Magazine article Tikkun

Anti-War Activism

Magazine article Tikkun

Anti-War Activism

Article excerpt

On September 28, the day we were planning an anti-war rally in Washington D.C., I was awakened at 5 AM by a call from the BBC in London. "Over 150,000 turned out to protest Tony Blair's support for a military invasion of Iraq today," the interviewer said. "How many do you expect at your D.C. protest today?" I cringed and with great embarrassment told her that we hoped to get a few thousand people. Incredulous, she wanted to know why so few. In my early morning stupor, I rattled off a series of explanations: After September 11, people are scared and more likely to believe the argument that Saddam is an imminent threat; the Democratic Party, for the sake of electoral politics, has refused to challenge George W. Bush; organized bodies like the unions and churches that could help mobilize large numbers of people have been divided on the issue; and finally, the media blackout of the anti-war movement has made it difficult to gain momentum.

But I forgot to mention perhaps the most critical factor, and one that Michael Lerner so often talks about: the sense of powerlessness among the U.S. public. From the very moment Bush started talking about invading Iraq, we at Global Exchange began organizing anti-war teach-ins and rallies. I would often begin my talks by asking two very simple questions: "How many of you feel that war with Iraq is inevitable?" Virtually all hands would go up. Then I'd ask, "How many think we can stop this war?" Invariably, people would laugh and raise their hands again. But for many, the second round of hand-raising seemed more of a hollow, perfunctory response-like shouting "The people, united, will never be defeated," while a little voice is telling you that the people are never united and are usually defeated.

I don't think our European colleagues suffer from that sense of powerlessness. Massive anti-war protests in countries such as Germany and Italy have forced their governments to distance themselves from George Bush. And the strong movement in England is starting to have a moderating effect on Tony Blair. In fact, it is the popular anti-war sentiment from the streets of England to Egypt that is slowing down the rush to war-putting government after government in the bind of having to choose whether to please the all-mighty U.S. government or appease their own people.

The only force actually capable of stopping this war from happening, however, is us, the U.S. people. And fortunately, the anti-war movement here at home is quickly building. Congressional offices have been flooded with so many calls that they're comparing it to the Vietnam War days. …

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