US Antiwar Movement Grows

January 28, 2007 at 11:29 am (Uncategorized)

The tide has turned in the US antiwar movement. Having been a participant in this movement since the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 when it was very small indeed, the protests yesterday which drew tens of thousands of people to Washington DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco were a very positive development.

It hasn’t been a steady line of ascent since that time and I distinctly remember standing at a vigil of ten people in Washington Square Park in New York when Falluja was getting bombed to shreds with the occasional cabbie honking in support. I too remember being pressured to wear a red, white and blue ribbon in my office, ostensibly to support the war, and refusing but wearing my peace sign instead. Given that a number of us in the office, including myself, had lived through the horror of 9-11 only five blocks away, this wasn’t an easy thing to do.

However, the difference now is that the opposition has been growing steadily and is reaching new heights. While the AP and other news organisations often make comparisons with the anti-Vietnam war movement and claim that the numbers are small, in reality they are not comparing like with like. What they neglect to mention is that this many years into the conflict in Vietnam, the anti-war movement was nowhere near as large as it is in the current stage of this war.

Further, the opposition to the war began in the places which were directly affected by 9-11 and grew weary rather quickly of having their pain and memories dragged through the mud and abused by the US government to justify its every action – but it has now extended to large swathes of the rest of the country. I noted with interest upon visiting my home state of Utah the plethora of yellow ribbons, bumper stickers on cars saying “Never forget” with images of the twin towers – all of which were largely absent in New York a few years after 9-11 – though of course the occasional mural of a local firefighter remained on the sides of bodegas in working class areas of Brooklyn and the Bronx.

But the yellow ribbons in the rest of the country are coming off because it is largely the sons and daughters of those folks who are being sent off to die in an un-winnable war. This is precisely why the Democratic Party, who have a miserable record on the war, are scrambling to be the new “doves” even though their desire for blood and their hawkish jingoism has been clear to anyone who has been paying attention. They’ve started to join in the protests and even Hillary “Hawk” Clinton has come out saying that she takes “responsibility” for allowing the war to happen.

Along with Democrats joining the protests, one thing that became clear on looking at the photos is the increase in veterans and active duty soldiers participating. When the antiwar movement started, and before 9-11, the anti-capitalist movement was rolling along. In my view, 9-11 resulted in the death of the anti-capitalist movement which has never recovered. The reason I mention this is that the early antiwar movement was largely made up of those of us who had been on these demos – who tended to be concentrated in large cities and largely white, in a lot of cases middle class with a heavy anarchist influence.

The addition to this original core of Iraq war veterans and people from across the country is a massive shot in the arm and will help the movement to grow. This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone protesting is against the war for “left” reasons – a number of those joining see the war as “un-winnable” in a nationalist sense instead of morally wrong – hardly an indication of leftism. However, the make-up of many of these veterans and active servicemen and women is very working class and largely Black and Latino. There have been large groups of Latinos protesting over the last few years for citizenship rights for immigrants and many of these demos were awash with the Stars and Stripes. The nationalist righteous indignation felt by them and many others who are sending their sons and daughters to die will have a massive effect on the current movement but the increase in participation shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as an increase in the US left, which remains very small indeed.

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