As War Nears, What Do We Do?
As we reach the brink of a widely unsupported U.S. invasion of Iraq, millions of Americans and many more people around the world are scrambling desperately to find the combination of protests, pleadings and symbolic acts that will throw a wrench into the gears of the war machine. And while getting President Bush and his war hungry claque to listen to the overwhelming cries of protest from every corner of the globe has proven extremely difficult, this is not the time to ease the pressure.
Instead, we need to ratchet up the peace effort, joining the broad coalition Win Without War in intensified nationwide opposition to this war. On the eve of this weekend's demonstrations in Washington, Los Angeles and other cities, plans include sustained local mobilizations, vigils and other live and virtual actions in cities and towns throughout the country. Growing participation by artists and musicians will add to efforts by faith-based organizations, women's, environmental, peace and civil rights organizations and labor unions.
Probably the most visible global event this weekend will be nearly 2,000 candlelight vigils held Sunday in more than 80 countries to oppose a U.S. invasion. Initiated by MoveOn.org, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many faith-based organizations in the United States are participating in the protest vigils set to begin in New Zealand on Sunday night and to continue sequentially in time zones all over the world. In Washington, the vigil will take place on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, with musicians Peter, Paul and Mary scheduled to perform.
"It's up to you to make this happen and organize a vigil in each community," said MoveOn's Wes Boyd. "We're hoping that thousands of small groups around the world will be inspired to come together and stand for peace in this moment of darkness and rekindle the light of reason and of hope. It's time to renew our commitment to building a positive world for our children."
For more information about how to make this happen in your community and to join with millions of others around the globe, go to www.globalvigil.org
There will also be a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign launched in Washington, set to begin Monday and continue throughout the week. Actions will also take place at Congressional offices throughout the country during this same period. The campaign was intiated by by United for Peace and Justice and the National Youth and Student Peace Coalition.
This Saturday, March 15, join a rally in Washington DC organized by International A.N.S.W.E.R. The "Emergency Convergence" on the White House starts at noon on Saturday. Parallel actions will take place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities. Visit United for Peace and Justice and Not In Our Name to find events in your area, and get involved -- this might be our last weekend before the war starts! Code Pink is also organizing contingents to join the Washington, DC action. You can sign up for CODEPINK email updates at http://codepink.kintera.org/updates.
"War is not inevitable," says United for Peace and Justice. "Congress has the constitutional power to stop this war and has been silent." The organizers say they plan to "fill . . . jails until they answer the people's call for peace and justice!"
Meanwhile, last Monday, primed with more than one million signatures on an international antiwar petition gathered in just five days, leaders of America's antiwar coalition, Win Without War and Jessica Lange of Artists United to Win Without War, tried to communicate a clear message to the UN: to back tough inspections, and not war.
Working Assets has a campaign to raise money to place anti-war billboards in high-traffic areas from New York to Crawford, Texas (home of Bush's ranch). The first billboards, already up, say "Support Our Troops: BRING THEM HOME NOW."
Yet another campaign from Working Assets takes an additional step, and hopes to have Saddam Hussein indicted for war crimes.
Elsewhere, the veteran Australian peace activist Helen Caldicott has mounted a worldwide campaign urging the Pope go to Baghdad as a human shield.
"To persuade the Holy Father to take this unusual but potent action, he must hear from you and millions of others around the world who have already been inspired to stand up and speak out for peace," said Caldicott. "A mountain of surface mail, email, faxes and phone calls are our devices to inspire him."
There is precedent for a pope halting an invasion. According to the Melbourne daily paper The Age, in 452 Pope Leo the Great visited the camp of Attila the Hun and persuaded Attila not to invade Rome.
Ultimately, however, it is unlikely such a hero is going to step forward to stop the bombs from raining down on the civilians of Iraq. Rather, it is up to the collective will of all of us and the world to say, "This will not stand."
Do what you can today.