Come to Kennebunkport!
It’s the afternoon of July 21, 2007. George Bush is back in official control of the country after his colonoscopy. When I first read that he would be undergoing this procedure I had visions of an unforeseen accident in the operating room culminating in his colon being hastily taken to a secret part of Bethesda Naval Hospital where top notch scientists would reconstruct Mr. Bush from the DNA in his colon, much like the scene in Woody Allen’s movie Sleeper where the only body part remaining of the Great Leader is his nose. It is this nose, of course, that must be used to reconstruct the Great Leader. Another fantasy that flashed through my brain was that Dick Cheney would use his temporary powers to attack Iran, putting into action a contingency some in the government would love to see take place. Then it was all over. Mr. Bush came out of anesthesia minus a few polyps and Mr. Cheney went back to his official role as Vice President.
And the war drags on. Several protests are scheduled for DC and other cities this autumn and a new effort to bring the protest movement into every community in the United States that calls itself the Iraq Moratorium Project is launching on September 21. Mr. Bush is getting ready to take his vacation up in Maine at the Bush Family Compound in Kennebunkport, recreating (as his daddy said back in 1990) while Baghdad burns. However, Mr. Bush won’t be alone. In fact, in what organizers hope will be an even larger manifestation of the last two previous protests in that bucolic playground of the rich, a broad coalition of antiwar groups are holding a protest and convergence over the August 24 – 26 weekend. Like the encampment spearheaded by Cindy Sheehan outside of Crawford, Texas last summer, this protest aims to bring the antiwar message to the man who claims the war as his own.
It is important for those of us opposed to the war to see all of these actions against the war as part of the same movement no matter who is calling them. While differences still exist between the various national organizations (UFPJ, ANSWER and Troops Out Now Coalition), the fact that US involvement in the war is ratcheting up, with generals and politicians hinting at even greater escalation, means that every effort to end the war must be made with the idea that it is part of the greater whole. Political and personal differences must be set aside. Who knows? Maybe the national organizations that have the money and ability will finally get it together and do what the grassroots have wanted since Day One–a single antiwar movement united around the call to remove all foreign forces from Iraq immediately, permanently and without conditions. As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present to begin working toward this goal. In fact, bubbling under the current organizing for the autumn protests is a growing desire to see a single unified march on DC in the spring of 2008. This march could potentially mobilize a million people in the streets of Washington calling for an immediate end to the war in Iraq.
The main Kennebunkport protest will take place on August 25, 2007. This march and rally will feature speakers including Dennis Kucinich and war resister Augustin Aguayo and music from the Indigo Girls and David Rovics (among others). The weekend of protest represents the opening salvo in what needs to be a re-energized campaign to end the war. Endorsers include several Veterans for Peace Chapters from New England, some local Green Party chapters, Cindy Sheehan and her Camp Casey Peace Institute and even some local Democratic Committees. Jamilla El-Shafei, the person who initiated the call, is a member of NH Peace Action and Maine Peace Action . She was instrumental in last year’s protest in Kennebunkport as well. When I asked her in an email what inspired her to organize this year’s protest, she responded with this succinct and pointed statement. "Initially, I decided to plan this year’s rally and march in response to the most frequently asked question to me by the media. Last year reporters from many different media outlets asked me again and again. "Is this event an attempt to inconvenience President Bush and his family as well as tourists?" I was incensed at the callousness of their questions! What does the question say about our culture?"
She continued, "Military families are suffering while their loved ones are in Iraq. Innocent Iraqis are being displaced from their homes, while their country is disintegrating before their very eyes! At the very least, they are inconvenienced. Every single Iraqi family has lost a relative….So, I decided that "If they think that a few hundred protesters inconvenienced the Bush family and business as usual in BUSH WORLD, well they ain’t seen nothin’ yet!!!"
According to John McDonald of the Campus Antiwar Network, students throughout the US Northeast are also organizing for this protest. According to John the network created during the spring 2007 youth antiwar conference in Vermont has been activated "to pull more folks in to help out with building the protest." In addition, CAN members have formed a student outreach working group within the the New England UFPJ assembly that is working on an October 27 Boston protest. The purpose of the outreach committee is twofold: to link up with the CAN contingent at the K-port demo, and bring out other activists to that event so as to build for the demo on Oct. 27th in Boston.
Besides the scheduled march and rally, two farms near the Bush compound will become campsites at least for the weekend. In a second email, Jamilla added, "to me, a up- close and personal action such as this is more effective than marching in DC on a Saturday by empty buildings of monumental proportions. The psychology of such monumental architecture invokes the feeling that people are small and powerless and that the government is big and all powerful!"
While different opinions certainly exist regarding that statement, one has to acknowledge the element of drama present with Bush stuck in his compound for that weekend while citizens opposed to this war he refuses to end march and rally in the streets outside. Much more than a Greek chorus that merely narrates the tale, we must hope that this protest and the ones to follow will ultimately force the hand of those in the Administration, Congress and the Pentagon who worship Mars and his cohort Thanatos. If they don’t, than the bar must be raised even higher.
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RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org