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Protesting war online, not in streets

The Baltimore Sun
Jules Witcover

WASHINGTON - As the war in Iraq drags on, the daily violence mocks the "Mission Accomplished" banner that was a backdrop to President Bush's 2003 post-invasion flight to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.

With the death toll of Americans surpassing 1,700, the most visible reminders to the nation of that cost are the periodic displays of photos of the dead in newspapers and on television.

The president's support, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, has plunged from 45 percent of those surveyed in February to only 37 percent. And a majority now say that invading Iraq was a mistake that has not, as Mr. Bush keeps insisting, made Americans safer.

Yet the public and Congress seem to be in a state of lethargy. It's in sharp contrast to 30 years ago, when outpourings of street protest eventually played a key role in ending the American involvement in Vietnam.

Critics of this war point out that in the Vietnam conflict, the protest did not reach a boiling point until this country had been engaged for much longer.

These critics also note that while the 1,700-plus American deaths have been shocking and deplorable, they don't approach the 58,000 lost in Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the steady return of thousands of Americans in body bags and the existence of a draft significantly fueled the protest.

But why hasn't the U.S. experience in Vietnam spurred those strenuously opposed to the American presence in Iraq to hit the streets? Instead, except for some spasmodic demonstrations and a round of intellectual anti-war teach-ins copied from the Vietnam era, there has been nothing comparable to what happened three decades ago.

In place of militant protesters, thousands of Americans are using the Internet to express dissatisfaction with the war. It may not yet be a new silent majority, but it's clearly growing.

Assorted peace groups are making noise, but only what could be called a guerrilla war of words is being waged in Congress by a band of mostly Democrats and a few Republicans.

Three California Democrats have up to 40 House members signed on for separate anti-war resolutions. Rep. Lynn Woolsey's calls for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq; Rep. Maxine Waters' wants withdrawal by year's end; Rep. Barbara Lee's seeks rejection of Mr. Bush's policy of pre-emptive war.

Seeking to ignite a broader protest, war critics in Congress last week seized on the publication of the Downing Street memo, calling it a "smoking gun" of Bush duplicity. It refers to the minutes of a 2002 secret meeting of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and top aides in which the chief of British intelligence reported that Mr. Bush had already decided to go to war.

One of the leaders in Congress against the war, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, was thwarted by the Republican leadership in an attempt to conduct a formal committee inquiry into the issue. So he held a Democrats-only forum into the ramifications of the Downing Street memo.

One witness, Boston lawyer John C. Bonifaz, co-founder of the Web site, argued that if the minutes were accurate, Mr. Bush should be impeached on grounds his invasion of Iraq was based on false premises and contrary to the Constitution's stipulation that only Congress can declare war.

Others, including 2004 presidential candidate Ralph Nader, have joined the chorus for impeachment hearings.

So far, the White House has been able to brush aside such notions, saying there's nothing new in the Downing Street memo. Meanwhile, the public protest seems largely channeled through cyberspace.

Jules Witcover writes from The Sun's Washington bureau. His column appears Wednesdays and Fridays.


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I agree that there needs to be more action in the streets - I come from a "third world" country where we take to the streets as that is our only recourse and often, succeed. But I have also come to realise that in the US political action is channelled more the justice system whaever its limitations (ACLU, Conyers are important cases in point as opposed to the resistance against Coca Cola in India or the recent upheaval in Bolivia).
Perhaps they need to be brought together at this moment in crisis?

Taking it to the streets during the Vietnam era was an effective strategy primarily because it got covered on the nightly network newscasts, as did the combat in Vietnam.

Today, with the corporate owned and AIPAC-controlled main stream media blacking-out both the coverage of the war, and the protests to it, a new and effective alternative is being employed to end-run their attempts to silence the protesters.

This protest is occuring in stages. Presently, this growing chorus of pissed off patriots is utilizing the internet to shame the main stream media into doing their jobs and telling the truth about the war and the protests. Once this effort reaches critical mass these online protesters can take it to the streets with the knowledge that their protests will be seen by the mainstream viewership.

Without media coverage, there is no protest in the popular perception.

First we need to defeat the main stream media, then we can crush Karl Rove.

I agree 100% with your assessment that this will grow through shaming the mainsteam media into doing their job. How may times can a news station report on Michael Jackson and ignore real news? Let's all work to make this Administration take responsibility for thier actions for once.

We need internet activism, congressional action, and activism in the streets. Let's bring it all together. Watch this website next week!

Yes , we need finally to Unite efforts, comments, blogs meetings et al.

-Design and execute an attack machine that matches the Republican Machine..
- Radio talking , TV and Bloggers, Unite, and Synchronize
- Set ego's aside
- Focus on few issues and remain focused for how long it takes.
- Set talking point and priorities.
- Act, don't just react in some fussy fashion.
-Set up an organization to provide this service with active channels for input from volunteers.

Without Uniting we will never recover and be able to spread the truth. and counter the 7 * 24 spin.

If there is a protest in the street and no press to report it does it make a sound?

There have been protests on this issue. There was a doozy outside the street where the President lives on June 16! (Thankfully, it got coverage). Also, I think many of the member organizations of this coalition would take exception to the suggestion that there had been no protests of the war in Iraq. Thing is, you weren't likely to see those protests reported by the mainstream news. You might see them on Democracy Now! or FreeSpeech TV but not CBS, CNN, or NBC.

I agree, shaming the media into doing its job (as plunger, above, put it) is a major part of the People finding a voice in this or any other issue. And it is working!

As a Vietnam Veteran Pro-Peace Activist, this is a Differant Time and Place. The Streets have been Hit and are being Hit and Will be Hit adding to the Technology of Today, More Minds Have Been Changed Via Behind The Scenes Internet Work, Organizing, Action than that which Occurred back than! It may seem Slow but It Has Been and Is Moving Faster than the Vietnam Era Actions!!
Using the Internet we've even had the Help of the 'Sheeple', Unknowingly, because of their Ignorance and Lack of Critical Thought Processes. They show those who were original backers, that have intelligence, the company they are in, bringing them to look even closer at the Real Reasons for this Debacle!!
I've Watched and Listened to many saying there is Disaray within the Peace Community and No Actual Coalitions. Yet I seem to have No Problem Finding 'Real' Information Needed, Actions Planned and Waged in Short Periods of Time Bringing together Thousands, just take the All Day March in New York for the Republican Convention, or the 10's of Thousands at Marches Across the Country organized in a Couple of Months time, or the over 4,000 in Fayetteville NC, of which I attended!!
Those that 'Think' there is Nothing going on either are Very Unaware of the Numerous Actions and Communications taking place Online or Fear What They Aren't Seeing In The Media because there's Just To Much!!
Also take into Consideration, How Many Rallies of 10's of Thousands that have taken Place, with More Coming Sept 24th for one, where you Have Seen Distructive Civil Disobedience Taking Place, All Have Been Extremely 'Peaceful', as are the workings on the Internet, which Makes it Extremely Hard for the Media to Report 'Negatives' when there are none! Those that were Afraid to take those actions See and Hear about the Peaceful Nature and Join In The Next Time, either Locally or Nationally, bringing More Each Time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Peace Is Being Won No Matter The Spin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The media has sold out. At times like this we see that the media has become right wing, instead of reporting objectivly.
What happenned to the free press?
Shaming the media might be an effective means of forcing them to pay attention to the real news. However, boycotting their sponsors will hit them in the pocket book.

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