Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

The Anti-War Movement versus the War against Iraq

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

The Anti-War Movement versus the War against Iraq

Article excerpt

Introduction

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States President George Bush declared a "war on terrorism." The United States invaded Afghanistan on October 2, 2001, and then Iraq on March 20, 2003. To support these efforts, the president tried to put together a "coalition of the willing" and repeatedly claimed that the war on terrorism is a war without borders. In opposition to Bush's agenda, a transnational peace movement has forged a resistance that is also without borders. The effectiveness of the internationally coordinated mobilization and protests has affirmed the words of Robert Muller (former assistant secretary general of the United Nations). He stated: "Now there are two superpowers: the US and the merging voice of the people of the world. All around the world, people are waging peace. It is nothing short of a miracle and it is working--despite what you may see unfolding in the news" (Hoge 2004: 11).

Though the war on terrorism is of course still being fought, global civil society has asserted itself against the war at an unparalleled and international level by intervening aggressively in decisions regarding security, war and peace; all previously considered the exclusive domain of the state. For several governments it is now a question of which superpower to obey, the United States or the will of their citizens. In scores of countries the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq in particular, has generated a struggle between those willing to come under the influence of Washington and those who resist it. Activists in the antiwar movement have played a pivotal role in this choice by taking advantage of divisions among elites to pressure policymakers to refrain from aligning with the United States and/or to alter their position. They have also effectively influenced public opinion, provided a source of moral vision and voice, and in some significant ways are undermining the institutional and political infrastructure that sustains militarism. Though President Bush will remain in power until January 2009 and the occupation of Iraq will certainly be sustained throughout the remainder of his tenure, leaders of several other prominent nations that were originally partners in the coalition have been voted or forced out of office, and this is reducing the effectiveness of the war effort and has led to a heavier social and economic cost for U.S. citizens.

This analysis combines aspects of social movement theory such as political opportunity structures (POS), resource mobilization, framing, and social movement consequences to examine how, through transnational networking, groups are organizing to utilize resources, alter public consciousness, and influence public authorities regarding the war on terrorism. Through their mobilizing efforts and a growing sense of collective identity peace activists across the globe have become a viable political force by exerting pressure on political representatives using both contentious politics and institutional forms of political pressure. They have taken advantage of structural conditions to build a strong oppositional stance toward government and state policies, and have gained support for the antiwar effort by exposing false statements by politicians in their attempts to rally support for the war, publicizing contradictions by government officials, playing on citizen anxieties regarding the economic and social costs of the war, and engaging in material and online forms of protest. A defining feature is that the movement has framed, interpreted, and attributed their grievances to international standards of justice and in ways that appeal to mainstream values that transcend national concerns. By embracing a global and compassionate perspective they illustrate what Tomlinson (1999) describes as "distanciated identity." This concept embodies a sense of what unites groups and individuals as human beings, of common risks and possibilities, and of mutual responsibility. …

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