It was the largest protest in human history.
It was not only a protest against George W. Bush and his sidekick Tony Blair but also a cry from the heart of the peoples of the world that we will never accept a war of civilizations provoked by our leaders.
The millions that took the streets on every continent, in so many cities and towns were sending a message both the government of the United States and to the peoples of the Middle East. There is no West versus East, no Christians and Jews versus Muslims, there is only the government of George W. and what’s left of his allies trying to dominate the world in order to benefit economically and politically.
On every continent, in every language, with one booming global voice, we said no.
It was not only the big demonstrations in Europe and New York City that we heard about in the mainstream media. There were protests throughout Latin America and Asia as well. There were demonstrations in a large number of American cities. And there was even a demonstration of several thousand Israelis and Palestinians together in Tel Aviv. Everywhere it was the same. The organizers everywhere were stunned by the size of the demonstrations.
And it will make a huge difference. It will strengthen the resolve of those Western leaders who have already stood against Bush’s rush to war. It will give more backbone to those like our own leaders in Canada who have been vacillating. It will weaken the appeal of violence on all sides.
The Islamist (fundamentalist Muslim) message that the West is against the Muslim world will ring hollow in face of this global mobilization against a war with Iraq. Those moving towards the dead-end desperation of terrorism may see a more a hopeful road in the massive uprising of the people of the world. It is now much less likely that the Security Council will be bullied or bribed into submission to the American war mongerer.
And should the U.S. continue its treacherous drive towards war and start bombing Iraq, I have little doubt that the anti-war movement in the United States will grow bigger and faster and more powerful than the anti-Viet Nam movement ever was.
The media is saying these are the largest demonstrations since the anti-Viet Nam war but they are much larger outside the United States. In Canada, for example, there was never a march of 150,000 in Montreal against the Viet Nam War or of 80,000 in Toronto. There was never a march of two million in London, more than a million in Rome and Barcelona and hundreds of thousands in France and Germany. The anti-Viet Nam marches were primarily students. The anti-war coalitions today are diverse in age, race and culture. The mainstream labour movement was not part of that protest as they are today. The fact that the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, Ken Georgetti, spoke at the Toronto demonstration is an important sign that labour is united in an anti-war stance. The diverse ethnic communities in Canada too were massively present in the anti-war marches.
And the marches also demonstrate the power of international organizing. The idea for a February 15 day of action emerged from the European Social Forum in November. It spread worldwide through the Internet and then through the World Social Forum at the end of January in Porto Alegre, Brazil. At the third World Social Forum, there were meetings of the leaders and activists from anti-war movements around the globe to set up a co-ordination of action that was all too evident last week-end.
The size of the week-end’s demonstrations show that George W. Bush’s attempts to cloak American aggression in a suit of concern for terrorism and/or weapons of mass destruction has utterly failed. The politics of the demonstrations put the blame for war right where it belongs on the shoulders of George W. Bush and Tony Blair
The mobilizations will only get bigger from here if the aggression continues. The next date for protest in Canada is March 8, International Women’s Day. Hopefully, the idea of using International Women’s Day as the next day of action will also spread around the world. What could be better than the symbolism of the women of the world leading anti-war marches? The World March of Women can easily spread the word around to women’s movements around the world.
The main danger to anti-war action now is if the U.S. and Britain, through bribes and bullying, manage to broker a deal at the U.N. Security Council. If the U.N. approves an attack on Iraq, it may narrow the base of the movement. There is also, of course, the possibility that U.S. covert action will attempt to manufacture another horrifying incident as they did with the bogus story of Iraqi soldiers killing babies in incubators during the last Gulf War. Given the level of awareness today, it is unlikely they could get away with it.
For now, we should celebrate the extraordinary display of the world’s peoples united against a war. In France, the lead banner read, “Together We Can Stop this War.” Today I believe it.