'No to War!' Is Anyone Listening? By Alexander Cockburn
michele at maui.net
Sat Jan 11 18:22:57 MST 2003
"No to War!" Is Anyone Listening?
Longtime peace activist says today's peace movement is stronger than that
By Alexander Cockburn
January 9, 2003
Who has not clambered onto a bus, headed off to a protest demonstration and
stood amid sparse company in the rain, thinking, "What's the use?" Who has
not listened to some plucky orator rasping through a bullhorn, "Let our
message go forth..." and thought privately, "Forth to whom? Who's listening?
These days, there's a spirited movement growing across the United States
opposing a war against Iraq. There have been some big events, like the
rallies in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, attended by vast throngs.
But there have also been rallies and vigils by the score in small towns.
Are they making a difference?
Of course they are, just like the demonstrations in Europe, the Middle East,
Australia and elsewhere. U.S. ambassadors and CIA heads of station may
deprecate and downplay the world protests in their reports, but they cannot
dismiss them, any more than can the White House. How can you ignore a
turnout of 500,000 in Florence?
In short, protests count, just as they did in the very earliest days of
organizing against the war in Vietnam. This organizing was undertaken by
far-left groups, small Trotskyist and Maoist sects moving far ahead of the
When did these efforts begin? Back in 1963 and even earlier, half a decade
before the huge throngs began to muster in Washington, D.C. In the past few
weeks, many veterans of these early marches have been pooling their
memories. Here's a recollection to me of one of the earliest, from Lawrence
Reichard, who these days works as an organizer in Stockton, Calif.,
defending rural workers.
"In the spring of 1962," Reichard says, "when I was 3 years old, my mother
dragged me to a demonstration against the U.S. war in Laos in Cedar Rapids,
Iowa. There were five people at that demo. My mom, my older brother, me and
two others." Then, "In 1969, I rode in a VW bus from Charlotte, N.C., to
Washington, D.C., for an anti-war demo that drew 500,000. According to
Daniel Ellsberg, that demo made President Nixon reconsider the madman
recommendation of his Joints Chiefs of Staff to nuke Vietnam within a few
miles of the Chinese border."
That trip was especially memorable for him, Reichard continues, because he
made it with the family of Norman Morrison, who immolated himself in front
of the Pentagon in protest over the war. Reichard recalls that he read later
that Lyndon B. Johnson's aides cut mention of Morrison's death out of his
newspapers so he wouldn't see it.
"On the rare occasion that I'm asked to speak at a demo, and the turnout is
low," Reichard concludes, "I speak about the turnout in Cedar Rapids and the
turnout in D.C. years later, as a way to rally the troops and lift spirits.
Imperialism and colonialism are not stopped in a day!" He points out that
"it is also noteworthy that in 1954 or 1955 the American Friends Service
Committee wrote a letter to the Eisenhower administration warning against
U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Needless to say, the anti-war movement of today
is way ahead of the movement that brought out five demonstrators in Cedar
Rapids in the early '60s."
Reichard ended thus, "The anti-war movement has much to be proud of. To the
absolute fury of the right wing, the anti-war movement of yesterday and
today still, to this day, shackles this country's ability to wage unfettered
war. Right off the bat, they have to forget about any war that might last
more than six months or cost more than a few hundred U.S. lives. For this,
you can thank the peace movement and the Vietnamese, who, at tremendous
cost, beat us militarily. The entire world owes a tremendous debt to the
© 2003 Creators Syndicate
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