I confess, I am baffled by Danny Westneat’s Sunday column in the Seattle Times, “The Protest That Never Shows Up”. The column claims that the antiwar movement has petered out. This is based on dwindling attendance at the Green Lake vigil, which continued every week for over 4 years. However, he cites, and then ignores several signs of a very active and successful peace movement.
As he says, nearly 70% of the American people now oppose this war. This opposition is generally credited with the Democratic victory in November, based on opinion polls asking voters the reasons behind their votes. Congress is now in the middle of a vigorous debate, not on whether to oppose the Bush policy, but how best to oppose it. And, as Mr. Westneat mentions, there will be a massive protest in Washington, DC next weekend.
If this isn’t a peace movement, what is? Maybe he needs more evidence. Westneat’s article is on the front of the Local News section. On page B2, opposite the obituaries, there is an article about the Citizen’s Hearing on the Legality of the Iraq War, attended by hundreds of people in Tacoma this weekend. Two days of testimony laid out the legal case against the war. Lt. Ehren Watada won’t be able to present the reasons he believes the war is illegal, and thus the order he disobeyed to deploy to Iraq was unlawful, at his Court Martial. Lt. Watada is far from the only military resister, although the consequences for actions such as his in the military can be severe. He faces 6 years in prison for his stand. It is notable that a majority of the military now believe that the troops should come home.
Part of the reason for Westneat’s attitude may be the lack of coverage of antiwar activity. He quotes one person saying, “the press wouldn’t report it even if its the biggest protest in the history of the world.” That is one reason more people are looking to alternative sources for news. Past demonstrations have received very little coverage. What coverage there has been in the mainstream media, including the Seattle Times, tends to bury the coverage, dismiss them as marginal and understate the numbers of people involved.
The Times didn’t mention it, so far as I can tell, but there will also be a march in Seattle, and lots of other communities on January 27. And in DC, they will follow up with constituent visits to every Congressional office to continue the lobbying against the war. The Voters Pledge for Peace committed voters to vote only for antiwar candidates. The Declaration of Peace campaign lobbied Congress to end the war leading up to civil disobedience in September in communities across the country. Here in Western Washington, Bellingham activists were arrested in Representative Rick Larsen’s office. This was part of the pressure that caused Larsen to change his position. He now advocates, “unconditional partial withdrawal of U.S. military from Iraq.” Near Port Townsend, 500 people marched on the Indian Island Naval Base, which ships many of the munitions used in Iraq, and 37 were arrested. They hope to put the war on trial at their trial. On Saturday, at Town Hall in Seattle international law expert, John Burroughs spoke in support of defendants charged with civil disobedience at the Bangor Trident nuclear submarine base. Those demonstrations by the Ground Zero Center have continued on a regular basis since the base construction began 30 years ago.
Organizations such as United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, Move On, Democracy for America, Working Assets, and many others are mounting sophisticated E-mail campaigns against the war. That is another part of the reason Congress is now considering taking action. As Mr. Westneat says, “On paper, this war’s a mistake and the troops should start coming home.” They should. Unfortunately, those in power have yet to be convinced. The President is obstinate and even Democrats in Congress are still reluctant to take real action. The antiwar movement is now working hard to convince them that we need to bring the troops home, now.