pause to regroup in antiwar activity
after bombs began falling on Iraq, Lansing antiwar activists are considering
strategies to keep their momentum going. Some are planning to boycott
U.S. firms that produce for the military, others are signing petitions
to impeach President Bush, and some are encouraging actions of civil
disobedience. The Detroit Michigan Emergency Committee is organizing
a statewide rally on April 5 at the old Tiger Stadium.
feel the best method to stop war is by appealing to mainstream Americans.
Its possible that civil disobedience has been backfiring
on us, said peace activist Shrikumar Poddar. The Okemos resident
believes civil disobedience only makes sense when it takes place on
a large scale, such as Mahatma Gandhis massive civil disobedience
movement in India, or the example of Martin Luther King Jr. and the
American civil rights movement.
During the first Gulf War in 1991 Poddar raised money for Iraqi refugees
on behalf of the organization People for Peace in the Middle East. He
remembers receiving bad sentiment from area residents, who
thought that Iraqi people were to be blamed for the war. This
time Iraqi people are clearly blameless, he said, and what
makes it even worse is that this unjustified bombing of Iraq has been
going on for 12 years. Amnesty International estimates the most
recent invasion of Iraq will kill 50,000 civilians, injure 500,000,
leave 2 million homeless and put 10 million in need of humanitarian
suggested that the Greater Lansing Network Against War in Iraq should
continue to put pressure on politicians to protest the Bush administrations
militant course. He said that in February 2003 more than 300,000 Americans
lost their jobs, and that it was only a matter of time before mainstream
America realized that the crumbling economy was to a large extend the
result of an irrational military build-up. The Bush Administration
is totally sold out on this war and to oil business, he said.
Poddar says he sees signs that the Bush administration is going to start
crumbling from within. On March 14 The Associated Press reported that
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) asked the FBI to investigate allegedly
forged documents presented first by Britain, and then the United States,
which showed Iraq attempting to purchase uranium for its weapons program
from the African country of Niger. Of all the glaring falsehoods
told by the administration, the fact that these forgeries were noted
by a Rockefeller may make them the second-rate Watergate burglary of
the 21st century, commented Michael Ruppert, editor of From
the Wilderness newsletter on March 19.
Some Lansing activists suggest one might win over pro-war colleagues
and friends by pointing out that the Bush administrations war
in Iraq is a war on many fronts. In addition to Social Security cuts
and tax cuts for high-income brackets, on March 27 the administration
proposed the dismissal of a basic cornerstone of 20th century labor
law the 40-hour workweek, by eroding current regulations for
overtime pay. Republicans proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards
Act, which if passed would affect more than 80 million workers.
On March 27, as reported by The Cornell Daily Sun, Scott Ritter, former
United Nations chief weapons inspector, said that the U.S. troops are
finding out that the Iraqi people do not want to be liberated. Ritter
stressed that the strategy of a shock and awe, which had
been designed to illustrate the strength of U.S. military forces, has
not proved to be effective.
The public relations of warfare is apparently so tense that major networks
such as NBC are self-censoring their coverage. On March 31 NBC News
fired Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Peter Arnett after he said on
Iraqi television that the American-led coalitions initial plans
for quick invasion had faltered due to Iraqi resistance.
Since the war began, critical views of the Bush administrations
Iraqi policy are shrinking drastically in newspapers, said
Norman Solomon, director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. On March
21, Solomon reported that most mainstream dailies are very conscious
about reflecting the consensus of U.S. elites. Since few
prominent Democrats have spoken out against war, newspapers feel they
dont need to make a statement, either regardless of antiwar
sentiment in the communities where the newspapers circulate.
Lansing resident Ellie Kennedy, a Gulf War veteran in early retirement,
believes appealing to mainstream America through education is the most
important thing the antiwar movement could do at this point. She said
many people still dont know about the effects of the first Gulf
War. Following military duty in Saudi Arabia in 1990, Kennedy contracted
the undiagnosed neurological disorder Gulf War Syndrome,
for which shes still being treated today.
Right now Im trying to figure out where I can be the best
advocate for the movement based on my experience, while also taking
care of myself both physically and emotionally, Kennedy said.
She pointed out that 10,000 soldiers died in the first Gulf War and
over 198,000 Gulf War veterans have filed disability claims. The deaths
and disability claims of Gulf War veterans were related to the 320 tons
of radioactive uranium dropped on Iraq in the allied bombings. Iraqi
pediatricians in the city of Basra found six to 12 times as many incidents
of childhood leukemia and cancer, and they report that congenital malformations
Kennedy said she believes it would be a good idea to hold forums where
both sides get the opportunity to air their feelings, thoughts and views.
The emphasis must be on finding common ground and bringing the
community together, versus tearing the community apart. Above all, it
should always be peaceful.
At Okemos High School, the Students for Peace and Justice Club may lead
the way to such debates: On March 31 they hosted a debate on the war
that attracted more than 50 students. Responding to the claim that Bush
and Vice President Dick Cheney only waged war because of their close
ties to the oil industry, pro-war representative Lauren Battaglia said:
If it was for the oil, we certainly would have stayed in Iraq
in 1991. Antiwar speaker Michael Gadaleto, a senior like Battaglia,
argued: We absolutely failed at setting up democracy in Afghanistan.
But Americans get bored quickly, so we decided to invade Iraq.
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