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Mar 19, 2007

Looking More Like It

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No, I'm not advocating civil disobedience.  "It," in this case, refers to a more determined and evocative opposition -- which comes through in the images of this weekend's antiwar protest in D.C.

If you're looking for fervor, take this image that accompanied the absolutely trivial and condescending article in the NYT as an example.

It's a shot that contains news value as well as historical allusions.  The gas masks and the show of manpower speaks of current confrontation or threat -- as well as the memory of it from the Vietnam era.  If you take the Code Pink protesters out of the background, the protester's jeans, jacket and long hair, paired with the policeman with the crew cut, makes it look like, well, 1967.

Compared to the demonstration in Washington this past February, this one was considerably smaller.  Reading the images, however, I'd say this one was much more significant.  (For a summary of the event -- and a a rare piece of MSM protest coverage that is nostalgic, informative and inspired, check out WAPO's profile, "Theater of Battle With A Familiar Script.")

So, what made this weekend's protest more effective and significant than previous events?


For one thing, it played off two simultaneous milestones, the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war and the as well as the fortieth anniversary of the first major antiwar protest of the Vietnam war.

Just as in '67, protesters marched from the National Mall, across the Memorial Bridge, to the Pentagon.  Besides tying the two illegal wars together in time, this march -- as compared to the January event, which focused on the Capitol and an appeal to Congress -- more effectively directly targeted the Administration and its war machine.


What comes through in the visual coverage is the sense that the national mood is shifting from disaffection to opposition, and from disillusionment to frustration and anger.

Although the confrontation this weekend was mild, protesters made the point that patience is running thin.


Besides further evidence of exasperation, this last comparison demonstrates the growing split, and open opposition to the war among veterans.

In the top shot, a marine lashes out at anti-war vets.  The bottom photo, on the other hands, reflects the growing solidarity among Iraqi vets -- both current and retired -- in drawing the line. The soldier second from the left in the bottom pic is Marine Corporal Cloy Richards.  His mother, Tina Richards is the one who recently confronted Rep. David Obey over the Congressman's degree of commitment to stopping the war.

Overall, its a picture of emotions rising, and opposition hardening.

WAPO slide show.
photo gallery.

(image 1: Michael Temchine for The New York Times.  March 17, image 2: Nicholas Kamm/AFP. March 17, 2007. via YahooNews. image 3: Members of the military police keep back Vietnam War protesters during their sit-in on October 21, 1967, at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. via: National Archives (ARC identifier #530618).  Caption/image via image 4: Brendan Smialowski/AFP.  March 17, 2007. via YahooNews. image 5: Pentagons riot.  October 1967. image 6: Marvin Joseph/Washington Post. March 17, 2007. image 7: Alex Wong / Getty Images. Mar 17, 2007. via


I doubt the angry guy in photo 6 was an actual Marine. The uniform isn't complete and I doubt a real Marine would put political buttons onhis uniform. He's a fraud.

"So, what made this weekend's protest more effective and significant than previous events?"

Excuse me? I have to take issue with the arrogant and lazy thesis that this weekend's antiwar demonstration was somehow better than one in February or any other time. It is completely condescending and trivializing to use phrasing like "more determined and evocative opposition" and "If you're looking for fervor" and "Reading the images, I'd say this one was much more significant." If you haven't been out there yourself--and clearly you haven't been--then you have no idea what you're talking about.

I've attended some of the United for Peace and Justice protests, including those in late 2002 and early 2003--before the invasion of Iraq. You could reference images from the pre-invasion protests, but you seem to know nothing about the historical significance of those (worldwide) protests, not to mention you're married to your own Vietnam-connection thesis.

Who needs the New York Times when you can get a thoroughly uninformed and biased view right here? It's not the lack of "fervor" displayed by the protesters that's the problem, it's the lack of knowledgeable coverage.

Vietnam was a war ~ i remember (back then) that we were not even suppsoed to use that word, "war" ~ that that, in and of itself, was considered to be a provocation, at best... and strangely enough, saying "Vietnam War" was considered anti-War.

IRAQ is not a "war". Rather, it was an invasion, which ended ~4 years ago; ever since then, IRAQ has been a "military occupation".

imho, not only the U.S. government, but also the American media and public ~ have failed to fully come to terms with the differences between "war" and "occupation"...

...even the so-called anti-war and peace protesters, pictured here ~ seem as ignorant of the underlying dynamic being a military occupation, as those thousands of troops currently serving in a conflict in which "The Mission" (occupation) remains unexpressed to them, and for the rest of us ~ in the words of William F. Buckley: indecipherable.

You don't WIN or LOSE an occupation ~ you either do it or you don't. That's the crazy part; the really, really crazy part... that is, imho ~ the root of Bush & the neo-conservative's (and the anti-Bush forces, too) self-defeating delusion.

Four Dead in Ohio =>

What we see now is the American Democrats engaged in an almost surreal spectacle, being unwilling (the House) or unable (Senate) to cut off funding for The Occupation of Iraq. They see it as "a war". They see their dilemma as "if we cut off funding, we will be blamed for losing the war."

So long as you Americans believe that you are fighting a War, or fighting against a War ~ rather than conducting a Military Occupation... your nation will remain stuck untogether, stymied in this hellish, ~$9 billion USD / month madness.

I disagree with M. Gonzo. Iraq is by most standards a "hot" war. There are as many attacks and as many hits on U.S. troops as there was during the same time period in Viet Nam (after four years). The death toll however is way down, thanks to casualty aversion tactics and better field care of the wounded. And I don't think that a million or half a million Iraqi dead means that this is merely an occupation done badly. It's a war.

I don't have anything to say about the pictures. These people look angrier but this means what? The Democrats are not going to do what they were elected to do but we knew that already. Nothing has a prayer of changing before 2008. That's why mass protest hasn't really taken off. We know nobody in the government is listening or looking.

That said, I don't think the protests are useless. It has been demonstrated that the anger of protestors probably prevented a nuclear option from being used in Vietnam. Nixon really thought if he resorted to nuclear attack the protestors would storm the White House and lynch him; even though the anti-war marchers themselves were feeling discouraged, they were having an effect.

I think the problem is that Bush/Cheney feel invincible. They feel only frustration at the temporary blip in their plans thanks to the 2006 elections. They won't be convinced they cannot prevail until they are shown the door in '08 by a huge margin. And if they refuse to go or, worse, get another "mandate"....God help us.

More interesting to me in the pics is the show of overwhelming thuglike force for a few protestors dressed in pink scarves. Looks quite third world (except for the pink scarves). But of course, they would never actually shoot the kids or anything....

oh, wait. Never mind.

you may not advocate civil disobedience. gandhi did, however. so did thoreau. they didn't have blogs, but they did say some good shit.

MonsieurGonzo, as you've structured your own argument, you're giving a spin to Buckley that he didn't intend. Buckley said that Bush has no decipherable "legacy" in foreign policy because he's not a true conservative. Other so-called true conservatives have voiced similar criticisms of Bush.

FYI, Democrats are "unable" to "cut off funding" (which is an inaccurate way to think about it in the first place because of how appropriations bills are advanced through Congress) to the troops because they don't actually have a majority in the Senate. Democrats may hold the "majority" in the Senate by a technicality, but they don't "control" anything because they don't have enough votes. It's split 49-49 with two Independents, thanks to Joe Lieberman. So your interpretation of the "dilemma" in Congress as an issue of word choice, while interesting, is not supportable.

I concur with MonsieurGonzo, his invasion/occupation description accurately describes the activity in Iraq.
Its called a war I suspect to fit with the jingoistic 'Global War on Terrorism' a rant of unadulterated nonsense.
TV News Readers in foreign countries regularly preface GWOT as "the so called GWOT", do they know something we don't ?

Photo #4- is that a photo from Star Wars? Who are the bad guys?

Speaking of "war", I agree with M. Gonzo- the US is not fighting a "war".

Definition #1 of "War": armed hostile conflict between states or nations.

The US invaded Iraq, that "war" lasted a few weeks, and now the US is occupying the country. But Americans don't want to speak of "occupation", because that is what the bad guys do.

At the same time, the US forces are in the middle of a "civil war". Bad for the troops.

So, Bush Administration and the castrati in Congress have put us into a real lose-lose situation.

"Its called a war I suspect to fit with the jingoistic 'Global War on Terrorism' a rant of unadulterated nonsense."

If you're thinking of Pat Buchanan, then yes.

However, it's also called a "war" by others who want to prosecute against war crimes. No war, no war crimes. See how that works?

I was thinking specifically of George, Dick and Condi, next the academic Brain Trust chaps like Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis and Francis Fukuyama until he came to his senses. Then followed the Policy Wonks like Richard Pearle, Charles Krauthammer and folks at The American Enterprise Institute which GWB proudly calls "my base".
I check Pat Buchanan every few years, that he is against the Iraq invasion/occupation is one of those *rare occasions* that we are in agreement. Does Pat use GWOT other than to quote someone?

What surprised me was the anger of the counter-protesters. Is their fear of failure so great that they only have anger to give?



Although Bush, Cheney, and cabinet talk plenty about the "war on terror," they rarely call the Iraq abomination "a war," except when it is politically expedient to do so, like to smear a flip-flopping congressional Democrat.

So, if it is never called "a war" by the executive branch, if the legislative branch never formally "declared war," if you blame the evil-doers for forcing you to act in self-defense (Bush successfully characterized the 9/11 attacks as "an act of war" against the U.S.), and if you simply tell the international community that what you are doing doesn't violate international law or human rights, then presto--you cannot be easily prosecuted or held accountable. Congress's problems in 2007 stem not from what to call Iraq now, but from the fact that it abdicated its power in 2002 (and with it, its accountability; hence, the reason to abdicate power) to declare war in 2003.

The U.S. isn't the only country that plays this it's-not-a-war word game; Israel pulled it off last summer in Lebanon.

Samuel Huntington, Bernard Lewis, Francis Fukuyama, Richard Perle, and Charles Krauthammer are not government employees and therefore can't be prosecuted for illegal actions of the government. Therefore, like us, Bush's "base" can say whatever it wants.

Other non-governmental (jingoistic) pundits like Pat Buchanan are free to call the war in Iraq a war. I was thinking about Buchanan's quote as quoted by Robert Fisk (who also calls it a war: precisely, the war "on" Iraq).

That said, I don't think the protests are useless.

Gotta agree with this. I think a generation of people will owe thanks to Cindy Sheehan for finally making us all notice what a catastrophe Iraq has become. Frankly, prior to her protests, most people hadn't noticed the fact that the situation in Iraq not only wasn't over, but it was bad and getting worse every day.

I love that people who think this war is a catastrophe are denigrated as some kind of bleeding hearts who don't care about winning. We've known for quite some time that Iraq was an immoral war. But that's really not why it's a strategic catastrophe.

What nobody talks about is that Iraq is the stupidest thing we've ever done as a country. Going into Iraq was a lousy idea at best, with a huge potential downside. Once we realized there was no WMDs, it was a catastrophically stupid mistake to dilly-dally over there for 4 years hoping that a miracle would happen, and a peaceful liberal democracy would spring full-grown from the ruins of a repressive and murderous dictatorship, in a nation not only awash in small arms, but fraught with ancient ethnic rivalries & unequal distribution of economic resources between those ethnic groups.

It makes no damn sense to tie down your entire army in a country that poses no threat to you. It makes even less sense when it means giving up the fight in a country that's harboring a guy who is not only a threat, but who just blew up lower Manhattan. It makes even less sense when your failures in Iraq mean that everyone in the world--both your allies and your enemies--are pissed off at you. And to continue to throw lives and money down a hole in Iraq when it's perfectly obvious that the President, the Pentagon, everybody involved doesn't have any idea how to do what it takes to win? That's taking idiocy to new heights.

It doesn't matter if you call this a war, a police action, an invasion, whatever. It's a total catastrophe. It's keeping us from going after Osama bin Laden, it's shredding our national reputation, it's sucking up hundreds of billions that we could use for tax cuts or investments at home, and it's preventing us from effectively addressing the real threats to our national security.

And remember, as bad as things are in Iraq right now, the one thing that's been constant is that they've always gotten worse.

It's time to recognize that George Bush has no idea what he's doing or how to win this, and it's time to stop messing around in Iraq and spend our time doing something that's NOT appallingly stupid.

Another reason why protests are not useless: I was out of the country over the weekend and saw CNN International coverage of DC -- and Istanbul, Sydney, London, etc. It served as a reminder that actually, having antiwar protests in the US is all that keeps us in touch with the international mainstream. Wrote about it here.

to: seajane | Mar 19, 2007 at 07:45 AM

I think he is a vet or possibly even active duty. (active service members aren't allowed to wear their uniforms to political events)

His anger reads very personal to me and not political or ideological. Who knows what he experienced in Iraq? I've got the feeling he lost friends or family and does not want to imagine they died in vain. Or, that his suffering and service were a waste.

I recognize some of the veterans against the war from Cindy Sheehan's first camp in Crawford and think they've had a chance to process their personal situations as well as the larger political issues.

"Go to hell traitors. You dishonor our dead on hallowed ground" (reading backwards through the painted sheet held up by anti-anti-war protestors as march nears Pentagon) (WaPo photo 7).

I was one of the antiwar vets marching on the Pentagon last Saturday, and I had all kinds of peace buttons, etc on my boonie hat and field jacket. So did other Vietnam vets.

Here's my take:

I dont know if Yelling Buzzcut Guy is a real Marine or not, but he's yelling because he knows it's safe to be angry at the Dirty Hippies. Besides, the Dirty Hippies are threatening to overturn the pecking order which puts Square White Guys (like him) on top. It is personal--and also social and cultural. Square White Guys are angry partly because being angry is fun--maybe adrenaline is the nation's real #1 drug.

(NOTE: You can be somewhat square and not conservative, or somewhat conservative and not square. But there does seem to be a relationship.)

There would be nothing wrong at all if you did advocate civil disobedience. In fact, I think we all should.

Most of the great advances in human and civil rights in the USA have only come about as a result of civil disobedience. It is an essential tool of citizenship under any form of government.

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