A Global Antiwar Movement

Many of us will never forget when the people of the world welcomed the dawn of the new millennium. As the Earth turned, we watched televised pictures of people celebrating and cheering as the sky lit up with fireworks -- from Asia to Europe, from Africa to North America. And, for the first time in human history, we understood, in a deeply visceral way, that we really do inhabit the same planet and that we are, in fact, members of a global society.

That is what's going to happen again on Saturday. In 316 cities in 60 countries -- Cairo, Bangkok, Beirut, Jakarta, Prague, Budapest, Tokyo, Moscow, London, Cape Town, Kigali in Rwanda, Madrid, Warsaw, Kiev, Lisbon, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New York, Sydney, Barcelona, to name but a few -- more than a million people are expected to march and rally against an American invasion of Iraq. Even McMurdo Station in Antarctica will hold a protest against the war. Such a global outpouring against the threat of war is unprecedented.

Without the Internet, of course, such a global protest would be unimaginable. But the Internet is only the messenger. Clearly, there is strong opposition here and abroad to an American invasion of Iraq.

What's truly surprising are the concise slogans posted on the Web sites of the coalitions that have helped organize this protest. No America bashing. No defense of Saddam Hussein. No solidarity with al Qaeda terrorists. In dozens of languages, the message is simple and direct: "No war in Iraq." "Stop the war in Iraq."

People around the world now feel a right to express their opposition to war.

They clearly believe Hussein is a ruthless dictator. But they also understand that the greatest threat is terrorist attacks from elusive networks that cannot be stopped by American bombs or U.N. weapons inspections. The Bush administration, of course, will try to discredit this global uprising against an American war with Iraq. But it won't be so easy. The coalitions assembled in these cities include business, labor and religious groups; veterans of former wars, environmentalists, human rights activists and mothers against war; and thousands of ordinary people who are asking the U.N. Security Council to pursue further weapons inspections in Iraq, not war.

Expect a tiny band of adolescent anarchists, who would rather spray graffiti and smash windows than join others in a peaceful march. We should condemn such antics. There is nothing less persuasive than using violence in the name of preventing war.

Why, you may ask, should you participate in this demonstration? Because you are a citizen of a great nation that is violating its own democratic ideals, treating the rest of the world with dismissive contempt and refusing to be restrained by international law. Because you are a citizen of a new global society. Globalization is about more than free trade. What we are witnessing is the birth of a grassroots global democracy. To emphasize our membership in this new global society, many protesters around the world will be carrying the U.N. flag, a fitting symbol for a new era.

When people ask, as they eventually will, who stood up for human rights, let your name be among those who opposed an unjust and unnecessary war.

For information on anti-war protests in San Francisco and around the world, see www.unitedforpeace.org.

E-mail Ruth Rosen at rrosen@sfchronicle.com.

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