What Goes Around Comes Around

I remember the first time I protested against the war in Vietnam. It was 1962 and a young woman associated with the radical Roman Catholic newspaper The Catholic Worker had been jailed in an previous protest. Specifically, we were protesting her arrest. All five of us. I recall we were protesting near a woman’s jail on Sixth Avenue. (Conspiracy theorists take note: There is NO Sixth Avenue in New York City so how could this be? Well, because they renamed it “The Avenue of the Americas” and New Yorkers just went on calling it Sixth Avenue – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.) We walked in a rough circle. After a while a policeman came and told us to stay on a traffic island so we wouldn’t block traffic. That was it. We felt part of a very small minority.I gave up war protests after investigating the periphery of some rather larger ones. I really wanted to debate the involvement in Vietnam as a policy issue, not cause trouble. I thought the country had adopted the wrong policy and was upset. I wasn’t angry. Later, in 1965, Bobby Kennedy came to Columbia where he said that such a policy disagreement sometimes led to having to make a painful choice between one’s government and one’s country. I knew just what he was talking about. He and I and many other people thought the government had pursued the wrong policy. When Bobby said that, I realized that was why I had stopped going to anti war protests. That pain seemed to me to be largely absent. It felt increasingly like the protesters were against both the government and the country. Today’s protesters seem to fit that description more than ever. It becomes clearer and clearer that they represent the anti-imperialist left, not the the anti-totalitarian left. Here is a member of the anti-imperialist left at the Iraq war anniversary demonstration in Washington DC recently:che.jpg

It was with genuine surprise that I read in the Washington Post the story of a major counter demonstration by veterans and supporters at the anniversary protest.

Several thousand vets, some of whom came by bus from New Jersey, car caravans from California or flights from Seattle or Michigan, lined the route from the bridge and down 23rd Street, waving signs such as “War There Or War Here.” Their lines snaked around the corner and down several blocks of Constitution Avenue in what organizers called the largest gathering of pro-administration counter-demonstrators since the war began four years ago.

The large turnout surprised even some counter-demonstrators. Polls show public opinion turning against the war in Iraq, and the November election was widely seen as a repudiation of the administration’s policy.

There have been other counter demonstrations in the past but this one seems to be something different. It is perfectly logical that the media, (and Hilary as quoted in my Friday post) think that the American people have turned against the the war given the apparently clear evidence of the recent election. I have hoped that wasn’t the case and that many Americans were voting against ineffectiveness as much as against the war itself. It remains to be seen how things will look when the 2008 election comes around, but right now there seems to be more of this pro-war sentiment about than many thought. It certainly expresses how I feel. Here are quotes from the Washington Post article from a couple of the counter demonstrators:

“I’ve never been to a war rally. I hoped I’d never have to,” said Jim Wilson, 62, a Vietnam vet from New Hampshire. “We’re like what they used to call the silent majority.”

In some past antiwar rallies, the number of counter-demonstrators has ranged from a handful to a few hundred. “Our side got apathetic,” said Debby Lee, whose son Marc, a Navy SEAL, was killed in Iraq and who came to the rally from Phoenix in a caravan organized by MoveAmericaForward.org.

In fact I’ve always wondered why so many people who supported the Iraq war haven’t come out and demonstrated – given the experience of the Vietnam war where the anti war demonstrators created the running and got all the headlines. Like fellow New Hampshirite Jim Wilson put it, they just felt part of the silent majority. Now they may or may not be a minority, but maybe they feel like they are in danger of becoming one. That feeling can be a strong motivation to do something.

Michelle Malkin criticizes the Post article for using this photo of a Marine counter protester.

marine.jpg

As I have said before you can tell the real position of a newspaper by their choice of photo. Being sympathetic – no strike that – being 100% behind the counter demonstration I would have used this photo:

markedfordeath.jpgShe also reports a National Park Service estimate of 30,000 counter demonstrators. The organizing group, Gathering of Eagles, says that they felt they outnumbered the anti war demonstrators 3 to 1. Numbers are always vexed and contentious, but if the counter demonstration really did outnumber the demonstration then this is a very significant event. Given the respectful press converge of the counter demonstration by the anti administration Washington Post, I tend to think that they have left out any mention of numbers because the counter demonstration was larger. If so, I think it is a turning point in the relationship between demonstration and counter demonstration. If the counter demonstrators keep it up, then things will have come full circle. High time, too.


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