In a little more than two months, a weekend of protest against the war in Iraq is scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, San Francisco, London, and several other cities around the globe. Like other protests against the US war on the world, this weekend is being organized by a wide number of organizations and individuals who are often not in agreement about many related subjects. As a participant in the protests, however, these disagreements should be secondary to our actual presence. With the US military death toll rapidly nearing 2000 and the Iraqi and Afghani cost in lives unknown to the general public, this is no time to debate subtleties of theory and politics.
Sure, the primary sponsors of the DC protest-UFPJ, Troops Out Now Coalition and ANSWER-disagree about many things, not least among them being the role that support for the Palestinian struggle should play in the antiwar movement and the emphasis the antiwar movement should place on demanding an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, but, just as in the past, the positions of the leadership of these two organizations are the positions of the leadership, not the regular folks organizing locally and riding the busses to DC. Just as the positions of those protesting will range in tenor from a mere desire to lobby the Congress to set a timetable for the US withdrawal from Iraq to those who want to see the defeat of the US empire in that country, so will the approaches taken by the protestors. Many will only attend the Saturday rallies and marches, while others will stick around DC until Monday in order to express their anger at the imperial slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan via acts of civil disobedience and more militant forms of direct action.
Just like the worldwide protests prior to the US/UK invasion of Iraq in 2003, this weekend of protest is extremely important. If the resistance to these wars does not intensify and make its presence known to the general public (and the rulers), it will not achieve the popular support needed to end Washington’s war on the world. History proves that massive resistance in the US combined with low troop morale related to their sense of futility can end unpopular wars. And, if one doubts that the war in Iraq is unpopular, they need only look at recent poll numbers, which put US popular opinion against continuing the war there at between 44 and 50 percent. While these numbers do not represent a majority, they are extremely high when compared to similar poll numbers at a similar period during the US war on Vietnam.
Imagine a quarter million, a half millionhell, imagine a million people in the streets of Washington DC over the three days of protest in September. George Bush may be out of town along with his advisors and most of Congress, but the eyes of the world will be watching. Richard Nixon and his warmakers saw something similar in November 1969, when somewhere between 500,000 and one million US residents filled the streets of Washington, DC to express their opposition to Washington’s war in Vietnam. Some of the protestors took part in militant direct actions, some committed civil disobedience, but most of them marched peacefully through the streets of DC solemnly and joyfully reaffirming their commitment to life and against war. Mr. Nixon stayed in town watching football-or so he claimed. Later memoirs by Henry Kissinger and others state otherwise. Indeed, then Attorney General John Mitchell described the scene as being “like the Russian Revolution.” Kissinger admitted that the protests (along with the previous month’s nationwide Moratorium Against the War) convinced Nixon and Kissinger to drop plans they were considering that included using nuclear weapons against the northern Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.
Yes, I know there are those who say that this war is different from the one in Vietnam and, in some ways, it is. However, as far as the role that the residents of the invading countries can play, it is much more similar than it is different. If we gather enough forces and continue our insistence that the occupying troops get out of Iraq (and Afghanistan) immediately and without conditions, we can end the brutality occurring in our name and with our monies. Despite the hopeful writings in newspapers and journals across the spectrum regarding a new exit strategy from Iraq, we in the antiwar movement would be fools to sit back and expect any such exit to occur, much less on terms that would be fair and to the benefit of the Iraqi people (as opposed to the occupiers). Even then, what does one do about Afghanistan and the rest of the “war on terror?” Let it continue?
The people can make a difference. We can determine history if only we get out of our homes and do so. By default, we will also determine history if we don’t. The choice is ours. Don’t just decide to go to Washington, San Francisco, or one of the other cities where antiwar protests are being called on September 24th . Don’t just decide to go; decide to bring some of your friends along. Hell, bring all of your friends along!
Do it to bring the troops home now!
Do it to give the Iraqis a chance to live normal lives.
Do it to take our government back from the liars and crooks who lead us into wars that benefit only them.
Do it because you think George Bush and his crew suck.
Do it because you think Congress sucks.
Do it because you think war sucks.
Do it because Washington, DC is beautiful in the fall.
Do it for your children, born and unborn.
Do it for the rest of the world’s children.
Do it because this war is wrong.
Do it because protesting it is right.
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 new collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org