I’ll admit it: George Bush’s State of the Union speech got to me. For the next day and a half, up until two mornings later–that’s about how long it took me to recover from it.
It didn’t help that “man of war” Ariel Sharon won big in Israel. And it sure didn’t help that the morning after Bush’s speech our sewer line clogged up, and I had to spend over an hour mopping up our basement floor before we finally got it unclogged.
It was one of those “present hopeless”—as distinct from “future hope”—funks that I have gone through many, many times over the decades that I have been an organizer for justice, peace and human liberation. Fortunately, I always come out of them sooner or later, helped by friends, loved ones, inspiration drawn from the lives of those who have come and gone before me, or just plain toughing it out until, finally, something clicks back into place.
I’m afraid that there will be more of these funks for me and others in the near future, given George Bush’s messianic, religious fervor behind his big-lie plans to take over and occupy Iraq and its oil fields. It’s not looking good for the good guys, for the cause of peace, right now.
But there is still hope. As of today, according to the French, a majority of the Security Council of the United Nations is not ready to sign off on the Bushites’ war plans. Perhaps Saddam Hussein’s government will take actions that undercut the plans of the warmongers.
And then there is the international peace movement.
One very important, potentially decisive initiative of that movement is the “human shields” effort. Hundreds of people, probably thousands and perhaps more have gone or are going to Baghdad from the United States, from Europe, from Arab countries and elsewhere to put themselves in harm’s way next to innocent Iraqis who will suffer tremendously if war takes place. Word is that the Pentagon plans to rain as many cruise missiles on Iraq in the first and second day of an attack as were dropped on Iraq in the entire run-up to the land invasion in Gulf War I in 1991.
I have thought much about these human shields, some of whom are people I know. I am deeply moved by their actions, their willingness to risk death or injury in support of the cause of world peace. And it’s not just me who is moved. I was amazed two days ago when I signed onto my aol account and saw a major, positive story from Reuters about human shields going to Iraq prominently displayed on the aol home page. And Army General Richard B. Myers, indicating the potential they have to gum up the works, from his perspective, came out earlier this month criticizing human shields and Saddam Hussein for allowing them to enter Iraq (!).
For various reasons I won’t be traveling to Iraq to join these heroes and heroines of the international peace movement. Those who want to consider doing so can make contact at http://www.humanshields.org.
What I will be doing, however, and what I hope all the rest of us will be doing wherever we are, is going all out over the next two weeks to make the February 15 and 16 demonstrations in New York City, San Francisco and elsewhere as massive as possible. These demonstrations have been called and are being organized primarily by United for Peace and Justice (www.unitedforpeace.org), with the support of International ANSWER and many other groups.
It is a fact that there will be millions of people participating in these actions around the world. That is how extensive and deep-seated the anger toward the Bushites is. And everyone knows that this is the critical time to display it.
Will all of these developments turn around the war drive? We don’t know. Right now things don’t look good, but they sure as hell will look a lot worse if we’re not able to demonstrate our broad base of support on the 15th and 16th.
And if all of these efforts fail and this unnecessary and imperialistic war begins, we must fight our feelings of depression and sadness as thousands of innocent lives are lost. After all, Dick Cheney said in the month after 9-11 that the government’s war “may never end, at least not in our lifetime.”
It is hard to know right now how an attack on Iraq, if it comes, will play itself out here in the United States. It is almost certain that an attack will temporarily set us back, depress turnout at demonstrations, cause some who are new to the movement to lose heart. We can expect an increase in efforts to stir up disunity within our ranks and moves by the government to marginalize and repress us.
I don’t think they will succeed. Our movement is too broad, too deep and more mature, overall, than the anti-Vietnam War mass movement of the ‘60s, the period of time most analagous to what we have been experiencing over the past several years since the Battle in Seattle in November, 1999. I think many of us are prepared, politically and emotionally, to keep going and keep working hard whatever happens.
For now, let’s do all we can in this critical month of February. All out for February 15-16!