800 Anti-War Protests Across the United States
This last weekend, tens of thousands of people turned out for anti-war protests across the country, marking the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The protests, of which there were approximately 800, took place in over 600 cities and consisted of a variety of different events, including rallies, marches, civil disobedience actions, silent vigils, theatrical performances and art exhibits. Fayetteville, North Carolina. While none of the protests garnered the huge turnouts that centralized protests from two years ago had attracted, the actions of the last weekend represented a more diverse and varied movement than had been seen previously. One of the largest protests on Saturday was near Fort Bragg. Some 4,800 people gathered in what was the largest protest of any kind in Fayetteville since a 1970 protest against the Vietnam War. Represented at this protest were numerous veterans, military families, and soldiers.
Despite the variety and number of events, the protests were largely ignored or downplayed in the mainstream press. The New York Times, the self-styled “national paper of record” focused on one small civil disobedience protest at military recruiting office in Times Square, just down the street from the Times office. The local paper, the Grand Rapids Press, did not report on the protests at all in their Sunday, March 20th edition. This despite the fact that there were anti-war protests in downtown Grand Rapids as well as actions at Woodland and CentrePointe Mall. The Grand Rapids Press did run several articles about the war in Iraq to mark the second anniversary of the war. None of the articles discussed anti-war actions or ideas, instead offering the usual assortment of simplistic and sanitized Associated Press articles common in American newspapers.
Divisions Within the Anti-war Movement
While the anti-war and occupation in Iraq movements have reached out to new communities and groups, divisions have appeared within the movement itself. The two largest anti-war groups, International ANSWER and United for Peace and Justice are in open disagreement over the issue of whether or not to they “support” the Iraqi insurgency. International ANSWER. is in favor of the “absolute and unconditional right of Iraqi people to resist the occupation,” regardless of the insurgents’ methods or fundamentalist ideologies, a platform that UFPJ has been unwilling to adopt. This division is not new as UFPJ, which gained popularity in part as a less radical or less dogmatic (depending on ones interpretation) alternative to ANSWER, has had various differences with the more strident positions advocated by ANSWER.
Beyond the two large anti-war groups, numerous voices within the left have been heard from lately, voicing various criticisms and concerns of the anti-war movement. In CounterPunch.org, Ron Jacobs has a scathing indictment of the effectiveness of the current anti-war movement entitled “End the Damn War“. Several writers have contributed pieces recently discussing the Democratic Party’s role, or lack of a role, in the current anti-war movement. Joshua Frank discusses Howard Dean’s supposed anti-war credentials in “The Selling (Out) of the Antiwar Movement” while Lance Selfa asks whether or not the Democrats realistically can be moved to the left. Locally, in a brief speech at the WMJPC rally in downtown Grand Rapids, Tom Schwallie cast a critical eye on the current state of the movement.
New Information in Attack on Italian Journalist
On Friday March 25 Democracy Now interviewed noted author and activist Naomi Klein about the case of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who was wounded by U.S. forces after her release by Iraqi insurgents. In the interview, Klein, who has been in Iraq and met with Sgrena, states that Sgrena was wounded more severely than the U.S. admitted and that many contradictions in the official version of events as put forward by the U.S. have yet to be answered. The U.S. has been less than forthcoming in this incident, reportedly blocking two Italian policemen from examining the car that Sgrina had been in.
U.S. and Iraqi Commandos Claim to have Killed 80 Insurgents
Mainstream news outlets reported on Thursday that Iraq government commandos backed by U.S. forces had decisively engaged and destroyed an insurgent camp killing 80 rebel fighters on Tuesday. According to Maj. Richard Goldenberg, a spokesman for the 42nd Infantry Division,” Here, they organized into a large group in a remote site, perhaps under the impression that coalition forces wouldn’t look for them there.” The attack is being touted as a victory for Iraqi government forces and the U.S., discrepancies are appearing in the official story. According to a story in Al Jazeera, a ATP correspondent who went out to the site of the camp on Wednesday, the day after the attack, and found 30 to 40 insurgent fighters there. The insurgents claim to have never left and that they had only suffered 11 deaths due to air strikes. Local hospitals have told AFP they had received no casualties from the battle.