Other Voices: Peace Center to rally on war’s 3rd anniversary
The Peace Center of Nevada County and local chapters of Grandmothers For Peace and Veterans For Peace will co-sponsor a vigil and rally Saturday commemorating the third anniversary of the “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq.
The vigil will be held on the Broad Street bridge in Nevada City from noon to 5 p.m. A rally is scheduled in the Nevada Street parking lot at the end of the Broad Street bridge, beginning about 3 p.m. Dan Scanlan will act as emcee. In between scheduled speakers and musicians, there will be “open mic” time, and citizens will be invited to express their feelings about three years of war.
The Peace Center has initiated a number of demonstrations, beginning in the months leading up to the “Shock and Awe” campaign. The largest turnouts, locally and around the globe, were before the war began; Nevada County sent 11 busloads of demonstrators to one of the San Francisco marches. The Bush Administration has, to all appearances, studiously avoided taking any notice of this extraordinary global mobilization.
The war grinds on, and people might well ask: “Why demonstrate? We didn’t stop the war.”
We didn’t succeed in stopping the war three years ago. But the global mobilization that was created was the beginning of what it will take to challenge the neoconservatives’ drive toward empire.
We have learned from the civil rights, women’s, labor and anti-war movements in this country and from recent events in Bolivia, Venezuela and across South America that real change comes not as a gift from politicians, but from the sustained mass mobilization of the people.
As Phyllis Bennis pointed out on the excellent daily news program “Democracy Now!” recently, when somewhere between 12 and 14 million people around the world took to the streets three years ago, it forced many governments, and by extension the United Nations, to refuse to endorse the invasion, despite enormous pressure from the United States. When the U.N. refused to endorse the war, it meant that when “Shock and Awe” began, there was no question around the world that it was an aggressive, illegal war.
While governments always downplay the impact of demonstrations on policy decisions, there are examples that illustrate their effectiveness. The following list is taken from the testimony of David Meyer, associate professor of sociology, specializing in social protest, UC-Irvine, at the trial of the “Crossroads 43” after their arrest on March 19, 2003, for protesting the beginning of the war in the streets of Nevada City:
• Richard Nixon said in his memoirs that demonstrations made it impossible to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam.
• Johnson selected bombing targets to minimize casualties and thereby minimize protests.
• Casper Weinburger and Colin Powell stated in their memoirs that protests ended the draft and kept us out of Cambodia, except by proxy.
• Anti-nuclear demonstrations (Weinburger memoirs) prodded resumption of arms control talks with Russia.
• Prior to the invasion of Iraq, demonstrations forced Bush to go to the UN and forced the administration to allow weapons inspectors more time.
• Demonstrations may encourage media to question policies and officials, making them spend more time answering questions and defending their positions.
• Citizens don’t have the money, power and influence within the system that corporations have. Individuals have little influence or chance to be heard. Banding together in the streets is a way to amplify our voices.
We, the people of the world – “The Other Superpower,” according to the New York Times at the time of the global demonstrations before the war – still have much to do. The Bush administration is seeking to influence public opinion in order to justify the expansion of the war into Iran. Our young people are harassed by military recruiters, both on campus and off. Our civil liberties have been eroded by the Patriot Act. Americans are being spied on. We’ve gone from a budget surplus at the end of the Clinton Administration to the largest budget deficit in history, one our children and grandchildren will inherit. We’re on the brink of catastrophic climate change due to global warming.
Please join us this Saturday on the bridge in Nevada City. Bring your own signs if you wish.
Lynnette Eldredge lives in Nevada County and is a member of the Peace Center of Nevada County.
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