---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 09 Jan 2003 17:33:41 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: It's not yesterday's peace movement
It's not yesterday's peace movement
by Rene P Ciria-Cruz
As war clouds gather, opposition to a U.S. first strike on Iraq grows in a
new and different way than the Vietnam-era peace movement ^× and faster.
Unlike the l960s, today's movement is more diverse with a clearer political
agenda unblurred by counterculture messages.
Today's peace movement already draws big protest crowds even before the
shooting has begun, and its ranks are more diverse than the 1960s movement,
which took a few years to grow. Fueling dissent is the perception that
President George Bush's call for a unilateral first strike against Iraq is
Peace activists using technology nonexistent in the '60s ^× email blasts,
dedicated web sites ^× are preparing a march in Washington, DC, on Jan 18-20,
hoping for crowds even larger than October's demonstrations by tens of
thousands in the nation's capital, San Francisco and other cities.
Despite the post-Sept 11 climate of patriotism, longtime activists report
they see less public hostility than during the Vietnam war. One reason may
be the broad composition of recent protests ^× from grandmothers, students
and "Soccer Moms for Peace," to locked-out African American dock workers and
graying baby-boomers reliving the heady calls to action of the Vietnam era.
Unlike in the '60s, no static over counter-culture lifestyles blurs the
message. The slogan "Make love, not war" has a politically prim makeover:
"Make peace, not war."
Today's groundswell is "more political from the beginning, based on the
conclusion that the war with Iraq is unjust," says Richard Becker, national
coordinator of the Answer coalition, which sponsored the October protests.
By contrast, the 1960s upsurge was fueled mainly by the fear that more
Americans were dying because of the draft. "It took thousands of body bags,
with the Vietnam War already going on for a while, before the movement got
going," Becker says.
Scandals in the decades following Vietnam ^× from Watergate to U.S. support
of military dictatorships and its subterfuges in Chile and Central America ^×
have diminished the U.S. public's innocence. "With the Cold War and the red
scare gone, people are less susceptible to government spins," says Ziad, an
Arab American organizer for Global Exchange in San Francisco, who asked that
his full name be withheld.
Some credit low-key activism over the years, on domestic problems and U.S.
policies abroad, for people's readiness to take a stand. Among youth and
students, the anti-globalization movement has helped make "close connections
between the drive for war and corporate greed," Ziad says.
Meanwhile, civil rights gains in the workplace, business, schools and public
institutions have helped racially diversify the middle class ^× the current
movement's main base. This too is different from the l960s, when peace
activists lamented their movement's largely white, youth-and-student makeup.
Instead, today's antiwar organizers "have found natural allies in minority
communities," says Roxanne Lawson, formerly of Black Voices for Peace in
Washington, DC. Minority activists who earned their spurs in battles for
affirmative action and immigrant rights see the war "as an extension of
injustice at home." The NAACP and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination
Committee are among groups opposed to an attack on Iraq.
Organizers have pointedly timed the planned marches in January during the
Martin Luther King Jr holiday weekend as a reminder to minority communities
that King strongly opposed the U.S. war in Vietnam.
More young people from immigrant families critical of the U.S. role in their
parents' homelands are emboldened to speak out because they are U.S.
While their political clout has shrunk from the l960s, labor unions ^× which
largely backed the Vietnam War ^× are seeing growing antiwar sentiment. The
building trades and industrial unions remain unmoved, sources say, but a
number of local labor councils and leaders have endorsed or spoken in recent
protests. Many Vietnam-era activists have found careers as union organizers
and are sources of antiwar agitation. Daz Lamparas counts himself among
"In the locals many people are really opposed to war," says Lamparas, a
field organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in San
Francisco. "But most unions are still waiting for what the AFL-CIO
leadership will do."
Opposition is strong among health care and service workers, Lamparas says.
"Many of our members are immigrants. I've seen war, a civil war, during the
Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. It's not a movie, I tell you. I
think many of our members had similar experiences in their own countries."
Tensions, however, could lead to the kind of splits that weakened the
Vietnam-era movement. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a divisive issue;
the high visibility of Palestinian supporters has kept many pro-Israel
Another potential divider is inspections. The Answer coalition doesn't
support the U.N. inspection of Iraq's weapons program. "It's a trap," argues
Becker. "The U.N. will end up rubber stamping Bush's war."
Meanwhile, "Win Without War," a coalition of celebrities and prominent
liberals, has taken out ads supporting the inspections. Some liberal critics
say Answer is a front of the Marxist Workers World Party and accuse it of
hijacking the movement, which Bette Hoover, director of the American Friends
Service Committee's Washington, DC, office, denies.
"When groups step up to the plate, we don't discredit their efforts," she
says. "But we're not naïve. If they let other voices in and don't let their
agendas dominate, it's OK. It's like people going to different churches. We
can still work together."
For now, at least, movement organizers ^× which one activist describes as a
"national network of networks" ^× continue to patch together conference calls
and emergency meetings to derail Bush's rush toward Baghdad.
Rene P Ciria-Cruz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a PNS editor and a longtime
editor for Filipinas Magazine. (Pacific News Service)
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