You would not know it from last Sundays news coverage by the national media, but a major and significant event occured in this country. Hurricane Rita gave the corporate press a convenient excuse to ignore the largest anti-war protest since before the war in Iraq.
National media, however, apparently did not regard a quarter-million Americans in the streets, marching in protest of what they consider an illegal war, as newsworthy. They preferred putting the emphasis on water in the streets of New Orleans and damage at Galveston, Texas.
Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens, including military families and veterans of Iraq, Vietnam and other wars, collected in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. Even though President George W. Bush was not there, a rousing anti-war rally was conducted. A much smaller pro-war rally was carried on some distance away.
Similar protest marches took place in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and several other American cities. Out of all the major media on Sunday, only MSNBC reported the protests, and it devoted all of 20 seconds to the task.
The U.S. protests were echoed in Britain, with thousands marching in London, as well as in Europe.
In this country, the stories that were reported put their emphasis on war supporters, hurricane stories and Vice President Dick Cheneys surgery. This kind of suppression is not an accident. The Bush regime fears a full-blown anti-war movement a la Vietnam. It would have the potential to sweep them from office.
Back in the nations capital, protest organizers estimated 300,000 people were in attendance. That is three times their original goal. Charles H. Ramsey, D.C. police chief, walked the march route and said protesters achieved at least 100,000 marchers and probably topped that. Asked if at least 150,000 were on hand, he told The Washington Post: Thats as good a guess as any.
Ramsey added: Its their protest, not mine. It was peacefulthats all I care about.
Police reported no major problems and no injuries. There were only three arrests, one on a charge of destruction of property, one for attempted theft and one for disorderly conduct.
The event concluded with a concert on the grounds of the Washington Monument, featuring Joan Baez and other performers, and anti-war speakers.
A variety of signs, T-shirts, and slogans were evident. One sign said Make Levees, Not War, while another declared I never thought Id miss Nixon and yet another asserted Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam.
Leslie Darling, 60, came from Cleveland with four friends. When The Washington Post asked her assessment of the protest, she replied: It made clear that while we spend all this money trying to impose our will on other countries, here at home in our own country, we cant take care of each other.
Another in the crowd was Army 1st Sgt. Frank Cookinham, a veteran of the Special Forces. He was very uncomfortable. Ive never done this before, he told a Post reporter, but here I am, in uniform, figuring this is the only way I can shove it to Bush. This war makes no sense.
In Orlando, Fla., anti-war protesters reported they are seeing a more accepting attitude on the part of the public. Chris Field, one of 60 people on the street last Saturday, told the Orlando Sentinel: Before the [presidential] election, it was 50-50. People would flip us off. The number of one-finger salutes has been decreasing every time we come out.
Last Friday, Medea Benjamin, a member of the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, the coalition that organized the protest march, set down some of her thoughts in an article on Common Dreams.org.
Were marching, she wrote, because we are distressed over the continued war in Iraq, an unprovoked, unnecessary war that has cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers. We grieve for those families who have already lost loved ones in this war, and we want to stop other families from suffering such painful losses.
Benjamin continued: Were marching because we want to hold George Bush accountable for dragging us into this war on false pretenses. The September 11 Commission officially acknowledged that Iraq was not involved in the terrorist attacks on our nation, and the U.S. military gave up its search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction because they dont exist.
She cited a number of other reasons, such as the inability to continue spending more than $1 billion a week on an unwinnable war, saying the money should instead be spent on rebuilding the Gulf Coast, rebuilding Iraq and putting money into the nations health care system, schools and infrastructure.
Benjamin also slammed the war profiteering by companies like Halliburton and Bechtel, and the practice of handing fat, no-bid contracts to companies with close ties to the Bush White House.
Protesters, she said, also are concerned over the nations addiction to oil. We see our ruinous policies in the Middle East and the global-warming-induced fury of Hurricane Katrina as consequences of an oligarchy that must be replaced by an economy based on conservation, efficiency and clean, renewable sources of energy, Benjamin said.
She also noted anti-war activists fear our government is building 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. Such bases, she said, established in Saudi Arabia earlier, were given by al-Qaeda as reason for the attacks of Sept. 11, and more Mideast bases, they believe, may trigger more attacks on the U.S. and its allies.
She said marchers were in the streets because they dont want to see this country ever again launch an unprovoked, pre-emptive war. They also want this country to obey international law and resort to force only as a last option. They also want the U.S. to sign the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.
Benjamin said: Its too bad our government refused to listen to us before invading Iraq. Its time they start listening now.
From the Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 2005, issue