Taking Peace Mandate to Washington
On Jan. 27, thousands will descend on Washington, D.C., in a massive collective effort to ensure that the voters’ mandate for peace – as expressed in the historic Nov. 7 election – is heard loud and clear by the new Congress, the Pentagon, the national media, and the White House.
The timing of the demonstration couldn’t be more fortuitous, coming on the heels of the President’s State of the Union Address, and immediately preceding the expected request for an additional $100 billion in war funding.
While the umbrella group United for Peace & Justice announced the call for the march just after the election, hoping to build on the antiwar sentiment expressed at the polls, at that time few had foreseen that George W. Bush would dismiss out of hand the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations for withdrawal from Iraq and instead decide to escalate the war by sending a “surge” of 21,500 troops in a last-ditch attempt to pacify Baghdad.
Since his announcement, Bush has suffered an unprecedented backlash from members of his own party, who until now have granted him carte blanche to conduct the war however he chooses.
Many Republicans in Congress have joined their Democratic counterparts in opposing the plan, even if they have had difficulty agreeing on the precise language of the congressional anti-surge resolution.
In typical Beltway fashion, bipartisan consensus was hampered by wrangling over whether the resolution contained the word “escalation,” or used a softer term like Condoleezza Rice’s favorite, “augmentation.”
To many, the attempt to mold the resolution’s language recalled the way this war was originally sold to the American people and how it has been spun in the media through its various stages.
Over the years, words have been chosen carefully, first to foment maximum public fear over alleged weapons of mass destruction and the supposed “grave and gathering danger” posed by Saddam Hussein, and later to present the war in the best possible light.
The invasion of Iraq, for example, was referred to as “liberation,” the massive bombing of Baghdad was dubbed “shock and awe,” and violently overthrowing the government was blithely called “regime change.”
None of these euphemisms, however, succeeded in changing the reality on the ground, and no amount of happy talk has been able to put the shattered nation of Iraq back together again.
Likewise, calling the proposed surge something other than escalation doesn’t make it any less of an escalation. By any rational standards, what Bush is proposing – sending thousands of additional troops to war in an attempt to “clear” Baghdad of its militias, its death squads and its insurgents – is not only escalation, it is a prescription for a bloodbath, with no guarantee for success.
Anyone who followed the siege of Fallujah will remember how difficult it was for the U.S. to pacify that city, and how many people had to die in order for it to do so.
Thousands of Iraqis were killed in the operation, along with 95 U.S. Marines. After the siege, U.S. officials reported that “more than half of Fallujah’s 39,000 homes were damaged, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed.”
In order to clear it of insurgents, the U.S. had to shatter the entire city.
A major difference between Fallujah and Baghdad, however, is that Fallujah was largely homogeneous, being comprised mostly of Sunnis, and the situation in Baghdad is far more complex, being equally divided between Sunnis and Shias – whose loyalties are equally divided between Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias.
It is a murky and highly volatile mix, one in which distinguishing between “friend” and “foe” will be extraordinarily difficult if not impossible. The complications are only exacerbated by sectarian divisions in the Iraqi army itself, which is heavily infiltrated by Shiites loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
In short, it’s a mess, and regardless of how much Bush insists on “victory,” the truth is that the war is already lost, and that his escalation can only succeed in unleashing further chaos and death in an already devastated country.
Furthermore, it is against the expressed wishes of the American people, who have come to realize that they were fooled into supporting a war that was neither necessary nor just. While this change of heart may have been unexpected by the pundits and politicians, the current antiwar mood is simply the natural state of a sane people.
As politicians know, it requires extensive speechifying and fear-mongering to convince a nation to go to war, which is why George Bush and Dick Cheney spent months on end in late 2002 and early 2003 trying to convince this country that Iraq posed a threat to U.S. national security.
Their dire warnings of yellowcake, aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds were “augmented” by a steady barrage of Orange Alerts issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Eventually, the government’s campaign of fear worked.
But if it weren’t for the lies of the Bush administration, Americans would have never supported this war, and after four years, many Americans have had enough.
After turning out on Nov. 7 for a change of direction only to have their votes thrown back in their faces by an out-of-touch, dictatorial president, thousands will be turning out on Jan. 27, this time to use their voices rather than their votes to demand an end to the war.
Nat Parry is a writer and activist living in Fairfax, Virginia. He writes frequently for Consortiumnews.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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