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Freezing for Peace

First a tribute. I can’t sleep on buses and feel sorry for myself when I have to take the midnight ride to DC. But Connecticut trips to DC are only six hours long. I can’t imagine what it would be like riding 20 hours each way from Wisconsin or Mississippi. My admiration for those who did it.

It was really cold. You felt it especially in the morning when it must have been 10 degrees and you had nothing to do but feel your face grown numb. You shivered again when the march bogged down and you just stood and chilled. The cold crept in again on New Jersey Avenue during that interminable wait for the buses. Well, at least there wasn’t any wind.

Best sign of the day, the words “Two Empty Warheads Found” with pictures of Bush and Rumsfeld. The level of abuse of the President was pretty striking. A year ago he was untouchable, the symbol of the nation, the man who would defend us from the mad Osama. Yesterday, he was reviled, not so much by the speakers but by the crowd on whose signs he was compared to: a naked emperor, a medal covered despot, the anti-Christ and Hitler complete with a dark little mustache. A group of people had four giant posters of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz with black pits instead of eyes. The crew was labeled, War, Death, Famine, and Pestilence, the four horseman of the apocalypse. Another sign was Phantom Menace II with beautiful renditions of Bush, Rice, et. al.

How many demonstrated? I haven’t the faintest idea. On Oct 26 we were on a hill not to far from the Washington Monument so you got an sense of an enormous crowd. Yesterday the world was flat and all you could see was the crush of people around you. The crush was really unpleasant for the first hour of the march. I’ve been doing this for more than thirty years and I never remember a crowd so packed. With all the talking coming from the podium nobody gave the crowd any directions at all. They just said “Go!” and the whole sea of people oozed out of the mall. A pity really, you want to have rows of people ten feet apart so all the signs and banners can be read.

One has to admire the ANSWER folk for generating the huge crowds at the two DC demos. Yet the speeches left a lot to be desired. Main criticism. There was not one connection made between Ariel Sharon and the drive to conquer Iraq. Sure, Israel was criticized in connection with the Palestinians. But no one said the obvious, that Sharon was using the political might of the Israeli Apartheid Lobby to get this country to invade Iraq. It was astounding that not even Cynthia McKinney mentioned it and she’d just been purged by The Lobby. The Iraq war is not just about oil. Sharon’s plan for the Middle East is not only to totally destroy the will of the Palestinians but to demolish any Arab/Muslim regime not subservient to the “West”. The next war, against Iran, cannot be understood without the monster ambitions of the Israeli Right and its U.S. supporters. Are we still so terrified of the bogus charge of anti-Semitism? Get over it.

Second point, the way the Palestinian issue was handled. There were two speakers, but I never heard of the organizations they represented and I’ve been around. They had only very general comments. One did mention that Israel was asking for an extra $12 billion in aid, but there was no suggestion that anyone do anything about it. The divestment campaigns and the boycott Israeli goods campaign were not talked about al all. Why didn’t they have an Al-Awda speaker? Why didn’t they have Amer Jubran speak from the podium? For those of you who don’t know him, he’s a Palestinian activist who they’re trying to deport on a bogus charge of a mistake in his Green Card paperwork. He needs our support and tens of thousands could have heard him speak.

Third, there was no voice of Iraqi democracy. Hussein is indeed a bloody tyrant. There must be Iraqi opposition groups who are also against the sanctions-genocide and a U.S. invasion. If one of them could not send a speaker a statement could certainly have been read. It is critical that anti-war folks been seen as allies of Iraqi democratic groups.

Another mistake. How could they not have a Green Party speaker? This is a national political party which had a major impact in the last Presidential election and is anti-war. The only comments from politicians were provided by Democrats, most prominently by that fraud Jesse Jackson (war criminal Clinton’s confessor) and Al Sharpton (who I don’t think can ever live down the Tawana Brawley fiasco). The Democratic Party is dying. Why the hell should anti-war folks be giving it a transfusion?

Why didn’t ANSWER have Rania Masri speak? She’s been leading opposition to sanctions and war for many years and she’s a charismatic speaker.

The rally started with music by Chumbawumba. That was pretty good, but I don’t recall any more music. Typical left rally, drowning people with words.

On the up side. From what I recall I didn’t hear speakers saying “Give inspections a chance”. I was glad of that. We don’t need to feed into that illusion. Inspectors may indeed find something that Saddam has been hiding and Bush will have his “material breach”. Failing that they’ll get some scared Iraqi scientist to tell about secret stores of VX or anthrax. Let’s not fall for it. The mass murderer and ex-Reagan ally Saddam Hussein isn’t invading anybody and he’s no threat at all to the USA. Bush has no right to attack. End of story.

An observation. I could be wrong but from what I saw there were not many blacks or Latinos. More surprising was that there were few dressed in Muslim clothing. How come?

Don’t want to close on a down note. It was damn good to be there. It was cool (pun intended) to march into a neighborhood rather than past immense empty buildings. It was important to freeze for peace and it will be important to turn out massively again in February in NYC.

Finally, the best chants of the day, “Bush’s head is as hard a granite. Now he wants to destroy the planet!” and “This is what democracy looks like. Bush is what hypocrisy looks like.”

And the cutest sign, “Spongebob Squarepants is against the war.”

STANLEY HELLER is editor of “The Struggle” and it’s website www.TheStruggle.org. He’d welcome your commnents at mail@TheStruggle.org

 

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