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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Can't Wait for 2008!

Last Saturday, I attended the ten to twenty-thousand-strong march on washington to protest the war in Iraq among other things. This was the first protest I have been to in several months, but it was certainly the biggest and most provocative I have ever attended.

After the pre-march rally with various speakers, and the march that seemed to take forever, the highlight of the day was a "die-in" staged by Iraq Veterans Against the War, with dozens of vets leading the way. The veterans and other participants, myself included, laid down on the grounds of the Capitol building in order to represent those that died in Iraq that serve in American military forces.

Somewhere between one and three thousand people laid down, causing the Capitol cops to bring out the riot police, in full regalia. It was certainly intimidating, and it discouraged many who had previously planned on jumping the police lines toward the building.

A lot of people did anyway, and about 150-200 people were arrested for it. Most arrests were peaceful, and well-planned. "Die-in" participants were forewarned of the likelihood of arrest, a chance I was grateful for, as most headlines proved to focus on the arrests rather than the march. After all, publicity is what it is all about. We want people to see the unrest and hopefully think about it on their own terms.

It is unfortunate that the turnout was so small, because organizations did not work together. Antiwar groups have become splintered in their tactics and strategies for protesting and grassroots networking. If United for Peace and Justice, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Campaign, etc. united for one protest, it would easily reach the one million mark.

Though the turnout was less than expected, the results were achieved, as it made headlines across the world. In fact, in the days following the protest, American media outlets covered it far less than foreign medias. For example, Al-Jazeera, Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald, Cuban news Escambray, Russian outlet Russia Today, Chinese organization Xinhua and others all read something like, "Police Oppression, Arrests Made, Protestors Held, Peaceful Antiwar Protest."

U.S. Media, however, was a fairly mixed bag. The New York Times and the Washington Post both covered the march, with headlines that focused on the arrests and the march, respectively. Many other U.S. media outlets covered the march, and the perspectives ranged widely depending on outlet angle.

Watching the cable news networks was very disappointing. There was no mention whatsoever that I saw, and CNN online mentioned it in an article buried under layers of linkage.

The most pleasing coverage was the Washington Post article, as for a time, it graced the front page of the paper's website.

While media attention is probably the highest hope for realistic protestors, I wonder to what extent that is even effective. Does anybody really read these articles and feel that perhaps Americans are more against the war than originally thought to be?

While the protests themselves are exciting and liberating, and not to mention a civic and patriotic duty expressed, they are unlikely to have a single broadly sweeping effect on political agendas and policymaking. They are collective efforts, as protests after protests put heavy political pressure on legislators and executives, which has always proven to be an effective tactic of policy change in American government.

I suppose the last step not purposefully taken would be economic pressure, but that is not needed as the war is draining the economy as it is, and politicians know it.

Lately, blessed be the Americans with the guts to come out and put pressure on our government, the President has made quiet mentionings of troops withdrawal. This is a major breakthrough in my book, but it all remains to be seen. I won't truly believe anything until I see it, but one cannot deny the overwhelming discontent with the Iraq war strategies.

This summer has seen major blows to the administration, with the Attorney General firings scandal, and the resignation of Karl Rove. Let's hope the administration leaves office without having gone completely under, and having been able to right one of many of the wrongs caused Americans and the International Community.