With more than 750,000 anti-war protestors flooding into London’s Hyde Park in what observers say was probably the largest political demonstration in British history and even more than that “nearly 1 million,” the Washington Post reports—protesting the coming U.S. war against Iraq in Rome, one would think that even the most hawkish neo-conservative zealots in the Bush administration and the press would begin to wonder if something funny might be going on. But alas, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
It’s not just Britain and Italy (whose governments continue to support the Bush line on Iraq) but also Germany, where 300,000 to 400,000 demonstrated the same day, and France, where a piddling 100,000 took to the streets, as well. Just think how many would have shown up if the French and German governments supported Mr. Bush? Meanwhile, in this country the same weekend, tens of thousands demonstrated against the war in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. There were indeed demonstrators who supported war and the Bush policy. In Denver, for instance, a whopping 300 real people actually showed up for a pro-war demonstration, and some of them may not have been Young Republicans.
The demonstrations obviously recall the mass actions against the Vietnam war in the 1960s, but most anti-Vietnam demonstrations took place at the height of the conflict and consisted mainly of college students who faced being drafted to fight the war. Once the draft ended and the war started “winding down,” the demonstrations also dwindled. The Iraq war, on the other hand, hasn’t even started yet, at least officially, and the largest demonstrations against it aren’t even in the country that will fight it but in others. As noted above, something funny is going on here, if the Bush administration has the wits to see it.
What administration supporters say is going on rather misses the point. Thus, Insight magazine, the pro-war news magazine of the pro-war and pro-Bush Washington Times, rakes up the communist connections of the demonstrations, at least in this country. It’s quite true that crackpot commies like the Workers World Party and similar admirers of the paradise in North Korea organize and support the demonstrations.
It’s also true that even when they aren’t Reds, many of the activists want to use the demonstrations not just to oppose the war but to peddle every left-wing crusade this side of the peanut bin in the local Safeway: Free Mumia, Pardon Leonard Peltier, Abolish Cars.
And it’s pretty clear that most don’t have much use for the United States, no matter what we do. It’s the base of imperialism, racism, fascism, exploitation, domination, aggression, repression, oppression, regression. If there is anything good about America anywhere anytime, you won’t hear about it from these clowns.
Nevertheless, I find it all but impossible to believe that the Workers World Party and its dupes and fellow travelers can manage to get 750,000 people into the streets of London or a million in those of Rome, or even a few thousand in New York or San Francisco. If in fact, as Insight reports, the “organizers” of the U.S. marches consist of supporters of the WWP on the one hand and the veterans of the old Communist Party USA on the other, then conservatives have a little rethinking to do. If outright communists have that kind of mass power, then we need to check up on who really won the Cold War.
With all due deference to the truth that foreign policy isn’t (or shouldn’t be) made in the streets and that mobs of college students and professional agitators don’t represent real public opinion, it remains entirely reasonable to think that the literally millions of people demonstrating throughout the world against the war last weekend represent something more than faded communists and fashionable coffee house causes.
It might just be that a vast number of people in the United States and throughout the Western world really don’t think we need to go to war with Iraq at all.
Before it actually pushes this country into war with Iraq, the Bush administration might want to ask itself why so many people in so many places are willing to march with those few who boast of their hatred for us.
Conceivably, these people or some of them might know something the administration doesn’t, and if those who know it are millions now, before the war even starts, how many will they be once Mr. Bush actually starts it?
And if millions in his own country and those of his allies are willing to go to the streets to oppose the war, how does Mr. Bush imagine the war he wants to start will end?