---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 21:56:18 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Tough fight for anti-war movement
Peace & Patriotism
Why the old formulas may not work this time
Tough fight for anti-war movement
by Louis Freedberg, San Francisco Chronicle
Since Sept. 11, people have been on the march to reclaim the Bay
Area's place as a center of dissent and spawning ground of some of
the great social movements of the past century.
It's an uphill climb.
The challenge facing this incipient peace movement is whether it can
evolve into a potent force -- as did opposition to the Vietnam War --
or whether it will remain a sideshow with little impact on how the
United States wages its battle against terrorism.
The Bay Area's war protesters in the late '60s and early '70s had
advantages. Theirs was a widely unpopular war, fought far from home
(without homeland terrorism) for reasons unpersuasive to many
Americans. The draft was in full swing, and growing weekly death
counts were frightening.
Today's anti-war fervor comes at the end of an era when activism had
faded. For much of the 1990s, the Bay Area was synonymous in the
national imagination not with protest but with an obsession with
stock options, million-dollar homes, BMWs and upscale restaurants.
Young people streamed to the Bay Area not to challenge the power
elite but aspiring to become part of it.
Since Sept. 11, a new generation of anti-war activists has begun to
reconnect with the Bay Area's past. Rallies, marches and teach-ins
resemble protests against U.S. policies regarding Vietnam, El
Salvador, the Gulf War, South Africa and elsewhere.
While familiar, the new protests have a distinctive flavor. Giant
puppets of President George W. Bush were displayed at a large march
in San Francisco's Mission District last weekend. And at a lunchtime
rally at the University of California at Berkeley on Monday, several
non-Muslim demonstrators sported kaffiyehs, a traditional Arab
Chants have been updated. In 1970, students protesting the secret
U.S. air war against Cambodia yelled, "On Strike, Shut It Down" as
they tried to close universities. Last week, Berkeley students
shouted, "Join Us, Take a Stand, Stop the Bombing in Afghanistan."
(And a small group of counter-protesters, shouting "USA! USA! USA!"
held signs proclaiming, "Terrorize Terrorism!")
For the anti-war protests to become more than just a cry from the
heart -- or a soapbox for complaints against U.S. policies abroad --
today's peace movement will have to come up with more than slogans.
A fundamental problem is that the protesters have been unable to
generate a clear alternative to the Bush administration's anti-
terrorism strategy. It's one thing to decry the bombing of Afghan
citizens. It's quite another to come up with a realistic strategy to
stop another murderous attack by bin Laden or his cronies.
At one Berkeley rally, an emblematic moment occurred when a counter-
demonstrator confronted an anti-war protester.
"No one wants this war," she said. "Sometimes violence is
unavoidable. What is your solution?''
There was no response.
Just what is the protesters' strategy?
There isn't one.
Adding to the confusion is that progressives are themselves divided.
Many believe the United States has no choice but to chase down Osama
bin Laden and his terrorist collaborators. Others think that by doing
so the United States is playing into his hands. And some don't know
what to think.
Two days after the attack, Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple"
and other books, argued before a packed crowd at the Berkeley
Community Theater that the answer is love and compassion, rooted in
Kevin Danaher, co-founder of San Francisco-based Global Exchange
says "tough love" is needed.
"I'm all for heart, but these guys are killers, they are mass
murders, they can't be ignored," says Danaher. This is not an anti-
war movement, he says, but a fight for "global justice."
"If you're going to get these guys, you need something more
sophisticated than just bombing and killing," he says. "I don't want
them dead. I want them alive. I want them on the stand. And I want
whoever aided or abetted them behind bars."
Another obstacle to building an effective opposition is that often
the new protests have turned into fuzzy forums for complaints about
every conceivable misdeed. At the Berkeley rally, for example, one
student dressed in a black cape declared, "Terrorism didn't start on
Sept. 11 -- it started the day Christopher Columbus set foot on
Few protesters have embraced the new mood of patriotism that has
surfaced even in some radical strongholds of the Bay Area. That will
make it tougher to win over the 9 out of 10 Americans who support the
war. Protesters wearing kaffiyehs risk inciting the same "love it or
leave i" hostility Vietnam War protesters faced a generation ago.
Arguing that dissent is itself patriotic is a hard sell when people's
nerves are at the breaking point.
For the growing but scattered movement to morph into a full-fledged
social and political force will also depend on events beyond its
Will there be large number of U.S. casualties? Will there be more
terrorist attacks? Will there be a draft? How long will the war go
on? Will it evolve into a wider war? Will it drain the nation's
financial reserves? Will other interest groups and constituencies
rise up against it?
For now, the budding peace movement has shown surprising vitality.
Alice Hamburg, a 95-year-old peace activist from Berkeley, says
people have responded more quickly than at the beginning stages of
the Vietnam War.
"You can't expect that within a week people will come flocking to the
peace movement," says Hamburg, whose autobiography, "Grassroots: From
Prairie to Politics," will be published later this month. "That is
too much to expect. It is a slow process."
But as the conflict deepens, as it is sure to do, the peace movement
will have to engage in some fancy footwork. It will need a clear
message, a well- defined purpose and a compelling answer to
combatting terrorism without dropping bombs. Recycling Vietnam-era
rhetoric won't work.
"The way this war is going to touch people is different," says
Charles Wollenberg, chairman of the Social Sciences Department at
Vista Community College in Berkeley. "The fact that there was this
terrible attack on U.S. soil justifies it in a way the Vietnam War
never could be."
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