Resisting War: October 25 and Beyond




F

ernando
Suarez del Solar’s Marine son was one of the first U.S. soldiers
to die during the recent U.S. invasion of Iraq. Suarez del Solar
and his son immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1997. Growing
up in the U.S., his son had seen TV adds glorifying the U.S. military
and by the age of 14, he wanted to enter the Marine Corp to combat
narco-trafficking. Recently sent to Iraq as a Marine, he was killed
on March 27. Speaking at the October 25, 2003 anti-war rally in
Washington, DC, the


Washington
Post

quoted the father’s declaration to the crowd, “We
need to make George Bush understand he doesn’t own our children’s
lives.” 


If
the deceased soldier’s family uses the U.S. government’s
cemetery and funeral services, it is free. Because Suarez del Solar
wanted a traditional Mexican funeral and cemetery (independent of
the government’s) he was only given $4,325 for expenses. The
grieving father challenged this as a case of racism and general
disregard for the soldier’s family. While his son had been
touted as a hero following his death, the government’s attitude
soon changed and Fernando’s challenge was met with hostility.
With nothing more to lose, he only fought harder. 


After
going to the media and several politicians, the government reversed
its decision and paid the full amount. 


Suarez
del Solar is clear about the forces behind his son’s death.
“The illegal war on Iraq is about geographic political control.
Presi- dent Bush lied to the American people about the weapons of
mass destruction and Al-Qaeda’s relationship with Iraq. He
used the September 11 horror to persuade the U.S. population that
Iraq is an enemy, but he has never proven any relationship.” 



End
The Occupation 



O

n
October 25, tens of thousands gathered in Washington, DC to protest
the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as general U.S.
foreign policy. Police estimated the crowd to be 50,000, while the
organizers placed it at 100,000. The event was organized by the
country’s two largest anti- war coalitions: Act Now To Stop
War and End Racism (ANSWER) and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ). 


The
array of signs that day reflected the diversity of the crowd. Queers
for Peace and Justice held a banner declaring “From Stonewall
to Baghdad, People Fight Back.” Others held signs calling for
the freedom of the Cuban five political prisoners, as well as prisoners
Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. The Code Pink women’s
anti-war organization dropped a banner from a building on the march
route declaring: “Bush Lied. Fire Him.” 


In
an interview following the demonstration, Leslie Cagan, National
Coordinator of UFPJ, explained that the event’s message “was
first and foremost to end the occupation and bring the troops home.
Second, we wanted to show that there still is a very viable and
dynamic anti-war movement delivering the first message. 


“The
U.S. is in Iraq for a variety of reasons that include Iraq having
the second largest oil reserves in the world. It’s really about
the larger-scale global interests of the major international corporations. 


“Second,
the world’s only military superpower needs to flex its military
muscle and send a message everywhere—not only to people in
that part of the world. 


“Third,
because of how the Bush administration has used the so-called ‘war
on terrorism,’ they have to act as if they really are engaging
in a war on terrorism. For ideological reasons, they had to do something
concrete. This helps to justify high military spending and the military
on alert and active on the frontlines.” 


One
of the most significant aspects of the October mobilization was
the growing participation from the military. A contingent of 1,000
veterans, family members of soldiers, and supporters marched near
the front of the demonstration. Many different organizations were
represented. Interviewed during the march by

Counterpunch

,
Nancy Lessin, one of the founders of Military Families Speak Out,
said “We started out with two military families last November
in the run-up to war. We’re now up over 1,000 military families.
In the beginning, there was a very clear understanding that this
war was not about defending the U.S. It was about oil. ” 


The
presence of military families and veterans clearly contradicted
the mainstream media’s historical depiction of anti-war protesters
as being against the soldiers. 


“The
only way to ‘support the troops’ is to bring them home
and treat them fairly upon arrival,”said David Cline, National
President of Veterans for Peace and one of the coordinators of Vietnam
Veterans Against the War. 


“Being
a Vietnam veteran, I know about government lies. During Vietnam,
the government made all these claims, but it was only with the release
of the

Pentagon Papers

that we found out that the whole thing
was a lie. Today, we’ve been in a war for seven months and
we already know that it’s based on misrepresentations, distortions,
and outright fabrications. Having been sent to fight and seen guys
killed, my eye is drawn to the Vietnam Memorial right over here
with 58,000 names. Two to three million Vietnamese died because
of politicians’ lies and to preserve their ‘credibility.’
 


“They
shouldn’t do this to our young men and women. The military
should only be used to defend the nation; not to attack others.
When we tried to prevent this new war, they called us ‘unpatriotic’
and said we had to ‘support the troops.’ However, we’re
here to say that waving a flag and cheering on Bush is betraying
the troops. They should not be sent to die and shed their blood
for an unjustified cause.” 



The
Poverty Draft 



M

ario
Hardy Ramirez is the founder of the Philadelphia-based


AWOL

magazine (a joint project of the Central Committee for Conscientious
Objectors and the War Resisters League), published to challenge
the U.S. military’s recruitment of youth of color. CCCO is
one of the founders of the toll-free GI Rights Hotline (1-800- FYI-95GI).
Active duty service people can call and get counseled on discharge
from the military. This year they’ll take between 35,000 and
40,000 calls from people in the military. 


Calls
received on the GI Rights Hotline reveal deceptive recruitment tactics
and serious resentment from soldiers. Hardy reports that many callers
proclaim: “I was lied to by my recruiter. I was told I would
learn computers, but now I’m out here in the middle of the
desert with shit going off all around me. I was promised $50,000
for college and I’ve never gotten 50 cents….”  


Hardy
and CCCO argue that these deceptive tactics are part of the U.S.
military’s overall “poverty draft” strategy. “During
the Vietnam War, you were pretty much snatched off the street physically
and told in a very straightforward manner: ‘You’re going
to Southeast Asia to kill and be killed.’ Today’s poverty
draft is much more insidious—400,000 young people a year are
being lured into the military using the poverty draft. That’s
way more people than were ever conscripted under the actual ‘snatch
you off the street’ draft. 


“People
of color and all poor people are the most heavily targeted. Recruiters
capitalize on the lack of opportunity and the terrible conditions
in the community by holding themselves up as the only viable way
to escape that. They’ll tell the youth: ‘Look, you’ll
wind up dead or in jail.’ If you grow up in the hood or a poor
community, you know somebody who’s been killed or in jail.
I talk to young people around the U.S. who go to two or three funerals
a month. Their friends’ heads are blown off just like if they
were in Iraq. If you’re in that situation, it sounds good hearing,
‘All you have to do is graduate from high school and we’ll
guarantee you $50,000 for college.’” 



Winter
Mobilization 



T

he
October 25 demonstration was the largest anti-war protest since
February 15 when 350,000 to 500,000 protesters gathered in New York
City while millions of others around the world marched and demonstrated
against the escalation of the U.S. and British war on Iraq. The
size of the international protest was truly historic. Between two
and three million turned out in Rome. The turnout of one and a half
million in London was the largest political demonstration in England’s
history. The half million that turned out in Berlin was the biggest
demonstration since the week before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.
The


Philadelphia
Inquirer

declared on February 16 that the demonstrations “taken
as a whole, may have been the largest simultaneous, single-day antiwar
protest in history.” 


When
asked about tactics and strategy for organizing against U.S. militarism,
Cagan replied, “We need to keep using all of the tactics we
have been using. These are the tactics that any social change movement
uses: mass protest, civil disobedience, silent vigils, marches,
lobbying, media work, educational forums, and sending U.S. citizens
to Iraq and other parts of the world, etc. I don’t think it’s
rocket science, but we need to be open to new ideas. 


“One
challenge is how to function in an election year. How do we keep
a focus on the issues and not have people feel that they need to
only focus on electoral work? While this can be important work,
it’s certainly not the only thing that we need to be doing.” 


UFPJ
and ANSWER are organizing an anti-war mobilization for March 20,
the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. On November 27, Fernando
Suarez del Solar and others from military families traveled to Baghdad
with Global Exchange to meet with Iraqis and show them that the
people in the U.S. are not their enemy. 


The
struggle continues.







Hans
Bennett is an anarchist and independent photojournalist currently
working with Philadelphia’s



INSUBORDINATION



and



AWOL



magazines.