Some folks aren’t too repressed to protest
War is wearying. Protesting the war is wearying. The whole thing is just tiresome. And war, once the fever takes hold in the seats of power, seems to continue with the weight of its own inertia without consideration for any of our intentions or desires. It spins out of the control of even those responsible for waging it.
War is undemocratic. Does anyone doubt it? Wars are planned in secret, with propaganda messages fashioned to whip citizens into fear and frenzy. They are prosecuted under a “fog” of ambiguity and evasion. When the losses mount, the peace is negotiated in secret. At the end there is usually a spasm of bloodletting as each side tries to create the conditions to maximize its bargaining power. Remember the Christmas bombings of North Vietnam in 1972? How about the anticipated troop “surge” of 2007 in Iraq?
Supposedly we voted the Republican majority out of Congress last November to express our displeasure with the war in Iraq, and we voted in Democrats because we wanted change. We repudiated President Bush and the war, and now we’re sending new elected officials to Washington to carry out the people’s business of peace. It’s easy to feel cynical.
There are some hopeful signs that the new Democratic-controlled Congress, which wields the so-called “power of the purse,” may stand up to Bush’s stubborn insistence on continuing the war at all costs. Reversing an earlier willingness to go along with a troop “surge,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in signing a Jan. 5 letter that calls on Bush to get out of Iraq.
“Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four months,” they write. “It is time to move our forces out of Iraq and make the Iraqi political leadership aware that our commitment is not open ended, that we cannot resolve their sectarian problems and that only they can find the political resolution required to stabilize Iraq.”
Ben Lassiter, a 25-year-old guitar instructor who has been a vocal opponent of the war through his involvement with the International Socialist Organization’s UNCG chapter, express cautious optimism although he makes it plain that he is no fan of the Democrats.
“I think the reason the peace movement has been stuck for awhile is because it hasn’t had an independent basis from the Democratic Party, which isn’t a principled anti-war party but it’s like corporate America’s B-team,” he told me on the same day Reid and Pelosi’s letter was released. “It’s a party that waits for the excesses of the Republican Party and steps in to fill their shoes.”
Still, he believes this could be the antiwar movement’s moment.
“Right now I’m optimistic about the prospects of a renewed antiwar movement,” he says. “People took heart at the elections in November, and it kind of raises people’s expectations. Democrats are going to be in power in Congress, and I feel that if they don’t change course significantly then the party won’t be acting on the mandate they got in November, which is that we want the troops to come home from Iraq sooner rather than later.”
The International Socialist Organization will coordinate a carpool leaving from UNCG that will travel to Washington on Jan. 27 to join a massive march organized by United for Peace and Justice and demand that Congress bring the troops home. Another group, the Greensboro Peace Coalition, has signed up with the NC Peace & Justice Coalition to charter a bus from the Beloved Community Center on Arlington Street. They will join with a half-dozen other groups from around the state, including St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, the Piedmont Green Party and Veterans For Peace, in raising their demand in the streets of the nation’s capital.
Clare Hanrahan, a 58-year-old from Asheville who describes herself as “a self-employed, do-whatever-it-takes-to-keep-your-head-above-water kind of activist and writer” will be there.
A member of the United Service Organizations during the Vietnam conflict, she watched two brothers come back from that war and die from what she says was the result of Agent Orange poisoning. It was then that her opposition to war crystallized.
“We are war weary as a nation,” she says. “Those who stand to benefit from it are not in the majority. It robs us of the things that make us good, things like funding for the care of the aged. We are being asked to sacrifice more of our sons and daughters, and this is folly and criminal. I don’t know how it plays in the halls of power, but good people have been timid too long.”
The time of the Vietnam war and the present are interwoven in memory and sentiment.
“In the course of that war, seeing so many young men and women that were horribly wounded, I began to realize that a military solution is untenable,” Hanrahan says. “Putting a gun in the hands of a 19-year-old who is used to his war games on a computer and sending him to Iraq without knowing how to speak the language is folly. We’re really damaging our youngest men and women.
“I think it’s going to take courage on the part of the populace who are going to have to risk censure in the workplace,” she continues. “That’s why I’m putting aside other things to ride on that uncomfortable bus… to Washington, DC and sleep on a church floor.”
To comment on this story, e-mail Jordan Green at firstname.lastname@example.org