The following statement was issued by the International Act Now to Stop war and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition. It has been slightly abridged.
There are times when a progressive demonstration, even a large activity, is little more than a symbolic protest. There are other times when a mass demonstration can function as a catalyst, a trigger unleashing new political energy, or serve as a vivid expression of a new genuine grassroots movement capable of stirring the country and changing the political landscape.
When the ANSWER coalition one year ago initiated the October 26, 2002, mass demonstrations in Washington DC and San Francisco, there was no way to know that hundreds of thousands would participate that day in the largest anti-war actions since the Vietnam War. Scores of other countries held simultaneous actions, and it suddenly became apparent that a new global peace movement had emerged as the single biggest political obstacle in the path of the warmongers in the White House. Mass actions at the local and national level grew in the months that followed and demonstrations became ever larger — on January 18, February 15/16, March 15 and March 22. These were truly global days of action, with coordinated activities in almost every country in the world.
Bush was hoping that the anti-war movement, no matter how strong it became before the war, would become merely a blip on the political radar screen; that it would be vanquished by the exercise of overwhelming US military superiority on the battlefield against an infinitely weakened foe.
Once the Iraqi army was crushed, the US occupation forces would be able to coerce or bribe any potential resistance. Iraq's oil reserves would be quickly privatised and the administration could get on with its next war (Syria, North Korea, Iran). At home, the anti-war movement would be vanquished too. At least that was the conventional wisdom of the Bush White House two months ago. Like all the other thoughts that pass for "wisdom" in the White House, the presumed death of the global peace movement will soon be remembered as just one more "intelligence failure".
'Bring the troops home now!'
On October 25, hundreds of thousands of people will be back in the streets in Washington DC and in capital cities of other countries to demand: "End the occupation of Iraq."
The shout, "Bring the troops home now!", will echo throughout Washington on that day. No politician or the mass media will be able to deny that the anti-war sentiment in this country is not only "not dead" but is instead growing with each passing day. Coming as it does on the second anniversary of the passage of the so-called Patriot Act, the demonstration will be part of the massive fight-back campaign growing throughout the country against the administration's assault on civil rights and civil liberties.
When the ANSWER coalition announced that it was planning another massive anti-war March on Washington DC for October 25, the projected action was dismissed by some cynics as "not realistic". After all, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz were sitting tall in the saddle. With the mainstream media serving as their duplicitous cheerleaders, the administration's poll ratings were soaring after the rapid fall of Baghdad. We were told, "This is no time to project a mass anti-war action". But "conventional wisdom" is not driving events.
The US occupation is not liberation. The Iraqi people want the US troops to leave and the US soldiers want to go home. Bush's approval rating is dropping precipitously. According to a recent Pew Research Poll, 69% of the people surveyed said they were "very concerned that the US will be bogged down in Iraq for years". The latest Newsweek poll indicates that 49% do not favour the re-election of Bush, now outnumbering those who do — a huge drop from two months ago.
The bloody and costly war and occupation of Iraq, justified to the public by the White House in a series of poorly bundled lies, is being reviled by a growing part of the population. Iraq may not yet be "Vietnam" but it is quickly moving in that direction. And as during the Vietnam War, the anti-war movement can be the decisive political factor in forcing a US withdrawal. Each passing day brings needless death and agony. We cannot wait until 2004 to act.
The October 25 demonstration has the potential to go well beyond a symbolic protest. By its size and breadth, it can help ignite a firestorm of grassroots opposition. More than 2000 organisations and individuals have already endorsed the March on Washington, including Veterans for Peace, the Not In Our Name project, the San Francisco Labor Council and many others. More than 100,000 leaflets, stickers, and posters have been distributed.
At the front ranks of the October 25 demonstration will be veterans, military resisters, family members and friends of soldiers in Iraq. They will be joined, hand-in-hand, by members of the Arab-American and Muslim communities and people from every walk of life who insist on the immediate and unconditional end to the criminal occupation of Iraq.
'War for the rich'
The demonstration will also expose that Bush's war in Iraq is really a war for the rich. A central goal of the war is to privatise (i.e. steal) Iraq's vast oil reserves for the benefit of US corporate and banking elites who in turn are ploughing hundreds of millions of dollars into George Bush's campaign coffers. At the cost of US$6 billion per month, the price tag for the US occupation of Iraq is being paid for by dramatic budget cuts in education, as well as in health, housing, veterans' benefits and other programs that assist working and poor people.
The occupation of Iraq must end. While we demand that the obscene war expenditure be used instead for jobs, education, housing and health care, we are clear that our opposition to the occupation is not simply because working people in the US have to bear the financial burden. The occupation is a violation of the Iraqi people's fundamental right to self-determination by the US government which pursues Empire in the interests of the US-based corporate and banking elites.
This was never a war to defend the US from the supposed "grave and imminent danger" posed by Iraq. That claim was a bold-faced lie. Killing tens of thousands of Iraqis and sacrificing a growing number of US soldiers — who are being killed or maimed in the interests of Halliburton, Bechtel, ExxonMobil, Citibank and Chase — is what reveals the criminal character of the whole endeavour.
The ANSWER coalition believes that only a true mass movement of the people can end the criminal occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home.
Visit <http://www.internationalanswer.org> for more information.
From Green Left Weekly, September 3, 2003.
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