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imperialism & war | political theory s24 mobilization

Size Didn't Matter; It was the Message, and it was Big

The Sept. 24 march on the White House brought a power of message and a unity of purpose to the antiwar movement that it has been missing until now. Bush, Cheney and Rove can try to hide and deny it, but the country is listening.

100,000? (DC police, AP) 250,000? (my unscientific count) 300,000? (organizers) 500,000? (Truthout's William Pitt and CNN).

Really, who cares how many marched and rallied in Washington on Saturday?

The important thing is that huge numbers of people of all ages, races, and walks of life, from all over the country--more people than the right could hope to entire to any event, even if it paid them--converged on the White House to condemn the War on the people of Iraq, and to condemn administration whose domestic policies are destroying the country.

As a conservatively dressed middle-aged woman from Buffalo, NY, riding the Metro back to her hotel, said, explaining why she had trekked all the way down to the nation's capital with a friend to join the protest, "I just got tired of sitting around the house being angry all the time."

If the presidential election last November left a lot of progressives and anti-war Americans in a funk of debilitating doom and gloom, the remarkable phenomenon of Cindy Sheehan's vigil in Crawford, Texas, which culminated in this mass movement to confront the White House over the Iraq War, was the antidote, and a sure sign that people are over their depression and ready to renew the struggle.

Clearly the disaster in New Orleans gives this movement an extra shot in the arm. The most widely heard and popular slogan at the march was a takeoff on an iconic line from the '60s: "Make levees, not war!"

The Saturday march was important in another way, too. It marked an end to the petty bickering between various groups on the left over what stance to take on the war. The two main sponsors of the event, A.N.S.W.E.R. and United for Justice and Peace , have been at odds for the past three years over positions on Israel and Palestine and other touchy topics, with A.N.S.W.E.R. being supportive of the Iraqi resistance, while UJP has limited itself to calling for an end to the U.S. invasion and occupation. For this march, they put their differences aside and liked up around Sheehan's unambiguous call: "Bring the Troops Home Now!"

Even more cautious groups allied with the Democratic Party, notably MoveOn, while timidly declining to sponsor the demonstration and carefully noting their "disagreements" with A.N.S.W.E.R., offered their help in calling for a massive rally. MoveOn gave details about the march and rally schedule on its widely read website and in mass emails, as did Progressive Democrats, who were well-represented on the march.

One big change, readily apparent at this march, was that there was much greater participation by younger people than at earlier anti-Iraq War marches, which had looked more like reunions of veterans of the 1960s marches. Masses of college-age students carried home-made signs saying things like "Campus, not combat!" while others, including high-schoolers, carried signs condemning the lies of army recruiters. There may be no conscription yet, but clearly the young are seeing that this war of choice is being fought by them and their age cohort, who are being lured or forced into the military by an economy that is leaving them with few other choices.

The other big development, spearheaded by Sheehan and Celeste Zappala and their Gold Star Families for Peace organization, and by groups like Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and more recently by Iraq Veterans Against the War, has been the huge role being played by those either in the military or out of it or by their families. While VVAW was an important part of the anti-war effort during the campaign against the Indochina War, soldiers and veterans in that movement were never at the head of the campaign. In today's anti-war movement, they are its heart and soul.

It remains to be seen how the movement will build from this point. The phenomenon of Cindy Sheehan has clearly not run its course. With the war going from bad to disastrous, with the US death toll approaching 2000, with gas and heating oil prices soaring, and with the Bush administration becoming a national laughing stock, the focus will now surely be the off-year Congressional elections that are just over a year away.

For other stories by Lindorff, please go (at no charge) to This Can't Be Happening! .

homepage: homepage: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

size does matter 25.Sep.2005 14:15


and it was about 10 million too short.

a post form another site also has a volid point:

<<<Great Scott, why did they allow SO MANY different themes? The message was awfully diluted!
One speaker: "Impeach Bush!"
Next speaker: "Bring the troops home!"
Then: "Respect Palestine!"
After that: "The USA kidnapped President Aristide of Haiti!"
The fourth: "Katrina was a shame! Fight racism!"
The fifth: "Free the Cuban Five!"
Finally: "Women's rights now!">>>>>>

and finally, there was a major media blackout, with results sort of like being on a street corner soap box

size 25.Sep.2005 19:38


For me, the gathering in Washington was not about numbers (there were enough), the press blackout (expected) or its affect upon those in power, it was about the isolation I felt and feel no longer, and about the empowerment I have been given to continue. I am deeply thankful.

well said David 25.Sep.2005 20:57


But now what do we do? Bush is just laughing, congress doesn't care because they are elected by corporations not the people....now what do we do?

why does it matter what we "do" , 'wanda'? 25.Sep.2005 23:34


yes it's important to keep in the streets, keep active.

it was definitely Cindy Sheehan's (and Katrina's) summer.

and the 'message' is trickling through even the corporate media, and their main stream polling results, like never before.

but if America's "opposition" party leaders and stance don't change on (at least) Iraq, then they're as good as Bush to us (yeah yeah I know Kennedy, McKinney, Kucinich and Conyers are totally against it - but I'm talkin' about Kerry, Dean, H.R. Clinton, et al.)

(unless of course someone here has a genius/magic plan to "replace" the corporate-owned Democratic Party and DLC within our lifetimes . . .)

To change the Democap party... 26.Sep.2005 05:10


Vote for a third party in enough numbers to force their platform to include voices for real change. A good 10% shift to a third party would send them on their butts and push them to the left. That is ALL it would take. But, as I have heard dozens of times, that's "throwing your vote away" which is absolutely the most ignorant view on voting. Until Americans start voting for people that think like they do and are not corrupt liers nothing will change. It DOES NOT matter if your candidate has a chance of winning. What matters is that your vote will be pandered to next election and the major party platforms will change to get you back.

It can change with one presidential election. The "anybody but Bush" crowd screwed us all last time around. Nader should have walked off with 20% of the vote and real power to make a change.

Size DOES matter 26.Sep.2005 10:27

smaller the better

The big city resistance is great. It keeps the pigs busy, in places where there is automatically plenty of coverage, while the real resistence, the stuff that can have greatest impact, can occur out in bumfuque, where the piggies are all gone. If the little ones, the Estacadas, the Silvertons, the Tillamooks, and the Scapooses, will get noisy enough to attract and draw off some of the corporate guards in the inner cities, we will vex and annoy them enough that they may have to pay us some attention. Barlow? Where are you?

Consider the Cicumstances and Compare 26.Sep.2005 18:53


The numbers weren't bad, considering the media black-out prior to the demonstration and by the discouragement many felt by previous intimidation and heavy handed tactics against dissenters by the police.
Compare that with the 'pro war' counter-demonstration. They could hardly master more than 400 (some say no more than 100) and that is under the continuous war propaganda incitement by the corporate media and with the financial support of the powerful and wealthy.