February 17, 2003

The War Party has taken to the streets – with pathetic results

Millions marched for peace this weekend in an outpouring of anger, frustration, and defiance at the conventional wisdom that war with Iraq is "inevitable." One million in London; half a million in Berlin; two million in Rome; 1.3 million in Barcelona; 800,000 in Madrid. In America, easily over a million demonstrated in 150 cities across the country: 200,000 rallied in Manhattan, crowded into barricaded "pens," and surrounded by a heavy police presence – including sharpshooters perched atop buildings. How very New York. 100,000 surged through the streets of Los Angeles, and 250,000 in San Francisco.

But it wasn't just an urban phenomenon: the American heartland also uttered a heartfelt cry against the rush to war. Much of the geographical center of the country was in the grip of a major snowstorm over the weekend, but in spite of this some 2,000 demonstrators marched through downtown Detroit, where Kris Hamel, of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against the War on Iraq, succinctly expressed the traditional anti-interventionism of the American heartland when she told the crowd: "We need to leave Iraq alone."

10,000 said "No!" to the war in Austin, Texas, and a long list of other unlikely places saw antiwar sentiment take to the streets: in North Carolina, hundreds gathered in Charlotte's Marshall Park, while 250 gathered at the Columbia, South Carolina Statehouse – and the President's war plans aren't playing in Peoria, either. In Augusta, Maine, dozens of protestors lined up on both sides of Memorial Bridge, part of a statewide campaign dubbed "bridges for peace." In Las Vegas, Nevada, protestors rallied around the dancing fountains of the Bellagio casino, and marched through the phantasmagoric streets carrying their anti-war message to the city's revelers. But it wasn't exactly party-time in Colorado Springs, where 3,000 turned out and were shot at with rubber bullets and tear-gassed. In Athens, Georgia, a demonstration of 500 people was marred when a counter-protestor hurled a brick that landed amid a contingent of children. The Athens Daily Banner reports:

"Witnesses said a passenger of a white car threw a piece of cinder block into the crowd gathered in the median of Broad Street, striking the 10-year-old. The car then looped around the block and another piece of brick was thrown. That piece struck a protest organizer, but he also wasn't injured."

American super-patriotism a religion of peace?

The Banner reports that the demonstrators were harried along the way by "a handful of people representing the newly-formed Students for War in Iraq" who "invited marchers to debate about pending military action in the Middle East, but met with little participation" except for the protestors' involuntary interaction with that brick. In Detroit, also, we saw the emergence of a phenomenon largely overlooked in the media: pro-war counter-demonstrations. Associated Press reports:

"Another rally, this one in support of Bush and his administration's policies toward Iraq, also was held Saturday on the Michigan State campus. Some participants held a counter-demonstration during the anti-war rally at the Capitol. Jason Miller, president of the MSU College Republicans, said the group wanted to show there are those 'who do support efforts to disarm the dictator for the safety of America, the region and the world. We wanted to send the message that left-wing radicals do not represent the average American.'"

Coming from one who supports the Jacobin fantasies of radical neoconservatives in his own party, who dream of "democratizing" the Middle East at gunpoint, Miller's critique of "radicalism" seems highly selective. Aside from that, however, one would hardly label such commentators as Patrick J. Buchanan, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), Paul Craig Roberts, and Arnaud de Borchgrave all of whom have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to this war as "left-wing."

As the tidal wave of antiwar protest rises up to confront the War Party, one may perhaps forgive the media for overlooking this story but the pro-war demonstrators are out there, too and what a pathetic lot they are! We are told that the majority support this war, and Senator John McCain has even invoked "the American street" to warn our European allies that the righteous wrath of this Silent Majority is about to get more vocal but the real American street expressed itself this past weekend, and in overwhelming numbers. The few and scattered pro-war demonstrations, on the other hand, were most often gathered in numbers of less than three digits.

As the Voice of America reports, amid the 200,000-plus who rallied in New York City, a grand total of 50 showed up to support the Bushian policy of "national liberation," chanting "We gave peace a chance, we got 9/11!" According to Richard Sawicki, a spokesman for the group:

"We have a powder keg in the Middle East that's going to blow up in our faces if we do not lead the international community in dealing with it. I'm here to support the President and the administration."

That the Bushies are lighting the fuse with their war mania seems not to occur to Mr. Sawicki. But an understanding of the subtleties of foreign policy is hardly a hallmark of his group. The VOA profiles these foot-soldiers of the War Party:

"Mr. Sawicki was among more than 50 people on hand in support of a war to remove Saddam Hussein. A common theme that emerged in the group was anger at the lack of unanimous support for a war within the UN Security Council. One man held a placard saying, 'France is intellectually ignorant.' Another member declared the French violently anti-American, and announced she was boycotting French products."

Them damn Frenchies! How dare they fail to kowtow when we crack the whip! While Jonah Goldberg and his fellow Francophobes over at National Review crack jokes about "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," what riles them is that the French won't surrender to the Americans. As for boycotting French products: why stop with France? In Europe, in the "pro-American" East as well as the West, eighty percent plus oppose the war; in the rest of the world, the numbers are probably higher. If Sawicki and his French-hating friends dare to be consistent, they are going to wind up boycotting the rest of the world outside of Israel and they call us "isolationists"!

Much has been written about the leadership of the antiwar movement, which, according to its critics, is suffused with Communists and Iraqi agents, but what about the pro-war movement? As it turns out, they have a few skeletons in their closet, too, and it isn't pretty, as the Greeley [Colorado] Tribune reports:

"The now-famous Italian vacation mom who left her children home alone last week during her continuing vacation helped organize a patriotic rally in Greeley two days before she left the country. Jennifer Farrell, 33, worked to set up a 'Show Your Colors' rally with the same boyfriend who went with her to Italy – retired Greeley school psychologist Hank DePetro. Both Farrell and DePetro said they held the rally in early February to show support for the American troops going to the Middle East. About 30 people attended the rally Feb. 1, two days before the couple left for vacation."

Farrell left her 14-year-old daughter in charge of five children, ages 12, 11, 10, 8 and 6. She told them she'd be gone "about two weeks," and gave them a credit card they couldn't use, three loaves of bread, three gallons of milk, and $7 in cash. The children were taken into custody by the state authorities after a neighbor called police.

Ms. Farrell's unconscionable behavior is the perfect metaphor for the misplaced policies and focus of this administration: she is clearly guilty of dabbling in overseas adventurism, while neglecting important problems on the home front. While she is liable to face a police inquiry on her return to American shores, no court in the land can deliver us from President Bush's custody, and that of a compliant Congress that long ago gave up its constitutional prerogatives.

Most of these pro-war rallies are minuscule: one of the largest was in Huntsville, Alabama, where 200 gathered for a "Support Our Troops" demonstration on one side of the Memorial Parkway. The event was sponsored by WVNN-AM 770 radio station. Attendance was no doubt upped by the presence of a large student contingent, as described by the Huntsville Times:

"About 40 students in grades 7-12 from Huntsville Christian Academy participated in the rally, said school Headmaster Alan Webster. 'It was strictly volunteer,' he said."

Yeah, right. Go to the rally, kiddies – or you'll burn in Hell.

The opportunistic character of these rallies was hard to miss: most were held under the general rubric of "Support Our Troops," with the pro-war message taking a back seat, and usually only implicit. The graphic distributed by one group, as pictured in this story, is indicative of this tactic: "If you don't support our country's policy," proclaims one yard-sign, "please support our troops." As if opponents of this war required a lecture on that score. In North Carolina, a rally to "support our troops" was deemed officially agnostic on the war question by the sponsors:

"Michelle Cox and other organizers said the rally would be neither pro- nor anti-war. 'We're doing everything we can to keep it from becoming a political event,' she said."

Hundreds gathered at a rally in downtown Bellevue, in Washington state, and while a few waved "Liberate Iraq" placards, the majority view was reflected by Carolyn Verone, 56, of Puyallup,

"She said she doesn't believe that all those who are against the war are against the troops. And she herself expressed some ambivalence about whether the United States should go to war against Iraq now. But she says her participation yesterday was 'not for the war and not against the war. It's to support our troops.'"

If this is the "American street" that Senator McCain is referring to, then it is hardly militant or even very forthcoming about its pro-war stance. The reason is fairly simple: contrary to what the push-polls tell us, this war is immensely unpopular, and even the War Party's most fervent partisans cannot afford to be too out-front about their politics.

However, the student wing of this tiny-but-vocal movement is far more in-your-face. Here is Josh Chafetz, a graduate student at Oxford, announcing the formation of Yale College Students for Democracy, which he describes as a group "aimed at promoting democracy around the world, including in the Middle East, and recognizing that democracy can be promoted by force." A better domain name for "Oxblog," the site on which this announcement was made, would be Oxymoron. The YCSD manifesto, as printed in the Yale Daily News, breathlessly proclaims:

"The time has come for the birth of a worldwide student movement devoted heart and soul to the promotion of democracy in each and every nation where it does not now exist. In the United States, this student movement must devote itself to ensuring that our government recognizes that suffering cannot end and that the war on terror cannot be won until the dictatorships responsible for that suffering and terrorism are replaced by democratic governments.

"For those accustomed to thinking of American foreign policy as a cause of suffering in the developing world, we ask that they contemplate the radical change that has come to Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan in the aftermath of their liberation."

Ah yes, those model democracies sure do show us the benefits of this new post-Soviet form of international "liberationism," to wit:

Panama a country that was created by American corporate interests for their own economic benefit, and ruled by a series of US government-backed tyrants. The Panamanian government is now trying its best to stay out of yet another American effort to implant democracy by force: this time in Colombia, where the "war on drugs" is tearing that nation apart, and threatening to drag the Panamanians into the same maelstrom.

Bosnia a collection of ethnic cantons where the "democratic" system routinely invalidates election results if they displease despotic UN overlords. As the BBC reported, when Serbian nationalists beat US-financed "moderates," the American ambassador intervened:

"International forces have the power to ban parties or individuals they consider to be counter-productive. The US deputy ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, said the US favored that course of action. 'We will continue to urge that obstructionists are kept out of government', he told the UN."

Isn't "democracy" wonderful?

Kosovo where the drug lords of the Kosovo "Liberation" Army still rule over a thug-ocracy and terrorists roam the streets, victimizing the few Serbs who haven't already fled..

Afghanistan a boiling cauldron of ethnic clans ruled by fear and constantly threatening to come apart at the seams despite a heavy Western troop presence.

None of these examples are very inspiring, but the soaring rhetoric of our militant young Democratists is enough to sustain them in their faith. When reality conflicts with their ideology, it is always the latter that wins out. Like the Soviet apologists of yesteryear, who painted a rosy picture of the People's Democracies, the neoconservative ideologues who speak of "liberating" Iraq have revived the old Soviet way of thinking, albeit with a "pro-American" twist.

"Ideology is political fanaticism," wrote the conservative philosopher Russell Kirk, "an endeavor to rule the world by rigorous abstract dogmata. The dogmata of an abstract 'democratic capitalism' may be as mischievous as the dogmata of Marx." The new mischieviousness is on the march, and the YCSD, and similar groups here and there, are its perfect expression.

Like the old mischieviousness, this new version is not likely to gain many adherents in America, but what they lack in numbers the neocons make up for in terms of influence and dogged determination. As Arnaud de Borchgrave pointed out in a recent column, they have practically seized control of U.S. foreign policy: ensconced in the highest reaches of this administration, they are dragging the rest of us, kicking and screaming, into a war no one wants.

The pro-war movement is top-heavy with armchair generals, but hasn't got a lot of foot-soldiers, and no wonder: the idea that the American system can be imposed by force is not only counterintuitive but profoundly un-American, alien to our history and inimical to our character as a free people. So it should come as no surprise that when the War Party took to the streets, hardly anybody noticed.

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.

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