The good news is that the anti-war/peace movement is very alive and well. The bad news is that it has not yet stopped the U.S. "War of Terrorism" from bankrupting the country, ushering in a cruel economic shock doctrine and turning what was once the world's foremost democracy into a morally depraved, inverted totalitarian state. While hundreds of millions of oblivious Americans passively watched "March madness" or mindlessly "shopped until they dropped," some fifteen hundred others came out on a beautiful late-winter day to bear witness to the political and spiritual corruption that grips our nation. Resistance has never been about quantity but quality. The real strength of the antiwar/peace movement has always been its ability to empower and inspire people to resist. It has never been about the numbers of demonstrators but about the courage and depth of commitment of those willing to take it to the streets.
Those people that came out also know that the times are changing and that we are seeing an awakening and the beginning of an uprising.
As we move forward in this great transformation, the anti-war/peace movement - forged by over 40 years of struggle against continuous war and imperialist aggression - has much to teach us about effectively resisting the patriarchal plutocracy. The organization and execution of the March 19th and 20th actions is a model for resistance everywhere. The date was highly symbolic, the 8th anniversary of the U.S.'s brutal war of aggression against the people of Iraq. Coinciding with marches and rallies all across the country, the Washington action began with a rally in Lafayette Park, just across from the White House.
The resistance action -- StopTheseWars.org - was led by Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and March Forward . These men and women veterans -- who know better than anyone the horror, lies and moral bankruptcy behind our imperial wars -- spoke with an impassioned and personal clarity. Their eloquent and emotional testimony was a stark and vivid portrayal of the pain, suffering and anguish of those most directly affected by America's war policies -- the combatants, their families and all the innocent victims. They told the poignant stories of how war shatters lives changing people forever, creating wounds that cannot be healed.
Thousands, tens of thousands, millions of Americans, Iraqi, Afghans and Pakistanis have been killed, wounded or are missing. Millions more families, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters shattered and heart-broken, the numbers can too easily be forgotten because they are just abstract numbers. For the veterans, however, these numbers have names and faces; they are the comrades, the "enemy" soldiers and the innocent victims that cannot be forgotten no matter how hard they try. For the majority of ordinary Americans who have never experienced war, these veterans spoke a painful, often ugly personal truth that Americans must hear - and take to heart - if there is to be any redemption for our country.
The veterans teach us the first important lesson for effective resistance. Their stories personalize the war in a way no one else can and bring the wars home in a very moving way. One of the biggest factors in creating opposition to the Vietnam War was the role of TV in conveying the horrors of war to ordinary Americans. Unfortunately, since Vietnam, the corporate main-stream media has become quite adept at sanitizing war coverage until what most Americans see in Iraq and Afghanistan, now Libya, is little more than jingoist propaganda
The vets also teach us another vital lesson - we must be prepared to take the resistance to a new level. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people have peacefully marched against the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghan wars. These marchers have humbly and respectfully petitioned their "elected" political leaders for a redress of grievances to no avail. No matter how many millions respectfully ask, it is abundantly clear that the political shills in Washington only listen to their rich elite puppet masters. Like the Commander-in-Chief inside that dark, dark, White House - they have turned a deaf ear to the anguished cries of those who are bearing the harsh burden of maintaining the corporate empire. Even when the marchers numbered in the hundreds of thousands and even millions, the attitude of the Washington politicos was one of business as usual; "money talks and bullshit walks" - or in this case, "marches".
The massive peaceful Vietnam era rallies by themselves did little to change the President or Congress or the majority of ordinary Americans whose support was crucial to the continued prosecution of the war. Frustrated, the anti-war leaders of that time realized that only a more militant approach would result in change. Their bold vision to move the resistance to a new level lead to the May Day resistance actions. On May 1, 2 and 3, 1971, the resistance mobilized one-hundred thousand people to engage in the largest civil disobedience in U.S. history - an action that resulted in the arrest of well over 12,000 people. After May Day and the largest mass arrests in U.S. history, both the administration and the American public began to question the efficacy of continuing the bloody Vietnam War. Then Central Intelligence Agency Director Richard Helms said, "It was obviously viewed by everybody in the administration, particularly with all the arrests and the howling about civil rights and human rights and all the rest of it...as a very damaging kind of event. I don't think there was any doubt about that."
There are few people who believe that something like May Day '71 is even possible in the U.S. today. Even for those who were there, it now seems more like a dream, the real "American dream" of people courageously fighting back against the corporate-military dictatorship.
Sadly, most Americans seem too docile to effectively resist, living lives of quiet desperation and suffering like abused dogs from "battered people's syndrome" . Some would argue that Americans have lost their self respect and will to fight back by taking too much crap for too many years. By taking resistance to the next level, those who were arrested at the White House and Quantico have proved that effective nonviolent resistance is not only possible but happening today in the very heart of the empire.
The impassioned testimony of the veterans, the forthright, forceful, no b.s. rhetoric of antiwar activist leaders -- such as Elliot Adams, Chantelle Bateman, Brian Becker, Zachary Choate, Ryan Endicott, Glen Ford, Kathy Kelly, Mike Mallowy, Michael McPherson, Anne Wright and Kevin Zeese - was exactly what America most needs to hear but won't as long as they stay at home watching TV or cruise the malls. There were lots of banners and signs everywhere that created quite a spectacle and most importantly helped give the participants a sense of being part of something important. The special importance of the action was reinforced as the rally concluded with a Vietnam vet, "Watermelon Slim" playing, "Taps" and calling for everyone to form up in a column of fours for the march.
The march itself was a silent one, giving it a solemn dignity most fitting for remembering all those killed and maimed in body and spirit by the deadly U.S. wars. The march wound around 4 blocks as the long column of people, with their colorful banners and signs, made for a fine media visual. But the rally and march weren't for the media -- in typical fashion, there was minimal coverage by the mainstream media.
That once preeminent newspaper, now just another corporate rag, The Washington Post, didn't even cover the march or arrests. It did have a picture of a pair of combat boots with flowers (carried by one of the marchers) in the "news digest" section of the Sunday paper -- along with such important stories as how an Amtrak station was being named in "honor" of Joe Biden.
The march was never about the mainstream media but empowering the people that took part in it. And, in that regard, it did a great job. It finished where it began in front of the White House. The park police allowed the marchers to briefly occupy the blocked off street while those who wanted to be arrested passed through the police barricade and climbed up on the black iron fence that surrounds the White House. Someone from Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), who was also doing an action as part of "The Great American Meat Out", brought delicious vegan sandwiches to the resistors. "You better eat now," she said, "they won't give you anything to eat in jail."
After a while, mounted police began to push the marchers away from the fence and back into the park. The resistors stood on the fence and sat down in front, singing and chanting, as did the still large crowd of marchers in the park. The civil resistance and arrests were what gave this action its power and its heart. As the civil resistors were handcuffed and led away, the large crowd cheered and chanted, "Stop the War! Expose the Lies! Free Bradley Manning!" The resistors as they waited for arrest chanted "Go Home and Organize!" It was an incredibly empowering moment for all who were there
Free Bradley Manning! All of the veterans at the action know well the soldiers' code, "leave no comrade behind." This antiwar resistance also teaches us a truth that the veterans and others arrested at Quantico are living by. As long as Bradley Manning remains in a military prison there is no one in this country who is free.