I arrived home on Sunday from the peace and social justice rally in Washington DC and began reflecting. As my mind sifted through the barrage of information which came at me over the course of the weekend, and the information I absorbed while reading on the plane, I began to reach some conclusions and to connect some dots.
Your Master is Calling
My first conclusion was that their weak coverage of an event of this magnitude deepened my belief that the mainstream media is merely an instrument of its corporate masters and of the obscenely corrupt US government. The Washington Post under-estimated the number of people at the demonstration and provided relatively limited coverage. The Washington Times relegated their coverage to the bottom of the front page and grossly exaggerated the impact of the pro-Bush counter-demonstrators. And this was an event that happened in their city! I felt even more disgusted by The Kansas City Star article which awaited me when I returned home. It consisted of about ten short paragraphs on paged two of the front page section. They included one small photograph. Beyond the print media, I struggled to find minor mention of the event on television news.
Perspective of a Participant
I was there for the march on 9/24. Based on what I observed and experienced, the Washington DC police chief's estimate of 150,000 people was extremely low. My wife and I marched at the end of the procession, which followed a 1.4 mile course, including a pass in front of the White House. We carried our mock coffin draped with an American flag. (Ours was one of about 150 other mock coffins which enabled the American public to finally see at least see a representation of the Americans who have died in Iraq). It took us six hours to complete the march. We moved quite slowly due the number of people joining the procession along the way. The people leading the march actually got to the White House before we even started to move. Along the route, I saw throngs of thousands of supporters lining the streets. The Ellipse, the area surrounding the Washington Monument, and several adjacent parks were filled with demonstrators, before, during and after the march. ANSWER, one of the demonstration's organizers, estimated that there were 300,000 participants. Truthout.org put the number closer to 500,000. Based on what I witnessed, I estimate the number fell somewhere between the two.
A diverse crowd, which included the elderly, the disabled, minorities, military veterans, families of military personnel in Iraq, social activists, Methodists, Quakers, Buddhists, people of Middle Eastern descent, and many other groups comprised the multitude on Saturday. Joan Baez, Cindy Sheehan, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and two Congresswomen spoke and marched. On the flight home, I met Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, who represents a district in Kansas City. He told me that he had not participated in the demonstration, but that he was part of an anti-war coalition in Congress. A broad spectrum of Americans want peace and social justice, and are eager to see Bush and the corrupt who dominate the US government out of office.
One of the articles I read in the mainstream media stated that there were no police wearing riot gear at the demonstration. I beg to differ. I counted at least seven men wearing black pants, white, generic-looking shirts with what appeared to be cloth gold badges stitched to them, and military boots. They each had riot helmets with visors, riot shields which were marked "Police" (yet their uniforms bore virtually no resemblance to those of the DC police), and they were equipped with truncheons. As I marched by them, I wondered if they were some of the Blackwater security people, hired mercenaries whom the Bush administration has used in Iraq and now in New Orleans.
Despite his absence, Bush's fortress was heavily defended by police on the street and by snipers on the roof of the White House and surrounding buildings. Bush exhibited his usual spinelessness. He spent part of the day in Colorado, where he would not have to face the hundreds of thousands of his constituency who were calling for peace, social justice and his impeachment. He was also well out of potential harm from Hurricane Rita. Later in the day he did find the nerve to travel to San Antonio, but even there he was still well out of harm's way.
Before the march began, I spoke with a woman with the Friends Committee on National Legislation and signed a petition to lobby members of Congress to pass a resolution for the US military to withdraw from Iraq. This group is not asking for a specific time-table. The Friends Committee simply wants a commitment that our multi-trillion dollar war machine will leave Iraq once the situation there has stabilized. I agree with those who have stated that it would be irresponsible for the US to pull out of Iraq immediately and leave the country in a chaos that our military industrial complex created. However, Iraq is a sovereign nation, and at some point in the not too distant future, the US needs to withdraw. I gladly carried a sign on behalf of this Quaker organization as I bore my half of the mock coffin adorned with the American flag.
As we passed the US Treasury a man riding a bicycle was using a portable PA system. What was his message?
With the volume of money flowing into the coffers of corporations with incestuous ties to the Bush regime and a $7.5 trillion deficit, it would be difficult to dispute his contention.
Saturday's march for peace and social justice and against corporate dominance, imperialism and tyranny was powerful for several reasons. The sheer number of 300,000 who participated in the demonstration reveals that many in the United States have made al wathbah, or "the leap". In Bush in Babylon,Tariq Ali wrote about the leap of mass consciousness the Iraqi people made in 1948 as they realized that their puppet leaders sold out their interests to British imperialists. Slowly, many Americans are overcoming the lies they have been "programmed" to believe since they were able to fashion conscious, coherent thoughts. While the 300,000 demonstrators represent a small minority of the US population, Bush's abysmal approval rating provides evidence that the 300,000 were but a fraction of those in the US ready to dissent against the perverse regime "leading" the nation. Ali called the British proxies who ruled Iraq during the early and mid Twentieth Century "An Oligarchy of Racketeers". America's lackeys in the newly formed Iraqi government are more than capable of assuming that "glorious" mantle.