Can The Peace Movement Save Us?

by Deck Deckert

November 18, 2002


I came to the age of real awareness during the Korean War, which started in 1950 when I was a freshman in high school and ended in 1953 a month after I graduated.

While I was of draft age at the end of that period, I wasn't in any real danger of being sent to war. But I could have volunteered. A cousin of mine left high school to fight in Korea; another friend lied about his age and was in combat before he was 16.

And such is the power of the myths of war, I actually felt guilty that I had shirked my 'duty' to kill for my county. When I met Korean combat vets on the campus at the University of Connecticut, I was awed by them. I listened to their stories and considered my own 'cowardice.'

I was a child who still believed the shibboleths the rich and powerful use so well to keep the rest of us from questioning why we should fight and die to protect their privileges. If I were an isolated example, a particularly stupid gung ho kid, my naïveté would be unremarkable and unimportant. But far from being unusual, I was typical of my age and period.

Unfortunately, when it comes to war, little has changed. Our unelected president/king is about to wage war on a country his uncompassionate conservative father destroyed a decade ago. He is spouting the same shibboleths that the ruling elite always spouts to get their way — the enemy other is plotting against us, our wives and children are in danger, we must be strong to garner respect, we must act now for there is no time for delay, war is the only recourse because our enemy knows no language but violence, etc.

There are always skeptics, but never enough of them. And there have always been those who counseled alternatives to war, who spoke out loudly against war. Never enough of them either.

And yet...

Could the times be a-changing?

Even before the first major assault, a promised blitzkrieg, the anti-war rallies and protests are growing.

I remember little opposition to the Korean War — a lot of indifference, but little opposition. The Vietnam War protests were of little consequence in the beginning. It wasn't until the war had been waging for years before the protests became massive. And they were fueled by nightly war coverage on the TV news and strong coverage of the protests.

Today, the corporate media is doing its best to ignore the war in Afghanistan, burying coverage of anti-war protests, and suppressing dissent from any quarter. And yet the protests are growing. Hundreds of thousands of people are marching in U.S. and European cities. And more and more people are noticing that the emperor has no clothes, that his excuses for a war on Iraq are nonsense, and that the real reasons — imperialism and oil — are now clearly exposed.

There is no hope from the Democrats, who haven't learned a thing from the election debacle that was the result of their cowardly embrace of all things Republican. In the first test of their resolve after the election, they threw up their hands, sold out their labor base, and gave Bush everything he wanted on the ugly and dangerous Department of Homeland Security.

There is no hope from alternative parties like the Greens, who are too timid and too few, and doomed to impotence by the winner-take-all nature of U.S. elections.

And, of course, there is no hope from the media because it is major part of the problem.

What's left? Could it be the peace movement? Can it bring people to the streets until even the most corporate-money-besotted politician is forced to pay attention? Can it embody the spirit and passion of the last two great populist uprisings, the anti-war and Civil Rights movements?

I learned decades ago not to make predictions, but I sometimes indulge in whimsical if not wishful thinking. And I think it possible that the current support in opposition to the Iraq war can bring together a plethora of groups and individuals who have a wide variety of grievances against our imperialistic president and his ugly lunatic-right handlers.

Women's groups must be contemplating the pending end of legal abortion and what that will mean for their constituencies. Environmental groups are appalled at what the Bush administration has already done and what it contemplates next. Labor interests have to be disturbed at government moves to erase decades of progress in protection of workers. Every taxpayer must be concerned at tax cuts that benefit primarily billionaires. Civil libertarians and other citizens must be frightened at the increased government spying, and the curbs on civil rights and liberties inherent in the SS-like Homeland Security. Africa-American groups are angered at the selective blocking of black votes in Florida. Workers whose pension plans were destroyed by bad management and outright theft worry about their retirement. And everyone concerned with the continuance of democracy is disturbed by the scores of questions about 9/11 that will never be answered as long as the Bush/Cheney axis retains power and block investigations. Those concerned with the plight of the poor watch anxiously as the military juggernaut consumes all available government funds.

All of these group are potential soldiers in the war against war. Some of them have already come together in the streets. More can be recruited as the lunacy of a new war on Iraq becomes even more obvious.

Corporate media reporters and columnists who have paid any attention at all to the anti-war marches have expressed amusement at the sight of save-the-whalers parading beside people denouncing the World Bank, abortion rights supporters standing shoulder to shoulder with those opposed to genetic manipulation of food.

Some progressive commentators aren't amused by such sights but they are appalled. There must be a single unified anti-war message, they aver.

They are wrong. In diversity lies strength. If a half million people march in Washington, it is their numbers that will attract the attention of Congress and the White House and force the media to pay attention. The unified message will be — something has to change!

And that's a good enough start.

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Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic.

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Published November 18, 2002
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