For a number of reasons, there are possibilities right now for the building and strengthening of the new peace and justice movement which burst onto the political scene on April 20th with massive demonstrations in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, Ca.
One reason, of course, is the fact that these actions happened and that the number of people who participated was as large as it was. At least 100,000 people participated in one of these two actions, and the total numbers could have been as high as 125,000. Given the deadly weight of a months-long, compliant, corporate media, by and large, and a me-too Democratic Party going along with the sham “war on terrorism,” this is no small accomplishment.
These mobilizations helped to encourage and were in turn influenced by the willingness of a handful of Congresspeople to speak out, particularly Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney. Although the number of our political “leaders” willing to be vocal is still extremely small, their words had an impact beyond their numbers.
In the case of Cynthia McKinney, it is significant that, despite efforts to marginalize her following her call in early spring for an investigation into what the Bush Administration knew prior to September 11th, what has happened instead is that, about a month later, that call, in a more moderate form, has been picked up by the media and top Democrats.
The reasons for this are varied. One of them is certainly an effort on the part of the Democrats to knock some more points off of Bush’s shrinking poll numbers, their attempts to gain some political advantage as the 2002 national elections heat up.
Another reason for the willingness of the media to put this issue forward has to do with a phenomenon we experienced in the organizing for April 20th: clear-cut concern on the part of sectors of the U.S. elite over where the Bush Administration is going. The widespread and favorable advance publicity we received in the last week before April 20th was a clear indication of this reality.
The question now, however, is how do we continue building this movement.
One focus must be the situation in Palestine. Without question this must be a major area of concentration, for both human and political reasons. Despite the overwhelming, uncritical, recent vote in Congress in support of Israel, national polls show that a majority of the people of the United States want an even-handed approach which recognizes Palestinian rights. The organizing going on to end Israel’s occupation and for a viable Palestinian state must continue to be a priority.
Other initiatives are being taken. There are plans for local peace actions around the country at the time of the first anniversary of September 11th. There will continue to be organized efforts to get more Congresspeople to speak up and to come out openly against the direction Bush and Co. are taking the country post-9-11. There is talk about organizing major actions in late September when the IMF and World Bank have their fall meetings in Washington, D.C. And we need to deal with the on-going imprisonment and harassment of innocent Arabs and Muslims and Ashcroft’s other repressive moves.
There is an urgent need, however, for us to recognize the significance of last week’s open calls for an investigation of what the Bush oil-and-war-men knew before September 11th and what they did and didn’t do about it.
It is also important for us to recognize that, without independent, grassroots pressure, it is entirely possible that the possibilities of this moment will narrow, and it will be difficult to bring them forward again. That is clearly what Dick Cheney and others Republicans have in mind when they raise the spectre of imminent Al Qaeda attacks and suicide bombings in the U.S. They are attempting to intimidate and frighten off the Democrats and the mass media.
Despite these attempts, we shouldn’t underestimate the potential impact that we can have. Given the current timeliness of this issue, there is a window of opportunity to get media coverage for our actions if they are organized and coherent.
We need to build a nationally-organized campaign in support of a truly independent investigation that really gets to the roots, gets out the truth, of what was going on pre-9-11. Press conferences, vigils at federal buildings, the circulation of petitions, other forms of action need to be undertaken as soon as possible, and just as there was national coordination for April 20th in Washington, D.C., the same thing is needed now.
The enemies of justice and peace are not taking it easy; neither can we.