Dial "P" for Peace

At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 26, the telephones, faxes and email in-boxes of every Senator in Washington D.C. will start ringing, printing and beeping with messages from around the country in support of peace. The "Virtual March," organized by MoveOn.org and Win Without War, hopes to demonstrate to members of Congress the staggering levels of grassroots support for the inspections process.

While the march will target the White House as well as the Senate, the organizers are more optimistic about pressuring Capitol Hill. Peter Schurman, executive director of MoveOn.org, calls the virtual march their "best attempt to put pressure on everybody," but especially to encourage the constituents of pro-war Senators to pressure them to change their minds or risk losing their office. He says, "The power to declare war rests solely in the hands of Congress. We're trying to give them the courage to stand up and do something."

One of the best alternatives before Congress is Senate Resolution 32, introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd on Jan. 29. The resolution calls on Bush to fully support U.N. weapons inspections, criticizing his failure to make a "compelling case to Congress, the American people, or the international community that the use of armed force is the only alternative to disarm Iraq." It also requires the president to seek further approval from Congress before using military force against Iraq.

Another Victory for Online Activism

MoveOn is working with the Win Without War Coalition to make this march yet another major landmark in the anti-war movement. Win Without War is a diverse coalition of 32 groups joined together to prevent a preemptive war. According to Lynn Erskine of Win Without War, diversity is one of the major strengths of the coalition: "We've got religious, peace, business, environmental and veterans groups working together, and that sends the message to Washington that the mainstream is united against war."

Peace Action, the nation's largest grassroots peace organization, is a member of the Win Without War Coalition. Nathan Britton, Political Director of Northern California for Peace Action, says, "I'm excited about the degree of coordination and cooperation among these groups. It means there's a mainstream movement that wants to change U.S. foreign policy."

The Virtual March aims to build on the momentum of the Feb. 15-16 peace protests, in which millions of people around the world gathered and marched to protest Bush's plan to attack Iraq.

As of today, at least 85,000 people have signed up for the virtual march in every state of the nation. Much of the success is due to the flash email campaigns perfected by MoveOn, but it doesn't hurt that the event has received a surprising level of media coverage from mainstream outlets. CNN, Newsweek, Slate, the BBC, Pravda, and television stations around the country have covered the progress of the march, in part because of the famous names and faces behind the campaign. Coalition member Artists United to Win Without War has more than 100 celebrities on its list of endorsers, including Susan Sarandon, Rob Reiner, Janeane Garofalo, Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen, who have all taken part in the group's ad campaigns.

Despite the Hollywood gloss adding to the publicity, the fact remains that the success of the Virtual March will depend on the participation of ordinary, everyday Americans. In the end, it is the sheer numbers that make a difference in a democracy. So the time to take action is now: Washington is waiting to hear from you.

To get involved with the virtual march, visit MoveOn.org to sign up and enlist others.

Matt Wheeland is an Assistant Editor and manages the EnviroHealth section of AlterNet.org

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