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A Time for Pause and Reflection [PART 1]

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This is the first of three parts. One part breaks down the history of some core peace groups fighting the war in Iraq and pushing for impeachment. The second part looks at some of the successes of the peace movement as well as failures. The third part offers tips to the peace movement so that they can be more effective and achieve their two most prominent goals ---an end to the illegal war in Iraq and the impeachment of Bush/Cheney.

The [peace] demonstrations were another indication of a quite remarkable phenomenon. There is around the world and in the United States opposition to the coming war that is at a level that is completely unprecedented in US or European history both in scope and the parts of the population it draws on…

…What is not pointed out in the press coverage is that there is simply no precedent, or anything like a precedent, for this kind of public opposition to a war. And it extends itself far more broadly, it's not just opposition to war it's a lack of faith in the leaderships…

…Even in the United States there is overwhelming opposition to the war and that corresponding decline in trust in the leadership that is driving the war. This has been developing for some time but it is now reaching an unusual state, and, just to get back to the demonstrations over the weekend, that's never happened before. If you compare it with the Vietnam war, the current stage of the war with Iraq is approximately like that of 1961 - that is, before the war actually was launched, as it was in 1962 with the US bombing of South Vietnam and driving millions of people into concentration camps and chemical warfare and so on, but there was no protest. In fact, so little protest that few people even remember. – Noam Chomsky, interviewed by ZNet in February 2003

A Time for Pause and Reflection: The Past and Future of the Peace Movement in America

One week ago, according to the Guinness Book of World Records (2004 Edition), the fifth anniversary of the largest protest in human history occurred. Of course, the corporate media or military-industrial complex funded media didn’t report on it. Oddly enough, no major alternative news media sites did either. And so, I will step up and mention the anniversary and also take the opportunity to reflect on the past and offer suggestions for the future.

Prior to the invasion, the peace movement was looking like it would be a force to be reckoned with. Despite the fact that no bombs had been dropped, the movement was being compared to the historic movement that was led during the Vietnam War.

Several protests occurred in the final months of 2002. The first protest happened in September outside of the UN Building in NYC when Bush came to speak. In October, a rally where 100,000 people protested in Washington, D.C. was held and a protest that involved 50,000 people rallying in San Francisco.

When 2003 began, January saw nearly 200,000 Americans flood D.C. to protest the war. From San Francisco to Chicago to New York to Washington, D.C. and even in cities like Lincoln, Nebraska, protests were held.

On February 15th, 2003, the movement was vigorous as it had steadily been building up to this point where it would reach record-breaking proportions. Not only had the movement been growing in the U.S. to stop an invasion of Iraq from happening but movements in countries all around the world were happening. Naturally, when the 15th of February came, the record-breaking show of protest was accompanied by record-breaking opposition to the war in countries who wouldn’t even be involved in the conflict but would surely be affected by it.

In Europe, London had the biggest protest in the city’s history. The protest took place under the slogan, “No war on Iraq---freedom for Palestine.” Elsewhere, in Europe, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe, people were holding rallies to stop the war. Rome, Italy held the biggest protest in the world that day under the slogan, “Stop the war; no ifs or buts.” Italy reported, “Catholic nuns and priests marched alongside young people with dreadlocks, nose rings and Palestinian scarves. Christians, anarchists and communists mingled.”

South America, Africa, and Asia joined in stop the war protests too. In South America, the president of Brazil led a protest. South Africa’s Congress of the South African Trade Unions joined with Stop the War coalitions to bring thousands of people out in the country to protest. In Asia, despite the fact that many conservative leaders suppress protests, the Middle East saw thousands come out to stop the war.

America, who would be starting a war in about one month, had protests in all the major cities. The protests would be written about, sung about, and watched by many for years to come.

Many important leaders in America came out to speak in America and around the world. Jesse Jackson, George Galloway, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and several celebrities spoke out. However, it was Martin Sheen who offered the most stinging assessment of the situation:

“None of us can stop this war ... there is only one guy that can do that and he lives in the White House.”

That quote should haunt the peace movement because it was so prophetic. As hard as the peace movement fought to keep America’s politicians and the Bush administration from starting a pre-emptive war, the final days before March 19th proved to yield no signs that the invasion would be stopped.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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