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News ::
Duct Tape Hysteria Fails to Slow Peace Movement (english)
17 Feb 2003
Despite the government manufactured roadblocks of permit denials and mysteriously heightened terrorism alert codes, people filled the streets in massive opposition to the U.S. war-machine
New York City - Most movements have their defining moments and the movement opposed to the Bush regime’s pre-emptive war on Iraq just had one of its own. Beginning last November in Europe and echoing Stateside in the belly of the beast on January 18 and on to this past weekend’s anti-war crescendo in New York, San Francisco, and some one hundred other cities and towns in the U.S., the 21st century peace movement has taken root.
Despite the government manufactured roadblocks of permit denials and mysteriously heightened terrorism alert codes, people filled the streets in massive opposition to the U.S. war-machine. The intended intimidation of Code Orange may have worked on some Americans pathetically lined-up at WalMart, anxiously hoping for their own duct tape and plastic sheeting while supplies last, but millions of their neighbors weren’t buying it. While some parents fell under the corporate media spell and terrorized their own families with duct tape hysteria (one guy in Jersey actually encased his entire house in plastic), others took to the streets with baby strollers and placards, their voices trained on the homegrown terrorists in Washington. Now, in the wake of this past weekend’s hugely successful peace demos we learn from officialdom that perhaps Code Orange wasn’t necessary after all. Imagine that. Tyrants and dictators know the value of fear. It was the Nazi, Herman Goering who said: “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." Why should un-elected presidents and their far-right handlers be any different?
Down on 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Lexington Avenues in New York City at least a half million people feared the regime in Washington more than the one in Baghdad. They know the dangers fraught in a policy of pre-emptive wars, in perpetual states of war against ever-shifting targets, usually Muslim ones. Like a script from George Orwell’s “1984”, Big Brother must have his enemies, imagined or otherwise, domestic or foreign, but that premise died at the gate on New York’s eastside last Saturday. You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.
On 2nd Avenue, a little past noon as the rally one block east was up and running, people became impatient with NYPD’s heavy-handed crowd control. It became apparent early-on that attempts were being made to disempower the action by penning up demonstrators into alternating blocks, many of which never even got to the rally site. On 2nd Avenue we recaptured the street at some points, leading either to police violence and arrests or with NYPD simply giving up a block and reforming elsewhere.
Over on Lexington things were worse. Mounted police and “robo-cops” wielding batons, as well as unidentified weaponry, over-reacted and caused some injuries to themselves and demonstrators. However, given the vast numbers of police and demonstrators, things could have been worse, way worse. That sort of unevenness in atmosphere: peace and a degree of goodwill on one block, chaos on the next, speaks to the confusion and poor planning on the part of the mayor’s office and among high-ranking police officials. If they had granted the initial march permit organizers had requested none of that chaos would have taken place. We had a million people in the streets of New York in 1982 with barely an incident. Instead, New York City officials caved in to the anti-democratic Bush regime’s wish to disrupt the peace event resulting in marches on three major avenues instead of one; sort of three marches for the price of none. The only advantage gained for The Empire was the inability for the media to get an accurate count on the number of demonstrators; a number that may have reached closer to a million than the half million or less touted by the mainstream media. As one who witnessed the ’82 peace march, I’m inclined to go with the higher numbers.
But numbers are not nearly as interesting as diversity and spirit, and the assembled masses in New York exhibited plenty of those qualities. Perhaps most inspiring was the countless stories of those who had never attended a demonstration or march in their lives. Their witness was written up in the mainstream press and recorded on network TV and radio. Over and over, accounts of protesters new to the movement surfaced. The historic growth and breadth of this 21st century peace movement has created a momentum unseen in modern history. This is no exaggeration, and the forces behind the war machine were well aware of that when the so-called Department of Homeland Security raised their alleged terrorist alert to Code Orange. It didn’t work. And, unless you happen to be in the hardware or bottled water business, it didn’t work for anyone.
But, this begs the question of what will work. What will the warmongers do to get their way? Are they willing to manufacturer another Gulf of Tonkin or worse? Are they willing to take American lives? How many? How far are they willing to go to frighten the population into supporting a pre-emptive war for empire and oil, a war with little international support, save for that wrested from weak, dependent states? A war that could easily drag nations back into the dark ages where all the rules of civilization breakdown. Ironically, this is the same argument rightwing advocates of pre-emptive war use to justify THEIR intended actions. Disregarding the blowback and obvious consequences of invading the flank of the Muslim heartland, they claim to go to war to protect civilization from “rogue states” said to have an illusive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, perhaps even a few primitive nuclear weapons; as if those few weapons could end civilization as we know it. Yet, their very premise is turned on its head and magnified a hundred-fold when taken to its logical conclusion: increased U.S. aggression and hegemony in Arab territory or Muslim states breeds increased hatred toward the U.S. resulting in increased attacks like 9/11. It’s the Israeli/Palestinian endless cycle of violence writ large, the Crusades all over again, escalation run amok. The United Nations, a mere few blocks from last Saturday’s action, was created for the very purpose of defusing such situations. But, so many of the far-right operatives in the Bush regime and their seemingly mindless followers, have always hated the UN. In their thinking, nothing should stand in the way of The Empire and its intentions. It’s so hard to believe their platitudes about peace when they are forever demanding war. These are people who appear never to have seen a war they didn’t like.
Most of the demonstrators who gathered on the nations streets last weekend know this. They are struggling to prevent the gates of hell from being opened by people whose judgment is being questioned around the world and, finally, here in the U.S congress. The cynicism and the foregone conclusion of war being voiced by many mainstream pundits and rightwing think-tank bottom-feeders does not, or will not, take into account the potential of a truly massive peace movement, even as it surrounds them, even as it takes a place at their dinner tables among their children and former friends. It is that movement that can pull this nation back from the precipice, unless, of course, a certain timely crisis rears its ugly head and all the rules start changing. In that event we can pass the duct tape and pray for divine intervention.
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