Sunday, January 28, 2007

My Initial Reponse to the Protest; Karen Houppert: Voices of Protest; John Nichols: DC Marchers Challenge Congress to End War

(CNN, Washington Post and other mainstream news media organizations are again purposely underestimating the crowd size of the protest in DC {this is a common deceptive practice that has been documented in past anti-war protests and led to retractions from news agencies as varied as the NYTimes and NPR for low balling crowd estimates in earlier protests} stating it was in the tens of thousands, pure BS, having taken pictures from the capitol steps of the entire crowd massed on the Washington Mall, and marching in the massive flow of people that looped completely around the long streets circling the capitol building and the Washington Mall, I can tell you that the crowd was easily in the 100s of thousands, if not the half million estimated by organizers. Also reports of young radicals charging the capitol steps and physical confrontations between them and the police are misleading and distorted. As the march started there was a group of young, exhuberent/passionate radicals who ran toward the capitol steps and began chanting and mocking the government symbol, but I was standing right there with my friend William taking pictures and there were no physical confrontations. This protest was impressive, it was exhilirating, and life-changing. It was great to gather together and interact with so many passionate, hard-working, dedicated people working to build peace and put a stop to the war. I have loads of pictures that I will start posting with commentary and I would like to hear from others who participated in the various protests around the nation... if you post something leave a link or feel free to add your comments here.)

Voices of Protest
by Karen Houppert
The Nation

For this day anyway, the peace movement seemed to have called a cease-fire in its ongoing debate over how to allocate its limited resources: Is it better to work in electoral politics and propel antiwar representatives to Congress or take to the streets with shows of grassroots power? Saturday's protest organizers apppeared to concede these are complementary tactics: grassroots organizing has indeed shifted public opinion against the war; this shift in public opinion, coupled with some strategic work to get antiwar politicians into office has clearly paid off.

Conyers acknowledged the impact of the November elections. "[George Bush] is the commander of the military but he's not the commander of the citizens of this country," he said, to roars of approval. "Not only is it in our power to stop George Bush, but it's our obligation."

"The women of this nation spoke loud and clear in November," Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal reminded the crowd. "They said 'no' to this war."

Speaker after speaker referred to the elections as a referendum on the war and insisted the American people had sent a clear mandate to Congress: End US occupation of Iraq.

The clock is ticking on that mandate. Nowhere was this more evident than among the military families, vets, and soldiers whom this peace movement has always made room who have been front and center in this and protests. Dozens of military families crowded on stage at one point to speak of personal experiences in Iraq orwhat it was like to lose a family member to this war. More filled the backstage overflow area because they couldn't fit, and Iraq War veterans in camouflage were evident in this crowd.

Mary Geddry, a member of Military Families Speak Out, came from Coquille, Oregon with her eleven-year-old daughter, Sarah, to push for a swift end to the war. In their case, the stakes were particularly high. Mary Geddry's son, John, is a Marine who served two tours in Iraq before getting out of the military--but as a member of the Individual Ready Reserves, he is eligible to be called back to duty at any time. He is slated to return to Iraq for a third tour in May.

"Seven times the vehicles he was traveling in were hit with IEDs [improvised explosive devices]," says Mary Geddry. "He survived, but he's definitely screwed up." "He attacked our brother on Christmas eve," pipes up Sarah.

Mary Geddry explains her son now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that he is on medication for it. He also suffered some hearing loss and has carpal tunnel syndrome--but none of this disqualifies him from service.

"Wanna see a picture of him?" Sarah asks, whipping out her digital camera and flipping through the shots until she comes to one of her brother, John, smiling up from where he lounges on the living room sofa. "He's really cute, right?"

Though she says her son is very disillusioned with the military, and thinks Americans aren't making any friends in Iraq, he remains conflicted about vocally protesting the war because he feels responsible for his fellow marines who are still over there and doesn't want to be perceived as not supporting them.

To Read the Entire Report

DC Marchers Challenge Congress to End War
by John Nichols
The Nation

Actor Sean Penn summed up the new energy -- and the new focus -- of the anti-war movement Saturday, when he turned George Bush's own words against the president.

Just hours after the president had again reasserted his false claim to authority to pursue a war that is not wanted by the American people or the Congress, Penn told anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington that Bush would be wise to review the Constitution.

"In a democracy," the actor told the cheering crowd, which organizers said numbered in the hundreds of thousands, "we are the deciders."

Saturday's anti-war demostrations, which filled the streets of cities from San Francisco to Washington, marked a return to form for an anti-war movement that had trouble building momentum during the three years that followed Bush's decision to launch a preemptive war against a country that posed no serious threat to the United States or its allies. During the period from 2OO3 to 2OO6, Bush's Republican Party had complete control of the machinery of government, and his allies were successful in assuring that Congress would not serve as any kind of check or balance on the presidency.

Though polls showed that most Americans thought Bush had been wrong to take the country to war, and that they disapproved of his handling of the conflict, demonstrations seemed fruitless because the president held all the cards. Many opponents of the war poured their energies into electoral politics, hoping to restore at least a measure of balance to the federal government by putting opposition Democrats in charge of at least one house of Congress. On November 7, the work paid off, with the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

So it was that one of the most popular signs at Saturday's rally in Washington read: "I Voted for Peace."

An equally popular sign, distributed by United for Peace and Justice, the group that played a central role in organizing the demonstrations, read: "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!"

Both signs were necessary messages on Saturday because, while there is no question that Americans voted November 7 for peace, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether the Congress that was elected will, in fact, tell the president that it is time to bring the troops home.

Some members of Congress do get it. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, addressed the Washington rally, urging activists to lobby the House on behalf of comprehensive legislation she has sponsored to withdraw Congressional approval for the war and implement a rapid yet orderly withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors from Iraq. The second most senior member of the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, was there as well, telling the crowd that: "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," said Conyers, who then looked out at the crowd and shouted: "He can't fire you."

"He can't fire us," added the House Judiciary Committee chair, referencing the Congress that he said should block funding for Bush's plans to maintain his war. "The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

To Read the Rest of the Report

1 comment:

a very public sociologist said...

They do exactly the same here in Britain.

For me at least it was heartening to see so many americans taking to the streets in large numbers. It will be for all those the world over who oppose this criminal war too.