"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Friday, March 02, 2007

4th anniversary march on Washington

As I write this, the stage is being set for a massive ideological confrontation later this month in Washington DC, the likes of which have not been seen in forty years.

On Saturday, March 17, the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq conflict, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the war will stage a march on the Pentagon, calling for, among other things:

• An immediate end to the war

• Withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq

• Shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility

• The impeachment of President Bush for war crimes

Protesters are also expected to voice opposition to a variety of related issues including the repression of civil rights and free speech at home, and provocative American foreign policy elsewhere abroad. No one is yet predicting how many people will take to the streets on the 17th, but the numbers could be huge. It is no accident that the demonstration was planned to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Washington march against the Vietnam War, which drew about 100,000 protesters to the steps of the Pentagon (of which I was one). Although not the largest anti-Vietnam demonstration (the National Mobilization to End The War on November 15, 1969 drew a record crowd of 600,000), the '67 protest was significant in that it saw the coalescing of a number of disparate groups into a united and extremely visible anti-war "movement" that had previously been somewhat fractious and unorganized. Those planning this month's protest march hope for a similar result.

Up until now, most critics of the war (with some notable exceptions) have tried to frame opposition to our conduct in Iraq strictly in political terms, while respecting the role of the military -- and individual soldiers in particular -- who have been sent to do a dirty job with no choice in the matter. This is vastly different from the Vietnam era, when soldiers were (unjustly) reviled as "baby killers" and received very little sympathy after returning home. But while the Abu Ghraib prison scandal certainly didn't do much to help portray an image of U.S. soldiers as liberating heroes, the greater tragedy is that our soldiers keep getting maimed and killed with no end in sight. They're doing the job they've been sent to do as best they can under deplorable conditions, and most Americans just want to get them home to their families and out of harm's way. I think any reasonable citizen honestly wants to support their country, but the tide of public opinion has definitely reached a turning point; the majority now believe that we were deliberately misled into war by Bush, Cheney, & Co., who have continued to bungle and mishandle the conflict at every step of the way. Not only have we paid for this deceit and incompetence in precious American lives, but it has cost us dearly in traditional terms as well: billions of dollars has been flushed away in the war effort that could have gone instead toward building schools, hospitals, or for a multitude of other worthy causes.

Many people saw the 2006 mid-term elections as a rebuke of George Bush and his handling of the conflict, and expected to see a significant change in U.S. policy as a result. However, that has not happened; on the contrary, with nothing more to lose politically, this lame-duck administration has not only ignored that mandate, but has "doubled down" by sending a surge of additional troops into Iraq. I therefore expect that March 17th could mark the beginning of a new period where the gloves come off and anti-war protests become much more vocal and insistent. Indeed, the rhetoric seen on some of the web sites promoting the demonstration tends to be pretty harsh. For example, from "The World Can't Wait":
Your government has committed war crimes, is about to commit more, and you have the responsibility to stop them. The march will send a message to the people of the world, who cannot see our anti-war bumper stickers, or feel our individual outrage. YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

In the face of November’s election results showing people want an end to the war on Iraq, and with the occupation of Iraq going very badly, George Bush has expanded that war and is planning new crimes against Iran. A Pentagon panel has been created to lead a bombing attack on Iran within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from Bush. Bush, Cheney, and Rice say that "all options are on the table" in dealing with Iran, and that includes dropping nuclear bombs, allegedly to stop Iran from developing them. It is the urgent responsibility of people living in the United States to demand and end of the war on Iraq, and to STOP an attack on Iran.

The Bush regime cannot be allowed to bring about even more destruction to the world and further inflame the Middle East with civil and religious war. We must show that the outrages committed by the Bush regime, from Iraq to New Orleans, are not being done in our name. We won’t accept war crimes! The march will clearly demand the removal of the Bush regime now. 2008 is too late!

There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party; people who steal elections and believe they're on a "mission from God" will not go without a fight."
That's some pretty strong language, and as expected, it's inflamed the conservative minority who still endorse Bush and the war. A number of organizations are planning a counter-demonstration for the same day, dubbed "A Gathering of Eagles", and cheered on by supporters such as right-wing harpy Michelle Malkin who is perfectly capable of spinning her own brand of rhetoric. After referring on her web site to protesters as "moonbats" and "socialists", she goes on to say:
"How many times have you sat in front of the TV over the last four years, watching anti-war activists march on Washington, chase the ROTC off your local college campus, vandalize war memorials, insult the troops and wreak havoc under the surrender banner? How many times have you thought to yourself: What can I do? Here is the answer: Get off the sofa and join the Gathering of Eagles on March 17 in Washington, D.C."
Various Veteran's organizations and others groups have responded with plans to attend, so it looks like March 17th will be a very interesting day in our nation's capital indeed. Mark your calendar.

One final thought: anyone active in the antiwar movement from the Vietnam era will immediately recognize the poster to the right as the logo, and vision, of "Another Mother for Peace". AMP was significant in that it was an offshoot of the burgeoning women's movement of the 60's and 70's. Following the repressive 50's, many women felt empowered for the first time to speak up about social issues, and the Vietnam conflict directly affected those Moms who were sending their children off to fight in a morally questionable and militarily un-winnable war. How ironic, and sad, that this organization continues to exist today for the same purpose. Some things, unfortunately, never change.

A few links FYI:


United for Peace and Justice
A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
Code Pink: Women for Peace


UPDATE: I was just alerted by a friend to this website, where the "Gathering of Eagles" group continues to characterize themselves as "protectors" of the Vietnam Veteran's Wall and other military monuments from what they anticipate will be efforts by protesters to deface these memorials on March 17th. I sincerely doubt anyone plans to do anything of the sort, but what is especially disturbing to me is the perception by these self-proclaimed patriots that being "anti-war" automatically makes one "anti-American". From the site:
"The anti-war/anti-America group cannot be allowed to use the Vietnam Memorial Wall as a back-drop to their anti-America venom and stain the hallowed ground that virtually cries out with blood at the thought of this proposed desecration ... it must not happen," said veteran Bud Gross. "… All Americans are invited to support our effort, which is intended as a defender of hallowed ground and intended as a non-violent competition between those that would sell out America and those of us who support freedom and keeping the fight with the enemy on distant shores."

"We'll be there to act as a countervailing force against the march from the Vietnam Memorial to the Pentagon," retired Navy Capt. Larry Bailey said. "When we say a gathering of eagles, that signifies people who support the American way. We will protect the Vietnam Memorial. If they try to deface it, there will be some violence, I guarantee you."
This certainly has an ominous ring to it, and I bristle at the notion that only those who are pro-war support "the American Way", while those who are against it want to "sell out America". Bullshit. Those who oppose the war do so because we love this country and are deeply troubled by the direction we're being taken by our leaders. Lying to the world while subverting our basic civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution is not exactly what I would call "the American Way."

But one of the great things about the USA is our freedom to disagree on and debate these matters. I sincerely hope that any confrontations on March 17 are philosophical in nature, not physical, but I have a nagging fear that that things could get ugly. Expect to hear a lot more in the news about this in the days ahead.


  • At 3/02/2007 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Sphincter said…

    Ah, Michele Malkin. I had to endure some "concern" about my collection development policies after one of my library trustees read a piece of hers about a book called The Rainbow Party. This is not even a book the library owns, or would own, but because she likened ALL teen fiction to it--there were some questions. And she implied that librarians were encouraging teens to go to hell in a handbasket by thrusting inappropriate materials into their hands. I'm still pissed about having to defend myself for doing my job. Thanks, Michele, you psycho, inflammatory, sensationalist.

  • At 3/02/2007 02:56:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Oh, but don't you know that all librarians do the devil's work by allowing children to read (gasp!) subversive and profane leftist propaganda that their parents would never allow in their own homes? Heaven forbid that these tender minds might be exposed to different points of view! And because librarians tend to oppose Internet filters on publicly accessible computers, they are obviously and deliberately sexualizing our children by exposing them to pornography under the guise of "free speech". Aren't you ashamed of yourself?

    Seriously, Michelle Malkin is a real piece of work, all right. She definitely sees herself as an Ann Coulter wanna-be. In 2004, she wrote a book defending the interment of US citizens of Japanese descent during WWII, and suggested we do the same thing today with Muslims. She has also called San Francisco a "hate-filled city."

    If there was an award for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric, she would win it in a heartbeat.

    Can you tell I'm not a fan?

    BTW, Michael Moore once wrote, "I really didn't realize librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group. They are subversive. You think they're just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They're like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn't mess with them."

  • At 3/02/2007 07:48:00 PM, Blogger Sphincter said…

    I am not a bit ashamed of myself. This is because I, like most other librarians, am in league with Lucifer.


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