maybe his plan from the start has been to engineer a situation in which he can howl that Jew-haters have laid him low. But let the guy speak anyway. Mostly people don’t listen to speeches, and if you suddenly hear Lerner’s voice disturbing the harmony of the great convergence, move into a drumming circle and blot the guy out.

Every now and again Lerner writes to CounterPunch asking for our support when he’d been attacked by the neocons. Tikkun has published some good stuff such as reports by Tanya Rinehart, one the best reporters and commentators in Israel. He’s a flake, but on Israel, considering the mostly awful spectrum of opinion here, he’s often been constructive. Look at other American-Jewish publications and you’ll see what I mean. For a good exchange which excitingly revealed Lerner’s distinct limitations I refer you to his debate with Salman abu-Sitta on the right of Palestinian return.

Lerner and Hillary Clinton had a thing going for a brief moment, and then she, like so many others, realized that having Lerner around the place was like having a badly trained retriever, either jumping up and licking your face or making a mess in the corner. It reminds me somehow of Norman Podhoretz back in the days of Camelot, who conceived a passion for Jackie Kennedy and came to believe that somehow, against all the odds, she secretly reciprocated his yearning. Eventually, at some cocktail party he cornered her and pressed his suit. She gazed at him as though he was a centipede on her sleeve, and said icily, “Why, Mr Podhoretz, just who do you think you are?” Not long thereafter the jilted Poddy began his long trek to the right.

Kucinich To Run; Who’s Howard Dean?

Dennis Kucinich has definitely decided to run for the Democratic nomination, or so he’s confided to a close Friend of CounterPunch last week. He is forming his exploratory committee and predicts he will win the Iowa caucus. Our Friend asked him how he proposed to deal with his opposition to abortion, a stance that is anathema to many in the pwog crowd who would otherwise be cheering Dennis on. He waved a dismissive hand, as if to say “No Prob”. Hmm.

Meanwhile we detect ripples of pwog support for Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, also seeking the Democratic nomination. Now, we remember a time not so long past when progressives in Vermont were decrying Gov Dean as a man who undercut a drive for true universal health insurance with a more limited program. The turning point came when Dean came out strongly in favor of civil union marriages for gays, at a time when gays in Vermont feared a right-wing onslaught so savage that they would be compelled to flee down Interstate 91 south into western Massachusetts and the comparative safety of Northampton, heaviest concentration of lesbians east of the Rockies.

The gays have remembered Dean fondly ever since and now Dean has established quite a corner in gay funding across the country. On the other side, he’s fallen into bad company with unsavory organizers in South Carolina. In some ways he seems like a reprise on another governor from a small, poor state, many years ago, Jimmy Carter. JC was a peanut broker and Dean is a doctor (hailing from plush origins as part of the Dean that’s hyphenated with Witter). Carter was the herald of neo-liberalism. Maybe now that we’ve gone the full cycle from the first boastful rationales for dereg of the late Seventies to their consummation in the orgies of thievery 20 years later, it’s time for candidates with even minimal progressive pretensions to find decent left economists to help them reformulate the radical economic agenda, but that seems more Kucinich’s province. But no doubt we’ll be hearing Dean boast about all he’s done to feed and care for the poor in Vermont.

Kucinich opposes abortion. Dean does not shrink from the idea of killing people. He supports the death penalty for child and cop murder, coming to that position in 1998 just when Gov Ryan of Illinois was on the march towards his epoch-making onslaughts on Illinois’ death machine. I assume Dean was contemplating his run for the nomination and felt he had to go with some form of Death Penalty Lite, to keep the cop and kindred hang ’em high lobbies off his ass. But Dean’s logic has expansionism built into it. Why stop with the tot-slayers? Doesn’t a guy who bludgeons an old lady to death similarly deserve to die? Now which governor was it that flew home to Arkansas from New Hampshire in the midst of a fraught primary to sign a death warrant? Dean would be able to walk home and sign such a piece of paper.

All things considered, for the time being we’ll stand with the guy who’s against the war, for choice and against the death penalty. Mr Al Sharpton, please rise! Jah, or Jam?

Driving along I-70 a few weeks ago I saw a sign in western Kansas for Wilson, billed as “the Czech capital of Kansas”. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something on the sign about sausages, so I pulled off, hoping for some souvenir of Bohemian charcuterie. I found Mrs Shiro in her textile boutique, who had promoted Wilson as Czech center, and she sent me to Wilson Family Foods, which sold me good bratwurst, landjaeger and smoked bacon which I cooked further along 1-70 in my motel.

I inspected the war memorial, counting 94 deceased vets from World War One, with 3 killed in action; 132 vets from World War 2, with 15 KIA; 10 from the Korean war, with just one KIA; 4 from the Vietnam war, with two KIA. Then I looked back up the main street and saw in the mid-distance a big building and in front of it a sign, AM LEGION STEAK FEED and on the next line JAH IS GOD. This seemed pretty multicultural for western Kansas, and I walked a bit closer. Sure enough, it said JAM IS GOD, no doubt a proud reference to Czech cherry jam. A bit later, driving out of town, I went right past the sign and it said, matter of factly, JAN 18 600. Out of such epigraphic misreadings whole histories of nonsense have been written.

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

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