Debra Sweet, the national director of World Can't Wait, stepped forward to face me in close range, fixing her eyes on mine the entire time, as we spoke at the most recent anti-war protest in Washington, D.C.
"It's seven years since (the US military tactic of ) 'shock and awe.' With a new administration, I think a lot of people have had their minds changed that somehow that was not a completely aggressive, preemptive, illegal, illegitimate, unjust, and immoral war. And it still is.
" We know that more than a million Iraqis died, 4.5 million displaced from their homes, civil society completely destroyed. Torture is part of this occupation at Abu Ghraib and other places, spreading to Guantanamo, and under the banner of the so-called global war on terror of the Bush regime, it spread across the world in our names seven years ago.
"We've been protesting this anniversary every year and this year we can truly say that we have two wars going on that are the responsibility of Barack Obama. George W. Bush started them, but Barack Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, an offensive going on right now which is killing civilians, which has nothing to do with protecting civilians, or stabilizing the country.
"It's about sweeping it up more thoroughly for US domination, as part of a plan to carve up and control the whole Middle East. President Obama, unlike President Bush, has been sending even more unmanned drones and secret ops into Pakistan, even more, as we're learning now, into Yemen and Somalia.
"So that's five countries, and threats against Iran. This is a package that's going in a very terrible direction. Our organization, the World Can't Wait---Drive Out The Bush Regime, set out to do just that in 2005, to reverse the Bush program and remove Bush and Cheney from office by driving them out (by way of ) a popular movement unhindered by allegiance to these political parties in Congress.
"We were not able to do that and the world is paying a terrible price. We are spreading the idea that American lives are no more important than the lives of people in any other country, that we care about humanity, and that we have the responsibility to stop the crimes of our government."
Sweet said that during the Bush presidency, protests against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had a lot more people participating.
"A Presidential candidate and then a president was brought forward who represented on the surface something very different. This was change we were supposed to believe in and huge numbers of people, including anti-war leaders, put all their energy into electing Obama, regardless of the fact that he was promising to expand the war in Afghanistan," Sweet said.
Perhaps interestingly, as Sweet and I spoke, Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype" played on the PA system.
Also interesting was that Sweet uttered a combination of words-- 'hoodwinked and bamboozled '-- Malcolm X used to famous effect, which was made more famous by way of Spike Lee's film about the civil rights leader.
"A lot of people have been hoodwinked and bamboozled. Many of us weren't, but we need to be all that much more visible and protesting now, because even more than ever, we need a movement that says 'no' to this whole package of continuing the Bush direction," Sweet said.
About an hour or so later Sweet addressed the crowd which the National Park Service estimated to be about 2,500, not the masses of people clogging D.C. many activists had called for. But it was more than last year "when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars," writes Sweet in a March 30 post on the World Can't Wait website. Several people I spoke with in D.C. told me they were disappointed at the number of people who showed up for the protest.
During the rally in Lafayette Park, Sweet told the crowd:
"Don't look to the White House to solve it. Don't look to Congress to solve it. The solution to this terrible direction of society is right here. Beginning right here today. We have the responsibility. If our friends tells us 'well, I don't know, I think Obama is ending the war in Iraq. I believe the hype.' We have the responsibility to say 'No, 17 permanent bases in Iraq--this is a permanent occupation. Get your butt out in the streets and protest.'
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